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Published on January 20th, 2012 | by Saira Khan
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Union Jack, Dom Walton ©"][/caption] The foremost thing to consider, is that true democracy is participatory democracy, where members of the public are effectively members of the government by voting directly on policies. However, this is difficult to administer and as a result, most modern democracies are representative; the public chooses who they wish to possess power and trust that person to devise policies that will benefit them. A representative democracy can easily become an elected dictatorship if the population’s views are not heard. The question then, is to what extent is Britain democratic? Considering it from a purely political stance, democracy is power to the people, which manifests itself through the vote. We vote on members of the Commons but not on the Lords. We vote on local representatives but not party leaders. We vote on people but not policies. We vote people into Parliament but not out of it. We vote for a particular party but our second choices are not considered. We vote on only that which we are asked to vote on. We cannot ensure policies are maintained throughout a ministerial term by our vote. Evidently our democracy is far from flawless, and this is not even considering the social aspects of its meaning, i.e. the extent to which we are free; police barraging of public protesters and Rupert Murdoch’s mass media control show us that we are not quite as free as the democratic terminology seems to suggest. One could argue that Britain could be made more democratic through a proportional electoral system, compulsory voting, a removal of unelected members of Parliament and more referendums. But it seems in these examples, more democratic is inversely proportional to more efficient. Proportional electoral systems may confuse voters and will result in less strong government; compulsory voting would cumber us with the careless votes of those uninterested in politics and therefore would not be an accurate representation of what the population wants; a removal of unelected members of Parliament may increase political bias and reduce the expert value of the Lords; referendums may be subject to people who do not know what is best for the country, and even then only those who set the agenda of the referendum – members of Parliament - are those possessing the power; they decide what we may decide on. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau highlighted in The Social Contract, democracy in its political sense can only be efficient when the general will of the people is the same as each and every individual will. This, he argues, can only be achieved through a classless society, with censorship and civil religion. As democracy in modern society is now taken to be synonymous with freedom, its efficiency as a political system is cumbered by its connotative meaning, i.e. Rousseau’s method of effective and true democracy would be considered undemocratic in the modern world. Britain may not be truly democratic but it is as democratic as it can be whilst maintaining the constancy and competency of its political cogs.

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How democratic is Britain?

Union Jack, Dom Walton ©

The foremost thing to consider, is that true democracy is participatory democracy, where members of the public are effectively members of the government by voting directly on policies. However, this is difficult to administer and as a result, most modern democracies are representative; the public chooses who they wish to possess power and trust that person to devise policies that will benefit them. A representative democracy can easily become an elected dictatorship if the population’s views are not heard. The question then, is to what extent is Britain democratic?

Considering it from a purely political stance, democracy is power to the people, which manifests itself through the vote. We vote on members of the Commons but not on the Lords. We vote on local representatives but not party leaders. We vote on people but not policies. We vote people into Parliament but not out of it. We vote for a particular party but our second choices are not considered. We vote on only that which we are asked to vote on. We cannot ensure policies are maintained throughout a ministerial term by our vote. Evidently our democracy is far from flawless, and this is not even considering the social aspects of its meaning, i.e. the extent to which we are free; police barraging of public protesters and Rupert Murdoch’s mass media control show us that we are not quite as free as the democratic terminology seems to suggest.

One could argue that Britain could be made more democratic through a proportional electoral system, compulsory voting, a removal of unelected members of Parliament and more referendums. But it seems in these examples, more democratic is inversely proportional to more efficient. Proportional electoral systems may confuse voters and will result in less strong government; compulsory voting would cumber us with the careless votes of those uninterested in politics and therefore would not be an accurate representation of what the population wants; a removal of unelected members of Parliament may increase political bias and reduce the expert value of the Lords; referendums may be subject to people who do not know what is best for the country, and even then only those who set the agenda of the referendum – members of Parliament – are those possessing the power; they decide what we may decide on.

As Jean-Jacques Rousseau highlighted in The Social Contract, democracy in its political sense can only be efficient when the general will of the people is the same as each and every individual will. This, he argues, can only be achieved through a classless society, with censorship and civil religion. As democracy in modern society is now taken to be synonymous with freedom, its efficiency as a political system is cumbered by its connotative meaning, i.e. Rousseau’s method of effective and true democracy would be considered undemocratic in the modern world. Britain may not be truly democratic but it is as democratic as it can be whilst maintaining the constancy and competency of its political cogs.

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