• TogetherTurtle
    41
    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I hope to fill your requirements for the later.

    Let me preface this by saying that I don't wish to push any political agenda or shame a certain way of thinking in this discussion. I just wish to explain my thoughts

    With all of that out of the way, I'll put my ideas on the table.

    First, to know if a thing is dying, you must identify it. What is a democracy? The simple answer is a government in which the people have some hand in deciding the path their nation goes down. The innate problem with such a government is that not everyone is born to rule. Some are born stupid, others arrogant, greedy, hard headed, hostile, the list goes on. You can counter this with public education, but that can only go so far. A government by the people is not inherently best for the people because the people do not inherently know what is best for themselves. Democracy does however defend the rights of the weak, encourage individualism and learning, and let the common man decide their own destiny. Freedom is the most basic desire of man, and democracy safeguards it.

    With all of that said, we can now identify how many democracies exist on our planet. The number is very close to zero. Most governments on earth are either oligarchies or republics that wish to be seen as democracies. The democracy has been talked about for hundreds of years like it is the cure for the human condition, and yet there hasn't been a true direct democracy for almost as long. So, to clarify, from now on, I am not discussing any actual democracy, I am discussing the idea of a democracy, and its reputation as the gold standard of government.

    While there are no governments on earth that adhere strictly to the definition of democracy, there are very many that have democratic elements. We can use these as examples. Let's use the most obvious, the United States.

    (If you know a lot about the american revolutionary war, you can skip this next paragraph)

    The mid 1700's were an interesting time for the world. Vast empires fought for claims on foreign lands, ships brought people and goods to almost every continent. The world, for the first time, was interconnected. A man of great wealth from a fortunate country could have visited every continent except Antarctica. Naturally, men grew anxious, land was needed to feed the growing populations of Europe, and war broke out. The first "world war" per say was the Seven Years war, or if you live in the Americas, the French and Indian war. France and England fought on every discovered continent for dominance. War on this scale had never been waged before, and both sides were dirt poor in the aftermath. As most Americans know from elementary school, the English taxed the Americans, and the Americans rebelled. Tea was spilled, pamphlets printed, bullets heard around the world, and after seven bloody years, the revolutionary war was over. For the first time in the americas, a colony has rebelled against its motherland, and succeeded. While this would have a profound impact on the world at large, we are more interested in America right now.

    America is a republic with semi-democratic elections. It always has been. part of this is due to technological limitations of the day, but also partially by design. The founders of America were raised on the latin classics. They had grown up surrounded by stories of heroic romans, ambitious generals, and divided senates. It is only natural that they would be ecstatic to make their own government and control their own destiny. Many of the founding fathers saw this as their chance to emulate their idols.

    (If you know a lot about Roman history, you can skip this paragraph)

    Rome became independent in a similar way to the USA. the Etruscans were the great power of Italy before Rome rebelled and conquered southern Italy. From this, the Senate and Peoples of Rome was born. (or SPQR in their abbreviation, but we can still simply call them Romans.) Rome would go on to rule the mediterranean world and beyond. However, we can skip most of its rise to power as it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Our next major events happen in the 150's BC. Rome has defeated Carthage, taken northern Italy from the Gauls, and Greece from Macedonia. All is not well domestically however, as while the citizen soldiers were gone, the rich were buying their family farms and staffing them with the slaves that those very soldiers conquered. The middle class had been betrayed and impoverished. I wont get into the details, but tensions grew between the rich and poor to the point of no return. Populist strongmen strived to gain the support of the people to be elected, the conservatives of the senate attempted to veto all efforts to help the poor, (before this time, the veto was only used sparingly. Tradition and reputation were the only things really stopping Roman politicians from abusing their power, but I'll get back to that) and riots regularly filled the streets. The senate was too reliant on the bribes they received from the rich to help the poor. Rome was in crisis.

    American "democracy' is heavily inspired by Roman "democracy", which is to say that it is heavily flawed and relies heavily on the moral fiber of the elected to maintain itself. Greed however, is stronger than reason for some, and politicians take bribes and make deals under the table. It almost definitely started small. Doing a favor for a little extra money isn't bad if you use that money for good, right? Slowly, government became "just business". Looking at both modern day America and the last days of the Roman Republic, the similarities are eerie to say the least. The two sides, one claiming to represent the interests of the poor, the other defending the wealth of the rich.The frequent riots. The political corruption. All while putting on a smile and claiming to be fine. The extremists on both sides clearly think that the democratic process only gets in their way. All America needs now is for someone to finally start the transition. We may not know who this will be until it is too late. The ignorance of the people to what is unfolding before them will be what ultimately steals what little power they have left.

