Is there any rational alternative besides the Democracy?

  • At the moment the most spread system in the world is the democracy with different accents, some parliamentary, some representative, other presidential, etc.

    But recently I have asked my self if exist any political system currently being used but not being a explicit democracy but having some characteristics of it like:

    • A high representation of the people will.
    • Without the bi-partidism sin.
    • And without the typical election every n year.
    • With the respect of Human Rights and Civil Liberties.

    I've got a problem with the phrasing. Do you want to know whether there are countries having implemented non-democratic systems or do you want to know whether non-democratic alternative systems have been rationally discussed?

    Is this really asking "is there any system in the world besides democracy"? I feel like I must be misunderstanding it

    Short answer: Yes. It also works much more efficiently than democracies, until corruption takes hold (which also happens in democracies) Logically, an autocracy or oligarchy is actually the most efficient form of government since there are fewer decision makers.

    @MichaelMrozek I feel that his question is that to be a member of the "Free World" you must be a democracy of some kind, meaning that it is the only true accepted form of government. He just wants to know if other types of governments have been rationally discussed as accepted.

    I think the word *democracy* has a variety of meanings. Is Freetown Christiania a democracy?

    If you ask if there are non-democratic governments, of course there are and many. If you ask if those are "rational", you would need to define what "rational" means for you.

  • The Kingdom of Bhutan is a fully functioning monarchy, and in spite of that ranks very high in what it calls "Gross National Happiness." To be sure, it is a benign dictatorship, one in which the monarch makes quite a show of being concerned for his subjects. Historically, this paternalistic approach to governance has actually been the norm. It wasn't always as good as hoped for, but most rulers desired to see the needs of their people be well met.

    Additionally, Isaac Asimov once postulated a United States in which the "best" person was selected by a computer to be President, after neutrally testing any applicants who desired to run. The crux of the story was that in one year's cycle, the computer refused to pick anyone, because no one was fully up to the task. There is nothing that says that people necessarily choose the "best" person for the job. Indeed, being too much of a policy wonk may help the government run better, but still fail to capture the people's love. Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy, is often called a "technocrat," and widely heralded by pundits as a result, but is almost certain to be defeated in the next election. A match-up against his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, held in any kind of public forum, would have been a massacre. But when bond yields plummeted, Monti made good.

    Indeed, it is real work to be an active participant in one's own governance, and so one could argue that if happiness (utility in economic terms) were the only desired outcome, then a despot attuned to the needs and wants of his people is actually a better system.

    Unfortunately, as Madison said, "if men were angels, we wouldn't need government in the first place." As such, such benign dictatorships, while definitely the model of Plato, are rare in practice. And thus, pragmatically, representative democracy's advantage of incentivizing the goal of looking after the people by giving it power as a reward tends to eventually win out. In the word of Winston Churchill, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

  • Typically when we hear about accepted forms of government and being a member of the "Free World" as it is called it is typically encouraged for the government to have more democratic measures. The United States as leader of the "Free World" so to speak of course has vested interests in expanding its allies, promoting its security, and encouraging trade.

    Typically Democracy is encouraged as it is the most fair (and most predictable) of three basic types of government.

    • Autocratic: Ruled by a single leader unanimously. Dictatorships, Monarchies, etc... Good examples are North Korea and Syria. The countries actions are unpredictable and may or may not favor the political, defense, or economic goals of first world nations.

    • Oligarchies: Ruled by a small but powerful group of individuals that set policy and lead the country. They usually have a figure head leader that changes from time to time. Good examples include modern China. Also hard to influence the direction of the country and may be unpredictable.

    • Democracy: Ruled by elected representatives in which all citizens have a right to choose their leaders. It is by its very nature the most fair, although minority groups may get trampled easily. Good example includes USA, India or Japan. These tend to favor capitalism and market forces the most and tend to be mostly predictable, though not always easily controllable. Democracies are ideal to the capitalist driven free market model that is typically pushed by such "Free World" institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.

    The important thing to note however is that other types of governments have throughout history been accepted by the Democratic free world.

    • Egypt Mubarak was supported financially and militarily by the United States for a time because he was predictably against military conflict with Israel.

    • The Post WWII Greek Monarchy Shortly after WWII a communist uprising occurred in Greece, where the United Kingdom and the United States supported the reinstatement of the old Monarchy. He was a Far-Right monarch that predictably was anti-communist, and was open to foreign investments from wealthy capitalists. The United States supported a government that tortured and executed its own citizens and was ruled by a single man.

    There are also exceptions where true democracies are more or less not accepted by members of the free world because of socialist or nationalist policies that its citizens had more or less voted in favor of.

    Venezuela Is a democracy with elections and representative leaders, however it is painted with a rather negative light because of the highly nationalistic and socialistic tendencies of its elected leaders. Venezuela is restrictive of foreign capitalist investments which makes it an enemy of the IMF and the World Bank as well as wealthy capitalists that tend to have a lot of influence in first world democracies.

