Leon Lemmer: Eerder epistokrasie as demokrasie

Deel op

In die nuwe Suid-Afrika word gepoog om die woord “demokrasie” ‘n positiewe betekenis te gee, al ly die regering sedert 1994 aan kroniese ondoeltreffendheid en het die land en daarmee saam die stand van Westerse beskawing plaaslik onrusbarend agteruitgegaan. Demokrasie kan soos volg gedefinieer word: “1 Regeringsvorm deur verteenwordigers deur die hele [volwasse] bevolking gekies, gekenmerk deur vryheid van spraak, van die individu, van die reg, van die pers, ens; volksregering. 2 Staat met so ‘n regeringsvorm. (Grieks demos volk + kratos krag)” (HAT). In Suid-Afrika se geval is daardie “volk” deesdae allermins die Afrikanervolk. Daar kan geredeneer word dat daar nie ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse volk of nasie is nie; bloot ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse bevolking, waarvan miljoene mense onwettig hier is. In die praktyk word vryheid op talle maniere plaaslik aan bande gelê, bv in wat blankes mag sê of andersins doen, met die Menseregtekommissie wat pro-swart daaroor waak. Daarby is die regspleging onder die ban van die ANC.

Daar is talle soorte demokrasie. Al is Suid-Afrika hoogs ongeskik vir sodanige soort regering, het hy ‘n uiterste vorm van demokrasie. Daar is algemene stemreg in ‘n eenheidstaat en boonop het iedere stem gelyke waarde. Behalwe ouderdom (18 jaar)* is daar geen kwalitatiewe vereiste vir stemreg nie. ‘n Ongeletterde armlastige se stem dra dieselfde gewig as dié van bv ‘n magnaat of uitgelese geleerde. Hierdie wanopset word as geregtigheid voorgehou. Daar word geen vereiste van kennis of insig of prestasie aan kiesers gestel nie; asemhaling is voldoende. Onvolmaakte kieserslyste maak dit glo soms selfs vir dooies moontlik om te stem. Daarbenewens benoem die meerderheidsparty die staatshoof, sodat hy eerder sy party se kiesers probeer behaag as om in die belang van die bevolking in sy geheel te handel.

[* Nelson Mandela was ten gunste daarvan dat 14-jariges stemreg kry; blykbaar omdat kinders op daardie ouderdom reeds doeltreffend as terroriste kan funksioneer. “Lowering the voting age would produce lower-quality government” (Brennan, bron hier onder, Kindle 2654).]

Oor demokrasie is daar reeds baie navorsing gedoen en gepubliseer; ook oor die gedrag van kiesers. Drew Westen, ‘n sielkundige, beweer in sy boek, The political brain: The role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation (Hachette, 2008, 497p; Amazon Kindle $13,67) dat emosie ‘n groter rol as rasionaliteit by kiesers speel. Drie sake bepaal by uitstek hoe mense stem: “their feelings toward the parties and their principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven’t decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates policy positions” (Amazon-katalogus). Die oratoriese vermoë en retoriek van kandidate, asook hulle voorkoms (veral in die era van televisie en internetfoto’s en -video’s) kan deurslaggewend wees; so ook die geslag van kandidate. “People often are swayed by rhetoric, charisma, and good looks rather than by the ‘force of the better argument'” (Brennan 1137). “Political ‘fandom’ is what motivates people to get to the polls” (779).

In sy boek, The myth of the rational voter: Why democracies choose bad policies (Princeton University Press, 2011, 296p; Amazon Kindle $17,82) gaan Bryan Caplan, ‘n ekonoom, selfs verder. Irrasionaliteit is die wesenskenmerk van demokrasie en die politiek in die algemeen, “where folly is central.” Dit is dwaas om wysheid by die massa te veronderstel. Byvoorbeeld, James Madison (1751-1836, vierde Amerikaanse president 1809-1817) “had severe reservations about majority rule” (Brennan 3034). Baie van die kiesers is nie net oningelig nie, maar is weens bevooroordeeldheid of gebrek aan insig ten gunste van beleidsrigtings wat skadelik vir hulle belange is. Deur op ekonomiese kwessies te konsentreer, is dit vir Caplan maklik om die graad en gevolge van onkunde by kiesers aan te toon. Almal moet liefs nie toegelaat word om oor almal se belange te besluit nie. Ten minste in hierdie sin is die gelykverklaring van mense en kiesers ‘n onding.

