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Do we live in a democracy?


John Simkin
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Dear Colleagues,

From my point of view we are living very far from democracy and it is blue dream for people to reach it in one day. But from the other hand we have not nothing better at the moment to use and explore in our daily lives. Communism collapsed as a nice idea for poor people so capitalist implementation of democracy is working in the field now.

I came from totalitarian society and have to say you that your meaning of democracy means death for former USSR republics and people (the whole generation grew up under completely different ideas but under the name of democracy too). Social values dominated during this period of time - people had free of charge medical care, education, houses and had predicable future for their children but now after the so called period of new democracy - millions homeless people, street children (like after WW2 we watch by TV in your countries such a situation but now in every republic millions of poor people and very few have milliards of money to transfer them into West economy not their own, buying football clubs like Abramovich but his own people in Chokotka are dying of starvation but he is a governor of this region - gave people before elections a bottle of vodka and peace of bread  according to their newspapers.

Is it democracy they are crying at every corner - no of course not. So, when USA is using military power under the name of democracy I do not believe in their honesty. Oil  and resourses, property and money are the main value for them and others countries who supporting them can't refuse because they never will get support from USA and it is better for them under the name of democracy to kill their own people and pay some money to the families. People's life cost very few now.

I was teaching soldiers and officers when we invaded Afganistan that we are helping poor people to live better and build better society. USSR wanted to have total control under this region because USA wanted the same. Who was thinking about ordinary people. Politicians were thinking about their own interest by using poor people in this direction under different names - freedom, democracy socialism and etc. So, millions of our people hate Mr. Gorbachev for his policy and total destruction and he never will get any votes within former USSR but for west he is a Hero.

We are very different and from very different civilisations and systems. It is true  and clash of civilisations continue.

Thank you for this contribution. Those on the left have been watching in horror at what is happening in many of the countries in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism. It is clear that western governments were never really interested in the introduction of democracy in your countries. All they wanted was the freedom for their large corporations to enter your markets. They seem completely unconcerned about how the old regimes have been replaced by criminal elements of the old Communist Party. What people like Abramovich have done is a disgrace. From my reading of the subject it appears that Gorbachev put certain safeguards in place to stop this happening but these were removed by Yeltsin. These are the people who are now the financial backers of the current Russian government. This is very similar to what goes on in the so called democracies of the UK and the US. However, it is done wit more subtlety in the west.

What of the future? The only way to stop this is for the people to become mobilized against the government. I am afraid governments never give people their freedom. It always has to be won. Nor can it be imposed by some foreign power as in Iraq. Once you have won your freedom and democracy you need to be eternally vigilant to make sure they don’t take those hard won concessions away again (as has happened in the UK and the US).

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Some countries seem to have been more successful than others in this regard. For example, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Although all these countries still have serious problems to deal with, they have managed to place certain restrictions over the power of the wealthy elite.

To some extent this was true but during the 1980's we could definitely see a change in Sweden. A big part of this change was connected with the economy and it's more rapid globalization. Several typical "Swedish companies" as SAAB, Volvo, SKF etc... are now part of multinational companies. As a result of this globalization Sweden also joined the European Union (after a referendum that included a mailed threat of economic collapse and ruin if we voted NO sent out by representatives of the YES committee on official goverment papers(!) to all Swedish households and a declared policy of the Social Democratic government to continue with referendums in this matter until Sweden voted YES... )

We now see a bigger similarity between Sweden and the other Western countries when we study political democracy. Swedes who usually showed great interest in national and local politics and actually expressed a belief in being able to influence the political course of the country now reacted in a very similar way to all the countries who have lost their faith in the "democratic elections". One of the biggest signs of this is the lack of interest showed in the elections to the European parliament. In the first Swedish election 1995 to the European parliament 41.6% of the population used their democratic right to vote, in 1999 the number was 38.8% and in 2004 37.85% and we see no sign of any change of this trend. This trend has also affected the national elections. In 1976 91.8% of the population voted in the election to the Swedish parliament. These numbers have gradually dropped and in the latest election "only" 80.1% of the population voted.

It could be perhaps of interest for some debaters who raised the issue of Scandinavian model of developing democracy with the help of the welfare state to read a report written by professor and MP Mauricio Rojas called “Sweden after the Swedish model” .

This report could be easily downloaded as a pdf file from:

http://www.timbro.se/mail/20050621/

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The people get the governmnet they deserve.  That is democracy.

I basically agree with that statement. But there's the rub. The American people are getting the government they deserve, and it may be too late to do anything about it.

In considering whether America is a democracy or not, I think it is instructive to look at the corporate/military coup attempt against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. This conspiracy was the work of wealthy businessmen, what today is often called the power elite, or what would become (with the permanent armaments industry borne of WWII) what President Eisenhower warningly called the military-industrial complex (MIC). (The MIC is also called, in its more fascistic light, the national security state.) How much has really changed in the American political system since the power elite power play of the 1930s?

