What Is Wrong with Politcs? (5): Failures of the Present Models of Liberal Democracy


In order to be able to clearly perceive how world problems are related to the false conceptions of human beings (which underlie both Liberalism and Marxism), it is necessary to criticize the great social institutions derived from these false conceptions, mainly their models of political organization.

As we have already examined in the opening chapters, such conceptions of the human being are false because they do not adequately grasp the aspects of unity and diversity, which are fundamental for a correct understanding of human reality, both individually and collectively.

This analysis of large institutions is necessary because, as we said, these institutions are practical applications, or models that concretely structure people’s lives. And these institutions are, in turn, directly derived from these abstract assumptions, or from these philosophical premises about the human being.

With a little more precision, we must say that this intermediation, between ideas and large social institutions, occurs in the first place through the influence of dominant ideas at the level of the elite (the group with the greater breadth of conceptual understanding of the social processes).

This intermediation through the elite always occurs because it is the ideas, the values ​​and the consequent behavior of the elite that are inevitably projected on the whole of society in the form of its main institutions, especially the system of political organization.

We have already discussed in Chapter 3 Differences of Capabilities Among Human Beings how overwhelming the influence of the elite is, and there is no need to repeat here this fundamental aspect for understanding societies.

Let us consider a very current example, which takes into account one of the dogmas of our time: – If the elite of a given society accepts the great principle that human beings have similar capacities (egalitarianism), this projects a whole worldview, and this vision shapes a whole set of ethical values ​​(what is fair or unfair, right or wrong, good or bad). And these dominant ethical values ​​in the elite field will necessarily shape (or project) themselves as the great institutions of that society. Later on we will see how egalitarianism is a fundamental concept, which is projected in the main social institutions, both in the field of Liberalism and Marxism.

Importance of the Model of Political Organization

Among all the main institutions of a society, created through the projections of the ideas and patterns of behavior (ethics) that are dominant at the elite level, the most crucial or vital, the one on which the other great institutions necessarily depend, is the model or the way power is organized and distributed within that social body.

It is clear that all the great institutions of a society (political, economic, educational, etc.) interact and influence each other, and therefore the importance of any one of them must not be overlooked. However, all the fundamental laws, which to a large extent guide the existence of these institutions, as well as the decision-making processes that involve immense amounts of resources, depend vitally on the way in which power is organized.

This is because it is the political structure that regulates the way in which the main legislators and other government officials will be chosen. They will decide and shape the main constitutive laws and, therefore, the format or model of the great social institutions, as well as they will decide on the practical application of huge amounts of resources.

Results of Not Understanding the Unity and the Differences

The way in which power is structured or organized is, therefore, crucial to the well-being of any society. Understanding this point does not seem to be very difficult and perhaps it is reasonably well known.

However, even at the level of individuals with greater breadth of conceptual grasp (elite), people find it difficult to realize that the large institutions that organize and distribute power, that is, the political systems of both Liberalism and Marxism, are very inconsistent, or very incompetent in fulfilling its basic function of organizing power in a society.

Thus, at present, the vast majority, even among those with greater conceptual grasp, fail to realize that it is precisely the incompetence of these institutions that is directly responsible for most of the serious problems faced by the societies.

This generalized difficulty in clearly perceiving the failure of these models is explained by the fact that this perception is only possible when one takes into account both the fundamental unity of human beings and their enormous differences in mental and moral-ethic (character) capabilities. These are the two central aspects in any realistic view of human beings collectively considered. And it is the misunderstanding of these two aspects where both Liberalism and Marxism essentially fail.

Importance of the Law of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity

Due to this lack of understanding, both Liberalism and Marxism, do not grasp the importance of the perspective of humanity as constituting a fraternity or brotherhood (the principle or law that all human beings are like a family, that is, all are like brothers and sisters). The principle or law is of the utmost importance, since it is the only perspective that encompasses and harmonizes these two fundamental, and apparently contradictory aspects of unity and diversity. For this reason we are so concerned with initially presenting an overview of the fundamental essential unity, as well as the great differences in capabilities between human beings.

