Democracy: is that what we've got? is that where we're going?

Just through a Canadian federal election. Noting that the popular vote didn't equate to winning (no party here got more than ~35%), and that this has occurred with presidential elections in the USA. Even when won outright, such as the UK's Brexit referendum, we can have things like a slim majority imposing its will on a large minority.

But it's more than vote counts. Various discussions (most heard on radio) are that regardless of popular vote, that our systems, whether republic or parliamentary, actually are not democratic. They are oligarchies and plutocracies; we are ruled by wealth and the corporate interests which support this.

There's talk of proportional representation where some seats in a legislative house are apportioned to political parties based on popular vote, ballots where rank order candidates such that if your first choice isn't in the top group, your vote goes to your second choice until someone has a clear majority. But this is about procedure, not about representation.

And then we have the problem of countries whose governments we directly support that are in no wise democratic at all, mostly because of the money. We don't like democracy for raw resource exporting countries do we?

Myself, I think we need a much better regulation and taxation of corporations to start with. Probably different ways of solving problems and passing laws: while cumbersome I've seen consensus based decision making work around very difficult issues. Dunno. Any how, what do you think?
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Comments

  • If democracy is defined to include ordinary people having significant control over the political decisions that affect them, then there is precious little democracy just about anywhere. So democracy, for purposes of bolstering the present system, is defined purely in terms of legal rights and procedures.

    The point you raise about resource extraction is important. If we regard a society not solely in terms of national borders but in terms of the international relations, economic and otherwise, it largely depends on, then the picture of Western "democracies" becomes even bleaker. Gulf State theocrats and other foreign lobbies have more power in our governments than citizens.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    NOprophet_NOprofit: Various discussions (most heard on radio) are that regardless of popular vote, that our systems, whether republic or parliamentary, actually are not democratic.

    SirPalomides: If democracy is defined to include ordinary people having significant control over the political decisions that affect them, then there is precious little democracy just about anywhere.

    Haven't we heard this sort of stuff many times before? The point is that Democracy is virtually impossible to define and is certainly more than a matter of elections, though they are an integral part of any system of Democracy in modern states. However much one might decry the supposed absence of democracy in Western Europe and the United States, might one suggest that what those states have looks qualitatively more attractive than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.etc.. We know what democracy is when we don't have it.

    I suspect much of the disillusion with democracy in the United States and the UK at the present time is the impact of populism which has broken the progressive coalition between the liberal middle class and a significant proportion of blue collar workers. Consequently, the liberal middle class is questioning the efficacy of democratic institutions and processes. We all like democracy when it agrees with our opinions, but decry its warts when it doesn't.



  • Kwesi wrote: »
    NOprophet_NOprofit: Various discussions (most heard on radio) are that regardless of popular vote, that our systems, whether republic or parliamentary, actually are not democratic.

    SirPalomides: If democracy is defined to include ordinary people having significant control over the political decisions that affect them, then there is precious little democracy just about anywhere.

    Haven't we heard this sort of stuff many times before? The point is that Democracy is virtually impossible to define and is certainly more than a matter of elections, though they are an integral part of any system of Democracy in modern states. However much one might decry the supposed absence of democracy in Western Europe and the United States, might one suggest that what those states have looks qualitatively more attractive than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.etc.. We know what democracy is when we don't have it.

    If the Saudi government has more control over US policy than the average US citizen, and when US policy actively subverts democratic movements around the world, then such us-them comparisons are misleading. Of course I would rather live in the US than Saudi Arabia, but it is more like living in a different zone of the same system than in a separate system entirely.
    I suspect much of the disillusion with democracy in the United States and the UK at the present time is the impact of populism which has broken the progressive coalition between the liberal middle class and a significant proportion of blue collar workers. Consequently, the liberal middle class is questioning the efficacy of democratic institutions and processes.

    "Populism" is a meaningless buzzword. The question isn't about efficacy but efficacy for whom. That the system overwhelmingly benefits and privileges the wealthy means the system is working.

  • I think finding workable democratic systems is generally a matter of looking for imperfect solutions where perfect solutions do not exist. If moved to a system of direct participatory democracy, I can pretty much guarantee you that we wouldn’t like the results, at least in any realistic scenario I can think of. So realistically democratic government is going to be imperfectly responsive to the will of the electorate at any given time, and maybe often more responsive than it ought to be to other influences that do not always serve the public interest.

