Can Western Democracy be Saved?

It is no secret that democratic political systems in the western world are in trouble… they are unresponsive to citizen need, have runaway spending crises at an ever increasing rate and lack the confidence of taxpayers to use resources wisely.

|In Ontario, Canada we have recently seen amazing instances of abuse of citizen trust by the democratically elected government. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vote-getting without any consequences. Some of this was simply outright mismanagement or abuse of power. Other instances involve submission of the public interest to political interest in the form of compliance with union demands to secure support from government trade unions. The latter is the greatest concern, because it is representative of a continuing, systemic imbalance in political power that has emerged in the Post WWII period.

The rise big government is a problem in three ways. First it places an ever increasing burden on the productive classes in society to pay for the cost of government, services and programs many of which are funded to acquire support of smalll interest groups. Second, runaway government has acquired the power to intrude on the rights and freedoms of citizens in many ways where government has no business imposing it’s “will” on the citizenry to achieve social engineering objectives which are based on esoteric theories rather than the will of the people. Thirdly – and this is the subject I want to focus on here – big government has led to big government trade unions which organize and broker their voting power to achieve collective bargaining goals. This is a problem that will ulitmately kill democracy by bankrupting the private sector to meet the ever increasing  and unchecked greed of public sector employees.

The way democracy currently works the trade unions of government employees are uniquely empowered with two powerful levers to achieve the objectives of their members. First they can organize collective bargaining labour actions, which has its own problems since government services are often essential to the orderly administration of society. The other power these unions has is organizing voting blocks. Now that goverenment employment has grown to a large proportion of the entire voting population, the effect of organized labour’s manipulation of voting is sufficient that unions can elect the goverenment of their choice.

This is a serious problem that did not exist when the democratic systems hold dear were created. Back then Governments were small and employed a very small proportion of the population. And the employees they did have were not unionized… that emerged as a response to imbalances in negotiating power in the private sector and has been co-opted into the public sector without rational justification. So now we have large numbers of people voting as a block to elect or dethrone a government that is also theiir employer. And they have the power to strike, inflicting pain on the taxpaying private sector citizens they are hired to serve, which invariably damages the electability of the government that suffers from such labour actions. No other body politic in society has similar power. This excess of power results in teh anomalies we see today – ever increasing spending, 20% higher wages in the public versus private sector, unsustainable pension liabilities, inability to reduce staffing resources and the list goes on.

The only ways to save democracy are to address this imbalance of power – or let the goverenment go bankrupt and repeat the cycle. So something has too give… either banning collective bargaining in the public sector or removing the ability of the labour blocks from swinging elections.  Some will think that eliminating the unions is the way to go and this option could work. The other option – eliminating the vote for persons who choose to be public servants – is equally worthy of consideration (I think it makes more sense considering all effects). Either way something has to give… too much power resides with public service employees today and this imbalance is not sustainable in a democracy.