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What Does/Should “democracy” Mean?


iNow
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7 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

At what points in time, in which civilization, and for length of time, did those scale tip in favour of the peasantry?

Good question, probably worthy of exploration in another thread, but seems OT here. 

8 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

How do those weights "adjust'?  

This is closer to what I’m hoping to explore here in THIS thread. 

Do you have an opinion on how the weights do/should adjust?

9 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Also, incidentally, in purpose-built nations where capitalist/military patronage buys elections for its pet democracies.

How might we minimize this and related cronyism were we attempting to create/describe the functioning of a more ideal democracy?

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54 minutes ago, iNow said:

Do you have an opinion on how the weights do/should adjust?

No - and this is why I asked the off-topic questions -  because I don't believe there is any balance, nor has been since the advent of city-states and empires. If inequality of power, land ownership, economic clout, legal and/or cultural influence is built into a system at its inception, there are only four ways that hereditary privilege is disrupted: ecological disaster,  conquest from outside, violent popular revolution or a technological/industrial revolution. The latter throws up a new privileged class, treads down a new or enlarged underclass, but doesn't achieve any kind of balance or fundamentally change the structure of the society.  

How they should adjust is through democratic process. The people see their own interests threatened by entrenched privilege and keep voting for government that enact regulation, levy graduated taxes, limit the lending rates, protect minority and worker's rights, ensure fair and equitable law enforcement and provide public services to those in need, etc. Uncorrupted democracy tends inexorably toward socialist policies. However, so long as moneyed interests are vested in the electoral process and in governance itself, all such efforts are periodically - invariably! - derailed before anything like equity can be achieved. 

1 hour ago, iNow said:

How might we minimize this [the buying of bad bad governments for client states] and related cronyism were we attempting to create/describe the functioning of a more ideal democracy?

Stop making bogus wars on lucrative little countries under the guise of spreading democracy. Leave other peoples work out what sort of government works for them.

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29 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

How they should adjust is through democratic process.

Right, but what does that look like in practice?

29 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

so long as moneyed interests are vested in the electoral process and in governance itself, all such efforts are periodically - invariably! - derailed before anything like equity can be achieved. 

This issue is embedded in culture itself. It’s not going away any time soon.

Encourage you to set this quixotic quest for universal unwavering equity somewhere in a parking lot for now and resist aiming your arrow at good ideas for failing to be perfect. 

Perfection is not the goal. Kaizen is. 

38 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Stop making bogus wars on lucrative little countries under the guise of spreading democracy.

Using what mechanism?

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30 minutes ago, iNow said:

Right, but what does that look like in practice?

Like I said.

59 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

The people see their own interests threatened by entrenched privilege and keep voting for government that enact regulation, levy graduated taxes, limit the lending rates, protect minority and worker's rights, ensure fair and equitable law enforcement and provide public services to those in need, etc. Uncorrupted democracy tends inexorably toward socialist policies.

Like we did in Canada c. 1947-72. Like they did in France, Holland, England, Sweden, Germany, etc... through the same approximate period of relatively clean democratic governance. Even the US made considerable progress in that period - in civil rights, in expansion of the franchise, labour unions, education, social services, women's rights and the general level of tolerance and civility. I say even the US, not because I think the progressive factions there are weaker than in other countries, but because the forces they're up against are so much stronger.    

40 minutes ago, iNow said:

This issue is embedded in culture itself. It’s not going away any time soon.

I said that, too.

1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

If inequality of power, land ownership, economic clout, legal and/or cultural influence is built into a system at its inception, there are only four ways that hereditary privilege is disrupted: ecological disaster,  conquest from outside, violent popular revolution or a technological/industrial revolution.

 

42 minutes ago, iNow said:

Encourage you to set this quixotic quest for universal unwavering equity somewhere in a parking lot for now and resist aiming your arrow at good ideas for failing to be perfect. 

Okay. There goes the "should" portion of the question. The "is" portion remains a fatally flawed work in progress.