    There are many countries which while formally are democracies (i.e. holding elections which elect leaders meant to represent the will of the people) in fact aren't, since the result of the election is predetermined by either rigging the elections or suppressing the parties that are not supposed to win, or both. There are strong indications Venezuela is one of such countries.

    @StasM Do you have any evidence to back up this claim? Chavez won the last election with 63% of the popular vote and has one of the most politically involved citizenry in the Americas. This is hardly the numbers one typically sees in a sham democracy. Attacks against him being a dictator come from him busting political parties that were led by foreign corporations and corrupt union leaders, though anybody is free and safe to run against him in an election. He has used the oil wealth to break them from foreign dependence which is why they are demonized.

    ... in essence he formed a socialist state that is not dependent on the World Bank or the IMF for aid and is restrictive of foreign capitalist investments. They are an example to other countries that feel there must be another way than relying on foreign aid loan packages with mandatory austerity measures that heavily favor wealthy capitalists which is precisely why they are demonized in corporate controlled media.

    @StasM Chavez has lost a referendum-election. Dictators usually don't use elections.

    "use" should be "lose", of course.

    @gerrit He didn't lose election, he lost a referendum on changing the constitution, which mean he (yet?) does not have full dictatorial powers. However, his intent, contrary to the previous constitution, to stay in power indefinitely (or at least as long as his health allows him) is not a good sign.

    @maple_shaft among many many others. Please spare me from the conspiracy theories about world plot of the wealthy to suppress oh-so-nice young socialist govt. This has nothing to do with IMF or oil, and everybody is definitely not free to oppose Chavez.

    @StasM I've never understood the objections to the removal of term limits. Most countries in the world do not have term limits. As long as there are regular open and honest elections, what's the problem?

    @StaM Your claim was that "the election is predetermined by either rigging the elections or suppressing the parties that are not supposed to win, or both". Although there are clear indications of human rights violations in Venezuela, the specific claim of rigged elections, you didn't back up.

    @gerrit There are clear indications of human rights violations in the US as well *Pvt. Bradley Manning ring a bell?*

    @gerrit the fact you do not understand something doesn't mean it does not exist :) Venezuelans before Chavez did understand it. Chavez got rid of it. See the links above about suppression of the opposition. If it does not convince you about the reality of opposition suppression, nothing will. I can only give you the facts, you are free to ignore them if you wish.

    @maple_shaft of course there are, but we were talking about Venezuela now.

    @StasM I am aware of human rights violations in Venezuela, but your claim was a different one.

    You seem to only consider representative democracy, but there are several other forms of democracy. Also "Democracies are ideal to the capitalist driven free market model" us unsubstantiated. A stable dictatorship my actually be preferable as companies don't have to worry about changing rulers.

  • Your question is in fact open-ended, because every social system can be considered rational from at least the point of view of the ruling group.

    If the rational is the synonym of planned, than the communistic system was fully rational. It was based on the intelectual speculation, but it wasn't as effective in practice as it promised to be.

    Rational as the rule of the reason - this definition makes the democracy one of the least rational systems - it is based mostly on emotions, not the reason. Its emotionality is caricaturized by Plato, who proposed the dictature of the reason - the system that have nothing to do with what is called democracy.

  • As others have pointed out, rational is relative. There is no absolute answer to this question, but it may be instructive to compare countries with different systems. As a disclaimer: comparisons always fail because countries have different backgrounds. Therefore, any conclusions from comparisons need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    • Cuba is a dictatorship that self-identifies as socialist. In many international rankings, it doesn't do so poorly. For example, Cuba has a high human development and is often considered to have one of the best healthcare and education systems in the developing world. By comparison, neighbouring Haiti has been a shaky democracy since some decades, ridden by coup d'etats, and has a low human development with many serious problems. On the other hand, Costa Rica also does pretty well considering its material wealth, but perhaps with more poverty than Cuba (hard to find reliable figures). Costa Rica has been a stable democracy since the 1950s and doesn't seem to do significantly better or worse than Cuba. As an interesting side note, Costa Rica abolished its army in the 1950s and has since then been one of the few countries in the region to have no wars and no coup d'etats, something that might have contributed to its stability.

    • China is a dictatorship in transition from a planned to a market economy (but see also this question). In recent years its economy has grown significantly. Although many people live in poverty or work in very poor conditions, the standard of living has quite strongly improved in recent decades. It has a higher HDI than India, and the difference in IHDI is even larger. India has been a democracy for quite a while, and is growing like China, but presently seems to have more and more severe poverty than China. Although some political analysts in the west have predicted that economic growth and economic freedoms necessarily lead to democratisation and an increase in political freedoms, I'm not sure if there is much evidence for this in China.

    Now, this is not an argument against democracy, and in a correlative study, I'm pretty sure democracies would turn out to do statistically better than dictatorships (but correlation does not imply causation). One reason western democracies are rich may be because of the cheap labour in eastern and southern dictatorships, or at least poorer countries. But the comparisons above may indicate that democracy is not the only system that has the potential to provide a decent and improving quality of life for citizens.

