Macro or Micro Democracy?

A macro democracy is one in which hundreds, thousands or millions of people vote for either a politician or a law, or both. We have macro democracy in the U.S. on the municipal, state, and national levels; as do all the countries in the world.

As I listen to the complaints about elections, they are about the following.
(1) There is a concern that there are various schemes used to discriminate as to who can vote, or to disqualify votes.
(2) There is a concern that those who have the most money contributions tend to win elections.
(3) There is concern that the media are controlled by the rich, and sway the public with their propaganda.

To offset these problems, the proposed solution for (1), is to extend the vote and to prevent tampering with vote counting; for (2), to limit contributions; for (3), to extend the access to media (as, in fact, the internet has done.)

And the most ambitious proposal is directed at educating the public in critical thinking. For example, this was the aim of Susan Stebbing’s book Thinking to Some Purpose,1939.

Her reasoning was this: Democracy relies on the judgment of the public. Therefore, the public must be trained in critical thinking, if democracy is to be effective.

Stebbing’s book is a call for the need for rational thinking, and I have no quarrel with that. And if we assume that we must work within the democratic institutions as they exist, then, yes, I agree with her prescriptions for educating the public in critical thinking.

All these proposals are on how to ameliorate the workings of the existing (macro) democracy.

I am skeptical that any of these measures — if they could be carried out — would work. Concerning the extent of the vote, women suffragettes agitated for the vote, and when they got it, nothing changed. As to limiting campaign contributions, this will not solve the problem of where the candidates come from or who they are. The public will continue to choose between a Tweedle-dee and a Tweedle-dum. As to the media, money will always be able to capture the audience with better entertainment. As to educating the public to become critical thinkers — that’s just wishful thinking.

What is my alternative?

All the above proposals are about how to work within the present institutions of government. My proposal is that we need to change the institutions of government. We should not be thinking how to change people so that they work within the present institution; rather, we should be thinking how to change the institutions to comply with the nature of people, as they are.

What Stebbing and others miss is that democracy does not have to take the form it has in either England or in the United States. It can take the form, for example, of Swiss democracy. Switzerland, for one, does not have a single leader such as a president or a prime minister; instead it has a Federal Council compose of seven individuals, nominated by four political parties, and conferred by their parliament. In this way it avoids, at least, the institution of a macro election of the executive. In general, Switzerland avoids placing any executive office in the hands of one person, and prefers councils.

Although Switzerland’s democracy is much better than anywhere else, it still relies on macro-democratic practices in electing representatives, and in voting in initiatives and referendums — though I think it is better to have them than not.

My ideal government would be a micro-democracy, in which the unit of government would be a community of some 150 individuals, who elect a council or councils for various purposes, and these councils send delegates to higher level councils. This is the ideal of anarchist communities, as espoused by, for example, Peter Kropotkin and Noam Chomsky.

There are two contemporary authors who have produced similar ideas in modern dress. One is Michael Albert, who has written on participatory economics or Parecon. — The following is a criticism of the writings of Michael Albert for neglecting the writings of anarchists (reinventing the wheel?): The Flawed Vision of Hahnel and Albert. A Critique of “Parecon” for Anarchists — Nov/ 12, 2912, Boston Anarchist Book Fair. Simmons College

Also, see his criticism of Parecon in Getting Free, 2007, p. 130. pdf file

The other is Stephen Shalom, who has written on participatory politics or Parpolity. See: Imagining Self-Governance against Predatory Capitalism and a Centralized State

Is the United States really interested in a liberal (democracy) hegemony?

In the videos below, John J. Mearsheimer claims that the United States is interested in promoting liberal democracies in the world (i.e., liberal hegemony). I would qualify this in the following way. Promoting liberal democracy is a sufficient — though not a necessary condition — for promoting an American capitalist hegemony. Why? Because the sort of “liberal democracy” which the capitalists want is where there is a president or a prime minister — a single individual who can be bribed or threatened, and who can be helped to be elected. The United States is not interested in promoting Swiss style democracy, for example. And, moreover, for capitalist interests, promoting dictatorships is also a sufficient — though not a necessary condition — for promoting an American capitalist hegemony, as long as the dictator cooperates with the American capitalist hegemony.

The rhetoric of liberal democracy as promoting individualism, inalienable rights, tolerance, community, and peace is a rationalization (a smoke screen) for promoting capitalist interests.

John Mearsheimer assumes that countries like the United States operate on the basis of ideologies. On the contrary, countries like the United States reflect the interests of a President and his friends. Ideology is a propaganda rationalization or smoke screen for economic reasons.

Bush’s invasion of Iraq was for control of oil and for a depletion of United States’ surplus of armaments; not for liberal democracy. And Trump’s saber rattling over Venezuela and Iran has nothing to do with promoting liberal democracy. It may be just a strategy for securing his reelection. I find it odd that Mearsheimer ignores the deeds of single leaders with their private interests.

Yanis Varoufakis and Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25)

Yanis Varoufakis explains what could be done if his trans-national party, DiEM25, wins control of the EU Parliament. I am skeptical of the likelihood of this happening. But hypothetically, if it were to happen, his post-victory announcements sound like the promises of the Bolsheviks in Russia to act as a vanguard for transforming Russia, except that the Bolsheviks started with a democratic system of people’s councils (soviets), which they subverted into the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party. In contrast, I am under the impression that Varoufakis is promising the reverse of this. He seems to be saying something like: “Give our party power and we will transform countries into a system of bottom-up democratic councils.”

In his post-victory press announcements, he assumes that his party has appointed three new presidents: the president of the European Central Bank, the president of the European Investment Bank, and the president of the European Commission. And how did his party get this power? By gaining a majority in the European Parliament? No, the European Parliament has no such power. To do this, you have to gain power over the governments in the individual countries — not just by getting a majority in the European Parliament.

Contrary to what Varoufakis claims, I believe that countries have to bring about their own individual changes. And what changes do I propose? First, they have to become more like Switzerland, by getting rid of autocrats (i.e., a single president or prime minister); then such countries can reconfigurate power in the EU.

I don’t think of Switzerland, with a Federal Council of seven individuals, as the ideal; but it is the realistically best.

Reasons why I am skeptical

Below is a schematic of the several departments of the 28-member EU. Note that the governments of the several countries decide on everything except for the European Parliament, and the European Commission initiates legislative bills. And for a bill to become law requires the approval of both the Parliament and the Council of the EU; so, even if DiEM25 controls the Parliament, it can at most have a veto power — that is all. So, I don’t see how the EU can be transformed from within. It can be transformed only through the member governments; not through the European Parliament.

Major Error in Varoufakis’s speech

In the talk he said that Stalin tried to build socialism in one country. What Stalin had was not socialism, which minimally would have required worker-owned and worker-run enterprises; no, everything was owned and run by the state, which is better called “state capitalism.”

What are the perks of being an MEP? Euronews Answers