Democracy is attributed to the Ancient Greeks. About 2,500 years ago, the Athenians coined the principle of democracy – as well as the word; demos (the people) and kratos (the power). The idea was to create a style of government through a mass meeting. The meetings were to occur regularly, up to several times a month, deciding by majority vote what the laws and policy of the state should be.
Since then, the idea of a government of the people, by the people and for the people has been exploited by a variety of states, and irremediably transformed. The vicissitudes of democracy have many faces, affecting the notion of who should hold the power, and whether the democracy should be direct – aka through referendum or plebiscites – or indirect – through elected parliamentary representatives. But more importantly, democracy, as it is applied nowadays, brings a new question to light; namely whether the voters are still worthy of the decisional power they receive.
Not the vote of the people, but the voice of the masses
A look into recent votes reveals that our societies have long moved away from the traditional “vox populi vox dei” of the ancient civilizations. Indeed, instead of intelligent and informed people, modern votes is led by masses who are united in their extreme emotions. As psychologists put it, crowds don’t develop rational thinking. On the contrary, they pick extreme views, as everyone exacerbates the opinions of their peers. As a result, a natural source of uncertainty, such as foreign terrorism – which remains an omniscient worry since 9/11 – becomes an overwhelming threat that pushes voters to desperate decisions. Masses, unfortunately, refuse to accept reasonable and logical arguments; leading to more than one surprises in election results.
Most people don’t even research their options
Whether voters engage in a national referendum just as Brexit in the UK or elections such as in the US, research reveals that they dedicate very little time to gather information ahead of casting their votes. In fact, many young US voters may not even be familiar with their senior state senators! It doesn’t take long, however, to figure out who your representative politicians are and what they stand for, whether it be Senator Mike Crapo or the British PM Theresa May – depending on your location, nationality and social involvement. Interestingly enough, in 2016, the British population voted to leave the EU, even though a major part of Brexit voters were unable to explain any of the restrictions they claimed the EU had placed on their country. The lack of research leads to dramatic results.
Can voters be trusted?
There is no indication that the voters of tomorrow will be equipped to comprehend the potential consequences of the elections and make the best possible choice. Indeed, as the IQ scores have been showing signs of dropping all around the world, the research suggests that environmental factors might, ultimately, decrease voters’ cognitive abilities. The most recent average IQ score across the USA shows the average individual at 98. Changes in the education and media environment, nutrition, and high digital use might make us worse voters.
In conclusion, there’s no denying that a democratic vote remains the preferred approach in modern societies. But perhaps it is time to educate the voters of tomorrow to avoid the risks depicted above.