Jan 20, 2006

Democracy: Is it right for us?

This is a continuation of the discussion that Bo3bo3 started on the topic of Democracy. I won’t attempt at answering the main question “Is democracy right for us?”. But rather I would like to focus today on the difference between Democracy and Rule-By-Majority.


About a year ago I took a very useful class on Business Leadership that cleared many decision-taking concepts for me. A common mistake is to consider methods like “individual (dictatorship)” and “advisory” as evil and “majority” or “consensus” as always-correct. They differ mainly in levels of acceptance and expertise needed, and are needed at different times.

The table of decision making:

Decision-making methodPropertiesExample
Decision is “dictated” by the leader without consulting the members.
Very Fast & efficient. Doesn’t require extra knowledge
from members. Purpose can stay with leader.
A military leader is conducting a secret operation. It’s important that all members follow orders and not know a lot about the purpose.

A driving-instructor teaching a student how to drive. The student doesn’t have the expertise to be consulted.
The leader consults an “advisory board” and then takes the decision by himself
Fast. Makes use of discrete knowledge with some of the members.You want to invite a group of people over for a feast of Mansaf. You want to know where to buy the meat from. Your guests can suggest places, but it’s finally your decision (involves distance, price, and quality).
Majority of the members must agree for a decision to be taken
Slower. Guarantees a decision and generally no-violence. The minority won’t resort to violence since they know they are outnumbered by majority.A family wants to go on vacation. They must decide between Aqaba and Dead-sea. Majority is a good method since the topic does not require expertise and it’s guaranteed to give a decision.
All members much agree for a decision to be taken.
Does not guarantee a decision. Guarantees total acceptance from all.A group of 5 is coming back from Syria in a taxi-car. The driver wants to change the drop-point to Sweileh instead of Abdaly. Such a decision requires onsensus from all 5 passengers, since if any of them wants to go to Abdaly, the decision cannot be made.

These methods are very useful especially in business
settings. If one wants to schedule a meeting, one must decide how to make the
decision and who to invite:

  1. People who have certain expertise/knowledge to make the decision.
  2. People who must “buy-in” on the decision. (agree or know about it)


Democracy is a system that assumes that the majority-type of decision making methods are important for ruling a country. Democracy is not just rule-by-majority. It is the “spirit” of including the opinion of the citizens in nation-type decisions. While all 4 methods of decision-making can take place in a democracy, it leans towards consensus and majority, especially for important decisions.

Democracy is a failure for companies. While some decision-by-majority is needed in a company, the major decisions are better be done using methods 1 and 2.

Democracy is not an all-good-and-perfect system. It’s definitely suitable for some aspects and not for others. Now the question comes back. Is democracy the best solution for all countries at all times? And what level of democracy is best for us? ...

1 comment:

  1. You raise good questions. I think a lot of people assume democracy is inherently "good". Rich Mullins (one of my favorite musicians/ thinkers/ poets) once said, "Democracy isn't bad politics, it's bad math. Who's to say that 12,000,000 sinners will make better decisions than one?" Could imperfect people ever create a perfect system of government?