New Internationalist

Democracy and dictatorship

November 2004

In ‘Let us speak!’ (Keynote, Mao or never, NI 371) a Chinese activist is quoted as saying: ‘A lot of officials are prepared to take our views very seriously. They give you an opportunity to be heard.’

What a contrast to so-called ‘Representative Democracies’ like Australia, where politicians have so little interest in voter opinion that they just send back Party propaganda to anybody who opposes any of their policies. In our system of government, policy is determined almost entirely by Party ideology. Politicians just want to get sufficient voter support to gain power and implement Party policy ‘across the board’, even when the majority of the people are opposed to a particular policy.

I’ve often thought that a benevolent dictatorship would be the best form of government, and if the Chinese Communist Party is moving in that direction then the future for the Chinese people could be looking good. But benevolent dictatorships are rare, and where they do occur they seldom last long – the tendency of power to corrupt is just too great. So until we can manage to implement a system of policy-making by referendum (which is now possible with modern Information Technology) I think we’re better off with the Representative Democracy system, even though it is just phony democracy, because it at least minimizes the potential for gross abuse of power.

Peter Schaper Biggenden, Australia

This column was published in the November 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 373

New Internationalist Magazine issue 373
Issue 373

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