Fables from the Hood - Dog and Fish / Governance

The Dog was getting thirsty. Combining the necessary with the enjoyable, the Dog took a walk to the stream to visit the Fish. The Dog and the Fish were best of friends and enjoyed discussing philosophical perspectives on life, the universe and everything.

The Fish seeing the Dog coming, swam as close to the edge as possible. Immediately the Fish began a discussion of great relevance and importance. It involved a discussion of the best form of governance, providing direction, security and happiness.

Fish: What is better democracy or a dictatorship?

Dog: Hard to say. Hard because for most of history, dictatorships have been the norm. Be it a King, be it a dictator or be it a single political party.

Fish: This would imply that the USA is one party off from being a dictatorship?

Dog: Implications are indications in another form. But yes, China is a single party communist state, Russia is a multiple party dictatorship and America is a two party democratic state. It doesn’t take much to be different.

Fish: The Europeans have it good, many multiple party democratic states with a single unifying European parliament to provide an overarching direction for the future.

Dog: You mean that the Europeans have an abstract technocratic institution to make unpopular decisions that are pushed onto the democratic states all in the name of Freedom, Unity and liberal Western values?

Fish: Hang on. Everyone gets a vote, that’s gotta be worth something.

Dog: True everyone gets a vote but no one can see into the future. Votes are made on promises and ideals, not on facts.

Fish: Heh? Whatcha talking about?

Dog: Western democracies are representative democracies. Meaning people vote for representatives that make decisions in the name of their voters. But these decisions are made in the future while voting is done today. So voters can only guess how their representatives will decide. And there is no mechanism for feedback from voters for decisions made in the now.

Fish: Meaning there is a disconnection between voters making their decisions today and representatives making their decisions tomorrow?

Dog: Correct. The old Greeks (having invented democracy) had a direct democracy: everyone could be part of the decision making. And there was a corrective for bad decisions, people could be expelled from the Greek city-states for five years. The Romans introduced a representative democracy where senators were elected and represented the people.

Dog: (continuing) I have to correct myself here, the Athenians actually invented democracy, with other Greek city-states having other forms of organising themselves.

Fish: I can imagine why this happened. It’s one thing to have a democracy for a city state and a completely another thing to have a democracy for an Empire. Area to be governed and secondly the number of people to be governed strains a democratic system.

Dog: And on top of that, the number of decisions to be made grow exponentially with the number of people to be governed. Decision making takes longer, direction is lost and things start to lose focus.

Fish: So basically democracy, regardless of it’s sweet promises of freedom, happiness and glory, simply doesn’t scale. How can democracy scale if everyone gets a say, direct or indirect!

Dog: Right. That’s why most companies aren’t democratic rather have a strict hierarchy of owners at the top, middle-managers in the middle and workers at the bottom. Of course, since everyone is getting a salary, no one sees this a classic dictatorship. Of course, everyone can provide an opinion but decisions are made at the top.

Fish: So companies are in fact little dictatorships within a democratic system?

Dog: You can see it that way, yes. That is also why capitalism is a game where the goal is to get out of the system: the rich no longer need to partake in capitalism. In fact the rich can change the rules of the game.

Fish: How so?

Dog: By, for example, propping up failed banks. Or by inflating a house markets in order to profit from it. By suing other companies that can’t afford the lawyer fees. There are quite a number of other examples of how capitalism can be influenced by the financial rich to favour themselves.

Fish: Ok, that might be the case but surely you can’t be saying that a dictatorship is a preferred form of governance?

Dog: History is the story of our mistakes, the future is the representation of our collective learnings. No, I’m not saying that a dictatorship is preferable - no system has stood the test of time. What I would like to say is that we should be aware of our failings and find correctives to improve our lot.

Both now took an opportunity to enjoy their freedoms. They spent quite some time in contemplation. The Fish, having grown up being told that socialism, communism and all forms of social sharing were bad, was a little taken aback. The Fish lived in a world of patents, copyrights and prohibitively expensive academic journals and believed that there was nothing better alternative.

Fish: Is money perhaps the problem?

Dog: Belief systems are the problem. Belief systems that capture people in a financial cage, propagating myths that there are no alternatives and making them accept lies as truths. Here I speak of beliefs that we are all born equal and everyone has the same chances.

Fish: Not everyone is born equal?

Dog: Equality stops the moment you exit your mothers womb. In a capitalist system, someone born to financially well-off parents will have a better start to life than someone born in a poor part of town. How can there be equality? Equality in education, in upbringing, in outlook, in possibilities, etc? They only equality is nationality and sometimes not even that.

Fish: Which then leads people to believe they failed in a system were everyone else succeeds. Forgetting that the initial premise was a falsehood. It was the system that failed them, not they who failed.

And with that both fell into a silence of contemplation. Until:

Dog: Do you think our discussion was more important than discussing whether an ice cubes feel pain when they melt?

Fish: Lets go bowling.