    Cuba is a REALLY poor example. For one thing, if its healthcare system is anything like USSR's, the system's parts usually being compared and hailed by useful idiots like Mike Moore are the rare and super-advanced facilities for the Party elite. Most populace as a rule has no access to that. For another, Cuba is a strong anomaly economically, due to Cold war - on one hand it was under USA embargo, on the other, it was given enormous material inflows from USSR, likely dwarfing Cuban GDP. As such, it's not a good predictor of how Cuban populace would have fared in isolation under the same regime

    @DVK, your point about healthcare is factually incorrect. Cuba has a very high life expectancy, (marginally higher than USA), very low infant mortality rate (lower than USA); that's not only for party officials, that's for the general population. Of course someone with deep pockets can get better specialised healthcare in the USA than in Cuba, but for a country of its material wealth, Cubas healthcare is unusually good (and USAs is infamously poor). As for your 2nd point, Cuba clearly hasn't had Soviet inflow for over 20 years, but trades with Venezuela now; and GDP is a quite poor indicator.

    does cuban methodology for reporting infant mortality match USAs? Ditto life expectancy (there was a good thread on the topic in Skeptics.SE regarding different methodologies). Also, what happens if you back out all the American drug junkies whose kids die disproportionately more often and who'd never be allowed to carry to term in Cuba and forced to abort?

    @DVK, I don't have the answers to those questions. If your point is that it's hard to compare, then I agree — I made that very point in my answer. However, I don't know if there is a *a priori* reason to expect naive comparisons favour one country or the other.

    @gerrit Infant mortality rate is a red herring, it has to do with many more infants reported as "live birth" in US then in other places. If you report infants that did not survive as stillborn, you would have very low infant mortality rates, but that does not mean the medicine is better.

    @StasM Granted, but again: things can be defined in different ways, but that can tilt the overall comparison both ways, so I don't see that as specific evidence in favour or against the factual situation in Cuba.

    @gerrit there's a lot of specific evidence if you're willing to look into it. Here's one idea - just look into criticism of Moore's film - I'm sure you'll find a lot of links to the facts about the actual situation in Cuba.

    @StasM The problem is that (1) people tend to present mostly the facts that support their point, and (2) facts themselves might be believed or disbelieved based on personal political conviction.

    @gerrit that's not a problem, facts still remain facts. Solicit facts from both sides, then compare. If they contradict, then one of them is not a fact. Unlike opinions, of two contradicting facts one is always wrong. Disbelieving facts is certainly a choice, but IMHO quite a foolish one.

    If facts as claimed from both sides contradict each other, disbelieving facts (as in: believing them to be wrong) is not foolish.

    @gerrit if they contradict, one of them is not a fact. It is usually possible to find out which one by checking the sources and the data.

    @StasM Ultimately, it boils down to *what sources to believe*, which is subjective. For example, in Syria, government sources say one thing, rebel sources say another thing, and personally, I believe neither. So I simply don't know the facts. Facts are only known if one trusts one of the sources.

    @gerrit Is you claim that medical data about USA is not available and official data and any research is so hopelessly full of propaganda that extracting facts from it is impossible? I doubt that, what is the base for such claim? Or is it you claim that situation in Cuba is like that - and then, if it is true, what you think is the reason for the Cuban government to lie and misrepresent their data?

    I think that the Cuban situation *might be* like that. I just mean that if facts about Cuban healthcare claimed by the Cuban government contradict facts about Cuban healthcare claimed by anti-Castro Cuban exiles, I do not know a priori who to believe. For U.S. healthcare, if facts claimed by healthcare company X about their health record contradict facts claimed by left-wing political groups about healthcare company X health record, I also do not a priori know who to believe.

    @StasM you're defining the very problem democracies have with facts...there are many buckets of facts to choose from, all of which may be correct in their own particular context.

    @DA could you provide an example of a fact that would be correct in one political context and incorrect in another? Please to not give example of opinions (like "Rich should contribute more" or "we spend too much on welfare") but facts (like "taxes are currently X% of GDP")

    @StasM the problem with a 'fact' like your example is that it doesn't mean anything in and of itself. It has to be placed into context, and that's where things become much muddier. But, that said, to take your example, define 'taxes'. If you ask 10 political pundits to define the full scope of 'taxes' you'll likely get 10 different answers...arguably all correct, but all different.

    @DA that's why you don't ask political pundits. Instead, you go to the IRS site, to BLS site and to CBO site, and read the actual data. If you want to hear opinions, political pundits are the way to go, but if you want to hear the facts, go to people that deal with the facts. I'm not claiming anything about "meaning" - I'm just saying facts are facts. There's no "different buckets of facts to choose from" - there's only one bucket of facts, and there are different buckets of opinions.

    @StasM I don't necessarily disagree. It's just that facts don't mean a lot sitting there by themselves. All facts need to be interpreted and that's where things get convoluted. There is no on simple fact that would clearly indicate one nation's health care is any better or worse than any other's.

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