In the final chapters of this work, we will try to return to this question of the decisive relevance of the law of the brotherhood of all human beings, as a consistent alternative of philosophical foundation for new and better political models, or, if we wish, for a true (just and competent) democracy.

The Two Main Functions of a Political System

When we take these two aspects into account (of unity and diversity), it is clear that the system of political organization in any society must respond, above all, two major needs related to the organization of power.

The first of these needs is to offer a good process for choosing the main legislators and other government officials. A process through which the most highly qualified individuals can reach the positions of greater responsibility in society, both in ethical-moral terms and in terms of knowledge, general and specialized, which are necessary for the exercise of these functions.

The second need is to ensure that these leaders are endowed with the appropriate means of coercion, that is, with a sufficient amount of power or strength, so that they are able to guarantee respect for the legal norms. Such norms are the result of decisions emanating from these legislators and government officials, and if there is not enough power to implement them in practice, the entire political system is compromised.

There is a need for a clear understanding of the decisive importance of these two main functions of a political system. This is decisive both for making a good diagnosis of the failures of the current systems (and, therefore, for understanding how global problems are generated), as well as for the possibility of building a model of social organization fair and competent, that is, with social justice and harmony. For this reason, we will now examine each of these main functions.

The Process of Choosing the Main Political Authorities

The first need, therefore, is that of a fair and competent process for choosing government higher officials. If we take into account the enormous differences in capabilities (and, as a consequence, the inevitable different levels of breadth, or dimension, of human beings’ social conceptual grasp), we will immediately realize that this aspect is absolutely essential, and that it cannot fail to be well considered, under penalty of simply disastrous consequences for the well-being of the whole society.

A competent leadership selection process is essential because the issues pertaining to an entire nation, and its relationship with others, are very vast and complex. In this way, only very few people – only those more knowledgeable and also with altruistic character – will be able to properly understand and manage these issues.

Therefore, the requirements inherent in the competent exercise of the most responsible positions in a nation are very large and, therefore, require that the selection process ensures that duly qualified individuals will arrive at these positions, who will surely be very few. All of this highlights the fact that the system for choosing leaders must be exceptionally well structured. Otherwise, it will inevitably compromise the welfare of society as a whole. This is because, it is around this system of selection of the main legislators and governors that society organizes itself and develops its whole practical life.

If we look at the much simpler example of a large company, we will easily see that the fact that if the most skilled are not placed in the leadership positions it implies an enormous waste of resources and, often, the failure of the company. What to say then for the case of nations, which are much more complex and much broader realities? In this case, not choosing those few qualified people to perform the most responsible functions, means the certainty not only of immense waste, but of physical and moral catastrophes, which is the picture that we can observe in the current national and global panorama.

The Necessity of Sufficient Coercive Power

In addition to people trained in the most responsible positions, there is also a need for sufficient coercive power in their hands. This second aspect is also decisive in order to ensure that the decisions of the government are actually implemented. This, above all, in view of the fact that one of the main social characteristics of the current world is the existence of gigantic organizations, public and private, which hold immensely great power in their hands, and use it for the realization of their interests and objectives. privatists (either in public corporations, or in private groups).

As it is not difficult to see, even public organizations develop a “spirit of the body”, that is, corporate interests, and use their enormous power in favor of those interests. It is evident that this occurs even more in the context of large private groups. Within this scenario, if the leaders of the State are not endowed with sufficient coercive power, there will be no chance that these gigantic interests can be regulated and harmonized in favor of the greater interests of collective well-being.

The current model of political organization of Liberalism, that is, the forms of Liberal democracy of today, offers very unsatisfactory answers to either of these two needs.

On the one hand, Liberal democracy nowadays offers a selection process to the positions of greater responsibility that certainly do not select those few really qualified to exercise these high and heavy responsibilities.

