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John Simkin

Best Democratic System

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Which country has the best democratic system in the world?"

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Which country has the best democratic system in the world?"

1. None!

There is no purely "democratic" system in existence.

All forms of democracy have had to accept and apply various socialistic programs in order to meet the needs of the people.

In that same regard, these same governments have adopted certain communistic principals for control of specific entities.

2. There is no "best", as the sociological order of the specific society (heritage; religion;natural resources; etc) must be considered and the "Democracy" must adjust to these factors.

Therefore, what is "best" for Japan, is hardly "best" for a country of large land mass with different and more resources as well as a complex mixture of social orders.

Likewise, what is "best" for the English Isles, is hardly "best" for the large land mass and resources of the United States, .

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Which country has the best democratic system in the world?"

1. None!

There is no purely "democratic" system in existence.

All forms of democracy have had to accept and apply various socialistic programs in order to meet the needs of the people.

In that same regard, these same governments have adopted certain communistic principals for control of specific entities.

2. There is no "best", as the sociological order of the specific society (heritage; religion;natural resources; etc) must be considered and the "Democracy" must adjust to these factors.

Therefore, what is "best" for Japan, is hardly "best" for a country of large land mass with different and more resources as well as a complex mixture of social orders.

Likewise, what is "best" for the English Isles, is hardly "best" for the large land mass and resources of the United States, .

I agree that one needs to look at each situation. I think it's important to give consideration to the natural evolution of society. With this I mean how a society develops when changes are brought about by the members of that society rather than through outside military intervention.

Through the activities and lessons learned by progressive individuals working for change and the application of those lessons, the changes wrought are more likely to suit that particular society and be a firmer foundation on which to build further change.

Perhaps it is a fault by outsiders to consider that they have the correct answer for a particular society. By assuming that they do they are assuming that there is no improvements to that answer necessary. thus creative solutions that all may benefit from may be lost.

There is a good article on 'vanguard' as opposed to 'pluralist' democracy here ( http://bad.eserver.org/issues/2004/70/crumpacker.html ) that I think makes a good argument for Cuba being an example of good democracy. It expresses some of my thoughts far better than I can. In it is an interesting critique of multiparty democracy. I think looking at the Swedish model and the Swiss model is a good idea as well.

A rather unwieldy format to those inexperienced with it, but worthy of consideration is consensual democracy. Done properly it may be slow but it allows a deeper consideration of issues that may be too hastily arrived at where single individuals are overlooked by looking for a majority ruling. In one case I'm familiar with, a ruling postponed allowed a minority position (of one) to be argued thoroughly and in the end it prevailed and turned out to be the correct one.

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The closest the world got to the best democratic system was the USSR between 1925 and 1953, and later Albania between 1945 and 1985. The people were in charge of their own affairs.

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The closest the world got to the best democratic system was the USSR between 1925 and 1953, and later Albania between 1945 and 1985. The people were in charge of their own affairs.

That's one of my questions on another thread answered (Cliff would spin in his urn, if he believed in reincarnation - and that's only meant as humour, Dafydd)

I would go some way to agreeing in that the process of 1917-192x was the closest the world has come to democracy. 'The People' rising up to rid themselves of tyranny, and I'd accept 1776 here as part of that tradition, but not the continuing oppression that occurred in that country. And if you want democracy, try syndicalism first and develop it.

All forms of democracy have had to accept and apply various socialistic programs in order to meet the needs of the people.

In that same regard, these same governments have adopted certain communistic principals for control of specific entities.

It is interesting (and not so much a negative criticism) that Thomas construes socialism and communism as anti-democratic. I know that you/he is talking about Liberal Democracy, which by its nature will vary with the needs of the 'Liberal' part of that (ie those 'free' to exploit others and the country's resources). This 'democracy' where elites run the important parts and provide a 'window-dressing' to suggest it's done with the consent of the people is the modern political equivalent of the emperor's new clothes.

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From the early 1900's, up and even into the 1950's, the "elite"/aka extremely wealthy of the US, controlled much of the political spectrum.

The Dupont's/Rockefellar's/etc; etc; etc;, controlled the wealth and therein controlled the political process, which in turn controlled legislation.

