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Democracy - what is it?

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Democracy - what is it?

Old 26th Mar 2019, 18:51
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by KenV View Post
Democracy:....

<snip>

Among the many representative democracies, the US is unique in that it is a constitutional democratic republic, in other words, it is a republic based on a Constitution and its representatives are elected by the eligible population.
Aha. What's the difference to, let's say germany then?
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Old 26th Mar 2019, 18:53
  #62 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by ThorMos View Post
Aha. What's the difference to, let's say germany then?
They're American, it must be better.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 14:08
  #63 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by KenV View Post
Democracy:

<snip>

Among the many representative democracies, the US is unique in that it is a constitutional democratic republic, in other words, it is a republic based on a Constitution and its representatives are elected by the eligible population.
KenV, may i ask again: What is the difference to germany, france,... You have made this claim before, i asked you then and did not get a reply. Please let me know, i am curious...
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 15:04
  #64 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by layman View Post
AN2 Driver

the last time Swiss participation hit 70% was pre-1950 (even close to 60% participation was pre-1950 for that matter)

I still like the concept of referenda but if the participation rate for the Swiss is (almost) always below 50%, then less half the people are bothering to be actively involved in their democracy.
Totally wrong. There were several in recent years which were above 60% and many more which were over 50%.

The highest one was on whether to become a member of the European Economic Area in 1992: 78.7% The result was No.
Runner up was the "Schwarzenbach Initiative" against Immigration in 1974 with 70.3%. The result was No. (can't really remember much about it, but it was a huge thing then).
Third was an attempt to abolish the armed forces in 1989 with 69.2% The result was No.
The most recent was in 2016 when a packet of 4 controversial proposals brought back 63.7%. (4 referendi/initiatives at one day)
The question whether to join the UN in 2002 yielded 58.6%, the answer was yes. Membership in Schengen/Dublin was approved with 56.6% participation rate.
There were a few others which went over 60% and more which went over 50%.

The stats go back to the implementation of women's right to vote in 1971.

So in short, the Swiss voters will come out in large participation when there are important issues. In other cases, often people abstain because they feel it is not important enough to them or they don't know enough to give an educated vote. This does not change the acceptance of the vote by the population however.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 16:09
  #65 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by ThorMos View Post
KenV, may i ask again: What is the difference to germany, france,... You have made this claim before, i asked you then and did not get a reply. Please let me know, i am curious...
Germany, like the vast majority of representative democracies, is a parliamentary republic. In a parliamentary system voters do not vote for individuals, they vote for parties. The party in turn chooses/appoints the representatives. The current UK Prime Minister for example was appointed by her party after the previous one resigned, and not voted on directly by the people. The party (or coalition of parties) with a majority then "forms the government." In effect, a "new government is formed" with each major national election.

In the US system, individuals may or may not belong to political parties, and run for election as individuals and the voters vote for individuals, not parties. Most politicians belong to a political party but some run as, and are elected as, independents. Most politicians who are elected as independents tend to "caucus" with one of the two major political parties.

Another difference is that in the US a national election does not result in the formation of a new government, and there is no mechanism to "dissolve government" and force a new election to "form a new government." So the US has had the "same government" since its first election in 1788. The people administering the government just change with the elections. There are national elections the same time every two years. Every two years every member of the House of Representatives is elected to office and one third of Senators are elected to office (Senators serve 6 years.). Every other election cycle (thus every 4 years) a president and vice president are elected to office. The president may only serve two consecutive terms, thus a maximum of eight consecutive years. The presidential election is also different in that while the voters ostensibly vote for individuals, there is another layer called the electoral college, the purpose of which is to prevent one or a few very powerful states to completely dominate the presidential election. This happened in our last election where Clinton got more individual votes, but they were grouped in a few large counties, while Trump got fewer individual votes overall but won in more states, and thus won the electoral college and became president.. Part of the point being that The House is supposed to represent the People, The Senate is supposed to represent the States, and The President is supposed to represent both when administering the government.

Hope this clarified.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 16:39
  #66 (permalink)  
 
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Thanks Ken. Appreciate it. Interesting.

