A truly provocative thought

I am currently living and working in mainland China which is certainly not a democratic country. There is no freedom of expression, no right to form labor unions, go on strike, organise public protest rallies or elect the country’s leaders. Now, while we may have mainly negative opinions in the west regarding the political system in China, it suddenly occured to me that a lot of “entities” and organisations practice dictatorship. No choir, no orchestra practices democracy, and if it would, it would probably not perform well. Private companies don’t practice democracy. A family does not practice democracy. A teacher does not practice democracy, nor does the military. In fact, most “entities” I can think of don’t practice democracy.

Maybe democracy is not such an ideal way after all to organise a complex social system. I really don’t know. I think freedom of expression is something very important in our societies but democracy has also a lot of shortcomings. One would be the inability of politicians in western democracies to make long term decisions that won’t give short term payback (such as transforming our energy system towards a more sustainable one). People in my home country Germany seem to grow increasingly disillusioned with our political system and refuse to take part in it. Maybe it is due for an overhaul.

What do you think?



The difference between a choir, orchestra, company and family on the one hand, and the organization of a large political entity like a country, is the scale. You can choose not to join the choir, work for the company or once an adult you can choose to leave your family. It is difficult to choose not to belong to your country, what is more you are required to pay taxes and obey the laws there.

The authoritarian approach to government, as opposed to the messy system called democracy, goes something like this. If we had an authoritarian government it could implement all the policies that I, or my group likes, whether in the energy sector, or in other areas. If people had no right to vote against our policies, things would go much more smoothly. If they do not have the right to vote, people may choose other means of expressing disagreement, like the media or demonstrations, so we will have to suppress those as well. It might be better to make sure everyone thinks like we do so we need a strong propaganda department and need to control what is taught in schools. Everyone should have to belong to our party in order to get ahead in society. After all we do not want organizations in our society that oppose our views and so forth.

This model was tried a number of times in the last 100 years, all in the name of some ideology in order to impose some improvement on society. Despite the rather dismal results of this approach, the authoritarian impulse lives on in the minds of some.

In a speech in the House of Commons on 11 November 1947, Winston Churchill said:

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Here are some more examples of authocratic rule in our everyday life: When you get on an airplane, train or ship, the decision making processes are clearly top-down as opposed to bottom-up. If you look at it from an evolutional standpoint, authocratic rule clearly seems to be the fittest mode of governance, since there are so many examples of it in our lives.

I don’t know whether there is really that fundamental of a difference between large multinational companies and (small) countries. What works for a private company, shouldn’t that also work for a country?

The one thing that amazes me in China is that the vast majority of people, at least the ones I know through my work, firmly support one party authocratic rule. The unanimous view amongst them is that western style democracy would threaten the stability and prosperity of the country,


China is a democracy of one party - the US a democracy of 2 parties - they are actually both partycracy.

I am about sure Chineese people have more freedom than North Korean.

And US citizens without money have probably no more freedom than most Chineese or Cuban.

I think democracy is the best system and I am worry about democracies getting less and less democratic these last years.

PierreM said:

"And US citizens without money have probably no more freedom than most Chineese or Cuban. "

Bold statement, let’s see what our friends from the other side of the pond have to say.


I have a more provocative thought.

Work should not be paid.

We only do well works we like to do so why would we get paid for doing works we like to do. On the other hand we don’t do well works we don’t like to do so why would we get paid for works we don’t do well ?

If we stop paying work we will stop creating work for work and focuse on work that are actually necessary to be done.

If the only goal of working is to make the necessary things done - we will be able to share ideas and skill to make the job done in the best way for the environment and the easy way for the workers.

If you are not unemployed yet it is only because you do not finish your work yet and that is because you are either slower or less efficient.

"Work should not be paid. "
So do you think anything be paid? Or do you think money and the monetary system should be done away with?

All surveys show that most people enjoy their work. I don’t need a survey to tell me that most people enjoy being paid for their work, and are less inclined to work if they are not paid.


I think in a world where being out of job is considered a shame - people want to keep their job. The first step in keeping their job is to say they like what they do - even if they don’t.


I think at least basic things should be free - I think the economy as we know it today is based on a situation where the production was not strong enough for the demand. Today it is technically possible to produce for everybody and more. If there is enough good for everybody on the market the price of the good can be zero.
(if we suppose the price to be zero for every good and service that come in the production of the good on the market).

