I’ve had an amusing discussion elsewhere on the subject of healthy democracies. Someone tried to argue that the fact that Vladimir Putin got 76% of the vote in the Russian presidential election is a sign that Russia is not a healthy democracy. Apparently a healthy democracy is one in which there is “competition” – sort of like the free market.
I find this bizarre. The election indicates that the Russian president governs with the overwhelming consent of the Russian people. How could that possibly be unhealthy?
Compare this to Britain, where Theresa May is Prime Minister even though her party got only 42% of the vote in the most recent election, or the U.S. where Donald Trump got 46% of the vote. It seems blindingly obvious that a society in which more than three-quarters of the population thinks the government is pretty OK is going to be a lot healthier (and a lot happier) than a society in which more than half the voters think the government is most definitely not OK.
I am mystified by the idea that we need competition in politics. I’m not even convinced that competition is all that great in the economic sphere. The free market has always seemed to me to be an unworkable utopian pipe-dream. I certainly don’t think free market thinking has any place in politics.
Obviously it is impossible to have a society which makes everyone happy or a government of which everyone approves. On the other hand a society in which roughly half (in some cases more than half) the population disapproves of the current government surely has major problems.
That’s the problem with democracy – even if it worked in practice the way it’s supposed to work in theory (in other words even if there were actual differences between the major parties) it’s still a recipe for trouble and it’s still a guarantee that most people will be dissatisfied.
But if we must have democracy I think I’d prefer to have a democracy in which most people are at least reasonably satisfied. At this point in time Russian democracy looks a lot healthier than democracy in most of the West.