    Well, that was depressing. Why don't we talk about the good side of democracy?

    Democracy encourages the arts, scientific research, economic growth, and individualism. Let's break these down and discuss why they are encouraged.

    The arts are encouraged because they help introduce new ideas to people in entertaining ways. Books can be about civil rights, but still tell a good story. Movies can take place in far off realms, but be about the duality of man. Democracies thrive on new ideas because the advantage of a democracy is its ability to change to a new situation.

    Scientific research is encouraged because it helps educate the voter, and contributes to the quality of life enjoyed by the common man.

    Economic growth is encouraged because taxes and trade policies are dictated by the people, so they can be changed at any time.

    Individualism is encouraged in a democracy simply because everyone gets their own choice.

    With all of the above stated, I guess we can come to a conclusion. Democracy is good, but we are not mature enough as a species to take advantage of it. Sin will hold us back until we get rid of it entirely.

    The human condition has held us back for too long. We must begin the most important endeavour of all human history, and that is curing our sickness. Only then can we live in peace and prosperity. How is not for me to say. I just know where the problem is, and that is a start I suppose.

    So give me your thoughts on the above. If I got any of my history wrong or if you disagree, please let me know. If this isn't as important as I think it is, or if I am wrong, I need to know so I don't waste my time pondering the solutions to these problems. All I know, is that according to everything I know, the future of humanity is at risk, and I am more loyal to the human race than I am to any nation or party.
  • angslan
    17
    You've focussed on one particular democracy, the US, but I don't feel like it is especially representative of democracies in the world today. At best, I think you've made a critique of US democracy, but no more than that. What's your opinion of other places?

    I also think that the distinction between a democracy and a republic as mutually exclusive systems rather than different possible overlapping features of regimes is a very US-centric view; I don't hear that distinction in any other country's discourse. What's the difference, in your opinion?
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    Forgive me for my US centric view, as I have never lived anywhere else. However, it is known that the US began this sort of "democratic revolution" by proving that the concept was possible. The revolutions in South America and Central America would never have taken place, or at least not with promise of a democratic/representative government, if the US hadn't been a proof of concept per say. Even if the revolutionaries of those lands didn't realize, they were influenced by the flaws of such a Roman based republic because they are so ingrained into the very idea. As for Europe, democratic ideas have taken a more moderate approach, slowly seeping into the consciousness of the public. The Magna Carta limiting the powers of the monarch but not overthrowing them is an example of that. The French revolution is an interesting example, because while it occured quicker than other similar changes, it seemed to put the French people in the same situation they had before. A dangerously unqualified political elite were in a lot of debt and putting down the opposition was a public affair. While I used the US as my example, I believe that my point still stands because it is inherent to a democratic system, the people are also dangerously unqualified to rule if they are dangerously ignorant to the nature of their decisions.

    To discuss your second point, I would like to make a seperation between our ability to label ideas, and what we actually put into action as people. Words are versatile, but can only refer to specific things and ideas. Saying that a government is a "democracy" is inherently misleading because it is very vague. Is it a democratic republic? a direct democracy? maybe it takes the word to its roots, referring to the drawing of the rulers name out of a hat. Hypothetically, we could make a chart of all ways of governing, from democratic the authoritarian, and plot where every government lands on that chart. The boundaries are very distinct, there is a such thing as just a democracy, or just an oligarchy, or just a dictatorship, but if you choose one system, you get all of the flaws and advantages. You can negate some flaws by being flexible, which is why most nations don't fall strictly into those categories. I don't understand why that is a US centric view, the categorization of ideas to understand them more easily, but it is an interesting perspective, and I truly appreciate your input. If I am misunderstanding your point, I take full responsibility for that my friend.