The biggest players in the plot against FDR were the du Pont and J.P. Morgan financial empires. Obviously this power elite did not really believe in democracy. It didn’t believe in it then, so why should the power elite believe in it now? In the 1930s they were open admirers of fascism, as were some elected officials in Washington. In May 1932, David Reed, the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, stood on the Senate floor and said, “I do not often envy other countries and their governments, but I say that if this country ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now.” Such honesty changed, of course, during and after WWII, as the power elite could no longer openly admire fascism after fighting a highly profitable world war against somebody else’s brand of it.

The plot against FDR was simple. FDR would be given an ultimatum, to resign for health reasons, turning his duties over to a new position to be created, which would of course look out for the interests of the power elite. If he did not resign, he would be removed. And the coup probably would have succeeded, given the power of this fascist elite, had they not chosen the wrong man to lead it. They chose a retired Army general, Smedley Butler, because of his popularity with the troops, who might be needed if FDR did not resign. But the conspirators probably should have gone with their second choice, General Douglas McArthur, because while Butler, a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor, may have been popular with the troops, he did not share the undemocratic views of the plotters. Butler for a time pretended to go along with the plot, but foiled it by betraying it to the Congress.

But though the plot was foiled, two significant things happened that tell us how much things haven’t changed. First, the Congress did not have the guts or independence to stand up to the power elite. Not a single one of the wealthy plotters was called to testify before Congressional investigators, except for the go-between Gerald Maguire of Wall Street, who had represented the plotters to Butler. The Congress protected the power elite after its attempted high treason. And second, the mainstream corporate media even in the 1930s was so controlled that it didn’t really cover the story. It was all supposedly nothing but rumors and gossip; the power elite, as far as America’s “watchdog” media was concerned, hadn’t really done anything wrong.

There was a successful MIC coup in 1963 in Dallas, against an independently wealthy president who was too far off the reservation, the MIC taking abrupt corrective action to redirect the course of national and world events (with the government and media saying a lone nut did it).

There was another coup in 2000, when the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which hardly anyone had even heard of, but whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, and whose published agenda of world domination through “the transformation of warfare” represents the MIC run amok, took over the federal government and promptly brought us 9/11, the PNAC’s wished-for “new Pearl Harbor” (with the government and media saying that a nut in an Afghan cave did it).

And do you know what? Five years after the PNAC coup, most Americans still haven’t heard of PNAC! Viewers of Fox News, for example, listen to regular news commentator William Kristol “of the Weekly Standard,” without even being made aware of the fact that Kristol is Chairman of PNAC. In other words Kristol is among the leaders of the current administration, he just doesn’t hold an official administration position. And Americans sit and listen to him as an “objective” commentator on what the administration is doing!

But I digress (though not really, as the ignorance of the American people, whatever the cause, is a major factor in the demise of their democracy). I see only one big difference between the power elite that wanted to set up a fascist government in America in the 1930s and the power elite today, which could set up such a government at virtually any time (all it would take is another 9/11 and martial law). The difference is, the power elite today, with the Pentagon (stealing taxpayer money a “lost” trillion dollars at a time) fully behind it, is far more powerful than the du Ponts and Morgans of the 1930s. And it will never be foiled again.

But let’s look at the bright side. Martial law may prove unnecessary, a pretense of democracy may continue to be maintained, thanks to a brand-new menace, masquerading as a boon, to democratic government. It was in 1961 that Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned the American people of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. It’s too bad that Ike wasn’t around in 2001 to warn us of the dangers of the electronic voting-machine industry. For the advent of electronic voting machines has simply made electoral fraud (which of course has always been with us in various forms) as easy as the click of a hacker’s mouse.

The leading manufacturer of these machines, complete with their software secrets, is Diebold, run by partisan members of the party that is now in power. And of course the Republicans, as the party in power, have the advantage over the Democrats in controlling the electoral process, using (how convenient) Republican-built voting machines. So the Republicans can perpetuate their power indefinitely by hacking out as many votes as they need, as they apparently did (at least in the decisive state of Ohio) in 2004 (the first national election in which there were enough of these new machines in use to make all the difference, no matter how much the Democrats tried to steal votes in old-fashioned ways).

I suspect that the Democrats consequently elected their last president, from here to eternity, in 1996. The Democrats know this but can’t do anything about it, so they don’t let on, because it’s not nice to fool with the Cheney regime (with or without Karl Rove). Hillary is already running for 2008 to keep America’s “democracy” show on the road, with Democratic office holders like Hillary thus always assured, in their role as the loyal opposition, of getting crumbs that fall from the Republican table.

