Neoseeker.com Forum Thread: Democracy; What is it? - page 1

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original thread: http://www.neoseeker.com/forums/16/t1802808-democracy/


Author:   Crusad3r
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 8:02am (PST)
Subject:   Democracy; What is it?
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Since the Athenian form of Democracy, there have perhaps been hundreds of different forms of democracy tried by many different countries. Each one similar, yet uniquely different from each other. British democracy is different to the French version which is different to the US version which is different to the Canadian version which is different to the Australian version etc etc.

So, what is the best form of democracy? Hell, what IS democracy? Why has it propagated around the world as the most successful modern form of governance? What's TL's take on this?

For me, a truly democratic country must have a Federal style of government at a local, state/province/regional/prefectural and national level in order to properly represent the population. It must also be a secular government so as work for the people and not a third party organisation.

So TL, let's see your views on democracy itself.



Author:   harbin
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 8:32am (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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The Australian and Canadian models are based on the Westminster System (basically the UK system) although with the exception of a few things.

For me, democracy is purely about the choice and right to choose who you want as leader and what you want for your country. The main issue with democracy is that it is flawed (although that applies to every other system of government aswell), but a country can never be fully democratic with the choice over everything down to the citizen since it would become vastly inefficient.

The UK has two types of government, National Government, ruled from Westminster legislate on national issues, then the local authorities (councils) that legislate local issues over a borough. Councils are independant from Parliament, although can be influenced by them, with the budgets set by them. Certain councils have a higher level of control over their own city than other councils do over theirs dependant on status. London for example is ran by an elected Mayor who sets everything in the city from transport to policing and health. My local council does not have influence over health and policing, just transport, council taxes, etc...



Author:   Ascii
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 8:41am (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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I think the different types of democracy (or government in general for that matter) are simply variations of power in which the government has over the people. Some have a firmer hold on the people, some not so much. Then again, I don't care for politics very much so I have never looked into the subject further than I was taught in school.



Author:   Crusad3r
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 11:43am (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote Shadow of Truth
I think the different types of democracy (or government in general for that matter) are simply variations of power in which the government has over the people. Some have a firmer hold on the people, some not so much. Then again, I don't care for politics very much so I have never looked into the subject further than I was taught in school.
This is so wrong I don't even know where to begin... In an ideal democracy, the government only holds as much power as the people allow it to have. If you feel that's the case, maybe you should take a more active stance on politics.

harbin is your local council elected?



Author:   harbin
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 11:58am (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote Crusad3r
quote Shadow of Truth
I think the different types of democracy (or government in general for that matter) are simply variations of power in which the government has over the people. Some have a firmer hold on the people, some not so much. Then again, I don't care for politics very much so I have never looked into the subject further than I was taught in school.
This is so wrong I don't even know where to begin... In an ideal democracy, the government only holds as much power as the people allow it to have. If you feel that's the case, maybe you should take a more active stance on politics.

harbin is your local council elected?
Yes, but my council operates somewhat differently from others in the country (other than being known for corruption in the past)... we have a mayor in our council which heads up a cabinet of elected councillors, where as other councils are operated by a council leader. AFAIK other councils have lord mayors but they're largely ceremonial.

How things operate at county level I've no idea since there are about five different types of local government... my county didn't even exist as an actual county until 1974.



Author:   Ascii
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 12:39pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote Crusad3r
In an ideal democracy, the government only holds as much power as the people allow it to have.
In an ideal democracy, maybe. The people rarely have any say in what the government wants to do. Even if the public doesn't agree with the governments' decisions, there isn't a whole lot they can do. The government can simply lie about it or make some kind of lame cover-up explanation. I'm not saying the government always does this, but it does happen and if they wanted it to, it could happen a lot more.



Author:   Misty
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 3:39pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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Ideally? I think that from a strictly for-the-people perspective, I think the Athenian city-state model worked best (of what I know, anyway). I think government works best when it is closest to the people that it governs, and clearly it does not get much closer than city-state style classic democracy. Elected representatives don't really exist in a true democracy, but rather issues are voted on more like referendum are here in the United States, meaning essentially the voting population votes as a group on individual pieces of legislation. I don't think elected representatives are in the best interest of the people, in general, and government that is closer to those impacted by it is the easiest for the people to regulate and keep control over. Even if a stronger state/local government was run as a Republic, it's much easier to see what direct impact particular elected representatives have and whether or not we want them back in office again. That's harder on a federal level; it's much easier to lose sight of what they're doing, if anything.