 

41 minutes ago, iNow said:

Using what mechanism?

Democracy.

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1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

Like I said.<…> I said that, too.

<…>

Democracy.

Yes. Wondered if you’d expand and elaborate a bit.

Maybe offer more color and texture for that aforementioned “should” part. I’m seeking illumination and asking you for a light. 

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6 hours ago, iNow said:

Yes. Wondered if you’d expand and elaborate a bit.

Maybe offer more color and texture for that aforementioned “should” part. I’m seeking illumination and asking you for a light. 

I think the scales will find balance, however briefly, whether we like it or not, however determined we are to fight against it and whatever system of governance we use; it's inevitable.

I think the should part is because democracy is the most painless/bloodless way to achieve 'a balance', however briefly; as such I think PR democracy is the inevitable end of every society (look at German history), "IF" we get enough time.

All we can really do about the state of our nation is, sit back get comfortable and wait...

And yes, before I get the inevitable push back, I understand that great change, in any society, requires a great fight; but I'm too comfortable sitting in front of this bulldozer, to fight anyone...

Edited by dimreepr
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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

I understand that great change, in any society, requires a great fight; but I'm too comfortable sitting in front of this bulldozer, to fight anyone...

This realization of Huxleys world seems seems neither new nor brave. 

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9 hours ago, iNow said:

Maybe offer more color and texture for that aforementioned “should” part.

I thought I had; don't know what aspects of the subject I neglected, but am willing to try to colour in any blank bits.

For particular issues, it might be more productive to address them with direct questions regarding the details in which you are especially interested. I have no Google Earth map in my head for every hillock and fjord of democracy, but I have a fairly comprehensive rough diagram of its outlines. 

2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

I understand that great change, in any society, requires a great fight; but I'm too comfortable sitting in front of this bulldozer, to fight anyone...

Excellent line!!

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3 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

I have no Google Earth map in my head for every hillock and fjord of democracy, but I have a fairly comprehensive rough diagram of its outlines. 

What are the main bullet points in your outline?

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15 minutes ago, iNow said:

What are the main bullet points in your outline?

 - What it should mean, everywhere, is that the interest of every citizen, regardless of their station in life or the esteem in which their society holds them, is represented in the administration of the government, in the application of its laws, in the rendering of social services, in access to resources and infrastructure, in rights and responsibilities and contribution. The means and methods and mechanisms may vary, but the principle shouldn't.

 - Division of powers.

       - The judiciary should not be political, either through election or appointment.

        - The house of direct representatives should be independent of the party affiliation of any other tier of government, both national and regional - preferably free of all party affiliation, period.

         - The house of representatives  should elect from among its own ranks the chief administrator

         -  who should command the armed forces to act only at the (duly advised, debated and decided by open vote) behest of the representatives. 

         - The senate or its equivalent, which represents regional/vested/group interests should be elected independently from the lower house.   

-  Absolute separation of church and state: an entirely secular state.

-  Barring of all monetary interest from the selection and election of candidates for offices, and from all official government decisions, including the appointment of government agency directors. 

-  Independent public broadcast media to inform the people of the activities of their representatives, and during elections, the policy platforms, programs, schedules, speeches and voting records of all candidates. (alongside the uncensored private commercial media, which is not allowed to carry political advertising)

I will add here the later innovations of democratic governments:

- Universal franchise and  state guaranteed access of all citizens to their voting rights.

- Universal and unrestricted access to legal recourse for all citizens and residents; equal protection under the law.

- Anti-trust and regulatory legislation to control the concentration of wealth and influence.

- Federally enforced - and if necessary, funded - standard of education and child welfare.

Not sure that's sufficiently comprehensive, but I'd happy with that much for the moment.

Edited by Peterkin
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22 hours ago, iNow said:

This realization of Huxleys world seems seems neither new nor brave. 

Nor was it intended to be, not even in 1932. The quote from which the ironic title is derived was new in 1611, when The Tempest was first performed.