And, on the other hand, it generates a weak state structure, totally at the mercy of great corporate interests, that is, of the gigantic public and private organizations, whose existence, as we said, is one of the most striking characteristics of today’s societies.

The Necessity of Freedom

Let us try to understand the reason for this double failure of the current formal forms of Liberal democracy. Let us first imagine any selection process, a public tender, for example. If we wanted it to be a serious, fair and competent selection process, that is, a process that really had a good chance of choosing the most capable of a given population, what would be its necessary conditions?

First of all, there should be freedom for anyone to participate, so that no one is beforehand excluded from the competition. If a part of the population were excluded a priori, say those with yellow skin, nothing would guarantee us that within that group, small or large, of the population that has yellow skin, it would not contain very qualified people. Therefore, freedom is an indispensable ingredient of a fair and competent process for selecting the most qualified.

The Necessity of Equality of Opportunities

Second, there should be no privileges in the selection process, that is, there should be equal opportunities in the dispute, because if someone, for example, had the privilege to know the questions of the test in advance, that person would certainly get the first place, but it would have no value, it would prove nothing. This would irreparably corrupt the selection process, making the process unfair and incompetent in relation to its true purpose, which is to select the most capable.

The Necessity of Matching Functions and Capabilities

Finally, there should be a great match between the degree of difficulty of the test and the function for which it is selecting the most qualified, and also the qualification or level of understanding of the population in question. If, for example, an exam was selecting office clerks, there would be no point in a test that contained only questions of integral calculation. On the one hand, this content would not be adequate for the degree of difficulty, the type and the responsibility of the function and, on the other hand, the target population would have little understanding of the issues, making the selection process very insignificant. This means that there must be a match between the required skills and the level of understanding of the candidates to be examined.

These conditions are practically universal in relation to any selection process, and the case of a political system that seeks to be fair and competent is no exception to these rules. Let us then examine each of these necessary conditions in relation to the main selection process for current Liberal democracies, that is, in relation to their electoral political system.

The Blunder of Large Mass Elections

Freedom of participation and expression is a universal value, inherent to human dignity, and any a priori restriction on the possibility of someone, or of any group, participating in the political process will vitiate the choice process. Speaking only in general terms, the guarantee of this freedom of participation, expression, organization, etc., is usually reasonably well served in current Liberal democracies.

But what about the second condition for a fair and competent selection process for the most qualified, which is equal opportunities in the dispute? In this case, the condition of equal opportunities refers to the dispute for positions of political leadership at different levels of the country. Are there equal opportunities in large-scale elections that characterize the processes of choice for the main political posts in today’s Liberal democracies? Evidently not, not at all.

The electoral processes of large masses, which often reach millions of people, are characterized by very expensive campaigns, which involve large resources (human, material, financial, etc.) and necessarily involve access to very expensive instruments of mass communication.

Now, the majority of the population has few resources, which makes it impossible to finance the campaigns, which involve large financial resources. In addition, large mass media are owned by private groups. What happens in the reality of this unfair scenario is that the vast majority are completely excluded from any concrete chance of success in such a flagrantly unequal dispute.

And the result of that is quite evident. The overwhelming majority of those who are elected belong to some very visible categories. Above all, the rich are chosen, or those financed by groups that have large material resources; also chosen are those who appear frequently in the mass media, be they artists, athletes or mass communicators of various types.

It is worth repeating that since the media are private companies, the private interests of these companies exercise a “natural censorship”, not only on what they convey, but especially on those they employ as their communicators of all kinds.

Has anyone ever seen a communicator from a major communication company criticizing economic, or political facts that are against the interests of that company? On the contrary, what is known is communicators, artists, etc., who lose their jobs because they disagree with the ideas and interests of their bosses. It is also well known the immense power of the mass media, be it the television or radio networks, or even the big newspapers and magazines, which together are often called the “fourth power”.

