A dictatorship can be very efficient, but it's seldom democratic. On the other hand, some democracies now are terribly inefficient. Changes are hard to pass and implement because obstructionism by minority party(s) in the legislature seems to have little political cost, at least in some western democracies like the US and Mexico.

Is there a way to change current political systems to make them more efficient, or increase the political cost of obstructing bills solely for political reasons? Can technology help?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Philipp Mar 23 '17 at 12:19

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    Some friction is a good thing. We already have too many laws in the United States, many of which are not actively enforced. My father used to speak of her local representative with fondness, stating that "The best thing about her is that she does absolutely nothing, so she can't cause any more damage." – Robert Harvey Dec 31 '12 at 17:49
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    It's interesting to compare a political system to a control system (in engineering). If it responds too quickly, things go unstable, and you may end up destroying whatever you intended to regulate. – Stephen Collings Dec 31 '12 at 18:27
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    @Diego: I don't recall anyone here mentioning the current administration. :) – Robert Harvey Dec 31 '12 at 23:44
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    @Diego, RH is correct in saying that no one has said anything about the current administration. Just because the word friction is used in an explanation, it doesn't mean it's targeted at the current administration. By you automatically associating the word to the current administration and attempting to defend the administration it would seem to me that A) you didn't understand what RH meant, B) you've already made up your mind on who to blame, C) you've just written this out of frustration and D) revealed your own bias. Also, normalizing dictatorship as efficient is a recipe for evil. – Gup3rSuR4c Jan 1 '13 at 19:00
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    @Diego - the whole point of the way USA government was set up was because the founders didn't believe that passing more laws is always beneficial, or that stopping an action by a government is always a bad thing. That's why we have checks and balances. Also, what you see as "obstructionism by minority partys", reasonable people see as "attempt by a sizable minority to prevent a tyranny by the majority" - ironically, the exactly precise reason why the checks and balances were introduced by the Founders. – user4012 Jan 1 '13 at 19:34

First We should differentiate two systems which are usually confused: The Republic and The Democracy.

By the Aristotelian conception of the Politic Systems there are 3 fundamental political systems: the monarchy, the aristocracy and the republic, with their 3 corruption forms: the tyranny, the oligarchy and the democracy.

The republic has in common with the democracy the kind of government (to all), this means that in theory the basis for the republic and the democracy is to govern for everyone, the difference is how this thing is done.

The democracy is a politeia where the interest for everybody is sacrificed by a fraction, J. de Romilly, The basements of the democracy (Problémes de la démocratie grecque).

When the mass governs for the common interest, the regime receives the common name for all government ways: the republic (politeia), Aristotle, Pol. 1279.

What we conclude is that several of the government established around the world aren't Republics they are democracies or pseudo-democracies, and i say pseudo-democracies because the majority (the poor) are which choose the politicians, and several of the liberties, rights, taxes, and others aspects of the society are controlled by this "people" or fraction of it and many of these policies aren't directed for the common benefit but they are for the majority benefit, so the democracy at the end is converted into Ochlocracy.

These problems you have seen in the "democracy" were seem by Aristotle and after by Polybius, but in our more advanced society more have spread, like:

  • Demagogic policies, How many times we have seen politicians saying things like "the wealthy are guilty of the people poverty", or talking about the 2013 US fiscal Cliff agreement "the wealthy have to pay more taxes to finance the people health services", for me those are populist and demagogic tactics to gain more voters, because they know that the democracy is controlled by the mob.
  • Degradation of the Representative System into a Bi-party System (the blue against the red, or the right vs the left, etc), and this happens cause the rational ignorance of the people, many people have a political conviction that is suppressed by the parties alliances.
  • Raise of the corruption and favoritism, in some nations is common to see that government workers, and officers aren't chosen by their education or skills, they are pointed because their party's militancy or in some cases because their are family members of a high government officer.
  • Impediment of candidature to capable and interested people because they don't fit some requirements implanted by the majority parties as millions of signatures, of high sums of money, and if they fit the requirements the media lobbies won't support most of the candidates because many of them are happy with the benefits given by big parties.
  • Raise of unskilled persons into the government head by using the democracy's weaknesses (corruption or favoritism) destroying the economy. Or popular dictators as Adolf Hitler who used the democracy and transformed it into a tyranny.

And I can continue with a very long list of "democracy" faults, some of this problems are solved by some innovative systems like the Demarchy.

