Since my letter picked up a theme we've been discussing on this blog many times, the status of modern democracies and the future of politics, I thought I'll post a translation. The article I was replying to is here, (English via Google translate). It is one of the weekly appearing commentaries titled "Zwischenruf," which means roughly an interjection by the audience, written by Hans-Ulrich Jörges. He was addressing the ailing status of our democracies and the increasing frustration of citizens. The cure, he wrote, would be more grassroots democracy.
If you have read some of my posts you know why I couldn't let this uncommented. I've said a great many times that grassroots democracy works well only for a very limited amount of problems. Those in which there are clear and simple questions of large interest for the electorate, and the average person is able to make a qualified decision. Few questions in politics are of that sort, and few people have the time and the interest to deal with the cumbersome details of day to day politics. There are good reasons why we have representative democracies, none of which seems to have occurred to the author of that piece. But what annoyed me much more was that he didn't bother to back up his opinion with any sort of argument or evidence. All together, it was a completely useless ramble that wouldn't even have made a good blog post. If that's the hight of intellectual commentaries German magazines can provide, then poor Germany.
In any case, here's the letter. For whatever reason they dropped the first sentence in the print version.
"Hans-Ulrich Jörges addresses an important issue but draws the wrong conclusions. The decay of democracy and the incapacitation of the people is not a typically German phenomenon, but can be observed in an increasing number of modern democracies. It is a consequence of the inappropriateness of our political systems for increasingly complex tasks. Calling for more grassroots democracy is simple, but not a solution. What we need instead is a scientific, non-ideological, debate about how we can update our political systems to the status of the 21st century. We need less interjected opinions and more scientific studies examining how our political systems can be made more efficient and less frustrating."
What we need, in short, is thus something like the Lightcone Institute :-)