Tuesday, May 12, 2009

UK democracy is dead


From the synopsis of The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby:
"[T]he author argues that anti-rational government is not the product of a Machiavellian plot by “Washington” but is the inevitable result of “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” that has left many ordinary citizens and their elected representatives without the intellectual tools needed for sound public decision-making."

This applies equally well to the UK. If the electorate cannot make sound public decisions then democratic elections become dysfunctional. Elected governments become plutocracies, which then entrench themselves and install policies that suppress any attempt to enact reform and reinforce the antidemocratic cycle; typically through demagoguery and assaults upon the professional classes, who are the only people with the intellect to perceive the threat and challenge it.

Sound familiar? It ought to.


  1. I like Susan Jacoby's work, especially her critiques of the influence of religion on politics and how it threads through the body of the state, although I don't buy into her sentimentality for small town USA values.

    You can catch her on podcast from Reasonable Doubts and Freethought Radio.

  2. Nice, thanks dude. I'm downloading her "Stupid Americans" podcast.

  3. The 'professional classes' alluded to are too frequently bought, owned and payed for by the corporations they serve. They're hardly the repositories of democratice practice.

    In fact democracy is systematically undermined on behalf of those private concentrations of power and wealth, corporations. Corporate interests are diametrically opposed to the common good, and it's the corporate/financial sector that benefits from wars to secure energy resources and privitisation of public utitlities.

  4. I wouldn't argue with you on the corporate interests bit but "professional classes" to me means engineers, doctors, scientists and artisans. I don't count public relations, investment banking and marketing as "professions" ( I assume this to whom you refer). They're more like parasites.

    My main point is that public ignorance and anti-intellectualism undermines democracy. What say you?

  5. It is this attitude that has left our "democracy" tied up in bureaucratic knots that result in the general public having very little say. The general public are simply not trusted. The fact (although almost definitely manipulated fact) is that people in general are becoming more intelligent. The tone of the article abstract and comment is that it is an increasing ignorance that is undermining democracy. This ignorance, if it does exist, is not down to a lack of intellect but instead a lack of appropriate information. Sadly, the majority of people have to base opinions on their own living circumstances or what they read in the media, a media circus that is having an increasingly ridiculous influence on public opinion. If there was more honesty and openness in politics that allowed for the people to know everything they needed to know then perhaps we’d be in a better position to make fair judgement and decisions. I believe that it’s more to do with an overwhelming apathy that comes with the conditioned life of security and conservatism that these corporations provide to the professional classes - who, like you've said, "..are the only people with the intellect to perceive the threat and challenge it"...but are too comfortable to care. A true Democracy is an ideal that can never be implemented in its purest form, but it’s sad that this apathy is stopping our nation striving to improve what we already have.

  6. What evidence is there that people are getting more intelligent? Is this average intelligence (mean intelligence). In which country?

    Intellect is useless without information to act on, as you imply. One of the "intellectual tools" referred to by Jacoby- and one of the ones clearly so lacking in modern citizens- is the ability to evaluate the reliability of a source of information. Fox News = bullshit. The Journal of The British Medical Association = solid evidence.


Feel free to share your opinions of my opinions. Oh- and cocking fuckmouse.