Demarchy (or lottocracy) is a form of government in which the state is governed by randomly selected decision makers who have been selected by sortition (lot) from a broadly inclusive pool of eligible citizens. These groups, sometimes termed "policy juries", "citizens' juries", or "consensus conferences", deliberately make decisions about public policies in much the same way that juries decide criminal cases.

Demarchy, in theory, could overcome some of the functional problems of conventional representative democracy, which is widely subject to manipulation by special interests and a division between professional policymakers (politicians and lobbyists) vs. a largely passive, uninvolved and often uninformed electorate. The Wikipedia, Demarchy.

Efficiency of a democracy sounds very ambiguous. So, I will use the term of "quality of government/governance" (QoG) as defined in this report within a democratic country:

Governance is "the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes:

  • (1) the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced
  • (2) the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies
  • (3) the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.

The report is performed for European Union, but it deals with the general concept of quality of government which can be used as a synonym for "democratic efficiency".

It is important to note that democracy tends to favor an increase of corruption and thus a decrease of its quality:

There are numerous accounts showing how quality of government decreases – and corruption increases – after moves towards democracy [...]. that democratization is far from going hand in hand with improving the quality of government in a country.

This can be partially explained by the fact that democracy deals with how power is achieved while its "efficiency" (QoG in this answer's reductionist model) deals with how power is exercised.

Based on the results of the aforementioned report and looking on the most "efficient" regions, the following factors/actions led to higher QoG:

  • apply ‘bottom up’ pressure, in the form of a strong, independent media
  • sound ‘whistle-blowing’ protections for employees within the public administration.
  • ensure more merit-based hiring practices
  • less bureaucracy and ‘red tape’
  • more policy and administrative autonomy to the regions

Of course, these factors/actions highly depend on region/country culture. E.g.: a country where many do not understand the effects of corruption will most likely do not favor whistle-blowers protection and merit-based hiring practices

So, there are methods to raise the quality by agree with the conclusion from the accepted answer:

When the populace cannot be labeled as moral, honorable, respectable or knowledgeable then why would anyone expect the elected politicians and the end result to be any better?

Changes are hard to pass and implement because obstructionism by minority party(s) in the legislature seems to have little political cost, at least in some western democracies like the US and Mexico.

Is there a way to change current political systems to make them more efficient, or increase the political cost of obstructing bills solely for political reasons?

I can't speak for Mexico, but the problem in the US isn't necessarily the obstruction of "bills solely for political reasons". The problem is that increasingly, the minority fundamentally disagrees with some of the policies of the majority.

An example of such a disagreement is seen in some of Donald Trump's appointments. Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt have espoused policies that are fundamentally anathema to the Democrats. In order to delay their appointments, Democratic Senators did the rational thing and maximized the time until they could take office by drawing out every nomination.

Obviously a simple way to increase efficiency in that particular case would be a way to do the same delay without having to draw out the other nominations. That would increase efficiency while retaining the minority's current power to oppose. Another alternative would be to change the Senate rules to allow the majority to pass candidates without debate. That would increase efficiency at the cost of eliminating the ability of the minority to oppose.

Of course, the Democrats tried something similar. When they controlled the Senate, they changed the rules to allow nominations to pass with a simple majority. Without those rule changes, they could have prevented the DeVos and Pruitt nominations. Trump would have been forced to pick more consensus choices. Some might argue that the Republicans could have made the same rule changes, but they didn't the last time the subject arose.

More efficient does not necessarily mean better. Efficient governments have more capacity for tyranny. In democracies, that's a tyranny of the majority (or plurality), but that doesn't help the victims.

A straight forward solution to the problems that you highlight would be to change the US government from having a nearly directly elected president to a single chamber parliamentary system based on the House of Representatives. Then the 2010 elections would have changed the chief executive as well as the legislature. Of course, in 2011, Republicans could have easily repealed Obamacare. It had no constituents then. And in 2012, Republicans would have won again. Obama won the presidency, but failed to win the House.

A parliamentary system is more efficient, but it has its own problems. With fewer checks and balances, it's easier to make big changes. And there's less need for consensus. This can cause changes to fluctuate back and forth, leaving the overall system less stable. There's some protection from this in that it's also easier to have multiple parties in a parliament. That need for coalition building leads to a certain kind of consensus and stability.

Similarly, a direct democracy is even more efficient at reflecting the will of the people that day. And even more subject to people changing their minds about what they want. Look at Brexit. A plurality of those who did not vote in the referendum say that they would vote Remain in a hypothetical second referendum. Enough to switch the result? Who knows.

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