In his latest video, controversial vlogger Nas Daily asserts that “The average voter doesn’t know how to vote and that’s why democracy doesn’t work.”
In his video about why this particular system of governance isn’t the best, Nas says that while he thought as a child that giving each person a vote will lead to the formation of a ‘good government’, he now realises he is wrong.
Using an analogy of airplane passengers voting for their captain, Nas tries to illustrate that voters in today’s world are led by emotions and a lack of information. He says:
“Let’s assume you’re going on a plane but before you fly, you and the other passengers must democratically elect a captain. So you get 2 candidates. The first one says if you elect me captain, I will abide by international laws of aviation and fly at 30,000 feet. But the second one says if you let me fly the plane, you can sit in business class. And in today’s world, the average person votes based on emotions and lack of information. So naturally they will vote for the person that promises them a business class.”
With this extremely simplified analogy, Nas asserts that “democracy will elect a terrible person who’s never flown a plane and before you know it, we all crash.”
What Nas fails to highlight here, however, is that it’s expected for the “captain” to brag about what he can offer the “passengers”. These passengers also wouldn’t necessarily know any better.
This is where passengers will rely on the media, to double check with professional bodies on the claims made by the captain. If the passengers are informed about the captains questionable background or track record, there’s less of a change they would elect that person no matter how enticing their promises may be.
That’s what Nas misses – that a functioning democracy has to rely on an informed citizenry to vote for the best candidates. A failed democracy, on the other hand, is one where the press is oppressed and check by non-governmental organisations are curtailed.
Nas goes on to say in his video that running a government is like flying a plane in that it is both difficult and requires years and years of experience. Issues and problems like tariffs, nuclear weapons, geopolitics, healthcare and borders require “real professionals”, says Nas.
Goes back to the plane analogy, he explains that it takes 10 years to be able to fly a plane but in “our government”- presumably Nas’ Israeli home government – anyone can vote in an election and anyone can run for office. “Democracy changes government every four years but the real problems need 20 years to fix,” he adds.
While conceding that democracy is a good idea, he doesn’t think that it is necessarily the best one.
Comparing China and India, Nas notes that China’s central government has lifted 3 million people out of poverty while India’s democratically elected government has 3 million people in poverty.
“I don’t like China but for some reason, they are succeeding,” he says.
Now, here’s another sticky point. While the Chinese government did lift millions out of poverty, the current government is also responsible for killing millions at its beginning thanks to policies that were unilaterally implemented without public consultations.
Mao Zedong has been labelled as a dictator with the most blood on his hands due to the “Great Leap Forward’ in which millions were displaced from their homes and starved to death, some even resorting to cannibalism to survive.
It was the collective power of the people’s voice that caused the Chinese government to stop and think. Now despite being a one party system, even the Chinese government has to ensure to consider public opinion before implementing policies.
Still, he asserts in his video that he doesn’t think dictatorship is the answer. He then suggests alternatives to democracy that could be worth exploring such as technocracy or epistocracy. Technocracy is the system of government which is controlled by technical experts while epistocracy is a system in which the votes of the more politically informed weigh more than those who are less politically informed.
Nas says that the real problem in the world’s biggest democracies now is that “politicians use fake news, lies, and free money to get attention” and the democratic system allows voters to believe in these politicians by the millions.
“We are voting for people who promise us a business class and they don’t even know how to fly.”
He then quotes a famous line, “As someone once famously said, the best case against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter.”
Now, the thing about Nas railing against democracy is that he missed out some vital points. Firstly that a democracy requires various tools for it to be effective. A democratic nation isn’t truly democratic if it doesn’t adhere to the rule of law or of it doesn’t protect freedom of the press or free speech. These are key factors that contribute to the effectiveness of a democratic system.
A democracy, with a limited-term mechanism, is also the best way to prevent the rise of a dictatorship. For example, the US has a two-term limit on the presidency which means no one person can be in power for more than 8 years.
In the past, Hitler is often used as an example of how democracy doesn’t work, given the fact that his rise to power occurred in a democratic nation. However, what people tend to forget is that Hitler systematically dismantled tools of democracy which were in place to prevent any one person from gaining absolute power.
The Nazi party grew in power slowly within the democracy of Germany and made calculated, manipulative moves by chipping away at civil rights, individual freedoms, and free press before ultimately becoming the dictatorship that it was.
People also often point to US as an example of the failings of democracy. But again, this isn’t the best example when you consider the flawed electoral college voting system there which means that while one candidate can get the most number of votes (the popular vote) in a presidential election, the winner is ultimately the person who gets the most electoral college votes which is clearly unequally distributed across states.
So while Nas may rail against democracy and it’s failings, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this system, especially not by suing an analogy which doesn’t take into account other factors that are required for a truly democratic system to work.
Nas’ argument against democracy is oversimplified and too narrowed on the issue of how a leader is chosen without considering the cultural and systemic features of the government.
After all, if that’s the only yardstick by which to measure a democracy, then one could argue that North Korea is a functioning democracy given that its leader Kim Jung-Un was re-elected as the country’s Supreme Leader, despite the fact that voters would have been punished severely if they didn’t vote for him.