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Cornish Jack 23rd Mar 2019 22:43

Democracy - what is it?
 
Given that we have a brief respite from the unending idiocy engendered by the Brexit fiasco, it strikes me that the most overused word featuring in the 'arguments' is "Democracy" , and its derivatives. It is constantly applied to various political processes which occur in the UK but which, in at least two instances, are quite incompatible i.e. referenda and General Elections. I won't insult anyone's intelligence by pointing out the differences but, since the same term is used to justify opposite viewpoints, just how do YOU define "Democracy"? On a personal basis, apart from an innate mistrust of anyone using the term to enhance their argument, I would insist that ANYONE using the word should be required to define what they understand it to mean!!:mad: :mad: :ugh:

rifruffian 23rd Mar 2019 23:01

Democracy is the privilege bestowed upon adult members of the community to enable them to cast a vote in favour of someone whom that voter wishes to represent that voter, in execution of formal government of the society in which they both live

NoelEvans 23rd Mar 2019 23:03

What amuses me is the 'divide' between "democracy" and "populism". Suely "populism" is just whole chunk of "democracy"? If not, does that men that 'democracy' is not 'popular'? (I thought that 'democracy' was the 'popular' vote? Have I got that totally wrong? If so, that was a waste of a few years studying politics!)

Just trying to work out how all these 'modernist' terms add up! Do they?

rifruffian 23rd Mar 2019 23:10

I suggest that the term populism is used to mean.......'in the interests of ordinary people'; whereas the notion of democracy might be applicable to extraordinary people also.

PDR1 23rd Mar 2019 23:16

Democracy is an experiment based on a number of false premises:

1. That popularity trumps reality - if people vote for 1+1 to be 3 then somehow it will suddenly become true
2. That the opinion of two uninformed morons should inherently be given more weight than that of one informed intelligent person
3. That it is better to do what is popular than to do what will work

Clearly the concept is fundamentally unsound, and that explains how we got to where we are today.

PDR

Steepclimb 23rd Mar 2019 23:21

Books have been written on this subject. So where do you start?
British democracy: Vote for one of three political parties. The one that has most votes wins even though most British people voted against them. The majority of people in the UK in the last election did not want a Tory government. But they got one thanks to the DUP.

Democracy? I thought democracy was what the majority of voters want. Not what the biggest minority wants.

Democracy is to me the right of the people to change their mind when they realise they were wrong or they were lied to by politicians. Which politicians do almost as a reflex. Politicians lie.

The Americans got it right, as ever. You can fool all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

A lot of the people are being fooled right now. It won't last. There will be a reckoning.




​​​​​

rifruffian 23rd Mar 2019 23:33

hullo steepclimb, what led you to think that democracy was.....'what the majority of voters want' ?

Steepclimb 23rd Mar 2019 23:40


Originally Posted by rifruffian (Post 10427980)
hullo steepclimb, what led you to think that democracy was.....'what the majority of voters want' ?

Never believed it for a moment. As I pointed out.

It's flawed but better than the alternative.


clareprop 23rd Mar 2019 23:46

Not completely sure how to accurately define democracy but contrary to popular belief, it isn't as simple as majority rule.

rifruffian 23rd Mar 2019 23:48

What is that alternative ?

G0ULI 23rd Mar 2019 23:57

Strictly speaking democracy grants each vote an equal weight. The majority vote wins.

The problems begin when voting is restricted to a certain segment of the population, men only, agenrestrictions, property owners only, educated to a certain level, etc.

There can never be a true one hundred percent representation of the public by virtue of the fact that some members of the population are incapable of casting a vote due to age or infirmity.

The situation in the UK is to allow as many people as possible to take part, but there is no enforcement to ensure that anyone or everyone does. The assumption is that those that do not vote are prepared to go along with whichever side wins the vote. In other words, if you do not actively take part, the winning side can consider your lack of objection to amount to passive support. The losing side can have no such claim, although it would appear to have equal merit. That is just the way things are run and so long as everone is aware of the conditions, our current system of democracy is deemed fair.

Steepclimb 24th Mar 2019 00:09


Originally Posted by clareprop (Post 10427986)
Not completely sure how to accurately define democracy but contrary to popular belief, it isn't as simple as majority rule.

