Parliamentary democracy has nothing to do with legitimation

I have recently noticed a belief I had been indoctrinated with: western political systems—parliamentary democracies—would be better than other ones because of their democratic legitimation, the reign is legitimate because the government is elected. It had appeared natural to me because it had been repeated again and again: some state or decision is legitimate because there was an election at some time. It had been told at school and everywhere, even spontaneous polls with arbitrary options pretend to do legitimation. But there are several really big flaws in this argumentation:

  • What is our target function? What should a legitimate decision be like? Why should “on-ground-of-election” be a most important value? Politics should be about resolving conflicts while protecting the freedom of everybody, elections do not automatically imply freedom, in fact they can set dictatorships like the Nazi regime up, and do—more often—simply nothing, thus do not eliminate a lot of injustice in the world.
  • Rousseau told us that only democracy is able to ensure freedom inside a society by implementing the volonté générale, but what have results of elections to do with the volonté générale? Nothing, in representative systems the decisions do not even exactly reflet the volonté de tous, in fact it is a very, very bad approximation, thus decisions are far away from being legitimate, they are the result of power games, nothing more.
  • The sample for elections does not strictly correlate with the set of affected persons, elections are part of an random distribution of power, not a legitimate one. Non-human animals, foreigners, children, incapacitated, how could elections legitimate an arbitrary reign over those persons?
  • To be more explicit: There is no intrinsic property of elections ensuring freedom and humanity.
  • External circumstances are ignored when saying “democratic” systems would ensure freedom. Wether freedom is possible is determined by the whole social order, not by single political decisions. Remember companies, employers, customers, teachers, “friends” etc., there are power and herrschaft everywhere, and they are not inherently related to politics. However, do not falsely conclude that it is all about polity to create a state ensuring freedom, polity inherently includes herrschaft, not freedom, instead, it is much more desirable to have external circumstances inherently including freedom and eliminating polity as far as possible. A lack of polity is not a fundamental problem.

You may argue that these are flaws of democracy, but it could approximate legitimation. Maybe, but not within our system. Majority decisions and representative systems can not converge to legitimacy, except of by annulment. But progress in that areas—I cannot even observe—is not the most important aspect of freedom, as I said, it is about the social circumstances, they may ensure personal freedom, but wherever politics get necessary for organisation we should of course try to find the volonté générale, consensus. But parliamentary democracies have nothing to do with that. They are not democracies–i.e. where the volonté générale is the political maxim–they are just chaotic systems of herrschaft, consisting of power games and occasional elections, but politicians call it “democracy” and pretend it would be a most important value–complacent hypocrisy.

But what makes parliamentary democracies good? Why do we prefer them to autocracies? They fulfil a very simple job: politicians can easier lose their power in so called “democracies”, thus they are more careful with doing bad things if the electorate (not the general public!) could care about it. Additionally there is the separation of powers—contemned by Rousseau—providing some limitation of arbitrariness in an undemocratic system. Courts ensure continuity. That are the true colours of parliamentary democracy! We should realise that the world will not get better just because there are parliamentary democracies.

One Response to “Parliamentary democracy has nothing to do with legitimation”

  1. whilo Says:

    The flaw is even more direct: http://lists.electorama.com/pipermail/election-methods-electorama.com/2011-October/028558.html

    Funny that you just came up with post about it :-)

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