That said, an actual democracy is pretty impractical. Expecting everyone to vote on every piece of legislation that comes across the table is just asking for problems, put simply, even if we only had votes every 3-6 months on a good number of pieces of legislation at a time. It simply wouldn't happen. For larger governments like the US has, a representative system is an unfortunate necessity.



Author:   Aurora
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 3:51pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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I've always thought that democracy as it is today is okay for kicking out bad leaders, but crap for electing good ones. In many (all?) modern democracies, most people's votes boil down to a choice between two (perhaps three, if you're lucky) parties. The selection of the candidates representing these parties is often heavily controlled by the powers that be. Everything's so heavily influenced by the media and people with lots of $$$, especially in the U.S. A large chunk of the voting population are either ignorant or just don't care.

Also, after election day, the country will likely be lead by a person who nearly half of the population DIDN'T vote for, since things are usually so neck-and-neck in many elections. I think it's great in theory, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired, not that I have any better ideas.

quote Shadow of Truth
quote Crusad3r
In an ideal democracy, the government only holds as much power as the people allow it to have.
In an ideal democracy, maybe. The people rarely have any say in what the government wants to do. Even if the public doesn't agree with the governments' decisions, there isn't a whole lot they can do. The government can simply lie about it or make some kind of lame cover-up explanation. I'm not saying the government always does this, but it does happen and if they wanted it to, it could happen a lot more.
Yeah, that stuff certainly happens. A lot.



Author:   Misty
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 7:06pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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I'll agree wholeheartedly with Aurora that the current system is awful for picking good leaders. It'd be fantastic if the best leader was the one with the best connections and campaign funds, but unfortunately a lot of the ones that want legitimate reform that might have a positive outcome for the majority just don't get that $$$ support that politicians who support various lobby groups and generally unscrupulous causes.

That said, I don't know of a way that a representative system could be made more accountable. Truth be told, that almost seems like an inevitability unless we had far more motivated voters. There's a huge population of people who think voting non-bipartisan is a wasted vote; a fact which would change if fewer people were afraid of 'wasting' their vote.



Author:   wildfire
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 9:03pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote Misty
I'll agree wholeheartedly with Aurora that the current system is awful for picking good leaders. It'd be fantastic if the best leader was the one with the best connections and campaign funds, but unfortunately a lot of the ones that want legitimate reform that might have a positive outcome for the majority just don't get that $$$ support that politicians who support various lobby groups and generally unscrupulous causes.
I agree that the current system is corrupt and we could probably use something slightly different. If you really think back to when democracy first started; it started in Athens a small city state probably contained around 1000 people, but only so many (wealthy,male landowners) got to decide everything. Democracy was developed in a society that anyone (male with land) had a say in the government.

We're applying that to entire countries with millions of people, so it's no wonder that there's a lot of abuse intentional or no.

This is what I was talking about over in the obama thread. The disconnect between government with people; I've heard it a dozen times about the electoral college system and without it Obama wouldn't have been elected. It seems the higher the population the less people have a say in the government.

I'm not saying that it's entirely the government's fault, nor the people's. I'm just pointing out a problem, and I know there's no clear answer or solution. I can say that if I was elected president, I would try to reconnect with the american people, no matter what my parties agenda is. I'd just piggyback with them until I got into power >:D



Author:   Mastix
Date:   Dec 08, 12 at 10:34pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote Aurora
I've always thought that democracy as it is today is okay for kicking out bad leaders, but crap for electing good ones.
That's an interesting conclusion. Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It's named after two social psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger. They conducted a lot of research into how people evaluate their own qualities and those of others. They found that people tend to evaluate themselves as "above average" across the board, even when they were in fact among the worst in the sample (say they were tested in math). Let me just quickly quote the abstract of their first major study:

quote Dunning Kruger: Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.
Basically, people who aren't good at economics aren't able to realize just how bad they are at economics (though they may or may not acknowledge that they aren't particularly good at it), and perhaps even more importantly aren't able to recognize what a good economic idea looks like. This is terrible news for democracy. It implies that most people wouldn't know a candidate with good ideas if they saw one, and unsurprisingly vote based on what they "feel" is right.

Another guy who's name is slipping from me applied this theory to a computer simulation of democratic elections. When people voted in this model, they consistently picked candidates who were "slightly above average." Sometimes people got lucky and picked an awesome candidate, but rarely did they pick a horrible one. The conclusion he drew was that the essential advantage democracy has over other government systems is that it weeds out the really awful leaders, but rarely picks excellent ones, which is exactly what you said.

Anyway I thought from what you said that you must have read/heard of these studies, and if not you'd be interested to. I agree, though I guess I too might be incapable of recognizing a good idea when I see one.

As for the topic at hand, I'd say we have a decent form of democracy. It's flawed but it can and has been improving.