Originally Posted by KenV View Post
Germany, like the vast majority of representative democracies, is a parliamentary republic. In a parliamentary system voters do not vote for individuals, they vote for parties. The party in turn chooses/appoints the representatives.
Well that's 50% true, as the german parliament consists of approx. 50% members elected in the 'first-pass-the-post' system and the other half are filled up so that the proportion of parties are as per the result of the elctions? (sorry, i fail to write this any clearer...) As an individual you can be elected into the german parliament by winning the election in your district. This system has its pros and cons, like an voting system: it does not have the problems of the fptp system like gerrymandering and others, but it does have the problem that there may be more smaller parties in parliament.
One huge advantage is that the german government has always been voted in by the majority of the votes. In fptp systems that is not necessarily, actually it's unusual...
Isn't there a layer in the US between the voters and the election of the president in the form of the electoral college?


The current UK Prime Minister for example was appointed by her party after the previous one resigned, and not voted on directly by the people. The party (or coalition of parties) with a majority then "forms the government." In effect, a "new government is formed" with each major national election.

In the US system, individuals may or may not belong to political parties, and run for election as individuals and the voters vote for individuals, not parties. Most politicians belong to a political party but some run as, and are elected as, independents. Most politicians who are elected as independents tend to "caucus" with one of the two major political parties.

Another difference is that in the US a national election does not result in the formation of a new government, and there is no mechanism to "dissolve government" and force a new election to "form a new government." So the US has had the "same government" since its first election in 1788. The people administering the government just change with the elections.
Well, isn't that just a technicality? I mean, germany has not been without a government since 1949, if you are discounting the two or three hours between dissolution of the old a electing the new Bundeskanzler(in). You may remember that after our last general election, we had a sort of patt situation which lastet a few months, but we weren't without a government. (The last government stay in place until the new government takes over)

<snip>

Hope this clarified.

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Old 27th Mar 2019, 16:48
  #67 (permalink)  
 
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As a natural progression to the original post, would the contributors like to view their thoughts on the purpose (principal functions) of a constitution.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 17:00
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Originally Posted by WingNut60 View Post
As a natural progression to the original post, would the contributors like to view their thoughts on the purpose (principal functions) of a constitution.
Well that differs among countries.

In some a Constitution exists to protect the people from government.

In others it is precisely the reverse.

And of course some have managed well with no written Constitution.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 17:04
  #69 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by ThorMos View Post
One huge advantage is that the german government has always been voted in by the majority of the votes.
Two points:
1. In the US, elections don't result in the "voting in" of a government. The election results in changing SOME of the individuals who administer the government.
2. We don't see electing the president always by majority as an "advantage." The office of president is very powerful and is supposed to be independent of both The House and The Senate. It is common to have a Congress dominated by one party, and the President belonging to another party. And because the office of president is so powerful, a pure majority of votes does not necessarily apply. If it did, Clinton who won huge margins in just five counties in the US would have been president. In other words, five counties in the US would have elected the president. Our electoral college is designed to prevent such an outcome and it did in the last election. Yes, there is lots of outrage about that among the losers, but it worked exactly as intended.

Isn't there a layer in the US between the voters and the election of the president in the form of the electoral college?
Already addressed twice.

Well, isn't that just a technicality? I mean, germany has not been without a government since 1949, if you are discounting the two or three hours between dissolution of the old a electing the new Bundeskanzler(in). You may remember that after our last general election, we had a sort of patt situation which lastet a few months, but we weren't without a government. (The last government stay in place until the new government takes over)
You've misunderstood. I did not say "without government." I said each election results in a "new government." There may or may not be a gap between old and new governments in a Parliamentary system. In the US system there is no "old government" or "new government." Just a change in some of the faces administering the same government. A national election does not authorize anyone to "form" a government in our system. The election just places faces (some new, some not) in spots within the existing government. The difference is subtle, but very very significant.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 17:12
  #70 (permalink)  
 
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The current UK Prime Minister for example was appointed by her party after the previous one resigned, and not voted on directly by the people. The party (or coalition of parties) with a majority then "forms the government." In effect, a "new government is formed" with each major national election
Technically this isn't correct. The Monarch invites the leader, usually of the party winning a general election, to form a government (either by commanding a majority or entering into a coalition). If that person accepts and is able to from a government then that person is appointed Prime Minister by the Monarch. If the Prime Minister resigns (steps down) prior to a general election then the Monarch has to ratify that resignation and would then seek to appoint a new Prime Minister. The retiring Prime Minister usually also steps down as leader of their parliamentary party and it is the new leader of that party which is usually appointed Prime Minister. If the government lasts the full 5 year term, the Monarch dissolves parliament and a general election is held.