    As for the difference between a republic and democracy, the main difference is in how they make decisions. A republic makes decisions through the majority of only the elected. If there is one thing universal about politics, it is that people lie. If you can tell the people what they want to hear, you are more or less free to vote for anything you want once you have power. A democracy makes decisions based solely on the votes of the people. Propaganda and confusing wording can still have a similar effect to that of the republic, the main threat facing a democracy is the intelligence of its people. I don't know why you haven't heard of these kind of distinctions in other nations, but they are more or less definitions in the US.
  • Baden
    5.3k
    You've focussed on one particular democracy, the US, but I don't feel like it is especially representative of democracies in the world today.angslan

    Just to put that point in some context, according to the Democracy Index the US is categorized as a "flawed democracy" well down the list of well-functioning democracies.

    pynewus030gnl83l.png
    The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index map for 2017.
    Bluer colours represent more democratic countries as reported
  • Baden
    5.3k
    Oh, and according to the above index the world as a whole has become less not more democratic since 2006 when the index first reported. If capitalism has figured out it doesn't need democracy as much as it thought it did (after Singapore, China etc.) it may indeed simply die out. There are no guarantees.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.8k
    First, to know if a thing is dying, you must identify it.TogetherTurtle

    American democracy was still born, so it's questionable how alive it ever was.

    One might like to blame the flaws in American democracy on our current oligarchy but our flaws were built in during the initial design phase.

    Take Prohibition as an example. While it was passed by the requisite number of states, rural areas and small towns areas had a disproportionate representational advantage, while urban areas had a proportional disadvantage.

    Protestants, with the exception of Lutherans and Anglicans, tended to be anti-alcohol, and they were numerically dominant in the rural and small town districts. Catholics were proportionately under-represented in urban districts. Prior to the reforms in the middle of the 20th century, the one person/one vote rule was not applicable.

    Prior to Prohibition, alcohol taxes provided the bulk of income for government. From a taxation POV, the more drinking the better, and prior to the very strong Temperance Movement, Americans drank prodigiously.

    The United States has naturally always had a ruling class. Money = political power (everywhere, pretty much). The ruling class has, rhetoric notwithstanding, never had a very high opinion of those without property (the working class), and was not eager to see them get the power their numbers would merit. Our political system, consequently, always advantaged wealth over labor.

    Until quite recently, a minority of white people in the southern US states have had a very exaggerated share of power. Before the Civil War, blacks couldn't vote and after the Civil War they were effectively discouraged from voting. The interests of wealthy whites was, therefore, the single interest that was represented in the south. The south's power base in Congress enabled southern congressmen to impose their values on legislation. For instance, most blacks were initially not qualified to receive Social Security. The Federal Housing Program was structured to prevent blacks from owning good quality housing (and the financial benefits that accrue).

    Various forms of disempowerment are very much in practice, though they tend to be subtler than an earlier generations rather crude methods.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    While I agree that some democracy is better than others, I do also see a lot of red and yellow on that map, and a lot of the same shade or lower as the US in Europe and South America. My thoughts on the matter are more of a prediction I suppose. I think that the people of the world are losing faith in democratic ideas without thinking about how to fix them first. I'm sure you can agree that rising violence against due process (Such as antifa and the alt right) are terrifying for the thinking man. My purpose of using Rome as an example as well was sort of me trying to say that unless we intervene, we may not have a future at all. By the way, thanks for stopping by on my little post. I see you a lot in the discussions on this site and you being here makes it a bit more legitimate if you understand where I'm coming from.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    I agree with your points. While corruption kills democracy, discrimination kills the peoples faith in democracy. However, it is very difficult to find discrimination nowadays, as you also mentioned. The only way for mankind to progress is to find a way to destroy these sins and promote brotherhood between the people of this planet
  • Ciceronianus the White
    573
    Well, some quibbles, I suppose.

    The Etruscans were not the great power in Italy, and indeed were never so far as we can tell united into a single "power" as we would understand it. They were a rather loosely organized group of cities in central to northern (not southern) Italy (thus, "Tuscany" in northwestern Italy derives its name from "Etruscan" or "Etruia). To the south were the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia. The Greeks held most of southern Italy and Sicily during the time the Etruscans were significant actors in Italy. Greeks, Carthaginians and Etruscans jockeyed for position in Italy, alternately at peace or at war while they traded and otherwise interacted with each other, in the years before Roman dominance. Even the Gauls had their hands on portions of the peninsula. The final Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, died about 350 years prior to 150 B.C.E.