And the American people don’t bat an eye at all this. To the people these newfangled voting machines (do they have them in Britain yet?) are just more wonderful signs of modern progress (no more old-timey paper ballots and hanging chads!), making it so much easier than in the old days to cast their votes and continue to think that they live in a democracy, instead of in a military/corporate oligarchy, functioning for the benefit above all of the power elite.

General Butler, by the way, published a book in 1935 entitled “War Is a Racket.” Here are the first three paragraphs of General Butler’s book, which can be read online:

“War is a racket. It always has been.

“It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

“A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

http://lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm

Did General Butler have it right or what? The same thought was behind Ike’s farewell warning years later about the military-industrial complex. And it’s what the American government is running right now, a racket, thanks to the PNAC in power and its dream, a new Pearl Harbor, come true. (Talk about a coincidence! How lucky could they get?) And there’s not much that the American people can do about it, were they even inclined to try.

An interesting account of the history of American democracy. I am disturbed by your conclusion that “there’s not much that the American people can do about it, were they even inclined to try”. That suggests that America has ceased to be a democracy.

I myself have become very disillusioned with democracy over the last 30 years. When I was a young political activist in the 1960s I thought we could change the world. In a way I think we did. In the UK we got a whole range of progressive legislation passed between 1964-70. The same was true of the United States. For example the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. I also think that young people helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.

The problems that we face today are in many ways far worse than those of the 1960s. Trying to persuade our politicians not to take part in a nuclear war was far easier than getting them to take action to bring an end to global warming.

I think the biggest difference between young people in the 1960s to those today is that we believed we could change the world. Without this belief you cannot do it as you are unable to maintain the motivation necessary. I still believe it is possible to change the world and that is why I spend so much time producing information that suggests we can. However, it can’t be done with old codgers like me. We need the young, with all their surplus energies, to get involved in this struggle. Yet so many are apathetic. I can understand that given the current situation. But it is a recipe for a new kind of fascism.

I have been concerned for example in the way that people have reacted to the calls by the UK government to curtail our civil liberties since the London bombing. Tony Blair tells the public that we cannot allow the terrorists to change our way of life. Yet he immediately talks about bringing in legislation that will do just that. The majority accept these measures. Not only that, the popularity of Blair since the bombing has gone up. Instead of people thinking that the bombing only took place because of Blair’s policy on Iraq, they embrace his “tough talking” and reward him with high poll ratings.

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When I was in my late-teens, early-20s I too thought that we could change things. I think we probably did to some extent. Public opinion against the Vietnam War probably influenced US government policy – but it took a long time. In the UK, public opinion against the Poll Tax was probably effective. We even had a riotous demonstration outside Maidenhead Town Hall – yes, Maidenhead! You have to understand what kind of a genteel, middle-class, Conservative town Maidenhead is in order to appreciate what this meant. I got involved in local politics in my 30s and even stood for election on three occasions, but then I became disillusioned with the type of people that I met in local politics. Most of them were ambitious dickheads, regardless of their political persuasions, and only interested in making a name for themselves. So I got out of politics and concentrated on my career as a teacher in HE – and never looked back.

Now that I am retired, I find I don’t really care much about political ideologies. Democracy is just a concept that may or may not be implemented, depending on what a particular politician feels at the time, and most politicians, left or right, water it down as soon as they get into power. The difference between left and right in the UK is becoming blurred – as is already the case in the USA. Looking back on my life, I can’t recall a single government policy (whatever the colour of the government at the time) that made a significant change to my personal circumstances. I have always had a modest income, I have always paid more tax than I wanted to, but I had an excellent education, enjoyed a good career as a teacher and (which is especially important in my old age) I am on the whole satisfied with the care that the National Health Service has given to me. I have been in hospital on three occasions in the last two years for three totally unrelated problems, all of which have been resolved. I know that education and health are a bit of a lottery, depending on where one lives. I guess I have just been lucky enough to live in the right places.

I have now run out of energy. Walking my dog, playing the occasional round of golf and enjoying a swim at the local fitness centre are all that I have energy for these days. Let the youngsters keep up the political struggle. And - by the way - thanks to all you young guys and girls for paying my pension.

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John Simkin: I myself have become very disillusioned with democracy over the last 30 years. When I was a young political activist in the 1960s I thought we could change the world. In a way I think we did. In the UK we got a whole range of progressive legislation passed between 1964-70. The same was true of the United States. For example the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. I also think that young people helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.

However, it can’t be done with old codgers like me. We need the young, with all their surplus energies, to get involved in this struggle. Yet so many are apathetic. I can understand that given the current situation. But it is a recipe for a new kind of fascism.

