Is democracy overrated?

I must admit it. I enjoyed the Trump show, particularly during the election campaign. You can’t deny that the guy is entertaining. He’s made for television and that’s probably why his television show, The Apprentice, has done so well. But like many, including the majority of voters in the United States, I don’t believe he belongs in the White House. But he was duly elected in a free and fair election and when someone so unqualified for a position is democratically elected, it makes you wonder if something is wrong with democracy itself.

And no, it’s not just Trump and the United States. All over the world, we have leaders who are elected democratically who’ve run their countries into the ground. But the case of Trump just happens to be on the front-burner because the stakes are so much higher when you’re running the most powerful country in the world. With every decision he makes and executive order he signs, I think to myself, “what have you guys done?”.

Democracy, I guess, appeals to our sense of fairness. We’re all for equal rights for all people. The right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted given that it wasn’t too long ago that large segments of the American population were denied that right due to race or gender. But when people exercising their right to vote make a decision that is potentially disastrous you wonder if it’s really practical that there be no restriction on who can exercise that right.

Isn’t this why the electoral college system was put in place? So that instead of having the people directly vote for the president, they would vote for people who were deemed qualified to make that decision who would then elect the president? It appears that the founding fathers of the United States themselves saw potential problems with a pure democracy so they put a kind of buffer or filter around the will of the general population. Today, however, it seems that the role of the electors has been reduced to just rubber-stamping the popular vote for their states rather than voting their conscience and in so doing, circumventing (to an extent) the original purpose of the system.

Consider also that there is a restriction on who can vote by age. Implicit in this restriction is that a certain segment of the population, i.e children, is not in a position to exercise that right. But why? It probably has something to do with an assumption about children not being mature enough to make such an important decision. Even if we accept that argument, what’s to say that situation magically changes at a specific age? There are likely people of all ages who don’t make sound decisions.

But if it’s already established that there should be a restriction of some kind on who can vote, maybe we can improve the process by having better selection criteria. What if instead of age the right to vote was determined by a test of some sort? People could be required to demonstrate a certain level of understanding about issues/concepts which are considered to be relevant to the decision of who should run a country.

The details of what these issues and concepts should be could be debated but I like the idea of having a test. Voting is an important right and function and maybe it would be more appreciated if it had to be earned. When you consider that only a bit over half the population voted during the last general elections, it’s clear that many people don’t take the right very seriously.

Such a system is not likely to be fool-proof but I think it’s clear that the current system is not without its own problems. So isn’t it worthwhile trying to find ways to improve it?

What I like about the American system, though, is the two-term limit. If it comes to the worst, Americans can get rid of Trump in 4 years at least or 8 if he goes the distance. In some other countries, there are no term limits and children grow up knowing only one leader. So even with its problems, the American model is one worth admiring and emulating.

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