    The last war of Rome against Carthage began in 149 B.C.E., so it's not really correct to say Carthage was defeated in the 150s. I'm not sure who you mean by "populist strongmen" but the Gracchi brothers didn't begin their efforts at land reform until around 130, and that didn't work out very well, brother Tiberius being beaten to death in 133. The struggle between Marius (a new man, but not I think a populist strongman) and Sulla, and Sulla's dictatorship, probably set the stage for the end of the Republic. Most of the big actors in that end, Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, began their careers as friends or foes of Sulla, that remarkable and very dangerous man. I think Sulla's dictatorship was the trigger, though somewhat oddly as he actually retired from power to live out his days in what we would now call "partying." He showed what someone with unlimited power could do. He led his legions into the city, the firs time any general had done so, seized power and kept it as long as he liked. He was Caesar's precursor, and paved the way for the Principate.

    I think we have to be careful in comparing the U.S. to Rome. There's no question the founding fathers admired it and drew inspiration from it, but Republican Rome was significantly different than we are, even now. The Principate was established and sustained by control of the military.
  • Hanover
    3.6k
    Didn't read the whole history lesson, I'll admit. My position is that the most notorious anti-democratic efforts in the US occurred prior to and at the time of Civil War and in the many years that followed in an effort to continue slavery and to enforce Jim Crow laws. In particular, the South's efforts to secede were motivated by not wanting to have their minority vote watered down by the society at large. There were also many laws limiting and manipulating voting to assure certain minority positions remained enforced after the war.

    I'd say the most significant anti-democratic laws currently in existence have nothing to do with corporations but are part of the rule making authority delegated to full time government agencies, where bureaucrats pass rules in committees and enforce them on the public.

    There is nothing undemocratic about having interested parties sway voters. That is what democracy is. Interfering with a person's right to sway voters is particularly undemocratic.
  • frank
    808
    Jefferson's ideal was Athens, but he probably didn't realize that the majority of the Athenian population was in slavery.

    There's never been a gigantic slave-free Athens of the type Jefferson wanted. Technology might make it more feasible. Education and economic stability for all citizens would be required.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    Some interesting insight for sure. I've had interest in Rome and the rest of the ancient world for a very long time, and I am a strong believer in learning from the past and applying those lessons to the future. Rome surely isn't a perfect mirror image of modern America, but it is rather close. I apologize for year discrepancy between years. I've never been one for dates, more stories, and that is a glaring flaw in any argument I make. When I referred to "populist strongmen" I was partially referring to the Gracchi brothers, but also to the others who used promises to the people to gain power and wealth. If I recall correctly, Julius Caesar was a populist. As far as the Principate goes, I am more concerned we will follow in Rome's footsteps, rather than I am stating that we already have.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    Debate and persuasion is fine, my main concern is those who can not think for themselves. The truth of the modern nation is that ignorance is exploited for monetary gain and growth of influence. It is irresponsible to let people be swayed toward lies, no matter how bad they want to believe them. I believe that all ideas should have a platform, but sensationalization and propaganda shouldn't be able to cloud the minds of the voters and eclipse effective legislation and righteous reform.

    In response to your thoughts on bureaucracy, it has much the same flaws as the elected position. People have a position of power, but don't represent the ideals of those who put them there.

    While we have definitely made progress since the Civil War, that does not mean the work is over. Mankind has an obligation to improve itself, for the sake of the individual and the group.

    And don't worry about skipping the history my friend, we all have our interests, and no one can have them all. They were more context for those who had none.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    I'm not sure how much we knew about the ancient world in the 1700's, but I would hope if Jefferson did know about it, his view would change. There is nothing we can do about the past however, we can only hope to build upon what is left for us and make the best world possible for our children to inhabit. I believe an old Native American proverb sums up the idea, and I apologize if I don't quote it correctly
    We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
  • FreeEmotion
    91
    I join the conversation as one highly unimpressed with Democracy. Look at the map again. Which countries are the best countries to live in? Not the most democratic, but of course it depends on which country is best to live in for each person, it is different for each person.

    One of the biggest problems of Democracy is catering to two different populations with differing mindsets and different expectations. For example say 49% of the population wants a particular result in an election, and 51% wants the opposite, for example voting for candidate A and candidate B in a presidential election. Obviously 49% of the people will be disappointed.

    And is it not about results: approval ratings show that 35% of the population still approves of candidate A after the election and after the term ends, that still means that 35% were happy with the results of their vote, and 65% were not. The 35% were happy to live in a country ruled by candidate A whether or not it was a 'good' decision or good for the country or not. The question is then how to get 100% of the vote or better still, a 100% approval rating? Is this possible? Well if millions of people are unhappy with the direction taken purely on ideological terms, what is the use of Democracy in making people happy and serving their needs? They can never be 100% satisfied so what is the point of it all, really?