Ek het nog nie Westen en Caplan se boeke gelees nie. Ek wil liewer oor ‘n nuwe boek skryf wat ek gelees het en direk teen demokrasie gemik is: Jason Brennan, ‘n filosoof, se Against democracy (Princeton University Press, 2016, 304p; Amazon Kindle $21,51). Volgens die outeur toon die resultate van demokrasie dat dit nie ‘n aanbevelingswaardige regeringsvorm is nie. Demokrasie is “the rule of the ignorant and the irrational” (192) “and the misinformed” (1532) terwyl burgers die reg op doeltreffende regering het. Daar moet dus liewer na ‘n beter regeringsvorm gesoek word.

Jason Brennan

In Suid-Afrika, veral in die jare negentig, is tot vervelens toe lof vir die reg om te stem uitgespreek. Daarmee is natuurlik by implikasie ‘n verwyt aan die blankes gerig. Brennan noem dit “democratic triumphalism.” Daarvolgens “democracy is a uniquely just form of social organization. People have a basic right to an equal fundamental share of political power. Participation is good for us; it empowers us, it’s a useful way for us to get what we want, and it tends to make us better people. Political activity tends to produce fraternity and fellow feeling” (181). Daarteenoor beweer Brennan: “Political participation is not valuable for most people” (186). Ook: “Democracy does not empower individuals. It disempowers individuals and instead empowers the majority” (2028).

In lande soos Australië en Bolivië word kiesers verplig om te gaan stem. “In Brazil, nonvoters are barred from receiving state-funded education” (1514). Plaaslik word daar graag gesê dat al die kiesers moet gaan stem; dat ons nie oor die regering moet kla nie omdat kiesers die regering kry wat hulle verdien. Maar die huidige opset het blankes polities grootliks magteloos gelaat. “The right to vote is a badge of equal personhood … The right to vote is a metaphorical badge of equality”* (2048). Anders as in Suid-Afrika skryf Brennan: “Some people ought not have the right to vote, or ought to have weaker voting rights than others” (44). Daarmee word die mat onder die gelykmakers uitgepluk. Daar is iets soos kieseronbekwaamheid. “What’s most surprising … is how stable political ignorance is” (580). Die onbekwaamheid van kiesers moet met ‘n stelsel gekenmerk deur bekwaamheid vervang word.

[* “The disagreement … is … over which ways they [the people] should be treated as equals and which ways they should not be. A basic commitment to human equality severely undermines what a good society will look like” (2153).]

Brennan begin sy boek deur John Adams (1735-1826, tweede Amerikaanse president 1797-1801) soos volg aan te haal: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agricultuur, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain” (80). Wat Adams eintlik sê is dat praktiese en beroepsrigtings om den brode bestudeer moet word, maar dat die welvaart en vrye tyd wat daaruit voortvloei, gebruik kan word om bv die vrye en skone kunste ter verryking of kultivering van die gees te bestudeer en te beoefen.

Implisiet hierin is daar kritiek op die hedendaagse beroepsgerigte universiteite wat die humaniora (bv wysbegeerte, geskiedenis, taal- en letterkunde) verwaarloos en gevolglik die spreekwoordelike “geleerde barbare” as afgestudeerdes lewer. Maar wat Brennan veral met die Adams-aanhaling wil aantoon, is dat politiek op die allerlaagste vlak aangetref word. Politici sorg dat hulle hoogs betalende poste beklee,* maar tot op die hoogste politieke vlak word geen toelatingsvereistes vir sulke posbekleërs gestel nie. ‘n Politikus hoef nie matriek of ‘n graad of enige werkondervinding te hê of selfs funksioneel geletterd te wees nie. Oor die deelname van kieser aan die politiek is Brennan ook skepties: “I contend that for most [of] us, political liberty and participation are, on the whole, harmful” (164).

[* “The average US senator has a net worth of almost $14 million, and the average member of the House of Representatives has a net worth of $4.6 million. In contrast, the average American household has a net worth of under $70 000. Political offices are for rich people “(1605) – ook in Suid-Afrika. As ‘n politikus nie reeds ryk is wanneer hy in sy eerste pos begin nie, word hy ryk terwyl hy sodanige pos beklee.]

