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08.11.2019 Article

The Cost Of Democracy: Forging A Resistance To Win The Future

By Edem Light
The Cost Of Democracy: Forging A Resistance To Win The Future
LISTEN NOV 8, 2019

The world is facing a phenomenon of big money interests, hijacking and dictating the course of democratic practice. The intention being to control the political affairs of society, to the principal end of protecting and enhancing their corporate and financial interests.

Democracy by its nature is meant to be a continual contest of ideas about how society should evolve through open and unimpeded dialogue; Allowing the emergence of the brightest ideas, through a structured participatory process of compromise, often via some mechanism of balloting; And transparently, rigorously and fairly enforcing the path or paths agreed upon, via institutions of governance, set up with the requisite mandates, supervisory checks and balances to ensure that they do not renege on their responsibilities, overstep their mandate, and or abuse their power.

With the unprecedented levels of nepotism and cronyism that is now showing up in supposedly democratic nations all over the world, the virtues of democracy, in the minds of many, are being eroded. And more and more, citizens are beginning to question the very idea of democracy itself, given how it has been distorted in reality.

The rise and economic success of authoritarian capitalism in Russia and China, has not helped much. In the West for instance, if anyone had said just four(4) years ago, that major countries like the US, UK, and Italy would all at the same point in history, elect openly racist, xenophobic, and nationalist heads of government business in the 21st century, it would have sounded like some strange fiction.

If the reality of democracy, a supposedly superior political construct, is not living up to the promise of birthing to the fore, the consensus of bright new ideas of economic constructs that are supposed to protect against things like this new technological wave that is sweeping away jobs, and yet at the same time, is growing and concentrating wealth in the hands of a few one percent renter class, like has never been seen before in history; while the rest, the rentier class, is facing unprecedented economic disruption, with parents having to work a minimum of two full-time jobs, just to meet the basics, in the most economically advanced nations on earth; then you can imagine the reality in places like the so called 3rd world democracies... Democracy appears to be failing everywhere.

It appears to be failing, not necessarily because of the direct effect of some technological wave, but it is failing because governments have become more and more, representatives of special interest groups made up of big money bags, and so are not putting the collective interest first. Democratic governments have become a facade of being representatives of the people, when indeed, it is big money interests who determine who gets elected into public office, by seizing the media narrative. The media after all, is a gigantic complex, set up for profit, so it goes where the money is.

In the end, nobody gets an objective and balanced view of who and or what ideas represent the best way forward. Hence people end up inadvertently voting for what big money has told them to vote for, because to begin with, they never had a balanced view of the options on the table. Here is how a colleague describes the Ghanaian situation for example in a facebook post, following a public uproar over nepotism in government;

“In Ghana it is family, friends and business associates with vested interest who fund political parties. So what do we expect?”

Sad as things may be though, democracy is not failing, it is faux-democracy that is failing because it is simply a facade and not democracy.

To return to democracy, and make it impossible for faux-democracy to rear its head again, the public must seize control of campaign financing, and here are a few ideas: (1) If every individual adult received from the state, a fixed amount for campaign funding which she cannot go beyond, she would have just as much financial influence on a campaign as the next person in every election cycle. And any unused allocation will return to the state after the cycle; (2) if all corporate funding of political parties and campaigns are banned; (3) if super pacs and other nonprofit organisations have their funding for politically slanted adds capped by law and advertisements pre-audited by an independent board to prevent political distortion; (4) If publishing fake news and libel were made criminal offences; (5) if media platforms had to have the funding for their political ads pre-approved by an independent watchdog and they were barred from running free ads in support of any candidate; then the problem of faux-democracy would have been dealt an irreversible blow.

If societies took, just these five(5) simple pragmatic steps, faux-democracies around the world will tumble, true democracy would emerge, politicians and politics would have been forced to be accountable to the people as a collective because it will be they who hold all the cards, like a true democracy ought to be. Not special interests or wealthy donors or rich demagogues, but the people as a collective would at every turn, be the ones deciding their own fate through a truly democratic system, with everyone having an equal voice in the arena.

I'll show you that the numbers for such a public financing option for political campaign is feasible, even for a 3rd world country;

The adult population of Ghana is about 17 million.
Over a period of 4 years, allocate to every adult a total sum of just GH250 ≈ US$47

That will be some GH¢4.25 billion ≈ US$801 million

Per year, that is some GH¢1.06 billion ≈ US$200.1 million

From figures from two years ago, 2017 GDP(purchasing power parity) was US$134 billion ≈ GH¢710 billion

Even if we use this GDP figure from 2 years ago, which is lower than today's figures, it will cost 0.15% of GDP per year.

If all is raised upfront, it will cost only 0.6% of just one year's GDP, to spend over the 4 year cycle.

So as we can see, the cost of fixing a broken democracy, in other to make it work for all and not just a privileged wealthy few, even for a third world country, will be just 0.15% of GDP per year, for a country whose population growth rate has never exceeded 2%, and whose unimpressive GDP growth in its fourth republic has never fallen below 3.5%. Meaning that we will never have a situation where population growth, forces such a scheme to become unsustainable in the near or distant future.

Numbers do not lie, it is only we who lie to ourselves if we resign our fate to the brokenness, when only 0.15% of annual GDP is what it will cost us to build the kind of democracy which lifts millions of people out of misery. For richer countries, this figure should be even smaller.

We have no excuse to remain lesser, be lesser, or live lesser than the true potential endowed to us by the creator. Let's fix democracy and end the human carnage caused by the greed of a few selfish people.

Ubuntu || I am because we are

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