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Posted Mar 11, 2011 - 4:52 PM:
Subject: Democracy
A general discussion on democracy. What do you think about democracy? Specific points of focus: what do you think about the rule of the majority? And about having each vote, regardless of aim and content, count. When you say democracy, what do you mean? I keep thinking that people mean "Rule of the majority" and "equal rights regarding voting" and "Fairness" and "Justice" and "Freedom of expression" when they say democracy.

Here is a discussion on democracy that I found useful:

The discussion is still ongoing. I am "fahd"--if anyone has any comments on that discussion, I gladly appreciate correction.
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Posted Mar 11, 2011 - 6:43 PM:

I noticed with a couple of comments on your referred site, that ignorance, lack of eduction, were seen as restrictions on democratic rights.

What fools people are indeed.

First it is absolutely right that democracy of any kind, including that filtered and watered down variety of the republic, has the character of the level of culture and debate within the society in question. If people are stupid and ignorant then democracy will be whimsical, oppressive and dictatorial.

It would surely be better to have a dictator who was enlightened, educated and in having everything they could desire cannot desire the property of others -- some sort of monarch, better that than to allow anyone to have any say at all and thus their petty interests interfere with the business of the state. Even if the dictator was a little stupid at least there would be consistency and predictability.

If people are going to use the foolishness of the people as a criticism of the idea of democracy they should be honest enough to go all the way. They never are, their fascist side is still a modest one.

The quality of the debate, the level of culture and education, these things are absolutely essential to any progressive social system (ie a social system that actually has a future). Abstractly true of any system of government. However there is a catch.

If people as a whole enjoyed a high level of education and culture, had the opportunity to witness and participate in reasoned debates and the means of communication were sufficient for all citizens to fully exercise their minds in such forums if they wished -- then... then they would not just desire democracy but demand it and obtain it in its fullest form.

Keep people frightened, feed them lies, debase culture, dumb-down education, trivialise debates, -- well that too is a recipe... a recipe for dictatorship even if a ballot is employed and every one gets a vote.

I wonder what our current systems resemble and why?

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Posted Mar 11, 2011 - 9:08 PM:

A lot of Americans equate democracy with majority rule, but that's a gross over simplification. For example, you can have 2/3 rule or even consensus and its still called democratic decision making. Mob rule is also a form of majority rule, but is not considered democratic. At the very least democracy requires the right to speak your peace before any vote takes place and at least majority rule. Most agree it requires certain traditions and protections for minorities as well.

Because everyone gets to speak and be heard it maximizes the amount of information everyone has to make a decision. Those involved must feel that at least occasionally the process brings forth information valuable enough to justify all the work involved. If not then the process becomes a mere facade for tradition, mob rule, maintaining the status quo, or whatever. Therefore whether people feel personally involved in the process or that the process is fair are both secondary concerns. First and foremost the process must justify itself by producing results that cannot be achieved any other way and that the majority of the group feels is valuable enough to continue using the process.

The hard part is, of course, communicating effectively and listening effectively. All the information in the world will do you no good if you cannot communicate it effectively and people will not listen. This is why most agree that democracy also requires certain traditions and protections for minorities as well. If effective communications break down it can lead to minorities no longer participating in the process until, again, it becomes a facade for something other then a democratic process.

Edited by wuliheron on Mar 11, 2011 - 9:14 PM

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Posted Mar 18, 2011 - 5:22 PM:

I've been really busy, and I am still very busy, but I would appreciate if other people share their thoughts on democracy too, including what they exactly mean by democracy. Hopefully I will comment on all the posts posted in this thread soon (if I finish working--I'm very far behind). I've posted more in the thread I gave a link to in the OP.
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Posted Mar 18, 2011 - 7:57 PM:

In order for democracy (how we understand it in it's modern form) to work, some preconditions have to be met. The most important precondition is that the society functions at least somewhat as a justice state. Of course the another fundamental issue is that the state actually does function in general. Now this might seem obvious here in the West but in many Third World countries this isn't a self evident fact at all. What's the point of having elections if the state doesn't exist in any way for the ordinary people? And perhaps needles to say, a justice state and a police state are two different things.

Now some Americans tend make the distinction between a democracy and a republic (with naturally republic being better thing and pure democracy being mob rule), but this difference is just about definitions and isn't so important if the precondition of a functioning justice state exists. The actual organization of the system, be a one or two house parliament or whatever isn't in the end so important. What is important is that those in power follow the rules given by the democracy/republic and hence "play by the rules" and do accept that they can loose their power. If elections are just a charade put up once a while by the power elite, democracy is just a hollow word. The problem with this is that even if the power elite would be benevolent and would try to look for the best of the people, without true elections it can simply alienate itself from the reality and start living in a fantasy world.

