Generation Brexit

Populism is Part of Democracy

Out of all the forms of government theorized and crafted throughout history, democracy gives each citizen relatively significant influence over crafting the rules and laws that govern them. While no modern country has a full implementation of direct democracy (most opting for representative democracy), the democratic systems around the world tend to do a decent job of representing the interests of citizens. When compared to other historic forms of government (monarchy, dictatorship, oligarchy, anarchy), democracy seems to provide the most benefit with the least harm. These other forms of government have weaknesses that can leave citizens in turmoil and ruin. In a dictatorship, just one bad leader has massive potential to destroy her nation or her citizen's lives. Democracy is about giving power to the many.

So how does a democracy go about making things worse for itself, if everyone votes? When countries have wide internal divisions and are ripe with misinformation, democracy presents itself in its weakest form. The recent wave of populism is directly attributable to these causes.

Brexit voters tend to be older voters living in more rural areas in England and Wales. While their constituency was large enough to win, they only slightly outvoted "remain" voters. This shows just how polarized views about Britain are today. When "leave" outvoted "remain", especially given the misinformation campaign leading up to the referendum, this only sharpened divides in Britain.

We could hope for a modern day version of Plato's "philosopher kings." A well guided "benevolent dictatorship" is far more efficient and beneficial for citizens than even the best democracy -- there are less barriers to progress. But on the other side, in a democracy, while progress is slower, chaos is always several steps away. Populism is the worst of democracy, but that is testament to the strength of democratic institutions. 

Randall Z. 3 months ago

Do you think a benevolent dictatorship is possible?

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Whitney Dankworth 3 months ago

Yes, but infrequent. As 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award Winner Joeseph Foudy suggested last year, Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew was able to deliver unmatched prosperity to his nation in a very short time frame. Xi Jinping and China's communist party are now delivering similar results with a similar blueprint, and you could, to some degree, call both leaders dictators. So I think a benevolent dictatorship is possible. More likely though are leaders like Kim Jong Un or Bashar al-Assad, who drain their nation's resources to live like kings while maintaining the support of a few key power players. To them, it doesn't matter if their nation starves.

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