leave in their wake.
Democracy and its discontents: an alternative to elections
Bianco Luno
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Robert Michels (1911) called it an “iron law” that democracies devolve to oligarchies. An anonymous wikipedia author sums it up admirably: “The ‘iron law of oligarchy’ states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to ‘social viscosity’ in a large-scale organization. According to the ‘iron law,’ democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.” It is easy to draw more than one conclusion from this insight. Michels himself became a fascist. But there are ways to the parse the iron law, extract the truth in it, while treating what ails the practice of democracy. This will involve a critical view of the nature of human beings, manifestly, one not fully appreciated by thinkers like Michels and many others. First you survey human landscape, then like a structural engineer, you design and build to suit the foundation materials. Something about democracy is morally defensible. We will try to put our finger on what that is. But much of what currently attends it is not: in particular, the popular notion that democracy and elections must go together. They do not. Elections at scale are inherently vulnerable to degradation.

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