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If you were sitting at a round table at a conference with attendees from around the globe, and some were from China, others were from Russia, some were from Afghanistan, and may others from Turkey.

How would you convince these individuals who have known nothing other than their own systems of governance that "democracy" is better than what they have today back at home?

How would you motivate them to become advocates for democracy once the conference is over and they return to their home countries? 

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53 minutes ago, iNow said:

How would you convince these individuals who have known nothing other than their own systems of governance that "democracy" is better than what they have today back at home?

What makes you think people from other countries "know nothing" about other forms of government than their own? All the countries you mentioned are far, far older than the United States of America, have long histories of different kinds of rule, of being conquerors and being conquered, of trade and reciprocal agreements with other nations. Two of them are republics with representative democracy as their official form of government. 

Are these "people" from the ruling elite, who benefit from the status quo in their country, or members of a dispossessed minority, who suffer under it? Recipients of government contracts and subsidies, or traders and bankers who thrive on lax regulation, educators fettered by censorship, women treated as second class? Who re these people? What do they want? It takes different kinds of persuasion to reach different interests.

I could perhaps point out a clean democracy breeds less popular unrest than a corrupted one, and even  a corrupt one is less likely to end in revolution than a dictatorship. Fewer democratically elected heads of state are assassinated than dictators. Less money drains away from the public coffers into private pockets when graft and patronage are kept in check. A contented population is also more productive than a miserable one....

But it's quite futile. They already know. They will do what they have always done. The people who are in catbird seats want to stay there and will take all necessary measures to insure their place; the people they're lording it over want to knock them down and will take whatever action they deem necessary to accomplish that end; the people who are frightened will not act - except, if they can, to run away.

Like the rep from Afghanistan - he's gone already and the conference just winding up.

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36 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

What makes you think people from other countries "know nothing" about other forms of government than their own?

I don’t think this 

37 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

I could perhaps point out a clean democracy breeds less popular unrest than a corrupted one, and even  a corrupt one is less likely to end in revolution than a dictatorship

For this to help, you just first assume they care about avoiding revolutions. Is that a universal desire?

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7 minutes ago, iNow said:

I don’t think this 

Sure sounded like it. But, all right. So you are aware that they already know about democracy, that some of them profess to have democratic system already, while the ones who don't have rejected it in favour of some other kind of government. Then why task me with trying to convince them of something they've already made up their minds about?

11 minutes ago, iNow said:

For this to help, you just first assume they care about avoiding revolutions. Is that a universal desire?

Yes. I have not heard or read of one single regime that desired to be violently overthrown, beheaded or sent into exile.

When revolution or even large-scale protest in support of structural change is attempted, they all seem to mount fairly stiff resistance.

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1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

Then why task me with trying to convince them of something they've already made up their minds about?

You’re not the only member here. The comment wasn’t directed to you, but instead any reader. 

Sell me on the idea of democracy. That’s what I think could lead to the best discussion. 

If you don’t wish to participate, that’s fine, but then stop responding. This isn’t exactly rocket science. 

1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

I have not heard or read of one single regime that desired to be violently overthrown, beheaded or sent into exile

Was it not clear I was referring to individual citizens / voters and not to regimes? If not, then now you know. I was referring to individual citizens / voters, not regimes. 

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25 minutes ago, iNow said:

The comment wasn’t directed to you, but instead any reader. 

I wasn't explicitly excluded. Does this mean that henceforth, I am? All right. 

24 minutes ago, iNow said:

Was it not clear I was referring to individual citizens / voters and not to regimes? If not, then now you know. I was referring to individual citizens / voters, not regimes. 

This was directed at me. It was not clear, no. Now I know. And, yes, some citizens do desire revolution, and they have a definite goal in mind, so it's no use trying to convince them of the stabilizing influence of democracy.

