1100 AD: Election by Force
According to the ancient bards, in the Early Middle Ages it was possible for a knight to challenge another knight to single combat, and the winner took all: the castle, the land, the serfs. The ultimate in elitism; the action of one man decides who rules everyone.
1970 AD: Election by Revolution
In my university days I met a young fellow from Columbia whose family was out of favour in home country politics, so he found it more comfortable to be in Canada. But only until the next revolution. His story was that Columbia was ruled by a few rich families, and each revolution just shifted the power balance back and forth. He was confident that he would be back home soon, living in luxury again.
2018 AD: Have We Changed Any?
That’s the fear we hear nowadays that has galvanized many voters. What if there is a small group of people at the top who just trade the ruling of the country back and forth between themselves to their own advantage, with little thought to the will or needs of the people they govern? What’s that you say? Conspiracy theories? Trump fear mongering? I’m not so sure.
Looking at Canadian politics lately, I come to the reluctant conclusion that we do have, to some degree, a ruling elite. And don’t just blame the right wing. Our present Prime Minister hasn’t done anything to dispel the idea. In fact, by blatantly using voting system reform to get elected and then tossing it on the scrap heap once he succeeded, he points us to another interesting conclusion: the ruling elite doesn’t want the election system changed.
Why not? Because in order to stay ruling, the elite needs a majority government. If a proportional vote forced them to run the country in tandem with another party, they “wouldn’t be able to get anything done.” In other words, they would have to listen to the other party and the rest of the population – horror of horrors – instead of paying a bunch of voters to put them in power, and then running off and doing exactly what they want for four years.
So these people want a First-Past-the-Post election system, because it sounds democratic, but it keeps their serial autocracy going. “Your party can rule for four years and pay off your supporters, and then our party gets four years to pay off our henchmen. The general public won’t know and doesn’t care.”
It’s Time to Care
If you’re one of those receiving the payoffs from the ruling parties, or if you’re quite content to sit in the Dark Ages with United States and 45% of the other democracies of the world, then you’re probably happy to leave things just as they are.
But if you understand that democracy is a work in progress, then now would be a great time to pay attention to the media, find out what’s going on and make an informed decision. After all, people tend to get the government they deserve. Let’s make the effort to merit a better democracy.