Representative Democracy is an Anachronism

Governance by representation is popularly considered the best way to rule through public mandate. Direct democracy where the citizens will vote on major issues directly is also gaining popularity in the recent times. However democracy is unduly dependent upon voting on decisions which has several major drawbacks. The decisions are restricted to yes or no. Maybe is never an option. Those who abstain are counted in favour of no which is not fair. Further the issue has to be presented in black and white before it can be voted upon. These practices are purely theoretical as in practice there are several shades of grey in every issue and decision. For example when a bill is voted upon in the parliament there is very little chance of accepting some parts of the bill and rejecting some others while seeking modifications in yet other parts. When such issues are tackled through bipartisan cooperation, the result is inevitably a patchy compromise that serves the purpose of none.

The very basis of democracy – the electorate is an artificial construct. Constituencies are arbitrarily demarcated geographically which allows for gerrymandering. Further, with rampant internal and global migrations in every country, the concept of a stable electorate is entirely imaginary. Geographical constituencies throw together an arbitrary crowd of constituents with varied interests, involvements, vocations and concerns. With the high level of complexities found in societies, professions, businesses and governance today, geographical bundles of disparate groups make legislation almost impossible. Laws vary across states and nations and easily enable opportunists to exploit the loopholes with impunity. These are usually dismissed as necessary evils.

In many countries including the US, candidates can influence voter turnout by unfair means such as delaying or preventing new voter registrations, deleting names wholesale from the electoral list, preventing remote voting and engaging in violence and voter intimidation at polling booths. In many countries wholesale bribing of constituents is used as investment to win the ballot. This is usually facilitated by the long term of rule allowed for the elected representatives. Allowing re-election at the end of the term once or more gives the incumbents a very unfair advantage over the newcomers. Thus, in countries like India representation is claimed as birthright where dynasty rule is rampant as the long standing parliament members bring in their children to contest when they get old and infirm.

Representative democracy has many more major fundamental flaws. Once a representative is elected he cannot either be called back mid-term or recall needs a cumbersome process. This facilitates unscrupulous leaders to use money power and deceit to win the election and then proceed to demolish the fundamental structures that govern the country. This is openly in view in several major democracies today. The fixed term allows the representative to focus on selfish agendas in the initial years and later work for social benefit to attempt to get re-elected when the ballot nears. The elected representative rarely represents the views of his electorate in any issue. Very few parliamentarians go back to their constituencies and undertake the painstaking work of ascertaining their views. Even those that do are surrounded by supporters and sycophants who work hard to conceal the real views of the constituents from the representative. In many cases the representatives themselves subvert their own constituents’ preferences as they are under pressure from the leaders of the political parties they are affiliated to. They may also genuinely consider the true views of their constituents as inappropriate or impractical for implementation.

Even a simple unbiased study of democracy as it is practiced in any country today reveals that what is being followed is oligarchy. We just call it democracy to satisfy ourselves!



Born in the rich culture of South India and educated in English, I have been exposed to two opposing world views enabling me to achieve synergy and realize true harmony. I belong to linguistic community “Saurashtra” who were silk weavers patronised by kings of yore. Our ancestors are said to have migrated from Western part of India to Tamil Nadu in the South several centuries ago. Growing up in the country as India underwent its pangs of Westernisation, I was able to synthesise the self oriented Western perspective with the community oriented native one to arrive at a wholesome concept of self after considerable efforts and experimentation. My forthcoming book “Searching for Self – In Pursuit of Inner Peace” is the culmination of this labour.

Coimbatore, India