Staggering democratic deficit in the West
Elected officials in western nations are acting like the kings and dictators of old. Are outdated models of democracy enabling this to happen?
As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect on the events which took place over the past 365 days and look forward to 2021 with cautious optimism. Putting aside the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and massive protests and riots that rocked major cities during the blistering summer, the other major event that exemplified what was for all intents and purposes the year that never was came in the form of the U.S. election.
For months on end, people around the globe who were concerned about the direction the leader of the Free World was moving in were treated to a continual barrage of confusing media diatribe and propaganda which only intensified when a chorus of accusations stating unequivocally that this hotly contested election had been rigged. If you’ve felt yourself burning out on the clown show of unending scandals and lies otherwise known as politics in recent years no doubt the events of this year (whether regarding potentially rigged elections, or the blatant abuse of civil liberties by politicians and unelected bureaucrats) forced you to your breaking point.
While our elected representatives and their lackeys in the mainstream media continue to fiddle while Rome burns telling us daily that our countries are such stable, free places to live, perhaps if you’re awake, you no longer buy into these tired platitudes and are gravely concerned about the state of democracy right now in the western world.
Let’s not beat around the bush here — there is a very serious democratic deficit that must be addressed sooner rather than later. This democratic deficit includes diminishing opportunities for citizen participation in politics as well as elected officials who for some reason feel they longer have to fulfill the needs and protect the rights of their constituents.
If you live in Canada, the UK, or any Commonwealth nation for that matter, you know (or should know) that the origins of your rights and freedoms extend back well over millennia to such historic acts as King Alfred’s Law, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the British North America Act. For my American readers, although the Founding Fathers of your great nation forewent the Parliamentary system in favor of a constitutional republic, the origins of the Bill of Rights are heavily inspired by English common law.
It is a widely known fact that the British parliamentary system dates back to the time of Robin Hood, who led the Barons against King John, a tyrant who craved absolute power and whose unwillingness to recognize the right of Englishmen and women led to a civil war in that country in the early 13th Century.
Sadly, many of our neighbors and friends who have been elected to represent our best interests are choosing instead to act as those absolute monarchs of old. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if this descent into despotism frightened you in any way, you’ve also noticed that these congressmen, senators, members of parliament, etc. have become almost an elite group, a ruling class if you will whose laws only apply to the peasants, not them.
Two great examples of this elitist mentality happened recently in the U.S. and Canada. While California Governor Gavin Newsom came after restaurants in the Golden State with an iron fist, allowing only delivery and takeout, the petty dictator showed his hypocrisy by attending a large gathering in a…..restaurant!
North of the border, Rod Phillips, finance minister of Ontario, who strongly advised his constituents to stay home, saw nothing wrong with scooting off to the Caribbean for a nice vacation. Because of this sense of entitlement so rampant in today’s politicos, Mr. Phillips blatantly and wilfully broke the rules, even trying to disguise his actions with prerecorded social media posts. Keep in mind that his home riding of Durham Region has been in the Red Zone since November 23 due to the staggering amount of COVID-19 cases in this part of the province. Meanwhile, Mr. Philips’s constituents, many of whom are struggling financially and couldn’t afford a sunny vacation even if the borders were open, had the honor of paying for his vacation while they were mandated to stay home.
The democratic deficit we face today in the West is a problem in search of a solution. While I am open to abolishing career politics as we know it, an even more crucial step to getting rid of corruption in politics is recognizing that these blatant infringements on citizen rights and government procedure are serious ethics violations and should be treated as such. You’d be hard-pressed to disagree that any elected official found guilty of such ethics violations should be fired — no severance, no bonus, and no golden parachute.
Countries such as New Zealand and Germany have instituted MMP (Mixed Member Proportional Representation) as a way of abolishing majority governments (seen by many as merely four-year dictatorships). While MMP does have its merits, direct democracy along the lines of the system that has served Switzerland for centuries is an even better way to go.
If you’re a little a bit unsure of how direct democracy works, I sum it up in three words: recall, referendum, and citizen initiative. To put this into layman’s terms, an official, government, or even legislative acts can be recalled by the people, who also have the right to engage in legally — binding referendums regarding government bills and acts. Lastly, with the right of citizen initiative, any citizen can bring forth a petition or evidence of corruption or unconstitutional activities related to the government.
It goes without saying that the time to get government back into the hands of the people is now.
What should people in western democracies be doing to make their elected officials more accountable? Please leave a comment below.
Chris McGarry is a professional freelance writer. He uses his expert knowledge, skills, and personal experience in writing about such topics as real estate, travel, fitness, politics, and digital marketing to create innovative, entertaining, and engaging content for his clients. He writes for Medium, TravelPlus, ThriveGlobal, The Canadian Firearms Journal, and more. His specialty is writing articles and books as well as copywriting and editing and proofreading.