The Alternative Vote system (on which UK people will be voting in a referendum next week) is said by the non-AV advocates to be too complicated. This is patronizing in the extreme. It is only ‘complicated’ for many people because they can’t be bothered to understand it in the first place—because they are already turned-off from voting for politicians anyway.
(For non-UK Short Listers, AV can be explained simply. The voter applies his preference by writing 1, 2, 3, etc against the names of candidates on his voting paper. If the total of first preferences for the leading candidate doesn’t reach 50+% then the number of second preferences for that candidate are added on. If the new total doesn’t reach 50+%, then the third preferences are added on. And so on, until 50+% is reached by one candidate.)
The fact of Western elections is that an increasing proportion of people don’t believe that politicians understand the economic system or, even if they did, they (the voters and their particular class) wouldn’t benefit anyway. This is why election turn-outs have been declining steadily for decades in most advanced countries. People will only vote in high numbers when some crucial issues arise that affect all classes.
Politicians (more than anyone else) give us a false message—because it’s in their interest to do so. They say that democracy (the Western voting system) brings prosperity and welfare about. Western politicians preach the same message to the young people of the undeveloped world. But this is putting the cart before the horse. Our voting system—full adult suffrage—only arose because, since Medieval times, one by one, one class of people after another became envious of the increasing benefits that superior classes were receiving and actively campaigned (civil warfare, revolutions, street riots, etc) for a share of the governmental power that dispensed those benefits. ‘Democracy’—as we know it in the advanced countries—is a byproduct of economic prosperity, not its precursor.
Political manifestos are now far from being about how security, peace and justice for all can be improved—the basics of government—but are mainly the display of cleverly balanced lists of bribes to this class or that. But these days we are so stratified, specialized and individualized that the drawing up of such manifestos is becoming increasingly difficult. It is now becoming so difficult that, in their respective elections in recent years, Barack Obama and David Cameron could make recourse to only one man slogan: “I will bring about Change”.
Change to what, politicians don’t precisely say, unless they happen to be speaking to one particular group of people or another. Unfortunately for them, and for a variety of reasons (e.g. population-based, limitations of some resources, absence of uniquely new consumer goods which can stimulate economic growth sufficiently — such as electrification or the car or TV used to do) there is very little change ahead for Western nations. We have become locked into a particular urban way of life in which we have little daily time or energy for anything much different.
If politicians want to see higher voter turn-outs, more participation in politics, and more credibility for themselves in future years then they are going to have to turn to issues that protect what Western electorates have already achieved (and what can be afforded with no more taxation). They will have to be much starker issues such as stringent immigration control and perhaps even enforced euthanasia for some older high-cost citizens. If the liberalization pendulum has already swung too far in the last half-century or so and politicians don’t feel they can deliver these sorts of policies then we will be increasingly likely to turn out in high numbers to vote (AV or no AV!) for any new political party that is also likely to deliver a dictator also. Thus will the Western experiment in democracy come to an end.