The word "usually" is deliberate, as the Monarch does not have to follow this "tradition", but I dread to think what the result would be.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 17:34
  #71 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by golfbananajam View Post
Technically this isn't correct. The Monarch invites the leader, usually of the party winning a general election, to form a government (either by commanding a majority or entering into a coalition). If that person accepts and is able to from a government then that person is appointed Prime Minister by the Monarch. If the Prime Minister resigns (steps down) prior to a general election then the Monarch has to ratify that resignation and would then seek to appoint a new Prime Minister. The retiring Prime Minister usually also steps down as leader of their parliamentary party and it is the new leader of that party which is usually appointed Prime Minister. If the government lasts the full 5 year term, the Monarch dissolves parliament and a general election is held.
Yes, the monarch "appoints" the new Prime Minister. But since the new prime minister is always the leader of the majority party, and the majority party appoints its leader, the majority party effectively appoints the Prime Minister. The Monarch just puts her/his rubber stamp on a decision already made by party bosses to give that decision legitimacy. I'm not saying that's "bad." Just very different than the US system. And in the US system there is no way to "dissolve" either Congress or the Presidency or the Judiciary. Government is never "dissolved". Faces within government are changed. Again, not saying one system is "bad" and another "good." Just very very different. But I will say that I personally think the US system is "better." Like every political system it is very flawed, but in my opinion still better.

Last edited by KenV; 27th Mar 2019 at 17:48.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 17:45
  #72 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by WingNut60 View Post
As a natural progression to the original post, would the contributors like to view their thoughts on the purpose (principal functions) of a constitution.
That varies tremendously by nation and society. In the US the Constitution is designed to protect the people from government and not the other way around. Further the constitution does not grant rights. It protects the people and the states from having their already god-given rights infringed by government. Further still, the Constitution grants certain specific powers to government and strictly limits those powers to the powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. If the Constitution is silent on a subject, the federal government has no power in that area. The federal government for example cannot regulate commerce within a state. It can only regulate commerce between states (i.e. interstate commerce). And my thought is that the US Constitution despite its flaws is far and away the best constitution on the planet.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 18:01
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Originally Posted by KenV View Post
Yes, the monarch "appoints" the new Prime Minister. But since the new prime minister is always the leader of the majority party, and the majority party appoints its leader, the majority party effectively appoints the Prime Minister. The Monarch just puts her/his rubber stamp on a decision already made by party bosses to give that decision legitimacy. I'm not saying that's "bad." Just very different than the US system. And in the US system there is no way to "dissolve" either Congress or the Presidency or the Judiciary. Government is never "dissolved". Faces within government are changed. Again, not saying one system is "bad" and another "good." Just very very different. But I will say that I personally think the US system is "better." Like every political system it is very flawed, but in my opinion still better.

While I agree with your observation you seem to have missed my last sentence

Oh, and I disagree that the US system is better, just different
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 18:16
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Originally Posted by golfbananajam View Post
While I agree with your observation you seem to have missed my last sentence.
Nope, I read it. And as you so clearly pointed out, appointing someone other than the leader of the majority party has never happened and likely never will happen. So rather a moot point.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 19:29
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As a citizen of both (or confused, as Chuks might suggest) I offer this perspective: I think those who live in a Parliamentary system (we are speaking UK here) and those who live in the US system often speak past each other.

Americans think that Brits see the Queen as ruler and the ultimate power. Not so. The Queen represents the nation, and its long and evolved tradition. She is a person, true, but in fact the homage paid to her is to the country, not really the personage. Americans can't quite grasp that because there is no US equivalent, and in fact a Revolution was fought to get out from under the way the Crown existed 250 years ago. So what he have in the US as symbolic of the Nation are indeed the Constitution, and to a lesser degree, the Flag. Unfortunately, we do place too much emphasis on the personage of the President, and in that regards we could do with a symbolic leader. Maybe the Kardashians.

Brits likewise have trouble with Americans' obsession with the Constitution, because in the Parliamentary system, if something needs fixing, the Parliament, not being really distinct from the Executive, has the power to do so, and will follow precedent and centuries of tradition, to do so. In that regard, they don't feel the need to have everything written down and the words debated at great length by the Courts.

Which is better? I'm not so sure. The human tendency toward corruption threatens both. Totalitarianism has never truly gone away and needs constant vigilance to avoid it.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 21:42
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Originally Posted by obgraham View Post
As a citizen of both (or confused, as Chuks might suggest) I offer this perspective: I think those who live in a Parliamentary system (we are speaking UK here) and those who live in the US system often speak past each other.

