By David Van Reybrouck
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Additional info for Against Elections: The Case for Democracy
The elections that have so far taken place in the new century confirm this trend,’ a recent synthesis claims. 65% of those eligible to vote hold a party membership card. On average, that is. 3% in 1980), but the steady decline is unmistakable everywhere. A recent scientific study called the phenomenon ‘quite staggering’ and after systematic analysis, researchers concluded: In extreme cases (Austria, Norway), the decline is greater than 10%; in others, it is around 5%. All cases, with the exception this time of Portugal as well as Greece and Spain, also record a major long-term decline in the absolute numbers of members.
Its diagnosis of representative democracy was correct, but the alternative was weak. For participants in the general assemblies it will undoubtedly have been a moving and enjoyable experience, as the sense of being part of a community that discusses things in a calm and adult manner can be extraordinarily intense. There can never be too much cultivation of civic virtues, especially when parliament and the media no longer set a good example. But how that process might be extrapolated to echelons that can truly make a difference was unfortunately never explored.
An obvious solution would appear to be technocracy, a system where experts are charged with looking after the public interest, people whose technical know-how will pilot the country through today’s troubled waters. Technocrats are managers who replace politicians, so they don’t need to worry about elections but can concentrate on long-term solutions and announce unpopular measures. In their hands policy becomes a matter of civic engineering, of problem-management. It’s often thought that those who advocate technocracy are the concerned elite who want to see progress.