Why is democracy not good

Crisis of democracy : At the limits of the system

It takes more than good intentions and urgent appeals to save democracy. Because it is threatened worldwide, and that becomes clear at the end of 2018. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban and Recep Tayyip Erdogan question freedom, equality and fraternity. In France, the yellow vests are shaking the government's political legitimacy. In Germany too, hatred of elites is widespread, especially the elected representatives of the state. An openly anti-parliamentary party is already the strongest opposition faction in the Bundestag and is represented in all state parliaments.

Democracy is crumbling in many countries. There has long been no talk of the end of history, which includes the victory of this political system. Because it also produces obvious mishaps. Or what else should you call it when a people, as in the case of Brexit, makes a democratic decision that is completely contrary to its own interests? What should one think of a US president who narrowly missed the majority of the vote, but still came to power thanks to a complicated electoral law and now despises democratic values?

Such phenomena cannot be excused as collateral damage to an otherwise functioning system. Democracies have to learn to reform - otherwise they will actually go under. In any case, the orderly majority decision is historically an exotic matter. In the 300,000-year history of man, it does not take up much space. Even if you only look at the so-called modern times of the last 500 years, you will find diverse political systems in which democracy rarely played a role. If it went down, it would remain a brief episode of history.

Many people do not feel that they are "free"

There is no lack of appeals to protect democracy. But the justifications remain strangely vague. We then speak of freedom, but many people do not feel free even though they live in democratic systems. “We are the people”, it was said almost 30 years ago at mass demonstrations in the GDR, which fell a little later. The slogan was a call for freedom and democracy. But today, when a free and democratic system has been established in the place of state socialism, many people do not like it either. To them, freedom does not seem to be their freedom - and so has lost its charm.

In West Germany, the superiority - especially the moral - of democracy was never in question. In its Federal Republican form, it was regarded as the good, as the quasi evolutionary consequence of the rule of barbarism in the Nazi years. And the market economy was seen as an economic system that was inextricably linked with democracy. From today's perspective, both ideas are at least naive. Democracy does not necessarily prevail, because history has no end, nor is a market economy conceivable in connection with other political systems. Nowhere is this more evident than in China.

After a conference with the title “German-Chinese Media Dialogue”, to which the Foreign Office invited to Beijing last year, the German journalists, including the author of this essay, sat together in astonishment. The unspoken questions from the Chinese hosts were also in the room. Questions like: What use is your democracy? Or: How quickly would you have created the prosperity with your political system that characterizes today's China?

What are the returns on democracy?

Comprehensive criticism of the model of China can now be formulated with ease, starting with the systematic violation of human rights, but nonetheless these questions are legitimate when viewed from the outside on Germany and Europe and in the context of history. Quite independently of China: What use does democracy have beyond perceived moral superiority? Or, even more sharply, what is your return on investment?

In any case, it is clumsy. In theory, democratic decisions should always be better because they are backed by the majority in the sense of swarm intelligence. Even if the right direction may not be taken immediately, in the end the crush is always right, that is the theory. But the practice of Brexit speaks a different language. And the agility that is expressed in the image of the school of fish can hardly be seen in the reality of democratic systems. Not a single democracy in the world is as nimble, closed and clever as the one in the sea evades dangers.

The fact that the German state is now injecting almost 100 billion euros a year into statutory pension insurance, which is actually supposed to be fed by contributions from employees and employers, from tax revenues may have an inner logic, but sustainable old-age insurance for everyone cannot emerge in this way. So it stays as screwed up as it is because there are no majorities for reform. The Lehman Bank in New York went bankrupt ten years ago, but the European Union is still struggling to jointly solve the consequences of the global financial crisis. The agonizing slowness, democratically legitimized, always creates new, enormous risks, especially for the southern, less prosperous states of the Community. The fact that climate change is threatening humanity cannot be overlooked, but the effects of even the most stringent emission standards in Europe are obviously falling short.

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