Democracy Is the Solution

Democracy Is the Solution

Democracy isn’t a barrier to solving global issues like climate change. It’s humanity’s best hope.

Shortly after the Copenhagen UN climate talks in 2009 collapsed, James Lovelock, a godfather of modern environmentalism, was asked by Guardian reporter Leo Hickman what should be done in light of the failure. Lovelock issued a call for what can only be described as a climate dictatorship.

Rejecting the idea that a solution to climate change could be achieved in a modern democracy, Lovelock thundered that what was needed instead was "a more authoritative world" where there are "a few people with authority who you trust who are running it."

"What's the alternative to democracy? There isn't one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

This call for a sort of benevolent dictatorship of science is increasingly being made for a range of problems that we confront globally, from biodiversity loss to antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance has become such a danger to public health worldwide, and government action has been so indolent and inadequate, that a pair of leading scientists impatient with the situation have called for a new executive global body to assume control of the problem. They want an international organization similar to those currently tasked with navigating our species' response to climate change -- basically an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but for bugs and drugs and with more executive oomph.

Given the magnitude of the danger -- the "apocalyptic" scenario, according to Sally Davies, the UK's chief medical officer, is that within twenty years we will completely run out of effective drugs against routine infections -- it may seem a trivial, even irresponsible, exercise to fret over the democratic ramifications of such a move.

However, considering how often this kind of technocratic proposal is the default response to any new scientific problem of profound import, democrats do need to consider whether other approaches are more desirable.

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