Recent events in global economy prompted my thinking about capitalism, democracy, and the future of Greece.
It’s painfully obvious by now that we (and by ‘we’ I mean most western countries) are in trouble. Whether the causes of our political, financial and social difficulties are coincidental, or they are a sign that our entire way of life is fundamentally flawed is beside the point at this time. The question is what can we do about it. Currently our leaders are trying to fix things by treating the symptoms. But in the long run, a solution must be found to treat the disease. Fortunately, history shows us that humanity usually learns from its mistakes and adapts. Unfortunately, history also shows us that this adaptation usually takes several generations. So while our grandchildren might be OK, we are currently fracked.
So, is there a way to accelerate the development of a long-term solution, and what does all this have to do with Greece?
Well, I always thought that if someone was going to do an experiment to create a new system of government, something that would take everything we have learned from the history of human civilisation and distill it into a new concept, they would need someplace to test it.
One major factor is the size of the population. If you have a large population, there is too much inertia for change to take place without catastrophic events (famine, war, etc.) and in those circumstances the change usually is negative, not positive. If you have a small population (say, few thousand people in an island) then there’s not enough economic and political power to sustain a new system. That is, the conservative influence of the neighboring states will stifle change, since the population will be too small and dependant of (and therefore influenced by) its neighbors.
Another factor is the cultural influences affecting the population. For new ideas to develop, the population must have exposure to many diverse influences from other cultures. Also, the majority of the population should be moderates, since extremists are not generally suited to original thinking. 😕
Lastly, the population should have an incentive for change, that is, it should be unhappy. Happy people don’t want change, and why would they? You need a lot of unhappy people to generate the willingness for them to try something new.
So to summarise; to develop a new system of government, we’d need:
- A country small enough so as to not be encumbered by sociopolitical inertia, yet large enough to have its own momentum.
- A population with diverse political and philosophical influences (i.e. both western and eastern) which is largely politically moderate (i.e. not too left or right-wing in its leanings).
- A population discontented enough to actively want things to change, yet not so poor as to not be able to affect changes.
Looking at this list, a certain country springs to mind. 😉
About two millenia ago, Greece created a new political system which (for the time) was insane; no king, no high priest, no hereditary rulers at all. Yet it worked, although it took some time to get the bugs out, and we’re still working on it.
Maybe we’ve come full circle, and modern Greece will be the birthplace of a new political system (which may also appear insane at first glance).
Time will tell.