Is democracy overrated? Are liberalism and individualism overrated?

I think that democracy is over-sold. It is excessively romanticised as a panacea; the supposed only suitable alternative to authoritarianism.

But defaulting to majority rules is not necessarily the best solution for navigating challenges that we face.

The downsides of majority rules — concerns of minorities neglected and this gives rise to toxic identity politics

Over time, the mechanics of majority rules mean that majority blocs increasingly fashion societal mechanisms to facilitate lifestyles that best suit themselves. Groups that fall in minorities — whether it’s racial minorities, people with a disability, or LGBTQI+ communities — tend to be underserved. Racial minorities have had to fight for their civil rights, same-sex couples have had to fight for their marriages to be legally recognised.

Penny Wong: Yes this postal ploy hurts, but I plead with you - don't boycott it
There's no denying the Turnbull government's opinion poll is a stacked deck, designed to mark every card against those seeking marriage equality.

That's why supporters of marriage equality need to work twice as hard to get out the vote, and ensure that Malcolm Turnbull's $122 million 'survey' accurately reflects the overwhelming will of the Australian people.

Calls for a boycott are understandable. LGBTI Australians rightly feel insulted that we have to ask permission to be equal.

We didn't want to be here. We shouldn't be here. But now we are here, we have to fight.
Penny Wong on Sydney Morning Herald

Minorities losing out also applies to age minorities, whether it's the young or the unborn:

The Queen assumes people care deeply about their descendants, but when political decisions get made, it turns out people alive today seem to have very little solidarity with those who are yet to be born. This is especially true in democracies where the living vote and the unborn don’t.

Even the young don’t really count, which is why they are so frequently on the losing side of political contests: housing affordability, franking credits and of course, climate change. Democracy does many things well. Intergenerational policy is not one of them.
Waleed Aly on The Age & Sydney Morning Herald

Or the old — in Australia we had an interim report from the royal commission into the aged care sector titled, literally, "Neglect".

Unfortunately, this mechanism of majority rules leading to minority blocs being consistently underserved also provides a strong base framework for fuelling the often heated, divisive and exhausting politics of identity.

I fall into some of the groups and I am tired of trying to figure out how to define myself when talking to some others in order to get support that I need. I don't want to portray myself as a victim, yet frequently I find myself having to, in order to pull attention onto issues. It has become increasingly structurally advantageous and trendy to advocate from a place of victimhood.

Journalist Stan Grant explores aspects of individualism and identity politics here. I do not suggest that he agrees with my assessment of democracy being overrated, but he similarly laments the toxicity of identity politics, and "alienation and decadence".

The Aboriginal civil rights movement had grown out of the church. Men and women of profound faith who demanded Australia recognise our God given equality.

These people had been forged in the furnace of the worst of Australian racism. Yet they refused to yield. Victimhood was not for them.

I am dismayed today at what I see as a rising pessimism among a new generation of Indigenous people. Amongst some there is an abandonment of hope. I've even heard some say hope is for white people.

Really? Tell that to the people of my grandparents' generation.
In a pluralist, secular, democratic society, the role of religion — especially in our public life — is always contested. Yet it isn't the formal separation of church and state that challenges us as much as what Olivier Roy calls "the disappearance of religion as the focus of social and cultural life". This is what he calls "the dechristianisation in Europe".

What are we left with? A society obsessed with cartoonish cancel culture, debilitating contests for recognition and poisonous identity wars. All of it like a cancer eating democracy itself.

There is little transcendence, just inherent pessimism and hopelessness.

Roy says: "Today's crisis is not simply a crisis of values, but of referring to values at all."
Stan Grant on ABC Online
Disengagement from community, faith, family and an apathy towards to democracy has marked the Western decline. The politics of identity has turned fellow citizens into enemies. Alienation and decadence has set in.
Stan Grant on ABC Online


The secular Western values of neo-liberalism — personal freedom — and individualism are also anomalies. More people on the planet have values of collectivism than individualism.

Here is some information on collectivism:

The vast majority of people in our world live in societies in which the interest of the group prevails over the interest of the individual. We will call these societies collectivist, using a word that to some readers may have political connotations, but the word is not meant here in any political sense. It does not refer to the power of the state over the individual; it refers to the power of the group.

The first group in our lives is always the family into which we are born. Family structures, however, differ among societies. In most collectivist societies, the “family” within which the child grows up consists of a number of people living closely together: not just the parents and other children but also, for example, grandparents, uncles, aunts, servants, or other housemates. This is known in cultural anthropology as the extended family. When children grow up, they learn to think of themselves as part of a “we” group, a relationship that is not voluntary but is instead given by nature.

The “we” group is distinct from other people in society who belong to “they” groups, of which there are many. The “we” group (or in-group) is the major source of one’s identity and the only secure protection one has against the hardships of life. Therefore, one owes lifelong loyalty to one’s in-group, and breaking this loyalty is one of the worst things a person can do. Between the person and the in- group, a mutual dependence relationship develops that is both practical and psychological.

— Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

Here is information on individualism:

A minority of people in our world live in societies in which the interests of the individual prevail over the interests of the group, societies that we will call individualist.

In these, most children are born into families consisting of two parents and, possibly, other children; in some societies there is an increasing share of one-parent families. Other relatives live elsewhere and are rarely seen. This type is the nuclear family (from the Latin nucleus, meaning “core”). Children from such families, as they grow up, soon learn to think of themselves as “I.” This “I,” their personal identity, is distinct from other people’s “I”s, and these others are classified not according to their group membership but instead according to individual characteristics.

Playmates, for example, are chosen on the basis of personal preferences. The purpose of education is to enable children to stand on their own feet. Children are expected to leave the parental home as soon as this has been achieved. Not infrequently, children, after having left home, reduce relationships with their parents to a minimum or break them off altogether. Neither practically nor psychologically is the healthy person in this type of society supposed to be dependent on a group.

— Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw Hill.