Die politiek as bedryf is iets wat liefs beperk moet word. “We should want to expand the scope of civil society and reduce the sphere of politics” (448). “As people (regardless of their race, income, gender, or other demographic factors) become more informed, they favor overall less government intervention and control” (663, 3141). Dink aan hoe gemeenskapsgeoriënteerd en doeltreffend plaaslike regering was (asook vry van partypolitiek, bv in die Kaapprovinsie) in die vorige politieke bedeling. Vergelyk dit met die verpolitisering en sentralisering en die gevolglike ondoeltreffendheid, korrupsie en chaos wat kenmerkend van die huidige Suid-Afrikaanse politiek is en daarby op al drie vlakke (sentraal, provinsiaal en plaaslik). “Political leaders not only routinely make promises they never keep but also frequently use outright deception and manipulation to win votes” (1570). Dink aan FW de Klerk se beloofde magsdeling wat in algehele magsoorgawe ontaard het.

“Michael Cholbi claimed that the right to vote is essential to the right of self-determination, by which he means ‘the right to shape the conditions of one’s own existence'” (1390). In die nuwe Suid-Afrika is daar geen sprake van selfbeskikking vir blankes nie; nie eens groep- of minderheidsregte nie.* Anders as Cholbi dink Brennan: “Citizens don’t have any basic right to vote or run for office. Political power, even the small amount of power contained in the right to vote, has to be justified. The right to vote is not like other civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, religion, or association” (186).

[* “Isaiah Berlin [1909-1997] claims that he and other liberals tend to define freedom as the absence of interference from others” (1745). Die “‘neo-republican’ philosopher Philip Pettit” (1739) het ‘n ander opvatting van vryheid: “liberty as nondomination” (1745). “In a democracy, individual citizens are nearly powerless” (2028), gevolglik behoort daar “rights against interference” (1785), asook teen oorheersing/verswelging, te bestaan.]

“If in the past, people were excluded from holding political power for bad reasons [apartheid?], there might be good reasons to exclude some people from holding power or grant them a smaller share of political power” (371), bv misdadigers. Anders as in ander lande het misdadigers, bv gevangenes, in Suid-Afrika volle stemreg. “Democracy is not a uniquely or intrinsically just form of government. Unrestricted, equal, universal suffrage – in which each citizen automatically is entitled to one vote – is in many ways on its face morally objectionable. The problem is … that universal suffrage incentivizes most voters to make political decisions in an ignorant and irrational way, and then imposes these ignorant and irrational decisions on innocent people” (192).

“Democracy, as we practice it, is unjust” (4077). Demokrasie gaan mank aan so baie gebreke dat Brennan epistokrasie (Grieks: episteme kennis + kratos krag) as plaasvervanger voorstel. “The major difference between epistocracy and democracy is that people do not, by default, have an equal right to vote or run for office” (3688). “Epistocracy means the rule of the knowledgeable. More precisely, a political regime is epistocratic to the extent that political power is formally distributed according to competence, skill, and the good faith to act on that skill” (308). Later skryf hy: “A political system is epistocratic to the extent it distributes political power in proportion to knowledge or competence” (3682). Dít is presies wat nie meer in Suid-Afrika geduld word nie. Diegene wat op verdienste/meriete aandring, word bv as rassiste uitgekryt, onder meer omdat blankes in sodanige opset in groter mate tot hulle reg sal kom. Nie in die regering, staatsdiens, universiteite, sport, of waar ook al, mag op voorkeur vir gehalte aangedring word nie. Kwantiteit, bv demografiese verteenwoordigendheid, word bo kwaliteit verkies.

“When a government tends to be incompetent to govern certain issues, it loses any right to govern those issues” (3968). “I defend what I call the competence principle, which holds that high-stakes political decisions are presumed to be unjust, illegitimate and lacking in authority if they are made incompetently or in bad faith,* or by a generally incompetent decision-making body” (421). “Perhaps some citizens are incompetent participants who impose too much risk on others when they participate. Perhaps some of us have a right to be protected from their incompetence” (376). Nogeens: “People have a right not to be subject to incompetently made political decisions” (2817).”Bad voting can be and has been disastrous” (2859). Maar afgesien van die onverkwiklike uitslae van verkiesings, is daar ‘n gaping tussen wat die kiesers wil hê en wat die demokraties verkose regering lewer. “Government agents tend not to do what the median voter or majority want” (3114). Aan die ander kant word soms beweer “politicians tend to give citizens what they want as opposed to what’s good for them” (4035).

