Just as a follow-up to the last post, here’s Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister and one of the key players in European sovereign debt drama, on Fareed Zakaria this past Sunday:
I believe the reason why democracies are very poor these days to handle this is that democracies, like markets, have become much too short-termist. The combination of very important media of frequent elections, of even social networks, which tend to polarize people towards more extreme positions. The combination of these factors has the consequence that, in democracies, politicians — professional politicians tend to reject or only to embark into solutions that imply short-term costs and longer term benefits with great reluctancy only when they are faced with an actual huge crisis. So the problem, to me, is how it’s possible to reconcile classical electoral democracy, which, after all, we love, with a longer term perspective. So I think democracy, in the long-term, in our countries will survive if it comes to be associated with leadership, will not survive if democracy plus media brings to us more and more followship rather than leadership.
Once again, this is more than just about Greek politics. Democratic failures are happening everywhere, with differing levels of severity. Monti gets that the world has changed, and that these changes have made these failures more common and more costly. But the car still needs a driver. For democratic failures to occur, it helps to have a the morally flexible politician to espouse a cause which he/she knows isn’t in the interest of voters, and a morally lazy voter not to demand something more honest.