Book Review: The Flaws That Kill Our Democracy

The Flaws That Kill Our Democracy:  Version 1.0, by Klaas Mensaert

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookSirens in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

In many ways, this book resembles a shorter cousin to John C. Calhoun’s disquisition on American politics in a way that demonstrates a desire to create a more consensus-based government that serves as a case of reasoning from flawed premises.  Given that the Belgians have adopted a concurrent majority model not too dissimilar from Calhoun’s model, that is not too surprising.  On the positive side, the author has clearly read a great many good books and has sought to gain insight from them.  On the other hand, the author shows a great deal of contradictions that show the internally inconsistent nature of late-stage socialism as it relates to the reform and structure of political systems.  The author tries to argue for bottom-up reforms of the political system while simultaneously arguing for the creation of more layers of bureaucracy in an already overly bureaucratic European democratic model, and claims to be a moderate while simultaneously endorsing Pirate socialism.  The book certainly has interesting insights and the author has done a good job at thinking about issues, but he is still creating an idealistic and utopian view of politics that seeks to promote the soft tyranny of bureaucratic solutions to deal with the threat of division between genuinely opposed political parties.  Whether or not that soft tyranny is to be preferred to the options that result from populist demagoguery or whether it is to be viewed as legitimate are up to the reader to decide.

This book is a relatively short one at between 100 and 150 pages and it begins with a preface and acknowledgement that introduce the author and his background and perspective.  After that the author looks at the issue of decentralization and tries to discuss his own personal political awakening as well as a look at fragility and the nature of political parties and their flaws.  The author looks at exclusive parties (to which he contrasts his own goal for inclusive parties) and the issues of oligarchies and specialization that results from having people committed to political parties, somewhat disregarding the reasons why times of crisis tend to have sharply divided and exclusive parties more than normal periods.  The author also deals with questions of representation, including complete choice voting and accounting for popularity in different ways as well as providing negative comments about lobbyists and the way that the political process can frequently be manipulated by the press or marketing efforts.  After that the book ends with an appendix that includes an faq as well as notes and additional ideas.

I expect this book to have multiple versions.  This is only the first, and it seems likely that the author will address concerns and critiques of his philosophy as well as changes to the political behavior of the Western democracies by making further versions that are likely more complicated and more nuanced.  The author notes the status quo bias of many voters while also presenting a solution that is clearly not a status quo one by adding layers of elected officials and seeking to counteract the presence of lobbyists.  If the author recognizes the problem of biased media and biased political elites within parties, it is difficult for republics to understand what the people want–and people, especially the low-information masses of our contemporary world, may not be well-equipped to understand and articulate what they want no matter what model of government we provide them.  Ultimately, the author seeks to fix fragility within the governments of the West that may or may not exist through the use of very technical solutions that appear to support an agenda of managing democracy by unelected technocratic and bureaucratic elites.  And if the author finds that compelling, there will be many people who disagree.  Nonetheless, I do not expect this to be the last word that the author has on the subject.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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