Today, I would like to talk about an interesting topic that crossed my mind recently – the relationship between the size and population of a country and the effectiveness of democracy.

Essentially, I am exploring the idea of an 'upper limit' in the context of a socially cohesive democracy.

Start of Democracy

Let me set the scene by giving you some historical context. When democracy was implemented in the United States in 1776, its population stood at around 5 million: the small states concentrated in the east coast. Do not forget not everyone had the right to vote either.

In 250 years, that number has blown to 332 million. That's a 65 fold increase!

At the time when the ideal political system was discussed, no founders thought it'd be appropriate to accommodate hundreds of millions of people.

Yet, we're carrying fundamentalist when it comes to politcs. Francais Fukuyama's The End of History was the political scientist's desperation to conclude we've figured out the best system in the world. But, that cant be true without the discussion of this population change.

US has been actively pursuing democracy as the center piece of foreign policy since the end of World War 2. It's time to question its fundamental assumption.

Social Cohesiveness Matters

So, back in 1791, when France had its revolutionary constitution, it had a way bigger population of around 30 million people compared to the US during that time. But get this, only men who paid some minimum taxes got democratic rights, which was roughly 2/3 of all adult men. I guess you could say that's like 10 million folks in that democracy club.

What's interesting though is that they had a stronger sense of unity and togetherness, since they were all French-speaking and had been ruled by the same king.

It was kinda different from a place like the US, which had a mix of people coming from different places and stuff.

The Magic of Small Populations

One interesting thing I've noticed about some of the most well-run governments today, like Singapore, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, is that their populations are all under 10 million.

These countries are famous for stuff like great education, awesome social welfare, and people having trust in their government. Plus, they've got pretty high GDP per capita to boot!

And if you look at Switzerland and Singapore, they're also some of the most diverse ethnicity as well, registering 3-4 official languages: Italian, German, French for the first and English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil for the latter.

When the country has wide diversity, the administration must be careful not to favor a particular group and ensure the social mobility is protected all the time. That requires much more effort than simply banning racial commetaries.

Limit to Diversity

Now, let's get into my theory – I believe that when the population of a country surpasses 20 million, democracy may become less effective. This is because it can be challenging to ensure that the government truly represents different interests, values ​​and needs within the population.

The more diverse a country becomes, the more difficult it may be to ensure that everyone feels represented and respected in a democracy. Take Canada, for instance. In the 1960s, its population was around 20 million – double what I think would be an ideal population for a thriving democracy in a country as culturally diverse as Canada.

However, it is worth noting that at that time, the Quebec independence movement was still going strong, culminating with the 1995 referendum, which indicates that some people felt that the government wasn't properly representing their interests.

The America has a diversity myth as well. Their population had been always larger. Already by 1922, the US had a population of 110 million. And their democracy still appeared to function reasonably well.

But compared to Europe, this democratic country was known for being heavily religious. Even in 1990, for example, 91% of Americans identified as Christian. That number is declining rapidly today to 63%.

Ironically, this 30 year trend towards increased diversity in the developed countries coincide greatly with the ever rising government debt. US, Canada, Italy, UK, Spain, France, and Japan all hit the danger line of GDP to debt ratio of 100%. Kind democracy only works when you have money to give out to everyone. When you run out of money to distribute, that's when the social cohesion matters.

Beyond the Ideal Population Size

You might be wondering what kinds of systems work best for big populations. In my opinion, these systems often have stricter rules based on certain values.

It's like they say, you're influenced by the five people closest to you.

So, when the population gets bigger, people end up living in an abstract version of reality, meaning that systems with strong rules are more successful.

Historically, the empire with large population always fall under the pray of the religious rule, ethnic homogeneity, or authoritarian like one party system.

We have various examples today. India, China, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Brazil that has populations of over 200 million people. From the list, we can safely say China and United States are the only competing force in running the government efficiently in terms of economic super power and the level of research output. Their champions will define the output of the future.

Balancing Diversity and Cohesion in Democratic Societies

The key takeaway is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer for what makes a democratic society work best, especially when it comes to population size. Every country has to figure out how to balance all the different types of people and groups living there, making sure everyone gets a fair shake but without letting things get too tense. This can be done through different forms of democracy or by really paying attention to the concerns of various religious and ethnic groups.

So, basically, the perfect population size for a democracy depends on the religious makeup, different ethnic groups, the history of the place, and how flexible the political system is.

Smaller countries with different people will have an easier time getting along with coordination, while bigger ones need to put more effort into dealing with diversity and keeping things from getting too heated. At the end of the day, every nation needs to figure out what works best for them in order to have a good government that serves everybody.