Does democracy still matter? The answer is highly complicated and can be formulated in many different layers. In the previous post, I tried to prove that democracy as a governing system lost its importance comparing to broadly speaking economy. In this post I would like to take a closer look to the reasons why this process started and why it is accelerating.
The 20th century is often described by many as a century of democracy. The horrors of two world wars and a following competition between geopolitical west and east fueled citizens participation in the newly secured order of democracy and free market. Taking aside all what was wrong with that period of time, the spread of freedom ideas concluded with African countries getting out of colonialism, east European states gaining independence from Soviet Union and cementing the belief that personal freedoms are the core value of modern world. During II World War and afterwards, participation in political parties and small local communities was high and provided a way of shaping the political reality. However, with the increasing importance of economy, globalization and consumption, people lost interest in taking an active role in governing their own country. Reasons for that can be seen in different spectrum. We can start from the fact that they basically do not have time for this kind of activity. Work takes more and more time of our lives and every year the amount of time we need to use to sustain ourselves is increasing. Secondly, while the rate of participation dropped and the liberal democracy with free market became dominant, major political parties had no choice but to adapt, and nowadays program differences between them are minor and focused on social parts rather then systemic. Therefore many people in trouble times do not see any alternative and prefer not to vote rather than vote for extremist parties. The effect of that is a very low turnout, especially in western European countries, and better scores for minor parties often representing very extreme ideas. This process is highly dangerous because it creates a situation in which, in many countries, minority is actually in charge. One example of that is European Union elections to its Parliament, which year by year has a lower score of participation. It is very unhealthy for a checks and balances process, because it creates a vacuum of credibility. If the turnout is low, the elected MEP are feeling less responsible for decisions they make, thus making it look like there is no effective way of shaping the policies of such big organizations like EU.
And that is not entirely true. We have the tools and possibility to decide what we believe is best for us, but that requires taking our voice out and participate as much as we can. If we do not put enough pressure, others will, and that is exactly what is happening right now. Big companies, lobbyist and financial institutions have a constant goal of maximizing their profits which result in non-stopping interest in shaping the political outcomes. Thus if we are not taking part in democratic process, we should not be surprised that one day we might wake up in a democratic farce.
By Kamil Czarnecki