I know you probably did an eye-roll when you read the title but hear me out, I promise you this is not a conspiracy theory meant to throne Kim Jong Un over the world (or so I tell you).
I’m not here to state the obvious and the uncontended cons of democracy- that it leads to slow decision-making, politicians preferring short-term projects to brag about in the next elections instead of long-term projects (like development of roads, tunnels and highways) which will deliver in the next 10-15 years, and herd mentality voting. I’m here to shake the worlds of our 6th grade political science books which wrote praiseful qaseedas of democracy, feeding to our brains that no other system can exist except this. And thus, today, Democracy has become a dogma that only a few courageous (or foolish) people question.
Is Equality always fair? : The Fatal Flaw of Democracy
Growing up, democracy was always marketed as a magical elixir to solve all problems, being based on the ever-green and oh-so-romantic idea of “equality”. Have a look at the picture below.
Let me try to explain this with a real life simple example.
Suppose you’re a parent of two kids and one of your children has 5 toys and the other one has none. Now, principles of equality would tell you to give one toy to each one of them- but would that be fair? Democracy is based on this flawed idea of‘equality’ instead of equity. It is based on the idea that everyone’s vote should have equal value- strongly exhibited in its age-old tagline of ‘one man, one vote’.
However, does everybody in the country have equal information about what the socio-economic policies of the government has been like? The manifesto of each party? The knowledge about how many goals from its previous manifesto were achieved in the last term? I can safely say that your answer is no.
Then why should an informed voter’s decision be seen as exactly equal to that of an informed and responsible voter’s? Why is it that their vote should be valued equal to someone who neither has this information nor is interested in gaining it?
Two Economic researchers from the University of Cologne have provided statistical evidence from a survey of 23,000 voters that an uninformed/misinformed vote can negatively impact the group decision as it can override an informative group decision too .
So, I ask you- no, I urge you to answer- is equality really fair?
A Rad(ical) Solution?
Now, the last thing I want is a mob lynching from the lovers of voting. So, do not get me wrong- I am not saying that the fundamental right to vote of a slightly uninformed or misinformed voter should be taken away.
It would be wrong to strip away a person’s right to participate in the decision-making of his/her own country. The solution of this issue lies in a statistical concept called weighted mean.
This is the same system which educational institutions use to give more credits to a management course than a liberal arts course- believing that it is going to be a more central part of a management professional’s life.
What if we had a small quiz to test the basic political knowledge of each candidate and assign a weightage to each candidate’s vote on the basis of their performance on this test? This idea may sound radical at first, but consider this
When a citizen of a country turns 18, s/he has to go through a series of written and practical tests to be able to drive a vehicle in the country. Why is that? Because the government believes that owning a vehicle is a major responsibility which, if given to the wrong person, can affect not only their own lives but also of others- possibly the pedestrians and that of other drivers. So, why is it that we do not test any knowledge of the person who is about to choose what path the country will walk on for the next five years and how it will be perceived across the world?
Who benefits from keeping you in the dark and how?
There are systemic groups of people who are actually benefiting from survival and thrival of uninformed voters. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’m talking about the politicians of developing countries. Our Vidhayak Chachas (politicians) benefit in four ways from not raising the issue of uninformed voters-
One, uninformed voters are easy prey to their sweet speeches and unattainable promises. Unfortunately, currently, there is no study to calculate the magnitude of innocent votyers who fall prey to these false promises. But, information would enable them to assess the past performance of their candidate and to assess if what they are being promised is even possible.
Second, uninformed voters are easy prey to biased or fake news because they do not have logical data to fight it back with. Creating an “Us vs Them” narrative- using religion, gender or race- proves to be very beneficial for politicians who benefit from votes from the majority. Even internationally, politicians have been using the power of data and marketing to influence the minds of voters.
The Cambridge Analytica scam of 2018 exposed how misinformed voters can change the fate of a country and how hauntingly easy it is to misguide voters who are not informed- which affected 2 billion voters in the US alone . An Indian researcher, Gowhar, tried to analyse the effect of false news on voter’s decision in his research paper in 2018, stating – “With over 200 million active users in India and growing, WhatsApp’s reach and features make it a top choice to spread fake news. This not only influences public opinion with political propaganda in India but has also sometimes created panic and incited to violence.”
Third, an uninformed voter is easy to bribe. Most uninformed voters come from a place of lack of education/information, which most often results from poverty. A study based in Africa has shown that the poors in Africa are more vulnerable to bribery because of their lower socio-economic status .
And lastly, uninformed voters are a way to ensure that inefficient/non-delivering politicians stay in power. To put some researched evidence on the table, Political-Economist Rohini Pande even goes as far as to say that if low levels of economic development are accompanied by limited political knowledge among voters for a long time, then democracy will deliver worse politicians in low income countries in the long run  .
In conclusion, it is imperative that we keep questioning the ideas of democracy and keep searching for alternatives to a more fair system. We must learn to question the people who do not want us to question the system. For a few parting words:
“In the race of the infamous Pappu and the bearded santa who brings no gift,
We must continue our search for a system which must lift
The poor, the uninformed, the misinformed and the misguided,
Because a country’s true strengths are informed voters who are undivided”
Views are personal
1. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 2017: “Women & Men in India, Chapter 3” LITERACY AND EDUCATION
2. T. Coupé, Abdul G Noury, 2004: “Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention, Economics Letters, Volume 84, Issue 2”.
3. BBC News, 2018: “ ‘Cambridge Analytica planted fake news’ ”
4. Caryn Peiffer & Richard Rose, 2018: “Why Are the Poor More Vulnerable toBribery in Africa? The Institutional Effects of Services, The Journal of Development Studies”, 54:1,18-29, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2016.1257121
5. Jens Großer & Michael Seebauer, 2013. “The curse of uninformed voting: An experimental study,” Working Paper Series in Economics 64, University of Cologne, Department of Economics.
6. Houser, Daniel & Ludwig, Sandra & Stratmann, Thomas, 2021: “Does deceptive advertising reduce turnout? Theory and laboratory evidence.”
7. Rohini Pande, 2011: “Can Informed Voters Enforce Better Governance? Experiments in Low Income Democracies”
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