    What’s the best achievable form of democratic government? I think reasonable people are going to disagree. To the extent that people think that democracy is about implementing a platform that the voters want, I think people may be more inclined to favour PR because it tends to favour issues-based parties and gives more influence to parties whose support is based on its positions on various issues than first-past-the-post systems usually do. On the other hand, PR can lead to instability and disproportionate influence for parties who may take hard positions that do not have anything like majority support.

    FPTP can often, but not always, result in stable governments that a large proportion of the population can live with even if many voters would have preferred something else. I think this is often a good thing. But we seem to be finding that increasingly FPTP isn’t doing this - it’s either giving disproportionate power to increasingly extreme parties that get majority governments from a very narrow base (Ontario 2018, and arguably, USA 2016), or it’s creating an unstable mix of parties dominated by increasingly extremist factions (arguably, UK post-Brexit, viewed from a distance at least).

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    SirPalomides: If the Saudi government has more control over US policy than the average US citizen......

    I would have thought there are numerous areas where US citizens have more influence over US policy than Saudi Arabia. Clearly, the Saudis have more influence than the average US citizen in matters relating to its vital interests in the Middle East, but are quite indifferent to the fortunes of Obamacare or the Mexican Border Wall or the public school system in Mass.
    "Populism" is a meaningless buzzword

    No it isn't. It refers to a style of politics that, I suggest, most of the contributors to these posts recognise. Indeed, you recognise that in your following remarks regarding its deceptive nature.
    Of course I would rather live in the US than Saudi Arabia, but it is more like living in a different zone of the same system than in a separate system entirely.

    Obviously you're a bloke!


  • Kwesi wrote: »
    SirPalomides: If the Saudi government has more control over US policy than the average US citizen......

    I would have thought there are numerous areas where US citizens have more influence over US policy than Saudi Arabia. Clearly, the Saudis have more influence than the average US citizen in matters relating to its vital interests in the Middle East, but are quite indifferent to the fortunes of Obamacare or the Mexican Border Wall or the public school system in Mass.

    Deciding how and where to spend untold billions of tax dollars (and American lives) on wars and other geopolitical interventions seems to me something pretty important for the average US citizen. And Gulf State influence extends well beyond foreign policy, most obviously in the massive energy and "defense" sectors but including other sectors like colleges and newspapers.
    No it isn't. It refers to a style of politics that, I suggest, most of the contributors to these posts recognise. Indeed, you recognise that in your following remarks regarding its deceptive nature.

    Populism is a meaningless buzzword. It did mean something once . Nowadays when it is applied to Corbyn, Bolsonaro, Syriza, Bernie Sanders, Trump, BoJo, Hugo Chavez- it means nothing.
    Of course I would rather live in the US than Saudi Arabia, but it is more like living in a different zone of the same system than in a separate system entirely.

    Obviously you're a bloke!

    Because I don't want to live in a misogynist theocracy? Rather odd thing to say.

    Nonetheless, whether I like it or not, my tax dollars are propping up that despicable regime and the US economy is utterly enslaved to it.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Mature democracies enshrine pluralism. That's what attracted Sir Isaiah Berlin about Britain, even as a 12 year old, after precociously, fearfully living through the Russian revolution for 4 years, as I recall him telling Ignatieff 77 years later.
  • Re mention of ranked-choice voting in the OP:

    We have that here in SF. It took me a while to figure it out and get used to it (and not just me). Sometimes, the instructions can be tricky, and it's important to read them carefully.

    The good thing is that it saves the cost of having run-off elections.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    SirPalomides: Because I don't want to live in a misogynist theocracy?

    My point is that to describe Saudi as "like living in a different zone of the same system," might seem less so to a female.

    My basic criticism, however, is that to imply all forms of government are merely "different zones of the same system" is a position with which I strongly disagree because it seeks to minimise critical differences. Only those who have not lived under, say, Fascism or Communism, could possibly entertain such a notion- IMO, of course!
    Martin54: Mature democracies enshrine pluralism. That's what attracted Sir Isaiah Berlin about Britain, even as a 12 year old, after precociously, fearfully living through the Russian revolution for 4 years, as I recall him telling Ignatieff 77 years later.