With the election of JFK, this began to change.

However, then comes Johnson, who was in fact a bigger thief than was Nixon, and thus a setback.

Nevertheless, the change has come. Progressively!

The US, due to the economic opportunites created, now has many "millionaire's".

This is in fact a re-distribution of the wealth, which progressively usurps the former power of the wealthy elite, without the inconveniences and chaos of revolution.

Certainly, the "Wealthy Elite" still exist. However, one merely has to look back a short distance in US history to observe how their financial control of politics and economics of this country has eroded.

Certainly, they have not accepted this erosion of their financial losses and loss of political control without a continued fight.

Yet, continue as they may, their stranglehold over the Government direction and policies of the US, are being lost.

As more and more americans secure adequate financial independence, those elected officials must cater more to their needs for the support to get elected.

Dilution of the financial control of the wealthy elite, is, and has been a slow, yet ongoing process in the US.

This gradual change, not unlike virtually every other form of stable and progressive change in our government, is what has maintained the stability of the US system of government, and which continues to provide greater economic opportunity for each new generation.

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Which country has the best democratic system in the world?"

America now has the oldest democratic system in the world, although the case could be made that this system broke down long ago, especially if you believe that John F. Kennedy may have been killed in a coup d'etat. If you mean by "best" a system where democracy is in its truest form, that becomes a very subjective question.

I lived in Germany for five years and believe that their democracy has a much truer representation of the various types of people there than American democracy, which tends to be more cosmetic and corrupt. The German press is also much more intelligent and proves that literacy and the ability to analyze complex situations becomes an important factor on how useful the average citizen's vote becomes. On the other hand, I found the justice system in Germany to be very lethargic and backwards, compared to the still remarkable accomplishment of the justice system in America.

My wife is Korean and I have visited South Korea several times and learned more about its history. It is interesting to note that although America has recognized South Korea as one of its closest allies since World War II, it was run by a dictator up until the 1970s. Then again, the economic boom that South Korea went through in the 1980s brought with it great political and social reforms up to the present day. Americans used to brag that you could awe a Russian citizen by just taking them to an American super market. I was equally awed by visiting a South Korean super market, the likes of which simply don't exist in America, with fork lifts driving down the aisles, numerous employees at large display cases giving out free samples of food, or just the general bustle of the place.

In the midst of our lingering Cold War zeal, one should never forget that Communism was intended as a democratic system of government that would be truer than all other types of democracies in Europe and the Americas. In practice, small things can create great tyrannies. In America, there has been an effort since the Reagan years to blame government for taking away personal freedoms. The problem with this perception is that in principle America has a democratic government and the more power you take from it, the more you might allow tyranny and undemocratic power to reign.

In the end, I am unable to answer the question. If you are indeed looking for the truest form of democracy practiced in today's world, I would need more resources to make an accurate study, and, I suspect, the answer might even be a tiny country like Costa Rica or Iceland. I certainly wouldn't want to turn your question into a cheap form of patriotism by naming America, my country, the greatest democracy ever. Keep in mind that Hitler's Germany sprang from a democracy. The people can always vote to take away their right to vote, putting a dictator into power. That makes judging how a democracy functions a very difficult task.

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Which country has the best democratic system in the world?"

America now has the oldest democratic system in the world, although the case could be made that this system broke down long ago, especially if you believe that John F. Kennedy may have been killed in a coup d'etat. If you mean by "best" a system where democracy is in its truest form, that becomes a very subjective question.

I lived in Germany for five years and believe that their democracy has a much truer representation of the various types of people there than American democracy, which tends to be more cosmetic and corrupt. The German press is also much more intelligent and proves that literacy and the ability to analyze complex situations becomes an important factor on how useful the average citizen's vote becomes. On the other hand, I found the justice system in Germany to be very lethargic and backwards, compared to the still remarkable accomplishment of the justice system in America.

My wife is Korean and I have visited South Korea several times and learned more about its history. It is interesting to note that although America has recognized South Korea as one of its closest allies since World War II, it was run by a dictator up until the 1970s. Then again, the economic boom that South Korea went through in the 1980s brought with it great political and social reforms up to the present day. Americans used to brag that you could awe a Russian citizen by just taking them to an American super market. I was equally awed by visiting a South Korean super market, the likes of which simply don't exist in America, with fork lifts driving down the aisles, numerous employees at large display cases giving out free samples of food, or just the general bustle of the place.