    People are happier in some dictatorships and enjoy a better standard of living as well.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    573
    We have similar interests, then. I find ancient Rome and its empire fascinating, but am leery generally of comparisons with the U.S., as it seems Rome is referred to most often in that connection whenever it's claimed the U.S. is "falling" as Rome did and as a result of decadence and depravity--just like Rome, of course.

    It's great fodder for the moralists among us, who usually are unaware of the fact that the instances of Roman history they refer to as "the fall" or the beginning of the fall of Rome took place centuries before the fall of the Western Empire, traditionally said to have taken place in the late 400s C.E., and more than a thousand years before the fall of the Eastern Empire, traditionally said to have taken place in the 1400s. Even after the fall of the Western Empire, successor states identifying themselves as Roman ruled over portions of the old empire for many years.

    One of the things I find interesting about Rome is the longevity of its empire. I believe that longevity was due, in part at least, to what moralists probably find objectionable about ancient Rome; its tolerance for local customs and religions (until it became nominally Christian). Of course, its ruthless suppression of any revolt and the superiority of its military played a part as well.
  • Baden
    5.3k
    The truth of the modern nation is that ignorance is exploited for monetary gain and growth of influence.TogetherTurtle

    Yes, this is the paradoxical problem with "too much" freedom and "too much" democracy in terms of @Hanover's point. They tend to lead to their opposites. So, sure, we want to allow people to put their opinions forward in order to convince voters who they should support. But, as we know that with modern marketing methods money can buy opinion and convince people to vote against their own interests, putting more money into the pockets of those who buy the opinions that suit them along with support for the politicians who propagate them creates a self-stroking cycle of concentrating power in fewer and fewer hands, as has been happening, particularly in the US and particularly since the 80s when brand power, both commercial and political, began to really take off.

    This also explains why the expected spoils of technological progress that had resulted in significant increases in standards of living for most of the last century are now being lost to the vast majority of the population. So, what's democratic about all this? In fact, isn't calling it democratic just another symptom of the problem and exactly what those who are causing the problem would want us to say? The solution of course isn't to shut down free speech but simply to regulate the influence of wealth and power in politics, something the US is continuously getting worse at (which given the above is obviously no accident). And, so, yes. It may be too late. But apart from the obvious common sense point that giving more and more power and wealth to those who are already powerful and wealthy just gives them more ability to perpetuate that very process, the theoretical point is that modern consumer democracy is a fragile beast and needs to be protected from eating itself.
  • Hanover
    3.6k
    . But, as we know that with modern marketing methods money can buy opinion and convince people to vote against their own interests, putting more money into the pockets of those who buy the opinions that suit them along with support for the politicians who propagate them creates a self-stroking cycle of concentrating power in fewer and fewer hands, as has been happening, particularly in the US and particularly since the 80s when brand power, both commercial and political, began to really take off.Baden

    This is elitist nonsense offered as a justification for silencing those you disagree with. I'd submit that you are no more or less immune from being swayed to vote against your own interest than are the stupid people who you've left nameless. The moron redneck who votes Republican no more votes against his interest when he wants to limit government aid that might assist him than does the genius intellectual vote against his interest when he votes for government assistance programs he'll never use. Both are voting ideologically, supporting their views of self-sufficiency and their views on the legitimate role of government. It wasn't like Rush Limbaugh created his followers. He's just one of the best at preaching to his choir.

    But, anyway, I think the left should be forced to shut up. All they do is create liberal sheep. If only they were taught what we all know is right and just we wouldn't have this partisanship.
  • Baden
    5.3k


    "Salty". And kind of "non-responsive". The only good bit was the joke at the end.

    OK though, what happened to rising living standards? There's more wealth. Where did it go and why? You tell me.
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    I believe you misunderstand my concerns. America is going nowhere, it's the continued safety of freedom and knowledge I am concerned for. I appreciate your weariness for a common argument however. If we are ever to become better, we must constantly look for fallacy in preconceived notions
  • TogetherTurtle
    41
    While perfection is impossible, we must pursue it endlessly. If we don't we will be on this rock in millions of years when the sun engulfs us and our people die a horrible death. Even if democracy doesn't offer the best solution, it is the most reasonable. while at the end of a term, only 35% may approve, it is better than no one getting a choice and no one approving. My main problem with the dictatorship or oligarchy is that they are even more easy to become corrupt. It is easier to only please your army than it is to please your entire population.
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