    Thoroughly agree. Pluralism is messy, but for those who have experienced other ways of being governed its compromises, ever exposed to criticism and the possibility of reform, is qualitatively preferable.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate

    There's talk of proportional representation where some seats in a legislative house are apportioned to political parties based on popular vote, ballots where rank order candidates such that if your first choice isn't in the top group, your vote goes to your second choice until someone has a clear majority. But this is about procedure, not about representation.

    Not procedure, but representation - you may not get your first choice but you are more likely to end up with representation that you can live with. And different methods of voting for the different houses - usual here for State and Federal elections is that the lower house comprises representatives of single member constituencies elected by what we call the preferential method*; multi-member in the upper houses elected by proportional voting** (Tasmania is the reverse). Electorates specified by an independent commission, which also manages the election, manages the electoral rolls etc. Compulsory voting for all eligible. Canada doing away with its present Senate and the UK with the House of Lords, neither house satisfying any test for democratic choice.

    *If no majority for any candidate, the second choice expressed by voters for the least successful candidate are then distributed, and so forth until one gets over the 50% line.

    ** Surplus votes of the most successful candidates are distributed proportionally, here by the Hare-Clarke method.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    To the extent that people think that democracy is about implementing a platform that the voters want, I think people may be more inclined to favour PR because it tends to favour issues-based parties and gives more influence to parties whose support is based on its positions on various issues than first-past-the-post systems usually do.

    I wonder if issues-based politics is actually a Bad Thing?

    ISTM that if people were 100% stupid and refused to engage in any kind of political issues at all, and voted simply on the basis of: 'If I am content with my lot, I will vote for the government, and if I am discontent, I will vote for the opposition', then politicians would have an incentive to make as many people content as possible. Whereas issues-based politics encourages people to vote for things 'on principle' that won't make them happy.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    NOprophet_NOprofit: Various discussions (most heard on radio) are that regardless of popular vote, that our systems, whether republic or parliamentary, actually are not democratic.

    SirPalomides: If democracy is defined to include ordinary people having significant control over the political decisions that affect them, then there is precious little democracy just about anywhere.

    Haven't we heard this sort of stuff many times before? The point is that Democracy is virtually impossible to define and is certainly more than a matter of elections, though they are an integral part of any system of Democracy in modern states. However much one might decry the supposed absence of democracy in Western Europe and the United States, might one suggest that what those states have looks qualitatively more attractive than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.etc.. We know what democracy is when we don't have it.

    I suspect much of the disillusion with democracy in the United States and the UK at the present time is the impact of populism which has broken the progressive coalition between the liberal middle class and a significant proportion of blue collar workers. Consequently, the liberal middle class is questioning the efficacy of democratic institutions and processes. We all like democracy when it agrees with our opinions, but decry its warts when it doesn't.

    With the GOP flushing hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls in state after state, the vast majority of which voters are Democrats, I'd say democracy even as we have it is under attack.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    mouserhief: With the GOP flushing hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls in state after state, the vast majority of which voters are Democrats, I'd say democracy even as we have it is under attack.

    I thoroughly agree. It's important to remember, however, that matters were much worse before the Voting Rights Acts. Perhaps even more concerning is the inordinate influence of corporate power with its capacity to buy legislators and avoid taxation.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited November 6
    I was disappointed that Hamas' election victory in the Palestinian Territories was immediately condemned and de-legitimised not because of electoral fraud but because they were an enemy of Israel. I thought that was an opportunity missed, and that the character of the organisation might well have changed over time as they dealt with the realities of administration and staying in power in a democratic system. Of course we will never know, as there was a civil war followed by an anti-democratic peace (my memory here is hazy).

    In a similar way, the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood Government in the wake of the Arab Spring was very bad. I am sorry that we can't seem to support democracy when our interests are threatened.

    If you want masses of working people and people who are looking for work to vote, compulsory voting is the way to go.
  • Simon--

    No, not in the US. We hate the gov't telling us what to do. People who are now voters might well skip voting out of spite--or vote, but purposely mess up their ballots.

    IIRC, the last time there was a discussion of this, some person or persons in a compulsory voting country said that people do mess up their ballots on purpose, and ISTM the person(s) didn't see why that was a bad thing.
  • Hehe, I am pretty sure that person is me - I just wiped out a para saying pretty much exactly that :)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »

    IIRC, the last time there was a discussion of this, some person or persons in a compulsory voting country said that people do mess up their ballots on purpose, and ISTM the person(s) didn't see why that was a bad thing.

    Yes, it was you, Simon.

    Golden Key - a voter can write anything on a ballot paper, but if the boxes are marked in accordance with the requirements for that election the vote will be counted. I can't give the exact figures of failing to vote at all or for voting otherwise than in accordance with the necessary procedure, but the total's around 5% of the electorate. Not very many at all.

    The real essential for an election is to have an independent Electoral Commission which: draws electoral boundaries; maintains electoral rolls; conducts elections; staffs polling booths; and is subject only to judicial review.
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    Simon--

    No, not in the US. We hate the gov't telling us what to do.

    I have no desire to start a pond war, but this whole "the guv'mint" stuff is just adolescent posturing in a democracy. The government is how the people collectively make and enact decisions: what the hell else are they there for?
  • Thunderbunk--

    Political machinations, getting money from lobbyists; preparing to become lobbyists; getting re-elected; getting campaign money; controlling the populace; showing off America to the world; messing around with the rest of the world; controlling the rest of the world; doing what their political party decrees; making speeches on the C-Span network to impress their constituents; being generally annoying (from a distance, anyway); thinking "Inside The Beltway" (road that encircles DC, meaning they're thinking in their own echo chamber, and not registering what's going on in the rest of the country)...

    And sometimes they do good things.

    I think the only way you can have a true democracy is a small tribal village, where everyone votes every day on every decision.
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    I think the only way you can have a true democracy is a small tribal village, where everyone votes every day on every decision.

    True but kind of irrelevant, because that's not the society we have. The question is, given the nation state we have, what can we do that brings us closest to a representative democracy?
  • Well, I was responding to Thunderbunk's question, just above my post.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Golden Key: I think the only way you can have a true democracy is a small tribal village, where everyone votes every day on every decision.

    This comment raises an important problem, the question of what capacity the village has to affect the decisions which determine its future, because it does not control anything like all the variables, as its trade, access to health and education, external security and the like depend on decisions taken elsewhere. Indeed, the globalised nature of the modern world have reduced the effective autonomy of even the largest states. The United Kingdom, for example, may increase the number of decisions its parliament makes after Brexit, but the practical parameters of actual choices may be more restricted than when it participated in the pooled sovereignty of the European Union.

  • The SDF (Syrian Kurds and allies) have a vision they call “democratic confederalism.” It is a direct democratic, socialist model inspired to a large degree by the American anarchist Murray Bookchin. Owing to the present circumstances the experiment is falling apart but it is a worthy reference point.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Marsupial wrote: »
    To the extent that people think that democracy is about implementing a platform that the voters want, I think people may be more inclined to favour PR because it tends to favour issues-based parties and gives more influence to parties whose support is based on its positions on various issues than first-past-the-post systems usually do.

    I wonder if issues-based politics is actually a Bad Thing?

    ISTM that if people were 100% stupid and refused to engage in any kind of political issues at all, and voted simply on the basis of: 'If I am content with my lot, I will vote for the government, and if I am discontent, I will vote for the opposition', then politicians would have an incentive to make as many people content as possible. Whereas issues-based politics encourages people to vote for things 'on principle' that won't make them happy.

    I wouldn't go that far, but I think practically speaking it may be better to think of a vote for one party or another as an indication of the general direction you want policy to go in, rather than a vote for a specific set of policies to be implemented.

  • RussRuss Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    The question is, given the nation state we have, what can we do that brings us closest to a representative democracy?

    Why do we want to be close to a representative democracy ?

    Isn't representative democracy what we have ? A system where people vote for a set of representatives to govern them, but those representatives don't have to listen to the people again until the next election is called ? And have to be pre-selected by their local party before their name goes forward to the electorate?

    Aren't you aiming a little low here ?

    We have the technology now to conduct electronic polling of the entire smartphone-owning population on every vote that is before Parliament in real time. Would that be real democracy or would it be a disaster, or both ?
  • Russ wrote: »
    Isn't representative democracy what we have ?

    Not with the gerrymandering and vote suppression we have going on.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    Isn't representative democracy what we have ?

    Not with the gerrymandering and vote suppression we have going on.
    The US is still a representative democracy, just a damaged one. Until voter participation improves, there is no fix in the works. And I do not mean only in the booths, but in understanding the system better.
    Same could be said for the UK, so not dragging Americans.
  • Russ wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    The question is, given the nation state we have, what can we do that brings us closest to a representative democracy?

    Why do we want to be close to a representative democracy ?

    Isn't representative democracy what we have ? A system where people vote for a set of representatives to govern them, but those representatives don't have to listen to the people again until the next election is called ? And have to be pre-selected by their local party before their name goes forward to the electorate?

    Aren't you aiming a little low here ?

    We have the technology now to conduct electronic polling of the entire smartphone-owning population on every vote that is before Parliament in real time. Would that be real democracy or would it be a disaster, or both ?

    My instinct says it would be both, but I have an inkling that direct democracy operates in some jurisdictions. The problem at the moment with representative democracy is that there is a disconnect between the progressive elites, many tainted by the last 30 years of privatisation and small govt theology, and working people, who can be resistant to change and liable to hang on to cherished prejudices, and whose interests have not been served by economic orthodoxy. We need to find a way to bridge that divide.

    In Australia, the labor party is releasing today a navel gazing exercise on why they lost the last election. I intend to have a look at that. I'm hoping it will address this issue. In the USA I'm watching the Warren campaign, and in Britain I'm waiting to have a look at what the hell happened 10 years from now.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    Isn't representative democracy what we have ?

    Not with the gerrymandering and vote suppression we have going on.
    The US is still a representative democracy, just a damaged one. Until voter participation improves, there is no fix in the works. And I do not mean only in the booths, but in understanding the system better.
    Same could be said for the UK, so not dragging Americans.

    It's not terribly representative, for reasons stated. What will bring us closest to the ideal? That's what I was asking. Not how do we create this static thing called "Representative Democracy".
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Golden Key wrote: »
    I think the only way you can have a true democracy is a small tribal village, where everyone votes every day on every decision.

    True but kind of irrelevant, because that's not the society we have. The question is, given the nation state we have, what can we do that brings us closest to a representative democracy?

    Exactly. And I find it hard to accept that the Canadian Senate and the House of Lords bring us vaguely near that governance. Looking at the Senates in the US and here, they both suffer the fault that residents of smaller states have greater representation than those of larger. This is worse in the US where there are only 2 senators per state. Given that there are 50 states, that low number is understandable. At least with the 12 senators per state we have here, there is room for the representation of some smaller groups - eg the Greens - and even the occasional independent. The chances of that in the US are minimal.
  • Unfortunately I don't think anyone would cite the Canadian Senate as model for an upper chamber in a bicameral system. That said, nobody seems to have a compelling idea of what we should do with it...
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited November 7
    Invite all the senators to a special dinner; when the funerals are over, start from scratch looking at eg the Swiss and German models amongst others.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    Isn't representative democracy what we have ?

    Not with the gerrymandering and vote suppression we have going on.
    The US is still a representative democracy, just a damaged one. Until voter participation improves, there is no fix in the works. And I do not mean only in the booths, but in understanding the system better.
    Same could be said for the UK, so not dragging Americans.

    It's not terribly representative, for reasons stated. What will bring us closest to the ideal? That's what I was asking. Not how do we create this static thing called "Representative Democracy".
    Not sure about your last sentence because I was talking about what brings us closer. We allow the abuse, more people need to do the work to fight the abuses. Vote the gerrymanders out. Vote out the vote suppressors. Participate. Make people aware that they mightn't be the target now, but they will be.
  • Yeah. The US is textbook representative democracy, with massive problems including an apparent acceptance of voter suppression.
  • "In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." - James Madison
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Your last post (above), SirPalomides, reminds us that a major principle of the US Constitution is that natural rights take precedence over any democratic will, in terms of this discussion, which is practically expressed through an unaccountable Supreme Court interpreting the Bill of Rights and a separation of powers designed to frustrate the popular will. Perhaps the most important natural right to be protected was/is the inviolable right to the protection of private property. To argue that the US is not a representative democracy does not, therefore, arise from any deficiencies in its electoral processes but from the fundamental nature of the beat.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    .."........of the beast", of course
  • ahh now THAT is a different argument, and one with more legs I'll warrant.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    This might set the cat among the pigeons.

    I don't have a specific belief in the virtue of democracy in itself and certainly not in 'the will of the people'. I just think that the more representative government is, the better the prospect is that it will protect us, the humble and much put upon citizenry from tyranny, i.e. being pushed around.

    That is much more likely to happen if government is accountable to the citizens, if there are restraints on what it can do, and if citizens have a role in determining what can and can't be done to them.

    My test for good government is - how far does it protect me, and others, from being pushed around by itself or by my or our fellow citizens.

    Unlike most Shipmates I have had the experience of having lived for some years in a country that was a de facto dictatorship. Democracy is not a great system, but it has a much better prospect of being a lot better than any of the alternatives.

    The 'will of the people' though is not what being a democracy is about. It certainly is not why democracy is a good thing. If you think the purpose of government is to implement the 'will of the people', then presumably you think Socrates's execution was right and just. What cause has anyone to object? 'The people' had spoken. Therefore he should die.

    So I could hardly disagree more with @Kwesi if he's saying that the USA is at fault and not truly a representative democracy because 'the people can't pass laws against some things, as in,
    Kwesi wrote: »
    ... a major principle of the US Constitution is that natural rights take precedence over any democratic will, in terms of this discussion, which is practically expressed through an unaccountable Supreme Court interpreting the Bill of Rights and a separation of powers designed to frustrate the popular will. Perhaps the most important natural right to be protected was/is the inviolable right to the protection of private property. To argue that the US is not a representative democracy does not, therefore, arise from any deficiencies in its electoral processes but from the fundamental nature of the beast.
    Because the President can become President on a poll of the entire electorate in which he gets less votes than his main opponent - yes that does mean the USA is defective as a representative democracy. Because my own country's electoral system can deliver overall l control of the government and the almost unfettered power to make laws to a party that has obtained only 35.2% of the votes cast, that means it hardly merits any claim to be a representative democracy at all.

    That, though, is a different issue. If a person maintains that a country is not truly democratic because there are limits on the winner's ability to take all, or because there are restrictions on the ability of the so called 'will of the people' to push around those they don't like or don't approve of, then there's too little similarity between how they see political science and how I do for us to have much to say to each other.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    My test for good government is - how far does it protect me, and others, from being pushed around by itself or by my or our fellow citizens.

    Unlike most Shipmates I have had the experience of having lived for some years in a country that was a de facto dictatorship. Democracy is not a great system, but it has a much better prospect of being a lot better than any of the alternatives.

    The 'will of the people' though is not what being a democracy is about. It certainly is not why democracy is a good thing. If you think the purpose of government is to implement the 'will of the people', then presumably you think Socrates's execution was right and just. What cause has anyone to object? 'The people' had spoken. Therefore he should die.

    Not all democracies are liberal democracies. To diverge into political science for a moment a "liberal democracy" is a form of democratic government that provides protections for the liberties of its citizens (hence "liberal") from the excesses of democratic governance. One of the things we're seeing emerge today is what can best be described as illiberal democracy. Countries like Hungary under Fidesz or Putin's Russia. These nations are nominally democratic but use the apparatus of the state maintain the ruling party in power and don't seem too terribly worried about individual liberty.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    The word I tend to use is 'narod' and formations from it 'narodni' and 'narodnism', i.e. demos = people = narodni. So if you shove the word 'narodni' in front of whatever it is, narodnibank, narodnipolice or whatever, it's democratic and so that makes it good. It represents the 'will of the people'. So it must be good. It's like how in some countries, criminal trials are brought in the name of 'the people' as in 'The people v @Crœsos.

    The narod used to express itself as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Now, it's just the great leader, backed by a rigged electoral system, and with the claim that by electing him or her, 'the people have spoken'.
  • Enoch--

    "Narod" is new to me. What language is it from, please?

    Thx.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    One of the things we're seeing emerge today is what can best be described as illiberal democracy. Countries like Hungary under Fidesz or Putin's Russia. These nations are nominally democratic but use the apparatus of the state maintain the ruling party in power and don't seem too terribly worried about individual liberty.

    Are there, in your view, countries that fall short in the other dimension ? Liberal non-democracies ? Unelected executive leaders who govern within a strong framework of individual rights and liberties ?

    Or is some form of democracy a necessary condition for such a framework ?
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Enoch: The 'will of the people' though is not what being a democracy is about. It certainly is not why democracy is a good thing. If you think the purpose of government is to implement the 'will of the people', then presumably you think Socrates's execution was right and just. What cause has anyone to object? 'The people' had spoken. Therefore he should die.

    So I could hardly disagree more with @Kwesi if he's saying that the USA is at fault and not truly a representative democracy because 'the people can't pass laws against some things, as in...........

    Enoch, respect, but I fear you misunderstand me. I was not seeking to promote democracy or representative government or anything else in particular, but to respond to a debate framed by others, which seemed to be arguing that the democratic ‘will of the people’ was being frustrated due to electoral systems producing legislatures and directly elected executives that were unrepresentative of their electorates. I was simply pointing out that in reference to the USA the constitution was deliberately designed to limit the range and impact of popular political opinion through the entrenchment of natural rights which could not be abridged, and a separation of powers that makes the passage of legislation difficult. Thus, the question of representative democracy in the USA is much wider than any imperfections in the electoral process. Whether this is a desirable situation or not I leave to yourself and others.

    Respecting the death of Socrates as a critique of democracy, the argument is little more than rhetorical. Athenian democracy killed others than the philosopher and waged aggressive war from time to time. In modern times there can be few, if any, leaders of democracies who do not have blood on their hands. Democracies make bad decisions on all sorts of issues. What commends them is that they seem to be less coercive than more authoritarian systems, which makes them less costly to run and more agreeable to their citizens. Indeed, what is remarkable about the west European variety is that its inhabitants are very easy about the high level of social control that underpins its welfare states. As George Orwell concluded, “He love Big Brother’.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Kwesi my apologies. I have quite often heard people advocate what I was accusing you of, either overtly or implicitly in how they argue. I was not subtle enough to appreciate that it was something you were airing as a thing to be discussed, not as something you actually thought. I hear it sufficiently frequently these days that I don't think the death of Socrates critique is little more than rhetorical. We still have plenty of shared ground to talk about.

    Your point about government that people sense as fair and responsive as being cheaper to run is an interesting one. I sometimes wonder if anyone has done the research as to how much the Stasi cost East Germany both in its direct running costs and in the economic waste of having such a large element of its workforce tied down in non-productive surveillance and intimidation.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited November 9
    Golden Key wrote: »
    Enoch--

    "Narod" is new to me. What language is it from, please?

    Thx.

    From the Slovenian, Czech for national. GIYF.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Enoch, apologies accepted, particularly as you were making a heat-felt and serious contribution. There is a problem, of course, in the tyranny of majorities, particularly when the opinion of majorities is opaque, which is why referendums are often much more difficult to interpret than, say, "Brexit means Brexit," but there is also the problem of self-interested minorities. The US founding fathers were anxious to protect their landed estates and slave plantations, weren't they? ISTM at the present time that sectional interests have denied US citizens health provision that other western nations would consider a sensible and uncontroversial idea. Liberal Democracy seems to need a wider supportive culture of give and take, a measure mutual respect, and a cohesive degree of social solidarity for it to function. Such virtues, however, are often the consequence of bitter struggle, e.g. the English Civil War.

    I don't know the answer to the cost of running the Stasi, but they must have been considerable.

    Re Socrates, the circumstances surrounding his death were reprehensible and reflected poorly on direct Athenian democracy. At least the USA does not have an impeachment trial conducted by the prosecution.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    ......I meant "heart-felt" though that involved a degree of heat!
  • Russ wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    One of the things we're seeing emerge today is what can best be described as illiberal democracy. Countries like Hungary under Fidesz or Putin's Russia. These nations are nominally democratic but use the apparatus of the state maintain the ruling party in power and don't seem too terribly worried about individual liberty.

    Are there, in your view, countries that fall short in the other dimension ? Liberal non-democracies ? Unelected executive leaders who govern within a strong framework of individual rights and liberties ?

    Or is some form of democracy a necessary condition for such a framework ?

    Liberal dictatorships are common especially in Latin America. If you want to see all the crazy permutations of what “liberal” can be, study the history of Mexico after independence.

  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »
    Enoch--

    "Narod" is new to me. What language is it from, please?

    Thx.

    I assume Enoch lived somewhere Slavic? Národ in Czech means 'nation', but it is connected to words like rodina 'family' and narodit se 'to be born'. Though I don't know how much those connections in practice influence the way Slavic-speakers think about nationhood.
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