In the midst of our lingering Cold War zeal, one should never forget that Communism was intended as a democratic system of government that would be truer than all other types of democracies in Europe and the Americas. In practice, small things can create great tyrannies. In America, there has been an effort since the Reagan years to blame government for taking away personal freedoms. The problem with this perception is that in principle America has a democratic government and the more power you take from it, the more you might allow tyranny and undemocratic power to reign.

In the end, I am unable to answer the question. If you are indeed looking for the truest form of democracy practiced in today's world, I would need more resources to make an accurate study, and, I suspect, the answer might even be a tiny country like Costa Rica or Iceland. I certainly wouldn't want to turn your question into a cheap form of patriotism by naming America, my country, the greatest democracy ever. Keep in mind that Hitler's Germany sprang from a democracy. The people can always vote to take away their right to vote, putting a dictator into power. That makes judging how a democracy functions a very difficult task.

The South Korean government is somewhat of a success story in the assistance of the US.

This government (& economy) went from peasant villages farming rice fields with water buffalo, to teenage kids racing on 950cc Kawasaki motorcycles on the interstate highway between Seoul and Taegu.

All transpiring from the mid-50's to as you say, the end of the 70's.

Such cultural change in this short of a period could not have occurred without the "strong-arm" policies (dictatorship if you will) of the Korean Government/Presidency.

Backed of course, by US troops who have had a presence there since the end of armed conflict.

No country could have withstood this rapid growth to a capitalistic society without a means of total control by the government.

Of course you are no doubt aware that the growth in corruption/bribary/etc; was also proportional to the freedoms gained by the South Koreans.

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One criterion which could be applied to democratic (and other) systems of government is the extent to which they make possible and support a civilised society.

It seems to me that the Scandinavian countries have fairly healthy, robust democracies in terms of a system that delivers social justice, a tolerant liberal society with a fair degree of freedom, local community empowerment and responsibility.

Some democracies have democratic systems and the appearance of democracy, but the democracy has been traduced by the might of the rich and powerful which is able to manipulate and subvert the democratic system. The key point is not how 'democratic' the systems are (universal suffrage, secret ballot etc) but whether they deliver government 'of, by and for (all) the people'. Some democracies in effect support the rule of a corrupt and selfish corpocracy (see Chomsky, Galbraith etc).

As Marcel Berlins has pointed out (Guardian, 17 October), 'a nation's level of civilisation is to be judged not by the way it treats the majority of its citizens, but what it does to its minorities, its criminals, its troublemakers, its misfits.' One could add, the degree to which its education systems provide a good education for all its children and young people. Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark seem to do very well in these areas.

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The closest the world got to the best democratic system was the USSR between 1925 and 1953, and later Albania between 1945 and 1985. The people were in charge of their own affairs.

Two questions for you:

1) What was so democratic about the USSR between 1925 and 1953?

2) What was so democratic about Albania between 1945 and 1985?

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I'm sure Daffyd will explain what he means much better than I could, but to be a devil's advocate for a moment, this also goes back to the dichotomy which grew up between liberty and equality and democratic ideals. Clearly, to western sensitivities, The Soviet State was far from "democratic" since it trampled on all the individual liberties we hold dear. Today, there are few old Stalinist dinosaurs who would claim that "democratic centralism" as practiced in the CPSU was in any way democratic.

However, if we look at a variant view of democracy, something like Rousseau's idea that true freedom can only be achieved through obedience to the General Will, then it is possible to see the Stalinist Regime as "forcing men to be free".

Again, it could certainly be argued that a society in which all economic power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority in society (like our own) can hardly be said to enjoy true democracy. After all, these days it costs well over $1 million just to run for the Senate in the United States, and there hasn't, as far as I know, been a poor US President this century. In the Soviet Union, some would claim, this huge variation between rich and poor didn't exist. Poor miner's sons like Khruschev could aspire to the very highest levels of party and state leadership.

