Range of flexibility
DC’s range of flexibility is quite varied between societies.
To what degree can the wealthy influence political decisions
To what degree can wealthy and corrupt (in the sense that they do not value the good of the many) people and influence politics.
An example of the inflexibility of DC is taxation on the wealthy and wealth inequality. For example the top 1% in the US own 40% of the wealth and the bottom 80% own 7% of the wealth. This inequality is possible due to low taxes on the rich and tax loopholes. It is clearly in the interest of the many to raise taxes on the rich and close these loopholes, but DC in the US is not flexible enough to do it. That is because the politicians need political donations from the wealthy and so they won’t introduce policy to jeopardize that.
Other DC countries have more taxation on the rich and regulation of corporations which limits the political influence of the wealthy. However the same fundamental issue exists in that the wealthy do have political power and thus the range of changes that can be made, even if they are for the greater good, is limited.
The actual influence itself is done via 3 main processes
To be elected politicians need money for an electoral campaign. For example Obama’s campaign of 2012 cost 1.1 billion. These donations have strings attached which allows those that make them to influence political decisions.
Lobbying can involve political donations but also involves treating politicians to various dinners and events. It also involves presenting information to politicians in easily digestible formats as they can sometimes struggle to understand all the issues they have to vote on due to the complexity and variety of related areas. However, the lobbyists will present the information in such a way as to make the outcome they prefer seem like the obvious choice.
Influence of the public
Wealthy individuals and corporations can manipulate the public to support certain viewpoints. If the public hold a certain viewpoint it is unlikely that politicians will deviate from that viewpoint.
For example the Global Energy Balance Network was a US-based non-profit investigating causes of obesity which found that exercise was the key, not diet. This group received substantial funding from Coca Cola.
To what degree is the political system motivated by self interest
Political parties and individual politicians are by in large interested in staying in power first and assisting the greater good second. This creates a lot of oppositional politics which also limits the flexibility to converge on good ideas, regardless of which party proposed them.
This kind of putting the greater good second can also be seen at an individual politician level where the goal is typically to get elected first and have policies that contribute the most to the greater good second.
To what degree do the public themselves want what is best for all
The public are not experts and generally are short sighted. Increased taxation on everyone may be necessary to avoid a financial crisis, but it is likely the party promoting this will not be voted in. Those in power do not have the flexibility to do what is right but is not palatable to the public.
Change is a slow process
DC societies can take a long time to draft new legislation. There are various stages of deliberation and typically it must pass through multiple levels of government.
This deliberation is supposed to refine the change, so it isn’t a bad thing per se. Changes can also be rushed through if necessary.
The major issue with speed is when the change is not accepted by the majority of politicians. It can take a lot of time for sufficient political pressure to grow before the politicians capitulate.
Generally DC is pretty good with this.
DC is quite poor in regards to experimentation. Rather it tends to have a longer deliberation process to get it right the first time. When it is so hard and time consuming to make a change, it isn’t that feasible to experiment and refine even though this typically results in a more long term improvement.
DC is ultimately quite inflexible as there are various segments of society corrupting the decision making process in various ways.