GregS also points out an important point when saying: "If people are stupid and ignorant then democracy will be whimsical, oppressive and dictatorial." The citizens have to understand what democracy means in order for a democracy to work well. Of course it isn't about some people being more stupid than others, it is that some societies function far more better than others and give the people better education, economic stability and safety than other. Basically what it comes down to that if a country is extremely poor, it is very likely that democracy will work in the country.

The most important thing for me is that it works like a safety valve: if the politicians make a big mess, they usually loose the next elections. And of course, since we do not believe the justification for the power of the state comes from God, we have to have another justification. What would be better than the people themselves having a representational system?

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Posted Mar 18, 2011 - 8:33 PM:

Ideally, a democracy is where everyone has an equal say in a group and has equal rights(like egalitarianism), whether a nation or a small tribe of people, people are more likely to think about the good of the whole rather than mostly what is good for oneself as in hierarchical power structures, of "god given right to rule", "nobility", or "genetics", or money decides what is right or wrong(like fascism).
Democracy is a virtue, the greater the degree of use the more prosperous the society, and a step above our egotistical mob/gang/pack-hunter mentality.

Edited by jammiecg001 on Mar 18, 2011 - 8:50 PM
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Posted Mar 18, 2011 - 8:55 PM:

Democracy is boss. In order for it to "work" though, like others have pointed out, it needs to be more than just a 'system'. It needs a certain ethos, cultivated by not just education, but institutions that foster democratic participation and the expression of voices. A democratic culture, if you will. Without it, democracy is rubbish. And more and more I think that democracy in the West is being reduced to its bare essentials, sucked dry of ethos and given name only. Sucks.
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Posted Mar 18, 2011 - 10:08 PM:

Democracy is "rule by the people". It isn't necessarily "majority rule", (you could have 1/3 voting for candidate A, 1/6 voting for candidates B, C, D and E -- then A wins, even though it wasn't by majority). It isn't necessarily voting, (most decisions are made by an elected representative in most democracies).

I lived in an absolute, (but benevolent by most accounts), dictatorship for a few years, so sometimes I would muse on the advantages and disadvantages compared to democracy. One of the most striking things was that, on the down side, democracy tends to be impulsive, (reacting to short-term situations without regards for long-term consequences), greedy, (since democracy necessarily implies an emphasis on competition), and easily manipulated, (since you really can fool most of the people most of the time). The main benefit I saw was that it gives people more a sense of empowerment and engagement in the government which creates a kind of psychological acceptance of the current status quo. If you are poor or suffering the effects of prolonged military campaigns under a dictatorship, you tend to blame the dictator. In a democracy, the blame falls back on the individual -- after all, you voted yourself into this situation, didn't you.
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Posted Mar 19, 2011 - 5:54 AM:

Swstephe, Brunei or for instance Monaco are perfect examples of more or less absolute monarchies (Brunei in the 'more' category). Even if both countries do have a constitutions, the power of the monarch is real and evident, but still both countries do function in many situations like democracies. All what is needed is that the monarch listen to the needs of their people and takes care of them. And this can easily done in Monaco (population 30 000) and even Brunei (population 400 000 of whom large), which are quite wealthy. As you have pointed out, there are many positive things compared to standard Western democracies. Yet it simply rests in both cases in the vast wealth of the countries. As the People are happy with their life and are living well, the vast majority do not care at all what the regime of the state is. And just ask the Monageaque if the would want to be French or the Brunei citizens to be Malaysian or Indonesian.

However Bahrain is now showing how fragile this can be, if the ruler doesn't take into consideration that he has to have the support of his subjects. Now Bahrain is poorer than Brunei or Monaco, but still has a GDP per capita equivalent of New Zealand. As the feedback loop from the people doesn't exist (as within democracies), then people taking the streets or in the end, taking up arms, can be the only way to get change in the system.

If the wealth would be squandered in Brunei and the oil fields depleted, the present system would unlikely be sustainable.

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Posted Mar 19, 2011 - 8:59 AM:
Subject: Direct Democracy
It's my belief that the only form of democracy that's worthwhile to have is the direct kind. All other forms tend to breed corruption and lies, and ultimately a very slow lawmaking process.

A direct democracy would translate the ideas of the public more accurately into law, and also eliminate the need for a large portion of whatever beurocracy a democratic government had built up over the years (think of the United States).
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