The USA trumpets itself around the globe as a cradle of Democracy, Human Rights and Personal Freedom. Viewed from outside it can be seen as a dubious democracy where millionaires compete with each other for seats in what looks very much like a two party system.
This got me thinking about Power and Influence and how they can be balanced in some political systems and imbalanced in others, and a balanced power/influence dynamic is a symptom of a healthy government.
In short, if a small number of people have too much power and influence, and make decisions to benefit themselves this is a failure of Government.
In the USA it takes deep pockets to compete for election. Political Candidates need funding and in the home of Capitalism there is no such thing as a free lunch. To get power you need money, what you sell is your influence; your votes on topics sensitive to your funders. As a result decisions in US Government are skewed in favour of the interests of big business.
The ordinary man in the street is left out in the cold. Not exactly the American Dream, Mom and Apple Pie. The USA is classified as a Flawed Democracy scoring only 7.96 on the Democracy Index.
But the ordinary man in the street does have a vote and can wield that vote as a weapon. It is possible, if highly unlikely, to change the system for the better.
In a pure autocracy the man in the street does not even have a dream of changing things for the better. Decisions are made by an inner elite. China is classified as Authoritarian, scoring only 2.26 on the democracy index, but over twice the 1.08 scored by North Korea. In 18th Century France the Kings taxed the poor to pay for a libertine lifestyle. They eventually paid for this excess with their heads at the guillotine. If you remove the potential for evolution you risk revolution.
This is why we have anocracy. Anocracy is a form of government where you operate as an autocracy with the trappings of democracy. You hold elections but they change little. The people you elect into power are paper tigers with no ability to influence the really key decisions on issues like what happens the money, who you invade or who goes to prison. Some of these are monarchies where the rulers retain powers, as in Morocco (5.10 democracy index) or they may be led by religious or military Juntas or partial dictatorships. Called “hybrid regimes”
People who come from autocracies, anocracies and majority governments do not understand the attraction of multi-party democracies. What they see in the likes of Italy, Ireland, Israel, Greece etc are floundering confusions of coalition run governments. What the voter sees is different.
In Ireland I can join a political party and attain a considerable level of influence within that party for a fairly modest investment of my time; assuming I have the social, political and economic tools to hold my own in open debate. The larger the party is the more difficult it is to gain influence within the party.
I can opt to be a small cog in a larger party, which has a greater chance of getting into power in government. I would have little influence in a party with much power. Or I could have greater influence in a smaller party which is more likely to be sidelined in government. Lots of influence, but little power.
When I see this natural balancing act between power and influence I see healthy government. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
We score 9.24 in fully democratic Ireland, currently the 6th most democratic country in the world.