A lot of countries all across the world believe in the idea that democracy is a useful way to attend to the needs of modern society. However, we came to live in democracies as a result of a historical transformation during which more and more rights became shared and available to everyone. It thus is also a way to organize society that may be followed by a different model as history moves on.
Building on democratic principles, we are assuming, that what is in the focus of our interest will come about the more people are interested in it. The assumption being, that what is in everyone’s interest should normally happen.
However, we can see that this is not happening.
Think about climate change. In April 1977, Jimmy Carter addressed the American public, describing how resources are limited, that the use of energy should be balanced and that he would start a change by installing solar panels on the roof of the White House.
It took many years until such an idea became acceptable and got people interested.
In a democracy, public interest has hardly any lobby. We may see some of it change through bottom-up movements. However what these do, is creating awareness, social pressure, and competition with the established industrial society based on the need for growth. It stays in the belief that what needs to be done is raise awareness to make everyone interested.
It’s not economy, it’s the law, stupid.
It is only slowly that the need to transform our ways to think about the situation becomes common knowledge. That is the need to have governments not only provide regulations but move ahead designing laws leading to a change in the way the economy will produce in the future. It’s a major change that goes way beyond Carter’s address of 1977 seeking a national effort.
It’s also the limitation that comes with democracies. They can only create laws at a national level. Making it a big bet, that others will do the same. And in this, democracies only represent one form of society.
Today public interest is global.