About Designing New Democracy




Certainly democracy will not have the same form forever and even Jefferson himself noted this fact 200 years ago when designing the US government. He neither considered the US Constitution nor Bill of Rights to be eternal.  It is even amazing that these documents have worked this long.  Nonetheless, Jefferson was very careful to note that he did not support frequent and untried changes to laws and constitutions. The old constitutions were basically very similar. Thinking about designing new democracy, it is not about East or West, it is not about economics or politics, it is about everything in the whole world.  This is what I have written about New Paradigms before:




In societies like Iran, one should be very careful that the republic is not attacked from a pre-modern perspective, which tries to open the door to the obsolete monarchy, using the façade of a so-called new solution.  And thus in those societies none of these discussions should justify losing sight of the need for instilling federalism and checks and balances to protect the society from sliding to its pre-modern past:






The issue of republic and election of the president are not the central issues of the current democratic system.  The core of this system is a *representational* democracy, which best shows itself in the legislative branch where the laws are designed.  Now the alternatives to it, noted as direct democracy, have been discussed even from very early days of the republics, but they were not practical, as the communities got bigger and also because of the general level of social education and the fear of falling for emotional responses of the public in lawmaking.  But the advent of computers and networks and the enhancement of general knowledge and education has changed this reality.  More and more participatory democracy is becoming a possibility and one can see it in California politics of ballot initiatives.  I have noted this fact four years ago in my following article:




Moreover the mechanical systems of voting are very much dated because they all have been a way to make all humans as equal in a mass model of industrial factory and to be able to use a majoritarian rule.  All these are changing in modern societies as the needs of minority are becoming the determining factor in social decisions, more and more, and the interest groups and bargaining between them, has become *the*  feature of all elections.  So undoubtedly more and more direct involvement of individuals in political decision-making will be seen thru the computers and networking. Another factor is that the rapid global movement of people is making all modern societies more and more pluralistic and no one group can have a dominating force, not even the liberals, so the need to base any design for a new democracy on pure pluralism, and not even assuming acceptance of a  liberal comprehensive system, which is why theorists like John Rawls have been basing their models on pluralism of comprehensive systems:






As far as elites who are the main decision-makers of any society, the elites of the past, even when expanded by the middle class due to growth of decision load and  the struggle of ethnic minorities and women, are now losing their significance, whether landowner or industrialist or middle class, and the elites related to the post-industrial economy are gaining more and more significance and any assessment of the new developments as distribution of power within the existing old industrial society, with its past capitalist and workers groups, is bound to end up with the old liberal or socialist models of the past that are obsolete.  The industrial workers have been shrinking more and more and the new economy and related knowledge professionals have been the growing social groups in the past three decades in the US and elsewhere in the advanced economies.  So any serious new work on designing new models of democracy should start with the deep understanding of the post-industrial development and the new social groups and elites relevant to this new society with their main struggle being against the old industrial and agricultural society.  Moreover, the structure of power needs to study condign, compensatory, and conditioned power.  Here is what I wrote about structure of power as I see it in modern societies and I recommend the works of John Kenneth Galbraith in this area:




In short, as Alvin Toffler has explained it very eloquently in his book the “The Third Wave”,  we are now in the process of asking the questions about the 21st Century democracy rather than having the answers, and in the years since the publication of his book, we are seeing more and more how the New Economy is developing without much attention to the realm of politics, but it has now reached a point that the elites of this new economy are seeing the impact of politics on their industries, where the US government subsidizes the industries like Auto, Airlines and Oil but lets the Internet2 initiative to be left in the universities with no funding and the dotcom and fiber optics companies fall apart under the burden of heavy debts, while they used  to build the infrastructure of the future post-industrial society by connecting the continents with fiber cable, and thus the attempts at creating the building blocks of a new world of Internet have been hampered by these political decisions.  Therefore one can now better ask the political questions of the New Economy which relate to the design of new democracy:




Furthermore, some of the developments in the designing of new democracy in the advanced countries, such as the topic of propositions and ballot initiatives that are focused on minority power and participatory system, are applicable to undeveloped counties like Iran as well, and some other topics such as the elite of the New Economy will become applicable as these countries grow in the direction of the post-industrial society:




The bottom line is that issues of decision tree and decision load that are being dealt with in the advanced societies are also true in the other countries and in fact more and more the global decisions such as environmental and global peace and justice need to be addressed by humanity at large and no country can excuse itself from these responsibilities.  The restructuring of UN and other international bodies will definitely impact all societies in the world.  This is why Iranians will have to interact more and more with the West and other countries at different levels of various international bodies and organizations such as UN or scientific and professional leagues:




I highly recommend the works of authors like Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler and John Naisbit which have followed up the latest trends and changes in the worldwide social and political institutions, and the structural changes that have happened in the last three decades.  This is the only way to come up with a proper design responding to the needs of humanity in our times.  Frankly I see the works of people like Manuel Castells a waste of time as they have tried to push these new changes to fit in a semi-Marxist model and are like the attempts of Islamists and Christians trying to fit these into their own dogma.  They have added nothing new to the discourse:




Finally as far as the basics of modern democracy and its commonality and differences with the ancient democracy and its enduring features of the question of *how* rather than *what*, I have written the following before.  I think still many theorists of new democracy make the mistake to think democracy is about *who* rules and try so hard to make sure workers or blacks or women are included in the ballot.  Not that these votes have not been important advancements but frankly these are not what makes a country democratic.  Please especially note the quotations from Karl Popper in my article below which elaborates on this grave mistake of some new democracy theorists:




And the section on Rawls’s “Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy” in my following article explains the difference of Ancient democracy and modern.  The difference between those who considered it to be a personal virtue and those who considered it as a question of *rights*:




Designing a new democracy is not a one time thing and it may not happen in one shot as the US Constitution was done by the fifty five (55) who came together in 1787 in Philadelphia (and added Bill of Rights in 1791).  They predicted the future very well, let’s hope the ones who embark on the next similar task of designing the 21st Century democracy do as well.


Sam Ghandchi, Publisher



April 4, 2002




P.S. One can argue that dotcoms are not infrastructure and that is why US government has not helped them out, but nobody can say that about the whole service provider business which definitely *is* infrastructure. Many leading-edge companies like Global Crossing have failed in just the last few months and government has not provided any help to keep them afloat, whereas it has helped the old economy. Global Crossing had put fiber optic cables beneath the ocean and connected the continents and this is a critical infrastructure and they folded because they could not make their debt payments in this slow economy where the bandwidth is not used much partly because of failure of dotcoms and party because of the bad economy itself. True that Old Economy companies get better government support because they have a better lobby and also it is true that when post-industrial takes over economically, the government should accept more of post-industrial industries as infrastructure. I said should and not *would*. Because the government support of a new economy is not automatic.  We should remember a similar historical situation, and in France, when its transition from pre-industrial to industrial society, the political support of government for the new economy, *only* happened after the bloody 1789 revolution. Although I do not foresee such a need for a bloody revolution in the transition to post-industrial society, but I definitely do not see the support of government for the new economy to be automatic, and I think it involved a lot of political action than the ones in the New Economy think needed today, and this is why this *super-struggle* of our times, as Toffler calls it, will determine the face of the 21st Century democracy.  In a way, the problem of New Economy in advanced countries like the U.S. is as much political as the same problem in the undeveloped countries like Iran:-)

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