Americans think that Brits see the Queen as ruler and the ultimate power. Not so. The Queen represents the nation, and its long and evolved tradition. She is a person, true, but in fact the homage paid to her is to the country, not really the personage. Americans can't quite grasp that because there is no US equivalent, and in fact a Revolution was fought to get out from under the way the Crown existed 250 years ago. So what he have in the US as symbolic of the Nation are indeed the Constitution, and to a lesser degree, the Flag. Unfortunately, we do place too much emphasis on the personage of the President, and in that regards we could do with a symbolic leader. Maybe the Kardashians.
That's so true obgraham, certainly in my recent experience. Got talking to a friendly american in Florida last week whilst on holiday and he was making that exact point - he assumed our Queenie was effectively an equivalent to your President, and that our PM was basically just a stooge that took orders from HMQ. We had a good discussion, but not sure I explained things as well as I could have done so he probably left more confused than when he started - but I did buy him a beer
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Old 28th Mar 2019, 16:08
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Originally Posted by obgraham View Post
Americans think that Brits see the Queen as ruler and the ultimate power. Not so.The Queen represents the nation, and its long and evolved tradition.
I'd like to point out that the UK's Monarch (be it a Queen or King) has the power to appoint the Head of Government. That's a fairly "ultimate" power, politically speaking. Yes "tradition" holds that she/he always appoints the leader of the majority party, but she/he technically has the power to appoint anyone and there is nothing beyond "tradition" preventing her/him from doing so. Further, she/he has the power to "dissolve government." That's another "ultimate" power, politically speaking. The Monarch has other "royal prerogatives" that, while not "ulitmate", have great political import. And a "royal prerogative" is a power no other person or governmental body has. So in that sense rather "ultimate".

She is a person, true, but in fact the homage paid to her is to the country, not really the personage
As Head of State the Monarch does indeed "represent the nation." Perhaps this has escaped you, but our President is both Head of Government and Head of State. The president, like the monarch, is a person and any "homage" he receives is not to the person, but to the office he holds and/or the nation he represents. And unlike the monarch, his powers are both limited and carefully enumerated.

Last edited by KenV; 29th Mar 2019 at 18:19.
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Old 28th Mar 2019, 20:08
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In Mexico, for about 70 years, "democracy" was the fig leaf for the dictatorship of the PRI.
The {Mexican} revolution led to two lasting changes: more land and rights for peasants (campesinos), and the emergence of a political party that brooked no opposition. Its name has always struck me as a contradiction, almost but not quite a joke: the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the Institutional Revolutionary Party. It ruled, uninterrupted, from 1929 to 2000 by stealing elections, buying the press and stubbing out dissent. Mario Vargas Llosa called the Mexican system the perfect dictatorship, since it was dressed up in enough elections to pass as a democracy. The PRI of this period is sometimes described by historians as a dictablanda, a soft dictatorship, punning on dictadura. The PRI, a nominally left-wing party, resorted to dirty war tactics – forced disappearances, infiltration of socialist and communist groups – to maintain power at national, regional and local levels. In states like Guerrero the soft dictatorship was not so soft. Local elites had their enemies flown out over the Pacific and then pushed out of helicopters.
PRI finally had its grip on power broken in 2000 when Vicente Fox and his party finally got into the lead.
I guess you could call the first 80 years growing pains. *shrugs*

Those interested in more detail may want to check out this link from a recent LRB article on the unearthing of mass graves of people who have been killed / disappeared over the years.
The article, "It is Very Easy to Die Here" was written by Rachel Nolan.
Or maybe it is called Who Killed the 43? Not sure which title is the leader.
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Old 2nd Apr 2019, 12:08
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Originally Posted by Lonewolf_50 View Post
In Mexico, for about 70 years, "democracy" was the fig leaf for the dictatorship of the PRI.

PRI finally had its grip on power broken in 2000 when Vicente Fox and his party finally got into the lead.
I guess you could call the first 80 years growing pains. *shrugs*

Those interested in more detail may want to check out this link from a recent LRB article on the unearthing of mass graves of people who have been killed / disappeared over the years.
The article, "It is Very Easy to Die Here" was written by Rachel Nolan.
Or maybe it is called Who Killed the 43? Not sure which title is the leader.
There appear to be more than a few such sham "democracies" in the world, with South America and Africa seeming to contribute more than their fair share.
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