Modern forms of digital communication such as, for example, social networks via the Internet, of which many expect so much are unable to break this rule: that economic and financial power and the various forms of demagogic popularity also play a dominant role in these digital media.

The last category to have a chance of success in this system are demagogues of all kinds. They are those who, consciously or unconsciously, deceive the masses with promises that cannot be kept. Of course, some manage to combine two of these categories, or even all three, and then there are the electoral phenomena, whose current, paradigmatic and globally most significant example, is President Donald Trump of the USA.

In summary, in the processes of choosing the current forms of Liberal democracies (that is, in the electoral processes of large masses), the following three categories largely dominate the results of the elections: 1) the rich and those supported or financed by them; 2) those whose work involves frequent and voluminous exposure in the mass media; and, 3) demagogues of all kinds, whose discourse meets the interests and desires of large population groups, when actually the are unable to serve them.

Many people do not clearly perceive that this unfair scenario (of the mass elections) is even more aggravated when we consider the third of the conditions of a good choice process, that is, the necessary adjustment between the characteristics and requirements of the function, and the understanding of the population in question.

The information in Chapter 3, on the differences in capabilities, showed us the real profile of the levels of breadth the social understanding of the population in general. The degree of innocence of a large part of this population was clearly shown there. Without a clear view of this profile and the enormous differences in the reach of the population’s social understanding, it is not possible to make a serious diagnosis about how unfair and incompetent the rules are for the selection of governors in the electoral processes of current Liberal democracies.

Let us take, by way of illustration, just one concrete example. What is the sense of the population choosing the constituents (1986), through direct, universal and mandatory suffrage, when according to a survey (already mentioned) by IBOPE in Rio Grande do Sul which is one of the states with the best educational indexes in the country 70.5% of the electoral population did not even know what a Constituent Assembly was?

Would it be surprising that in the process of choosing such leaders, the population elects a corrupt president? Or that she elects as a federal deputy, one of the most responsible posts, someone who has the resources to finance an expensive election campaign (own resources or rich supporters), or a drug dealer, or a TV show host, or a comedian, or a demagogue, or someone for being a good athlete, and so on?

Remember that this is not just the case in the Third World. Just look at the recent example of the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., or politicians with so many corruption scandals in the richest countries in the world. There are so many examples, as in Japan, where a prime minister was deposed because they discovered that he had been bribed by large companies, such as Lockheed in the USA. Or the case of Nixon in the USA. Or several deputies and a corrupt prime minister, not to mention a porn actress elected to parliament, in Italy. The examples are so many and so many that they become boring.

The chart below, regarding the credibility of politicians, is very clear about the results of this process of choosing political leaders in the current forms of Liberal democracies. These data are about the credibility deserved by those who should be the best that a nation has, as they occupy the most responsible positions. The survey is by IBOPE and was published in Zero Hora, on 08/09/87. Needless to say, the situation in Brazil 2020 does not look any better, with so many corruption scandals in the highest positions in the nation! The question asked was as follows:

– “Do you agree or disagree with the statements below used to describe the actions of politicians?” The tabulation presents percentages.

Statements Agree Disagree Not know/ not answer
Only do politics in self-interest 80% 17% 3%
They care about the interests of the people 30 67 3
Even the most honest ones corrupt themselves 66 26 8
Not deliver what they promise in the campaign 89 9 2
Only defend those who helped them get elected 73 23 4
They enjoy many perks 92 6 2
Only remember the voter at the time of the election 93 6 1

This disheartening picture, in itself, is already a clear statement about the incompetence of this system of choosing political leaders.

The Power of the Big Organizations

However, it is not just in relation to the process of choosing government officials that this model is incompetent. It is also clearly insufficient with regard to the capacity to provide government officials with the necessary force of coercion, above all, as we have seen, to face the enormous power of big organizations.