Personally, I don't hold with these views but there is some sort of argument behind them.

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I have known one democratic form and it is that of the United States. I am a big fan. We are a democracy and we hold the power over our government. We have guaranteed liberties and the tools to defend those liberties.

Our opulence has bred contentment and an abrogation of some of our democratic powers, but I see no stronger example of democracy from afar and I am loathe to trade my democracy with any other. Especially not Stalin's USSR. ;)

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I have known one democratic form and it is that of the United States. I am a big fan. We are a democracy and we hold the power over our government. We have guaranteed liberties and the tools to defend those liberties.

Our opulence has bred contentment and an abrogation of some of our democratic powers, but I see no stronger example of democracy from afar and I am loathe to trade my democracy with any other. Especially not Stalin's USSR. ;)

It seems to me that your democracy must be deeply flawed as it has given you the largest percentage of people living in poverty than any other developed country. The absence of an effective welfare system means that life is harder for people living in poverty in the United States than its European counterparts.

The United States also seems to have the most corrupt system of any democracy. Bush’s relationship with Halliburton is just one example of this.

I can think of no other developed country where government agencies would have been able to cover up the truth behind the assassination of its president (1963).

Like in the UK, your “first-past-the-post” system results in people gaining tremendous power with only a minority of the votes. As you are a “super-power” this means that the policies of corrupt individuals like George Bush can severely damage the lives of the rest of the world’s citizens.

I have visited the vast majority of countries that are considered to be part of the “developed” world. In my opinion, the vast majority are clearly more “democratic” than the UK and the USA. It shows in the type of society that exists in these countries. I have especially been impressed with Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

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I'd like to note here too in a brief summary the early history of these countries. I might be wrong or skewed in some detail but the overall view is I believe correct? As I'm making a point re social evolution, please allow a little bit of liberal interpretation.

There was a time that these people could have been regarded as a super power. In the dim interface between legend, epic, and recorded history, the vikings were fiercely war like. The berserk were their storm troopers on their blitzkrieg excursions. They got rid of the roman empire, They 'discovered' and named Russia, naming it after the people they found their, the Rus. They traded with Baghdad. They settled in the area that spawned the Norman and the conquest of Britain. Then to help the anti normans they sent warriors to drive their ancestral brothers down as far as Oxford I believe and then got bored and went home, leaving the Normans to take over. They sacked and burned a fledgeling Paris on a number of occasions, they founded the earliest democracy in Iceland, and of course they discovered America.

Wars and alliances continued, other nations had their day in the sun. Many millions of scandinavians settled in America and form a large part of its population today.

At some point, a renunciation of violence started. For about 200 years now Sweden has not had a war.

As a young nation America has some way to go before reaching maturity. Its current boisterousness is made more frightening by the fact that the longsword is replaced by atomic bombs. Still, barring total annihalation, it is possible to concieve of a civilised and democratic USA. It's happened before.

Edited by John Dolva

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About Sweden and wars …

The last time Swedish armies marched to war was 1814, but they managed to take control of Norway without having to fight. The last full-scale war was in 1809 when Sweden lost Finland to Russia.

There were plenty of sabre-rattlers around in 1905 when the Sweden-Norway union was broken up by the Norwegians, but the issue was settled amicably in Karlstad, and the two countries have just been celebrating 100 years of independence from each other!

The Swedish ruling class have always hankered for a good war (joining NATO is the latest campaign from the right), and I've taught plenty of people with similar stories who were stationed on the borders during World War II. "I was detailed to shoot the captain if the Germans came over, otherwise the bastard would have sold us out to the Nazis."

Traditionally, Sweden has had a large standing army, with the rank-and-file being conscripts and the officers being career soldiers. In contrast to most armies, the officers at lieutenant level and above have a lot more experience than the NCOs and below (who are promoted conscripts who disappear when their conscripted service is over). Thus a Swedish lieutenant is both better-trained and more experienced than his or her counterpart in other armies.

'Realpolitik' has always played a large role in Sweden's attitude to wars. In the 17th century, when Sweden had a technological advantage over her neighbours (better cannons and tactics about using artillery), Swedish armies often attacked the Poles and Germans - mostly in the name of killing Catholics.

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