Universal Ethics > Thought of the Month > June 2022

Democracy is not just the holding of elections.

Democracy is not just the occurrence of periodic elections, but it also requires the ability for anyone to run for office, for candidates to be heard, for liberty in the publications so that the current leaders can't hide the truth to deceive the people, and that the vote counting is verifiable. Quasi-democratic nations may have constitutions that define how their democracy is supposed to work, but sometimes they lack sufficient safeguards to prevent leaders from "rigging the system" to make it impossible for anyone else to win. There needs to be certain powers in a supreme court or senate, etc., and effective enforcement of rules within the government by an independent judiciary.

Democracy is an important element of ethics. Ethics isn't just about standards of behavior, but also about practical methods of implementation. In ancient societies, hierarchies were used to resolve disputes by pushing decisions upward when disputing people couldn't agree. However, leaders of hierarchies tend to get self-serving over time, and democracy seeks to cure that by holding the leaders responsible to the citizens.

Democracies do have limitations: a leader is held responsible to his own citizens but not to the citizens of other nations. There have been cases of democratically elected leaders starting wars, the prime example of which is Adolf Hitler. A more recent example (in 2022) is that of Vladmir Putin leading Russia to attack Ukraine. Citizens can often be enthusiastic supporters while their side is winning, notwithstanding the suffering their nation is causing. It's the same kind of psychology that causes people to cheer for their home team in a sporting event.

We need to get to a point where people see each other merely as people rather than as Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, English, or as any other nationality. We need to get to a point where everyone seeks the truth diligently rather than simply accepting what their local leaders tell them. This requires a new kind of thinking among people.

In such a case, a worldwide democracy would become possible, and nationalistic wars would become a thing of the past.

It seems like such a future is far off, because a pre-requisite is having effective democracies across the world in the national, provincial, and municipal levels everywhere, and that is certainly not the case today. You cannot build an international democracy on a foundation of dictatorships, or of ineffectual democracies. Here are some things that are essential in every democracy at all levels:

We can see that democracy is not just a "we've got it" or "we don't" situation. There is a whole science to it. No nation should be so complacent as to suppose that their system is perfect.

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