Certainly in the UK the majority do not rule. Its always a minority who rule. It was always thus.


Tankertrashnav 24th Mar 2019 00:24

I think John Major's government had an overall majority in 1992, but I agree that doesn't often happen in our system. On the principle of turkeys not voting for Christmas I can't see this country getting any form of PR in the foreseeable future.

AN2 Driver 24th Mar 2019 00:29

Democracy can come in different forms. Where I live we have direct democracy which means people regularly have their say in referendums or may propose change to the constitution by the way of initiative. This does work quite well, in fact I would not easily want to live somewhere else where this is not handled the same way.

The overwhelming share of "democracies" in the world however are so called representative democracies, where people get to elect their representatives to parliament or in some cases to executive office. So the only say people have is by electing politicians to office.

Whether that is real democracy, for someone who is used to direct democracy is difficult to say.

In most democracies however politicians will try to have things go their way no matter what the people want. The more people have their say, preferrably via referendi, the better, but that does not automatically mean these are honored always.

The goings on around Brexit show brutally how shallow democratic rights can be in a representative democracy, where MP's deem fit to take a clear referendum result and make an absolute disaster out of it.

layman 24th Mar 2019 00:45

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Winston Churchill

Populist - often used to claim representation of 'the people' instead of 'the elites'.

In the case of the island state of Nauru, in contrast to the then 'conservative' government, a prospective 'populist' government promised to use money from the sovereign wealth funds to benefit people 'now' (higher wages, increased benefits, create a national airline, etc). They so successfully did this the country is now effectively bankrupt.

WingNut60 24th Mar 2019 01:00


Originally Posted by layman (Post 10428015)
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Winston Churchill

Populist - often used to claim representation of 'the people' instead of 'the elites'.

In the case of the island state of Nauru, in contrast to the then 'conservative' government, a prospective 'populist' government promised to use money from the sovereign wealth funds to benefit people 'now' (higher wages, increased benefits, create a national airline, etc). They so successfully did this the country is now effectively bankrupt.

Contrast with the Shinawatra regime in Thailand - another populist government.

With supposedly populist governments, you also need to distinguish between what their manifesto promises against what they actually deliver.
But doesn't that make all, or at least most, governments to be "populist?

ZFT 24th Mar 2019 01:11


Originally Posted by WingNut60 (Post 10428025)
Contrast with the Shinawatra regime in Thailand - another populist government.

With supposedly populist governments, you also need to distinguish between what their manifesto promises against what they actually deliver.
But doesn't that make all, or at least most, governments to be "populist?

...and I in the case of Thailand, how much the candidate sweetens the electorate Thaksin and his sister basically robbed the country but we're and still are popular

Will be interesting to see how the voting goes today

pattern_is_full 24th Mar 2019 04:39

The purest form of democracy would be all referenda. The peepul ("bless their black, flabby little hearts")* get to vote on everything directly.

Never really been tried in communities of over a couple of hundred people, because it gets unwieldy (no one has time to get in the crops, feed the livestock, thatch the roofs, etc. etc.). At some point "government" starts to become a full-time management job. You need cops and fire fighters and trash removal and organization of the waterways and defense of the realm and on and on, so there has to be a - structure - to do all that 24/7. 10,000 little decisions to be made every day.

(Of note, the term "idiot" in the original Greek idiom just meant a regular person or layman (not necessarily stupid, but perhaps less educated in a craft), who simply didn't participate in the running of the community or polis (the politics). )

So the next step is to elect a - somebody - to run things full-time while everyone else goes about their own lives. But the guy or gal running things tends to accumulate power through favors and having expert knowledge (knowledge is power) and you get a tyranny (possibly a benign tyranny, but that's the luck of the draw, or the birthing-bed). You go from village chieftain or "city manager" to Julius Caesar or Louis XVI in a pretty short time (geologically speaking). Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Another approach is a representative democracy. Subsets of the whole people vote for representatives who will do the actual deciding on the issues themselves. Could be a representative for the bakers, and for the farmers, and for the sailors, and so on, but representatives from regional areas have tended to be the norm. In any case, representative democracy does make the process more streamlined, while preserving (in theory) the option for the people (demos) to ultimately exert control through regular review of the representatives' performance and tossing them out or retaining them by vote.