[* Oor “bad faith” en (in die vorige paragraaf) “good faith” kyk Praag 28.08.2016.]

Daar is verskillende maniere waarop epistokrasie bewerkstellig kan word. Stemreg kan tot die bekwames en ingeligtes beperk word. “A person can acquire a right to vote provided they can demonstrate competence” (2676). Dit kan gedoen word deur ‘n “voter qualification exam[ination]” te slaag (3748). As alternatief kan elke burger ‘n stem hê maar kwalitatief beter mense, bv geletterdes, gegradueerdes en suksesvolle sakemense, kry meerdere stemme. So ‘n stelsel is bv deur John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) voorgestel (3775). “If we grant for the sake of argument that each person ought to have a right to vote because it is an avenue of self-expression, it takes additional work to show that they ought to have an equal right to vote” (2495). ‘n Ander manier is dat die politici, wat deur die massa in ‘n konvensionele demokrasie verkies is, voortgaan met die maak van wette, maar dat daar ‘n meganisme is waarvolgens ‘n “epistocratic council” enige wet kan veto (3820). Hierdie raad maak nie wette nie, maar “it has power to unmake law” (3825). “It’s no less undemocratic than judicial review” (3868). “Smart people should have the right to rule over others … because they know better” (344). “Some people have better judgment than others when it comes to political matters” (2172). In die huidige meerderheidsklimaat in Suid-Afrika sal nie erken word dat, afgesien van wat die regeringsvorm is, blankes beter as swartes kan regeer nie. Hoe kan die doeltreffendheid van ‘n epistokrasie getoets word? “Perhaps it would be best if one state in the United States tried the system first” (4072), of een provinsie in Suid-Afrika.

“The basis of one of the major objections to epistocracy is the fact that political knowledge is spread unevenly among demographic groups” (651). Byvoorbeeld, in Amerika: “It is negatively correlated with being black, and strongly negatively correlated with being female” (645). “There is ample and persistent evidence that … rich white men know more about politics than poor black women” (2423; ook 2670). (By iemand soos Amanda Gouws kan dit seker heftig-ontkennende reaksie uitlok.) “Whites on average know more than blacks, people in the North East know more than people in the South, men know more than women, middle-aged people know more than the young or old, and high-income people know more than the poor. In general, people who are already advantaged are much better informed than the disadvantaged” (4012). Brennan verlang dat sy epistokrasie suiwer kwalitatief, dus nie-demografies, toegepas word.

“We can expect epistocratic voters to vote altruistically as opposed to selfishly” (2183). “The quality of the candidates who make it on the ballot depends in large part on the quality of the electorate. Political parties choose candidates whom they believe will appeal to typical voters” (3490). In ‘n epistokrasie sal die kwaliteit van sowel die kiesers as politici beter as in ‘n demokrasie wees. Daar is gevolglik ook die verwagting dat “epistocracy produces better-quality government as well as more substantively just and good outcomes” (2500). Omgekeerd: “In general, the lower the epistemic and moral quality of the electorate, the worse governmental policies will tend to be. Whom the voters select as a leader does make a significant difference” (2896). Dit is die geval in bv sowel Amerika as Suid-Afrika.

Neem deel aan die gesprek en lewer gerus hier onder kommentaar!

L.W. U gebruik die Disqus-kommentaarafdeling op eie risiko en PRAAG, die redaksie of enige verwante persone of entiteite aanvaar geen verantwoordelikheid vir u kommentaar en watter gevolge ook al daaruit mag voortspruit nie. Terselfdertyd vereis ons dat u ter wille van beskaafdheid, redelikheid en die gerief van ander gebruikers, u sal weerhou van kwetsende taalgebruik, vloekwoorde, persoonlike aanvalle op medegebruikers, twissoekery en algemene "trol"-gedrag. Enigeen wat só 'n laspos word, sal summier verbied word en sy IP-adres sal insgelyks versper word. Ons sal ook nie huiwer om, waar nodig, kriminele klagte aanhangig te maak teen individue wat hulle aan dreigemente, teistering of intimidasie skuldig maak nie.