Democracy is not all that great?

Slashdot has a thread talking about the 2004 Election Weirdness but one reply by EMN13 caught my eye.
...Frankly, I think you're looking at democracy and elections entirely too religiously... Democracy pretty much fails as a type of government...
  • Elections don't guarantee any sort of optimum government.
  • They don't require the elected government to in any way actually do what they said they will do.
  • They don't require any sort of competency whatsoever.
  • People actually making the choice aren't actually competent to make that choice. You don't hire people based on the gut feeling of the guy next door, do you?
  • Elections are really expensive. Just think about that lost productivity, etc., in addition to the obvious costs of the process itself.
  • Elections are very coarse grained. You might choose an idiotic president just to get a good staff and party, or the other way around.
... [EMN13]
I found myself nodding my head a lot with this part of the comment. I find that politicians couch Democracy similar to how a preacher talks about Christianity. It's like: "we'll swoop in take out the existing government, replace it with Democracy and then we're done". We'll democracy doesn't solve the worlds problems. It's better than most other solutions but as the US elections shows, it's not an optimal solution.
Interestingly, some of the problems of elections can be solved:
  • TV and radio stations could be required to give free airtime to candidates like they do in Brazil (and other countries), this could drastically reduce the cost of mounting a campain.
  • When voting you could check more than one candidate (approval voting). This could help ensure the most popular candidate is actually elected. Australia has this I believe.
  • Mandatory voting for all. Brazil and Australia have this format, on the surface it would seem that a lot of voters who know nothing about politics would vote randomly or for could be easily persuaded by personality instead of the political platform. On the other hand how would it be any worse than what happened in the 2004 US election? Besides lot's of knowledgable people don't vote because they don't have the time or simply apathy and politically ignorant voters vote because their preacher told them to. Plus you can always choose to vote for no one.
On the technology side I like what I'm seeing with The Electronic Voting Machine Project (EVM2003). Of course I'm very happy that it uses the Python programming language, but it looks like it is well thought out. It uses XML to create the ballot and, if adopted, would help create a standard way of voting. This way the government could train people through advertising how the voting process works and what the ballot looks like. It appears that in the US there are a variety of machines used even in the same voting precinct.


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