Is Democracy Truly Democracy when Decisions are Binary?

The Ancient Greeks were the first civilisation to employ a political system known as democracy; however, by today’s standards, this system would look dysfunctional. Positions were decided by lot: drawing straws was considered to be the fairest and most reasonable method of allocating roles – to a Greek from classical times, our system would appear barbaric and entirely defunct. When the Romans began to take over as the central power of the Mediterranean, much like most of their society, they inherited their political system from the Greeks. Each aspiring politician needed to be a certain age, and to have completed a certain number of years in lower-ranking roles, in order to apply for the next position; at the top of the political pyramid were the Consuls: two men, one a plebeian (lower-class), and one either of the equites or of the senatores (middle- to upper-class), having served in all of the previous positions and with a minimum age of 42. A Consul could only serve one one-year term, and legally could not take supreme power without committing a crime equatable to treason (excluding loopholes). Within each ranked group, different roles were decided by lot: a hangover from the Greek system.
To a modern audience, this level of chance seems bizarre in a political environment; however, in reality, could it be a fairer option: if voters could not be bribed, or whatever politicians might say would have no effect on their success, would politics truly be more fair – more democratic? Our currently accepted democratic model revolves not only around voting but also around defined political parties: typically right wing vs. left wing. By confining an entire spectrum of political opinion, thought and theory to two options, are we suffocating democracy; could voting individual politicians into power, as opposed to political parties by seat, better represent the (infamous) ‘will of the people’? In the general election prior to the EU Referendum, UKIP received more votes than the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats put together – the two parties receiving a combined 64 seats – however, only one seat was won by UKIP. In a similar manner to the party system, this creates a discrepancy between votes and results: is this a corrupted democracy?
How frequently has it seemed impossible to choose either one of the two leading parties: Conservative and Labour? However, rarely has another party risen to the same popularity, almost making any vote outside of these two competitors seem void; in a party-less democracy, such as there was in Ancient Greece and Rome, politicians would (ideally) be voted for on their strength as a politician and on their political beliefs. If politicians were voted for, rather than the party they belonged to, it is arguable that we could attain a stronger parliament, with a less vehement ‘us and them’ mentality. Despite this, the use of parties in politics can still be proven to be efficient: providing a clear opposition for the party in power, in order that we hear often directly opposing opinions on any given point, this effectively binary system provides us with a black-and-white summary of the matter at hand. However, with a minority government and an opposition which celebrated coming second to a minority government, I doubt that anyone can argue that we currently have an efficient Parliament – democratic or not.

One thought on “Is Democracy Truly Democracy when Decisions are Binary?

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: