Empirical evidence shows that it is arduous, if not impossible, to control anything in the universe. It seems that everything in this universe wants full sovereignty, as if this whole macrocosm is governed only by a single rule – that each and every particle in this cosmos is completely free.

But freedom creates disorderliness, chaos and confusion and the second law of the thermodynamics tells us exactly that – the entropy (disorderliness) of the whole universe will always increase over time. In layman’s language, the natural tendency of the universe is to create disorder. But the problem with that is, disorderliness resists any creation and stability, and in order to create a stable system, we must act against the universe.

Every meaningful creation, from a pin to plane, requires external energy and even then, the universe always keeps trying to disorganise or destroy it.

For example, do we ever wonder why does glass break and not vice versa? Who don’t pieces of broken glass stick together to make a new glass? The answer to this puzzle is that in broken state, the glass constitutes more disorder (entropy) than its original state and nature loves disorder.

So, every time a system acquires a state that has more disorder, it moves towards the natural state. In other words, every controlled or ordered system (low entropy state) is against the law of nature. Thus, in order to sustain such systems, we need to act against nature.

The human component

All the international institutions – like World Bank, IMF, and the United Nations – are nothing but artificial systems and work towards decreasing the entropy of the world. They do it by reducing the freedom of the individual nations in economic and sociopolitical spheres.

The problem with any system is that it always has one human constituent, which cannot be calculated with any scientific methods. This always leaves much chances for error and failure of the system. But again, any failure of the system due to humans cannot be considered as a failure at all, since in every sociopolitical system, humans are the main constituent.

So, we adjust the system or change it – theocracy changes to monarchy, which then changes to democracy and so on. 

When we scientifically analyse any system, then we have to ignore abstract concepts like humanity, ethics, value, liberty, and rights. But since all the political systems revolve around these very concepts, any rational examination of such system becomes nearly impossible.

Managing the state of entropy

The German-American poet, Charles Bukowski, once said:

“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.”

The most intelligible definition of ‘democracy’ is a system of government for the people, by the people, to the people. Though there is no consensus on how to define the the term, there are four main pillars that can be associated with every democratic system: a well-defined system for choosing and removing the rulers (elections); the rule of law; active participation of the stakeholders (people); and human rights (many academicians don’t consider this as an aspect of democracy).

Etymologically, the term ‘democracy’ comes from the Greek word dēmokratiā, from dēmos ‘people’ and kratos ‘rule’. From the very definition, it becomes clear that like every artificial system, it too goes against the law of the universe discussed earlier, that is, nothing can be ruled or controlled.

But to survive the ever-increasing chaos of the universe, we must reduce the entropy or the disorderliness. In fact, our own body is an example of ordered and low-entropy state, which certainly is against nature’s wish.

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Therefore, from our very birth, the universe forces our body towards a state of higher entropy, which peaks at our death, sending our constituent atoms into oblivion until they get trapped into some other low entropy system or else they go on travelling for eternity, adding to the cosmic chaos.

If we consider democracy as a system (which it is), then we must deem humans as its fundamental constituents (just like atoms are the fundamental constituents of universe). This anthropologic system works to create order and minimise disorder.

If the universe wants to make an individual more disorganised, then it will give them more freedom. If we look closely, it becomes clear that every living being in this world wants freedom. No one wants restraint. Freedom, thus, is an innate tendency of all the living things.

For humans, freedom comes from the power of decision-making. We are able to manifest our freedom by the decisions we make and any system of government, be it monarchy or democracy, influences or controls our decision-making powers. So, in brief, one can say that every system of governance works to reduce the entropy of the society by reducing the freedom of the individuals.

The question arises then, why is it so that democracy is the most popular form of government? There is no scientific rule or evidence that suggests that monarchy is bad or democracy is divine. Interestingly, in every major religion, be it Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, society is deemed to be controlled by a central authority, though divine in nature.

Ram Rajya of Hinduism, Mohammad in Islam, Jesus in Christianity are all monarchs or monarchies. Till date, all of them follow a central rigid authoritative text, which is nothing more than a dynastic order with little scope for change. 

Stained glass window at the Melkite Catholic Annunciation Cathedral in Roslindale depicting Christ the King with the regalia of a Byzantine emperor. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One may conclude that monarchy provides more stringent rules, and so it creates more resistance to the natural flow of the entropy. But, everything has a breaking point. If we go against nature, it will retaliate with equal force and eventually, end up winning. The reason we don’t see monarchs in world anymore is because they create more resistance to nature.

This is also what happened with Jainism and Buddhism. Both Gautama Buddha and Mahavira were contemporaries, but while Buddhism flourished and received the patronage of many rulers, Jainism didn’t get so lucky. The reason for this was simple – Jain teachings were stern, authoritarian and more ordered, while Buddhist teachings were flexible, hinged on the Madhyamika Marg or ‘the middle path’ (a balance between order and disorder).

Same was the case with Christianity in Europe, wherein the Church and the rulers started to control the freedom of the people, limited their choices and decisions. Naturally then, the people revolted. Renaissance was the creation of nothing but a state of highly disordered society, more than its theocratic predecessor.

Also read ‘From Kuhn to Foucault: Probing the Complex Relationship Between Science and Society

In order for a society to function, it must strike a balance between disorder and order. The former is automatically controlled by nature. It is the latter aspect, which we control through different institutions. 

Like Buddhism, the democratic system provides us a middle path between complete order and complete disorder. As discussed earlier, for humans, freedom manifests in their decision-making ability. So, in order to create a balance between freedom (disorder) and restrain (order), democracy uses the theory of delegation of power.

Here, ‘power’ denotes the power to make decisions. In a democracy, people delegate their decision-making power to their representatives who on behalf of them take decisions. The freedom of millions or billions of people are exercised by few of their representatives. This certainly decreases the entropy (disorderliness) of the system, and constitutes the core philosophy of a democratic system.

A placebo

However, this delegated power is just a placebo for those billions who are then ruled according to the rule of law. In an indirect democracy, the say of an individual in macro policy decision-making is nearly negligible and many other powerful forces overshadow national-level policies. In a way, individuals are coaxed into giving up their freedom in the name of democracy.

Now, if we analyse the definition of democracy, it becomes very clear why many scholars don’t consider human rights as a part of democracy and why no one should either. Any right provided to any human asserts more freedom to them, hence contributing more to the disorder of the system. So, a democracy with more individual rights will ultimately lead to more chaos and disorder, and eventually be doomed to fail.

In fact, democratic systems are a recent innovation (within human history) and yet to stand the test of the time, they are faring well (but not great). Again, it depends on the benchmark on which we test it, which generally is anarchy or autocracy. It is pertinent to note that one of the most infamous monarchs of the world, Adolf Hitler, came to power in a democracy and then used the same democratic freedoms and rights to finally sabotage the system. 

Beyond the science

As we have seen, more rights are not good for any system of governance. But this does not mean we don’t need any rights. Science alone cannot be used to gauge human values and no living creature can be considered as a mathematical constituent without any value.

Ultimately, democracy is a tool in the hands of the rulers, and not the people. But rights provided to people must act not as a part of democracy, but instead parallel to democracy. Rule of law as enshrined in democratic systems is broadly a restraining order on individual freedom. We have seen that how a majority party in a democratic regime can start functioning like autocrats and may use the very same rule of law in their own ways.

So, human rights or individual rights strike a balance between rule of law and individual freedom, that is, between order and disorder. Order (restraint to freedom) is needed for society, but the same acts as a limitation on individual liberty. It is also very crucial to note that a scientifically-sound democratic system, with very few human rights and limited liberties, is impossible to realize in reality, as human aspects readily overshadow the rational aspects of the system.

The evolution of democracy in India is a testament to this. Our constitution has evolved over time and become more liberal. Today, it has created the space for more individual rights than ever before.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

Featured image by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash.