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[RD] How would you define a democracy?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by caketastydelish, May 23, 2020.

  1. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Deity

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    My interpretation of the word is pretty fluid, which is to say there are degrees of it.

    My country (America) is democratic in some ways, but democratic in only name in other ways.

    Yes, things are decided by voting (democratic), but:

    1) popular vote doesn't matter (undemocratic)

    2) people in jail can't vote (undemocratic)

    3) gerrymandering (undemocratic)

    4) "voter id" laws and other things designed to make it harder for disenfranchised people to vote.

    etc.

    There are "democracies" even less democratic than we are, and there are "constitutional monarchies" like the UK which seem to be more so. But hypocrisy is another issue entirely. What is your interpretation of democracy?
     
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  2. Moriarte

    Moriarte Immortal

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    A system, where officials are elected on the record of past merit would be more democratic than simple popular vote contest. Throwing the task to the general public while hoping that a collective hand, unqualified in the complicated matters of politics and economy, manipulated by media, will pick progressive candidate is naive proposition at best. What would improve the situation is adding more strict criteria for candidates. Do you have successful experience of running a 1 mil population city? If yes, you're likely qualified to run a 10 mil population city. Ran some beauty contests and bankrupted your real estate business a couple of times? Sorry, no chance running for president.
     
  3. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    I suspect that the impact of those may be less than their critics think.

    To me, the problem the USA has it that the democratic process has been captured by two parties
    each of which is very largely in the pocket of the billionnaire and corporate classes.

    This is an excellent argument for Technocracy, rather than for Democracy.


    To get back to the question.

    Democracy was originally very much a single level approach with city states in Ancient Greece
    where voters could walk in and vote and then walk home, during less busy agricultural times.
    But scalability was a problem, it didn't work for larger states, so representative democracy developed.

    (1) I consider democacy must operate at several levels, probably two or three depending upon country size.

    (2) Democracy is not just about electing people, it is about people being able to vote on key decisions too.
     
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  4. amadeus

    amadeus Kaicho

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    I would say, simply put, the general conditions are freedom of speech and freedom of choice in voting.

    For the most part, the U.S. and other major industrial countries abide by the above.

    Some people are inclined to point fingers at the U.S. electoral system but I don’t think the two-party system results in any less optimal outcomes than in other major industrial countries. Furthermore, I can’t think of a country like that that doesn’t effectively already have a two-party system; Tories and Labour, CDU and SDP, Liberals and Conservatives, Liberals and Labor, LDP and whatever the DPJ has reformed itself into (the old Japan Socialist Party became the Democratic Party, and now is the Constitutional Democratic Party)

    Overall, I’d give it the “I know it when I see it” treatment. In Russia, I believe Putin is popular and handily won the elections, but I wouldn’t call them a democracy. Meanwhile, Trudeau lost his popular vote in the last election rounds but I wouldn’t say Canada is less democratic than Russia.
     
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  5. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Since most people in western "democracies" spend most of their time at work, where they are given orders by by unaccountable autocrats, it is laughable to call these places "democracies."
     
  6. haroon

    haroon Deity

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    Perhaps democracy arguably happened once every 4-5 years depend on where you live, which's during the election. After that a form of oligarchy kicks in.
     
  7. Arwon

    Arwon

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    There's a lot of difference between these systems tbh. The fact that they all have two parties who usually provide the head of government doesn't say much about the role of other parties in terms of:
    • the tendency to majoritarian or multi party governments (Germany frequently has grand coalitions, Canada has minority govts and is allergic to coalitions, Australia has a conservative coalition governing federally)
    • the nature, composition and functioning of upper houses (the Australian Senate is multi party and governments basically never control it, the Canadian share is an unelected joke, the German Bundesrat is composed of state government representatives in precise proportion to those stare government makeups)
    • whether the electoral system forces tactical voting (eg UK, US, Canada) or allows genuine expression of choice
    • whether electoral system transforms minority vote shares into big majorities (Canada, the UK, Australia's lower house) or is representative of how people actually vote (Germany)
    • the existence of regional parties
    Also! The issues with the shoddy/broken democracy in the US are things like voter suppression and direct disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, huge barriers to ballot access, etc. Not just that only two parties win everywhere.
     
  8. Arwon

    Arwon

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    Also there's plenty of multi party systems around, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Italy, all of which have seen PMs from at least 3 parties and political tendencies in the last couple decades. Some others like Sweden, Ireland and Spain have had a "top 2" for a while but at least recently can't be characterised as "two party".

    Mexico and France have both seen their last three executive presidents elected from three different parties.
     
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  9. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Utter nonsense.
    ....

    The variety of Western democracies holds promise for improvements even if those changes are slow to emerge. The question I see, is: What can democracy bring to the table that undemocratic systems cannot? Why are those things important? In addition, one has to consider scalability and how a democratic system in the Netherlands can and should be different than a democratic system in the US or other large, diverse country?
     
  10. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    You have an actual argument to make or what?
     
  11. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Nope, you made a statement that is ridiculous. I'd be quite happy to better understand why you think such a thing is true. I have worked in business in the US for 40 years. I have had friends and associates all across the country in many different industries and in companies of from small to giant. I have even worked for terrible autocrats. They are accountable and know so. Your generalization is just not true.
     
  12. Berzerker

    Berzerker Deity

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    Two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner
     
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  13. Zardnaar

    Zardnaar Deity

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    Freedom House iirc had a decent example.

    USA is a flawed democracy due to gerrymandering.

    I have no problem with prisoners not getting to vote. However voting rights should be restored once you're released.

    Proportional vote not needed but it helps as long as you have an independent electoral commission that draws the electorate boundaries that are all similar in size and not Gerrymandered.

    Proportional can still be abused. I think Hitler used it to get into power. FPTP keeps a lot if extremists out so they don't get to start off small and then get a national stage and government funding to grow.

    We've got proportional representation but the smaller parties are dying off and they only tend to do well when the bigger parties stumble. Labours doing really well but they might put the greens out of parliment.

    When the Greens did well it came at the expense of Labour. Labours made the pie bigger though and is eating into the right here.

    Greens/Progressive types can only eat into Labour they don't really make the pie bigger.
     
  14. Estebonrober

    Estebonrober Deity

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    The last time a new party was formed in the USA 400000 Americans died. Just pointing out that a constitutional convention here is a dangerous proposition.
     
  15. amadeus

    amadeus Kaicho

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    @Arwon, I think maybe I didn’t emphasize my main point well enough; the particulars of how each country’s parliament and elections are different but I mean I think the quality of outcomes don’t differ all that much.

    What I mean is that America’s government is not going to drastically improve from changing one of the technical aspects of how people are elected or what parties there are.

    The U.S. system already kind of operates as two broad coalitions between the Democrats and the Republicans anyhow—there are moderates and hard-liners in each party and there is a spectrum of views even if the parties themselves have a general platform.
     
  16. mitsho

    mitsho Deity

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    There is lots of lots of lots of literature in political science on that. It is literally not one, but two subfields of it, Democratic Theory and Measurement of Democracy.

    In short, for me, the biggest one is procedure or adherence to previously agreed on rules. So you step down when you lose an election. Its this cyclical nature that makes Democracy different from Autocracy. All the other elements are just what improves the Quality of Democracy: Protection of Minority, Rule of Majority, Free and Fair Elections, Transparency, Checks and Balances, Freedom of Speech, (Con)Federalism, Deliberation and so on. Even drawing lots instead of elections may be a good idea. Especially on lower levels where you do not find anyone running willingly for city council...
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
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  17. Imaus

    Imaus King

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    A democracy is any system where the masses have some say in their governance, mostly through formalized elections. It can be anything from a limited democracy where the (or some) people choose a pre-set list of candidates every 10 years to a Anarchic mass of Direct Democracy communes; with most falling in between.
     
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  18. yung.carl.jung

    yung.carl.jung Hey Bird! I'm Morose & Lugubrious

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    I think most people genuinely don't understand what a democracy is or what it's core tenets are. Literally not a single person has posted what I was told to be the core tenet of democracy, so already this thread is pretty whack and, as always, pretty US-centric. modern democracies are in fact not at all democracies in the traditional sense, but y'all don't really seem to be discussing those anyway

    The pillar of modern democracries is the separation of the powers of the state and their unconditional independence of one another. the split is usually into three organs of the state called the legislative, the judicial and the executive.

    Whenever we talk about a country moving away from democracy, for example Poland, we see those three branches of government losing their independence and being manipulated, essentially a balance of powers is overthrown.

    Now Democracy in the actual sense is simply the rule of the people. Note that the people has never, ever, included "all people". but rather a highly specific number of citiziens, which is the key word here. Democracy goes hand in hand with citizienship. Democracies are not, as people claim in here, inherently egalitarian. They are the opposite. In ancient Greece only select men were allowed to vote. Nowadays, there are still many restrictions. Convicted people might not be allowed to vote. People who do not have permanent residy, or in fact people not born in that country, are exempt (unless they're rich of course). People with mental illness might be exempt, or need a caretaker, in order to vote. People with physical hindrances might not be able to vote, even though they are allowed. People who, for some or other reason, have not received citizienship cannot vote. Women used to not be able to vote for the longest time. Slaves/Peasants used to not be able to vote for the longest time.

    ex: If we are going by a relevant contemporary definition of democracy, then the US is not a democracy. If we however go by the actual definition, the older one, then the US is definitely a democracy, the popular vote doesn't matter for **** and th electoral college is fine.

    Freedom of press is not necessarily democratic or undemocratic, neither is
    your post is so bad it physically hurts me. just a friendly reminder: CDU has been doing worse than the freaking Greens in many recent elections. Both CDU and SPD, the so called "Volksparteien" (people's parties) are ****** dieing. That's the whole point of the problem with the AFD, they are taking over the right-of-center people, the conservatives, the CDU and CSU voters. This is not a recent trend but has been happening for a decade almost.

    The Green party, formerly a pretty fringe party, and extremely young compared to the other parties, has beaten what used to be the most promiment party in Germany in many recent elections. Germany is so far away from a 2 party system you could not possibly be more wrong. And it seems with every day still we're moving further away from it. Until SPD and CDU essentially remove themselves with their incessant passivity, directionlessness and generally being corrupt, old, and absolutely lost.
     
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  19. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    I have an issue with this. Who appoints the judges? From which circles do the people who are judges come? In my country at least talking of the judiciary as an independent power would be wrong: formally it is independent, in practice it can be controlled by any strong executive, at least if it's either of the two local "main parties" in power.

    As for the executive and the legislative, usually the executive arises from the legislative, and can country with support there.

    This separation of powers thing has always been a bit of a fiction. Sure, they can't give orders to each other. And of course generally it's nice that they cooperate, else it would be difficult for a country to function. But you can't expect much in terms of "checks and balances" from this separation. In practice the effect is one of imposing a conservative slant to a country, because for any big changes the three powers will have to agree, can't be done suddenly. But for the small changes, for the routine abuses of power, they tend to cooperate (I see no evil...) rather than check each other.
     
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  20. yung.carl.jung

    yung.carl.jung Hey Bird! I'm Morose & Lugubrious

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    I agree that in practice you never really have an independent judiciary, it's nearly impossible. Separation of power is mostly a fantasy, in reality it's blurry lines. It's simply what I was taught made the modern democracy, as opposed to the greek idea of democracy for example. We've come a long way and have described vastly different systems under this umbrella term.
     

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