Edited by Peterkin
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9 hours ago, Peterkin said:

I wasn't explicitly excluded. Does this mean that henceforth, I am?

no

but in a thread with a total of about 40 posts, damned near 20 of them are from you

so… it would be nice if you could maybe let others offer their thoughts, or at the very least stop stymying the conversation in the 50% of the thread where you’re offering your own 🙏

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54 minutes ago, iNow said:

it would be nice if you could maybe let others offer their thoughts,

I had no idea they were prevented from participating. I do apologize. And withdraw.

The field is wide open!

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Going back to OP, fundamentally it means that ultimately power comes from the population. That could have many different means, but ultimately it requires the ability of the population to remove folks from power, if they so choose.

There are challenges, of course and one of the key elements of democracy is that it relies on an informed public. It is no coincidence that controlling the flow of information is one of the key elements of any modern dictatorship. We had long discussions in the past on this forum on the dangers of media monopolies, mostly in conjunction with the Murdoch empire, but also the Koch brothers etc. which were actively working to create certain narratives to control public opinion resulting in folks voting against their interest (including on issues such as climate change which has gotten so bad that it is now impossible to ignore, but also aspects such as health care, taxation and so on). 

This issue has now been supercharged with social media, which in theory should democratize flow of information, but instead resulted in a fracture on how folks perceive reality. While media conglomerates put a lot of efforts in "spin", it turns out that you do not actually need to that. Rather you just need a stupid algorithm to push falsehoods and magically it will become reality for a lot of folks. Under these circumstances I am not sure how democracy is supposed to function.

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1 hour ago, CharonY said:

Under these circumstances I am not sure how democracy is supposed to function.

I’m not either. I wrote and deleted and wrote and deleted a few times. This isn’t entirely on topic nor a good reply to your excellent comment, but it at least touches on some themes that have been in the aether for me.
 

Voting is secure, but voters minds are not. The electorate has been hacked.

I believe the “malware” involves telling more stories about what “better” looks like / could look like… then singing and repeating those stories to EVERYONE within earshot. 

Even the most blinkered fools among us cemented into echo chambers of their own making can still listen to and hear and engage with a song. Songs that don’t just get sung, but felt. Deep inside. Songs that loosen dormant childhoods and dreams past their Sell By dates.

And if sung right and about the right things, those blinkered fools may hear new sounds that break through their chamber of echos. If the pictures we paint with the brush of ideas happens to pop just right, then they might even start tapping their foot along with us, along to the beat of our songs… but even if the songs are not very good, we need to do more singing with each other, proverbially and publicly.

We need to describe how the future can be better, how we truly can make “better” a reality if we agree enough is enough, join hands, and choose to share a common purpose. We need to envision how truly far we can go if we’d simply stop flinging feces and actively choose instead to work, sing, and dance… together. 

tl;dr: Change hearts and minds. Grow the numbers. Organize. Make it happen. It’s been working for the bad guys, and there are fewer of them than us. 

Edited by iNow
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Much as I'd welcome a resurgence of songwriters in the mode of Phil Ochs, John Lennon, Tom Lehrer, it might also be good to have judges who won't tolerate scoundrels filing endless bullshit motions and clogging up courts for years.  Songs + prosecutions.  Holding hands + handcuffs.  And, per Charon, better control rods in the social media reactor that would prevent lies (these days delicately referred to as "misinformation") from ricocheting all over cyberspace in milliseconds.

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9 hours ago, TheVat said:

Much as I'd welcome a resurgence of songwriters in the mode of Phil Ochs, John Lennon, Tom Lehrer,

Maybe I can frame the query a new way:

If those (or other similarly amazing song writers alive or dead) were to write a new piece about democracy in the form they find most ideal, what lyrics would be included?

What words and concepts would fill the versus, choruses, and bridges?

9 hours ago, TheVat said:

it might also be good to have judges who won't tolerate scoundrels filing endless bullshit motions and clogging up courts for years. 

We have lots of good judges like that, even some who were put on the bench by ungood appointers. 

What mechanism could we design to address the ungood judges when they’re found? I believe this is done as a type of impeachment nowadays. 

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