Why are these big organizations so powerful? Ultimately, because they manage to bring together the efforts of many thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people. Thanks to this gathering of efforts, albeit for reasons of an eminently privatist nature, these organizations appropriate immense amounts of economic resources, finance and bribe political leaders, and so on. And these organizational exploits are possible because their personnel departments, among others, effectively apply reasonable knowledge about differences in capabilities!

Could anyone imagine a big company, with hundreds of thousands of employees, choosing its main executives, its board of directors, in short, its most responsible positions, through a direct election process, with one vote for each employee? Absolutely not! Or an army choosing its generals for direct elections of all components of the force? No way!

The Roman Catholic Church itself, which from a purely organizational point of view is one of the most successful examples in history, and whose bishops and cardinals outside their organization defend Liberal democracy, but do not apply a system in their own home so inefficient. Its faithful do not elect the Pope, not even priests, and not even all bishops elect the Pope. Only the cardinals proceed to choose the greatest head of the Church!

Now, the problems of a great nation are much more complex than the problems of running a large company, an armed force, or a religious organization. But the same business, military, religious leaders, etc., who outside their organizations defend the current political models of Liberal democracies, would never think of applying it to the much simpler realities of their corporations!

This is a good example of the “poorness” of the elites. In other words, the “poorness” (bad quality) of the ideas that dominate at the level of the elites, and that are projected as the great institutions of the countries in most of the world today, whether models of Liberal or Marxist inspiration, or models derived from religious traditions, which are still existing today.

The weakness of the State organized under the current forms of Liberal democracies has been attested, several times, in the recent history of Brazil, and of so many other nations, especially in the Third World, or, in our case, in Latin America. Why were so many coups d’état possible, and why so many more will be possible in the future? Because in addition to choosing leaders very poorly, it is a weak model of State organization, powerless in the face of the strength of the big organizations, of which it is usually nothing more than a “puppet”. And the same factor that explains the strength of these corporations explains the weakness of this model.

We have seen that the strength of these corporations lies in the fact that they are able to gather, or organize, in a cohesive manner tens or hundreds of thousands of people. And in view of the colossal strength of these corporations, only the force generated by a good organization of the entire population of a country could overcome. This is exactly what the current Liberal-democratic models do not do, because in the systems of elections of large masses the political organization is very loose, and the population remains fragmented, or “atomized”, due, among other aspects, to the great distance that separates the representatives of the represented. This is because it is good organization, cohesion, or unity as it is popularly said, that which generates strength – and not fragmentation of an almost amorphous laxity.

When millions of people directly elect a high authority, whether legislative or executive, this same process, in addition to being very incompetent and unfair as a process for choosing the most qualified, creates an abyss between the population and its leaders.

Now, this double characteristic, which is striking in this process of choosing government officials, creates the weakness of this type of state organization, especially in relation to the gigantic corporations, private or public. Because, as we said before, even public organizations develop a spirit of private (particular, privately owned, etc) nature and interests.

This double terrible mistake, of poorly capable main government officials and poor organization of the population, inevitably generates a weak State, where there is no force capable of regulating and harmonizing the interests of the gigantic organizations for the benefit of the entire population.

Needless to say, this weakness is only reinforced by the counterweight order of the three powers, whose separation, since its original conception, aimed at weakening the central power. This weakening, as already explained, in reality is the objective sought, which is derived from the conception of a “minimum state”, in view of the need to protect individuals against the perversity of a leviathanic (leviathan like) State. In these points, in summary, lie the main flaws of the current models of Liberal pseudo-democracies.

As we saw earlier, in a quotation by Philip Converse, it is the great currents of thought, especially those dominant in the most intellectualized strata, that build the life of nations. In the same way, we could add, they heavily influence the lives of individuals. The ideas that dominate the minds of the elite, what leaders and intellectuals preach, what great artists inspire, and so on, will become the life of a nation, since these hegemonic thoughts will inevitably also shape main social institutions and, in this case, the models of social-political organization.
(Arnaldo Sisson Filho. What Is Wrong With Politics?; chapter 5)