Brexit – Does Democracy Work?

I haven’t a full grasp of the results of the Brexit (British Exit) Referendum to leave the European Union (EU). But it does seem that British voters voted to leave the European Union in part out of frustrations with their government. But it is not clear that the British voters really understood what they were actually voting for. Apparently most British voters did not appreciate how the EU affected their lives or the world.  The EU is largely an economic community where trade and other important relationships existed. But it was not clear how these ties are related to their economy, price of goods, and free trade between EU nations. Now that they have elected to separate from the EU tariffs will eventually go into effect, making it harder and more expensive to buy goods from EU nations and good from Great Britain harder to sell to EU nations due to higher tariffs set by them. This is only one result of the separation.

The lesson here is that the British did not really understand what they were voting for using a democratic process. With all the news explaining the complications and consequences they are starting to understand what they did better. Some are trying to find a way to reverse this process but will likely fail since referendums are seldom reversed. This put to question whether the democratic process works. It has been my belief that democracy really doesn’t work because it depends upon voters being sufficiently well enough informed to make a knowledgeable and confident decision when voting. It is my personal experience that of the items I am typically voting for I have very little knowledge about. Yes we hear new about presidential candidates but how many of us know who we vote for on City Council or judges, or State Assembly or State treasurer? How many of us understand all the measure we are asked to vote on?  How about those running for County supervisors or school board members? Do we really know most of the time who or what we are being asked to vote on?

I am somewhat active in city government and school boards so I am way ahead of many voters. So though on average I am not very familiar with about half the candidates and measures on my ballot I am knowledgeable with the other half. I know people who are only confident on voting on maybe 20-30% of the ballot. The rest they either vote down party lines or vote arbitrarily depending upon how the ballot statement sound or how they are influenced by mailers and flyers or skip voting for items they don’t understand. That is how I see most voters. So if the British are as poorly informed as we, I can easily understand why they were so surprised at what they voted for. It is hard enough voting for our representatives in government but when that system of government breaks down or citizens want to go around their government with initiative and referendums we are simply poorly equipped to make meaningful decisions.

So democracy barely works and is slow and unreliable. That is why democracies do not exist to run governments. Most governments like ours are republics where we elect officials to look after our interests. It is easier to extensively inform a few elected representatives to do the work of government than it is to inform a very large electorate to the same extent. Democracy is most suitable for electing these representatives. As imperfect as democracy is it is the best that man has devised for electing representatives. But for voters to vote on complicated issues might be democratic but is a very inefficient and poor way to run a government.

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