People want to be paid, and to compete with others for the wealth. This is a pretty deep seated truth in my opinion. I do agree that most people are actually conflicted about their jobs, but I have been unemployed and whether it is a shame or not is irrelevant. You need money.

I think people like to compete with others for the wealth because they had to do so when it was not possible to produce enough wealth for everybody. I think today we do not produce the best way we could because the system have to go on. The system wants that durable goods have a shorter life so that people can have a job to earn money producing more of those goods.

Maybe there is an instinct for competing - I think we should not compete to produce and share the wealth. There are many ways to compete elsewhere.

I have been told females search the best males to have healthy and winning childrens. That could be a reason why we are competing but as I know there are social losers who manage to have a family and there are successfull people that fail to have a family of their own.

You need the money because basic things are not for free (yet?) - by the way you are supposed to save money for your retirement - so you should have no problem with money even if you are unemployed for a while - of course all depend how long is a while.

I think there is an instinct to “keep up with the Jones’” as we say in English. In other words, to compare our wealth with others and to want more. Call it greed, or ambition. This implies putting a monetary value on something. Many people can engineer theoretical systems where no one will want for anything. But they never work because of this human instinct. It may be worse if the systems did work, because of the subsequent overpopulation. The earth is not an infinite field; it is round. You may call the above the tragedy of the commons.

I think many people want more only because they are afraid not to have enough.
If you stop advertising and credit and offer the basic for free you will see people will want less.
As you say earth is limited so we have to limite what we want.
I disagree with systems working well will lead to overpopulation on the contrary. All OCDE countries but France have a lost of population if you do not count their imported population. Anyway a well working system should include some births limitation.

We don’t need to monetaring goods to compete for them.

If we need competitions we have a lot of challenges facing mankind -

I think negative population growth in developed countries is more to do with female standard of education and even more so and perhaps related, secularism. I believe many rich Muslim countries have high population growth. Also religious communities who benefit from living in rich countries have more babies.

"If you stop advertising and credit and offer the basic for free you will see people will want less. "

Well who is going to decide that?

"We don’t need to monetaring goods to compete for them. "

Sure we do. Money is a store of value, among other things. If the object of competition varies at all we need something to act as a store of value.

I do not know any rich muslim country that have a problem of overpopulation.

Nobody needs to decide to stop advertising and credit - when people do not have any money and are not able to pay back their debts advertising to them will be useless - only creating the envy of things they cannot pay.

If we compete to have more than others we will do it even if there is no monetary price.

"I do not know any rich muslim country that have a problem of overpopulation. "

Please read carefully, I am taking about growth.

"when people do not have any money "

How are you going to manage that?

“If we compete to have more than others we will do it even if there is no monetary price.”

I suspect you have an overly concrete idea of the nature of money.

Pierre’s point about consumption and living with less material wealth is a very important one because of the strained resources of our planet. Post WW2 growth in the west was largely fueled by expanding material flows and increased consumption of cheap energy. The era of cheap energy is clearly coming to an end as we speak with no other cheap and easily scalable alternative in sight. Other resources like water, top soil and metals are also in decline. Exponential material growth cannot continue forever on a finite planet,


My english is often far from perfection but I am quite proud when I can make a foreign language specific joke. Here I am : money is like pound. I hope it makes you smile.

Explanation : not the GBP the currency of UK but money is like liter, kiligramme, kilometer, pound, a measurement unit.

About muslim countries growth population - I have no problem with that if those countries have the resources - only that we have to limite the world population so muslim have to do it as any other. I am still thinking population growth is more important when the economy is not prosper even in the muslim countries.

Your wikipedia link leads to an empty page.

If basics are for free it is no more important if people have no more money.

Speaking from the United States perspective, democracy is not the ideal. Our government here is a constitutional republic and constitution spells out restrictions on our government not the people. Within this viewpoint public entities and private entities are distinguished. Government is by nature very powerful and it is governmental power that needs to be regulated in order to maintain a free society. Individuals need freedom from government power. It isn’t freedom from the landlord, freedom from the employer, or the laws of nature. It is freedom from governmental force.

It saddens me that this concept of freedom is not widely understood even in this country.


Do you think there is freedom in the US for people who do not have money ?