Author:   person_47
Date:   Dec 10, 12 at 7:27pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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Canada is not a democracy who fed you that line of bullshit? We're a British controlled colony who differs to a Governor General ( queens representative) for all major decisions. So for all factual purposes we are subjects of a monarchy no matter what anyone tells you.

The United States is closer to a dictatorship than a democracy. When is the last time you voted in a referendum? If anything it's a democratic-based oligarchy with a dictatorship thrown in the mix. A small group of members is voted in with large amounts of power with one executive commander who can modify anything at any time to his will. This folks, is not democracy.

Fact is, democracy doesn't exist. The closest things are probably Sweden and Norway (both constitutionally monarchies I believe really) where major decisions affecting the normal person are put to referendum which is the only truly democratic process. I think a combination of that with a rotating elected leader. Maybe a senatorial or parliamental platform but everyone cycles for a few months?

FYI I've only ever seen one referendum in my life as a Canadian citizen. The referendum on whether or not to allow Quebec separation from the Canadian whole.



Author:   walnuts
Date:   Dec 11, 12 at 6:20pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote person_47
Canada is not a democracy who fed you that line of bullshit? We're a British controlled colony who differs to a Governor General ( queens representative) for all major decisions. So for all factual purposes we are subjects of a monarchy no matter what anyone tells you.
When was the last time the GG directly interfered in Canadian politics (genuine question, not having a go at you or anything) because I believe you run the same system as we do in Australia, and thus the GG is nothing more than the figurehead who rubberstamps things. Heck, the last time our GG got involved in a big way was in 1975 when the GG actually sacked the Prime Minister of the day.

So yeah, whilst legally we're a constitutional monarchy (like you guys) we act just like a democracy with zero input from the monarchy, so it'd be interesting to see if you guys run essentially the same system as Australia differently!



Author:   person_47
Date:   Dec 11, 12 at 6:27pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote walnuts
quote person_47
Canada is not a democracy who fed you that line of bullshit? We're a British controlled colony who differs to a Governor General ( queens representative) for all major decisions. So for all factual purposes we are subjects of a monarchy no matter what anyone tells you.
When was the last time the GG directly interfered in Canadian politics (genuine question, not having a go at you or anything) because I believe you run the same system as we do in Australia, and thus the GG is nothing more than the figurehead who rubberstamps things. Heck, the last time our GG got involved in a big way was in 1975 when the GG actually sacked the Prime Minister of the day.

So yeah, whilst legally we're a constitutional monarchy (like you guys) we act just like a democracy with zero input from the monarchy, so it'd be interesting to see if you guys run essentially the same system as Australia differently!
Real similar actually! I think we have almost the exact same system except our GG has had to step in a couple times over the last five years. During our current PMs (Harper) first term in office he prorogued parliament (against the constitution) and it was the GG who had to approve it. He didn't want the opposing parties to consolidate and steal power. Then this term he attempted to override parliament again and the GG told him to shove it. So she has been involved recently but like you said- not very often. Our GG only gets involved when it's a big deal but she definitely has final executive command.



Author:   walnuts
Date:   Dec 11, 12 at 6:29pm (PST)
Subject:   re: Democracy; What is it?
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quote person_47
quote walnuts
quote person_47
Canada is not a democracy who fed you that line of bullshit? We're a British controlled colony who differs to a Governor General ( queens representative) for all major decisions. So for all factual purposes we are subjects of a monarchy no matter what anyone tells you.
When was the last time the GG directly interfered in Canadian politics (genuine question, not having a go at you or anything) because I believe you run the same system as we do in Australia, and thus the GG is nothing more than the figurehead who rubberstamps things. Heck, the last time our GG got involved in a big way was in 1975 when the GG actually sacked the Prime Minister of the day.

So yeah, whilst legally we're a constitutional monarchy (like you guys) we act just like a democracy with zero input from the monarchy, so it'd be interesting to see if you guys run essentially the same system as Australia differently!
Real similar actually! I think we have almost the exact same system except our GG has had to step in a couple times over the last five years. During our current PMs (Harper) first term in office he prorogued parliament (against the constitution) and it was the GG who had to approve it. He didn't want the opposing parties to consolidate and steal power. Then this term he attempted to override parliament again and the GG told him to shove it. So she has been involved recently but like you said- not very often. Our GG only gets involved when it's a big deal but she definitely has final executive command.
Ah ok then, exactly the same system as us then, although our GG hasn't been used in any meaningful way since 1975, so you almost forget they exist!

Didn't know that Canadian politics was so turbulent at the moment though, can't be doing the country any good with all that uncertainty.


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