How democracy works in my house

A while back I was worrying about the problem of democracy. Here I’m tackling the issue again but from a different angle. A more personal one.

In my house we don’t operate a democratic system of government. Instead, my wife gives orders and I follow them. No, just kidding. Here’s how it really works.

Suppose we’re going to go out for a meal. Let’s say that I fancy Chinese, my wife prefers French, and the kids want to go to Pizza Hut. We could have a vote and the kids would outnumber the adults and get their way. The adults would be unhappy. Or, we could ban the kids from voting because they’re under 18, and then my wife and I could have a debate about Chinese vs French. Probably everyone would end up unhappy. We might end up with a “coalition compromise” and agree to do Pizza Hut today, French next time, and then finally Chinese. That way we could take it in turns to be equally unhappy.

This is basically how a democracy works, and you can see its flaws.

What happens in our house is none of these. We sit down and have a rational discussion. First we acknowledge our different opinions and each person argues their case. Perhaps there will be a shift in opinion, resulting in an understanding of why one of these options is better than the others, or why one person’s wishes deserve to be given greater weight (e.g. it’s my birthday). Perhaps a consensus will emerge. If not, the debate continues, with the potential for creative solutions to be suggested (what if we go to the more upmarket Pizza Express instead of kiddy-centric Pizza Hut, or why don’t we just stay home instead?)

At the end of the discussion, a consensus almost always emerges. Everyone has been listened to. Everyone is now in agreement. Everyone is happy. And quite probably the outcome wasn’t even one of the original proposals. Instead a better solution has been found through discussion and debate.

Now I realise that this is harder to implement at a national scale. And I acknowledge that sometimes a consensus doesn’t emerge. I’m just saying that in my family we would never implement a democratic approach to deciding where to have lunch, so it’s a pity that we have to use such a weak system to make national decisions that are far more important.

So far I don’t have a suggestion for a replacement for democracy, but I’m circling around the problem, hoping to find one.

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