Friday, 28 November 2014

Comment on "Elections In A Time Of Democratic Malaise"

Posted here and here as below...


Regular elections are not a "remedy" for the contentiousness of politics. In the first place, the electoral mechanism - when combined with a universal franchise - incentivizes the growth of State powers and the expansion of politics into heretofore untouched areas of social life, and thus far from "remedying" contentiousness, democracy can actually (and I think usually does) exacerbate it. Secondly, the real advantage of regular elections lies in the promise of a future election for the losers and is in this sense a safety valve to avert break downs in the social order. How effective elections are in that function is tested every time one is held, because... policy is war by other means. To bemoan the negativity and mudslinging of elections is thus to miss the point. The relevant contrast is not that between a high-minded policy discussion and irresponsible sniping, but between mere irresponsible sniping and an outright breakdown of social order on the streets.

Whilst it may be true that elections are the least bad way of substituting one set of political rulers for another, it is not true that elections are the least bad way of "remedying" political contentiousness. Since political contentiousness arises through disagreements over policy and legislation, then a society in which policy and legislation were confined to a few narrow areas would plausibly suffer much less from political contentiousness. That society is not Taiwan, unfortunately and nor is Taiwan likely to become that society any time in the forseeable future.


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