This is one of those things that has been stirring in the back of my mind for a while and I’ve been trying to figure out how it could be realized.
The simple thing is: democracy doesn’t work anymore.
I say anymore because of how society has changed since the ancient Greeks. In their times it was easy for the voting population to remain informed on the issues in an election, and to participate in direct democracy. Although even that may be arguable since many Greeks lacked the right to vote (women, slaves), and about a sixth of their voting population regularly exercised that right (reference).
Regardless, my main issue with modern democracy is a combination of voter apathy and voter ignorance. Apathy bothers me less if the people are not voting because they don’t understand the issues, but what does is people who do vote, but don’t have knowledge of the candidates, their stances, and the issues. This issue is compounded when elections become about image, advertising, and money (to spread the message). Although one might argue that the failure of Alnoor Kassam, the mayoral candidate in Calgary’s recent election, despite a million dollar civic campaign, is a point against me, I respond that he just had a poor image, and people need to be really pissed at the current mayor to elect a different one (since they never really paid attention to what was done or could have been done during his or her term).
The major issue I see is that people who are voting are not taking the time to become informed as to the issues in the election, and are more voting with their gut (or how their peers voted etc.). The conservative Cato Institute even has a fairly nicely written article here outlining the very same issues I am attempting to articulate – note that this mainly uses American examples, but I think the results can be extended to Canada. The solution posed by the Cato Institute is naturally smaller government, but I’m not sure that would be enough.
Ideally an oligarchy of intellectual elites could rule a country, but “absolute power corrupts absolutely” would assure that a system like that would fall into a dictatorship very quickly. So I can’t really say that is the right way to go.
I’ve thought that a simple current events quiz before voting could help, but such a test would always fall to bias and discrimination of some sort.
Perhaps electoral reforms to preferential ballots would help (each persons vote would be worth something) and/or proportional representation would help in killing some apathy, and hey, if you get to rank candidates you’re probably going to care about more than just one of them (I really hope).
Regardless, I don’t see much changing in Alberta or Canada for a while – at least not until a government in power wants to change it (which they wouldn’t want to since it takes the current system to get unfair majorities).