Plato, of course offered other options to democracy: Aristocracy (rule by the 'best people' - the wisest heads - but who decides who those are? Usually themselves ;) ); Timocracy (rule by the warriors (the guys with strength and weapons); Oligarchy (rule by the rich and powerful). He thought Democracy was the lowest form, leading inevitably to Tyranny.

The U.S., the French and the UK (and others, eventually) came up with the idea, over time, of constitutional representative democracy - an "aristocracy" in Plato's meaning, but chosen by the people, not by birth or themselves - with a legal structure that is supposed to allow maximum input from all the people, while short-circuiting devolution into Plato's Tyranny (or its cousin, the Tyranny of the Majority). Which is where Churchill got it right. Democracy is sloppy, argumentative, inefficient, stupid and ignorant, and often makes a large part of the population unhappy with the results - but it is better than all the others "that have been tried from time to time."

It is not guaranteed to survive, though, if the people become uninvolved "idiots" and don't pay some attention. As Ben Franklin told one Philadelphia citizen after we established our own Constitution - "You have a Republic - if you can keep it."
_________________________
*quote from Robert Heinlein's Time Enough For Love

wetbehindear 24th Mar 2019 06:40

Few bits and pieces about democracy and couple of other things which may be construed as thread drift.

Please bear with the author.

The population cycle drives human history

structor 24th Mar 2019 06:40


Originally Posted by pattern_is_full (Post 10428084)
The purest form of democracy would be all referenda. The peepul ("bless their black, flabby little hearts")* get to vote on everything directly.

Never really been tried in communities of over a couple of hundred people, because it gets unwieldy (no one has time to get in the crops, feed the livestock, thatch the roofs, etc. etc.). At some point "government" starts to become a full-time management job. You need cops and fire fighters and trash removal and organization of the waterways and defense of the realm and on and on, so there has to be a - structure - to do all that 24/7. 10,000 little decisions to be made every day.

(Of note, the term "idiot" in the original Greek idiom just meant a regular person or layman (not necessarily stupid, but perhaps less educated in a craft), who simply didn't participate in the running of the community or polis (the politics). )

So the next step is to elect a - somebody - to run things full-time while everyone else goes about their own lives. But the guy or gal running things tends to accumulate power through favors and having expert knowledge (knowledge is power) and you get a tyranny (possibly a benign tyranny, but that's the luck of the draw, or the birthing-bed). You go from village chieftain or "city manager" to Julius Caesar or Louis XVI in a pretty short time (geologically speaking). Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Another approach is a representative democracy. Subsets of the whole people vote for representatives who will do the actual deciding on the issues themselves. Could be a representative for the bakers, and for the farmers, and for the sailors, and so on, but representatives from regional areas have tended to be the norm. In any case, representative democracy does make the process more streamlined, while preserving (in theory) the option for the people (demos) to ultimately exert control through regular review of the representatives' performance and tossing them out or retaining them by vote.

Plato, of course offered other options to democracy: Aristocracy (rule by the 'best people' - the wisest heads - but who decides who those are? Usually themselves ;) ); Timocracy (rule by the warriors (the guys with strength and weapons); Oligarchy (rule by the rich and powerful). He thought Democracy was the lowest form, leading inevitably to Tyranny.

The U.S., the French and the UK (and others, eventually) came up with the idea, over time, of constitutional representative democracy - an "aristocracy" in Plato's meaning, but chosen by the people, not by birth or themselves - with a legal structure that is supposed to allow maximum input from all the people, while short-circuiting devolution into Plato's Tyranny (or its cousin, the Tyranny of the Majority). Which is where Churchill got it right. Democracy is sloppy, argumentative, inefficient, stupid and ignorant, and often makes a large part of the population unhappy with the results - but it is better than all the others "that have been tried from time to time."

It is not guaranteed to survive, though, if the people become uninvolved "idiots" and don't pay some attention. As Ben Franklin told one Philadelphia citizen after we established our own Constitution - "You have a Republic - if you can keep it."
_________________________
*quote from Robert Heinlein's Time Enough For Love

You forgot Kakistocracy!


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