Do we live in a democracy?

Published by eosnetworkxx 25 Jan 2020

Do we live in a democracy?

People coming from democratic countries usually feel proud of it. They think that they live in a world where their voice counts something. They feel like they make the laws and if the laws don’t reflect their choices it’s just because they are in the minority. A closer look at how the system works may make some people realize that they aren’t in the minority and that the laws are not made by the majority. What most people live in is not a democracy at all.

The functionality of a large democracy relies heavily on mass communication. It is also a necessary tool for a dictatorship state. The usage of mass communication shows the kind of political rule in a country. The control of the media has concentrated greatly in past decades and, through different mergers and acquisitions, there are now only 6 media conglomerates controlling 90% of the US media. They control what most Americans read, watch, and listen to. These media conglomerates have direct links to the economic and political power-elites of the United States. These conglomerates made of giant corporations contribute to both of America’s big parties, the Republicans and Democrats. In other democratic countries, the media are often state-owned, receive government funding, or are independent but with very close ties to the political establishment. This entrenchment between the political world and the media looks more like a propaganda machine rather than a tool for spreading objective information. This marriage between the state and the media has the power to pass any law by controlling the narrative that is sent to the citizens. There’s no democracy in a country with no fully independent and objective mass communication as the main source of information. 

Most of the democratic countries rely on the laws being made by chosen representatives. We elect them to shape national legislature on our behalf or to select other people like other representatives, presidents, or other officers of the government or of the legislature. This is called representative democracy which is different from direct democracy where the citizens themselves vote on the laws in a referendum. While in the representative democracy the citizens are mostly unaware of the laws being passed by their representatives or the ones they selected, in direct democracy, it's the citizen who votes directly on a specific proposal. Switzerland has the most developed system of direct democracy. As a process, it offers a greater potential for supplementing and balancing the institutional shortcomings and power structures of representative democracy. 

In addition to representatives, there're the lobbyists. They are people who are hired and paid by special-interest groups, companies, nonprofits, groups of citizens, and even school districts to exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government. They work closely with the political elite to introduce legislation and encourage it to vote in ways that benefit their clients.

Although lobbying is a regulated activity in some countries there are loopholes used to avoid disclosure but the problem with lobbyists is the practice itself. They wield an influence that is often greatly out of proportion to their representation in the general population. One-person, one-vote of the high number of citizens counts nothing when well-financed, highly organized special interest groups can tap into specific policymakers to influence laws. Lobbyists play a central role in the forging of policy and expression of varied groups' interests.

Although lobbyists are expert technicians capable of examining complex and difficult subjects in understandable fashion they have become a tool for big corporations to pressure politicians to help them gain more benefit. Monetary rewards reaching sometimes hundreds of millions are a honey pot to be shared between the lobbying firms, government projects, and contracts for represented clients.

So while lobbying can serve to protect minorities or special interest groups it became mostly a prolific business to sway policymakers to the benefit of the few. 

This brings up to the surface another issue: the corporations. There are just a few companies behind each aspect of our life. There are 10 companies controlling the food industry, there are few big pharma or internet companies. Through lobbies, they influence policymakers that create laws benefiting them to the disadvantage to their competitors. This is oligarchy rather than a democracy and a form of rent-seeking because they increase their share of existing wealth without creating new wealth. Rent-seeking creates income inequality because it lets the wealthy and powerful get income, not as a reward for creating wealth, but by grabbing a larger share of the wealth that would otherwise have been produced without their effort.

Entrenched interests of the political elite with the media and corporations resulted in the centralization of money and power. These are the real actors who shape the laws and make people believe they live in a democratic country where their voice is heard. It rarely is. It’s an oligopoly travested by democracy. Only when we’ll have a direct democracy where each person can vote directly on laws then we will see an egalitarian world where each voice can be heard.