Graham Davies: Now that I am retired, I find I don’t really care much about political ideologies. Democracy is just a concept that may or may not be implemented, depending on what a particular politician feels at the time, and most politicians, left or right, water it down as soon as they get into power. The difference between left and right in the UK is becoming blurred – as is already the case in the USA. Looking back on my life, I can’t recall a single government policy (whatever the colour of the government at the time) that made a significant change to my personal circumstances.

I don't know what to say or think about these comments. I agree to a certain extent. It's easy to get disillusioned when you followed some party and/or specific group and saw that they "changed" (or you changed) to something you didn't expect. We have faced a longer period of blunt selfish global capitalism and unfortunately we see that many parties try to adjust to that. The more experienced you are the easier it is to give the more active campaigns a miss and resort to some calmer exrecises but at the same time it's a lot of your experience that's necessary for the continuation of the struggle against unlimited egoism. Your experience in invaluable and much desired among several of the groups that are active today. They need a living connection to the past struggle, lot's of advise and input and they need to understand that the old geezers still have ideals and ideas about the future. So try to give some groups your valuable time once in a while - I sure that it will be appreciated (and don't drop the old ideals - they are worth fighting for now more than ever!). B)

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John Simkin: I myself have become very disillusioned with democracy over the last 30 years. When I was a young political activist in the 1960s I thought we could change the world. In a way I think we did. In the UK we got a whole range of progressive legislation passed between 1964-70. The same was true of the United States. For example the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. I also think that young people helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.

However, it can’t be done with old codgers like me. We need the young, with all their surplus energies, to get involved in this struggle. Yet so many are apathetic. I can understand that given the current situation. But it is a recipe for a new kind of fascism.

Graham Davies: Now that I am retired, I find I don’t really care much about political ideologies. Democracy is just a concept that may or may not be implemented, depending on what a particular politician feels at the time, and most politicians, left or right, water it down as soon as they get into power. The difference between left and right in the UK is becoming blurred – as is already the case in the USA. Looking back on my life, I can’t recall a single government policy (whatever the colour of the government at the time) that made a significant change to my personal circumstances.

I don't know what to say or think about these comments. I agree to a certain extent. It's easy to get disillusioned when you followed some party and/or specific group and saw that they "changed" (or you changed) to something you didn't expect. We have faced a longer period of blunt selfish global capitalism and unfortunately we see that many parties try to adjust to that. The more experienced you are the easier it is to give the more active campaigns a miss and resort to some calmer exrecises but at the same time it's a lot of your experience that's necessary for the continuation of the struggle against unlimited egoism.

I still have not retired from my political campaigning. One of the sad things about age is how Bob Dylan has changed his views on politics.

On the radio this morning I heard a DJ play Dylan's "With God on its Side". He said it reflected the time it was written (1963) when young people believed they could change the world. In 1963 I thought this song helped to change the way people viewed the Vietnam War. I know that Dylan has now rejected the ideas behind the song but in my opinion it still has plenty to tell us about the current war in Iraq.

Oh my name it is nothin'

My age it means less

The country I come from

Is called the Midwest

I's taught and brought up there

The laws to abide

And that land that I live in

Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it

They tell it so well

The cavalries charged

The Indians fell

The cavalries charged

The Indians died

Oh the country was young

With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American

War had its day

And the Civil War too

Was soon laid away

And the names of the heroes

I's made to memorize

With guns in their hands

And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys

It closed out its fate

The reason for fighting

I never got straight

But I learned to accept it

Accept it with pride

For you don't count the dead

When God's on your side.

When the Second World War

Came to an end

We forgave the Germans

And we were friends

Though they murdered six million

In the ovens they fried

The Germans now too

Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians

All through my whole life

If another war starts

It's them we must fight

To hate them and fear them

To run and to hide

And accept it all bravely

With God on my side.

But now we got weapons

Of the chemical dust

If fire them we're forced to

Then fire them we must

One push of the button

And a shot the world wide

And you never ask questions

When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour

I've been thinkin' about this

That Jesus Christ

Was betrayed by a kiss

But I can't think for you

You'll have to decide

Whether Judas Iscariot

Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'

I'm weary as Hell

The confusion I'm feelin'

Ain't no tongue can tell

The words fill my head

And fall to the floor

If God's on our side

He'll stop the next war.

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I'm glad you haven't retired from your political campaign yet John! Just as you point out - this song is more accurate than ever (and so are everal of the protest songs of the 60's and early 70's...).

To get back to the issue discussed on this thread - democracy is something you have to fight for - it's not something that will be given to you by your leaders. Power is always corruptive and the less we get engaged the longer we drift from democracy. Every generation has to earn it by struggle! :tomatoes

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I'm glad you haven't retired from your political campaign yet John! Just as you point out - this song is more accurate than ever (and so are everal of the protest songs of the 60's and early 70's...).

To get back to the issue discussed on this thread - democracy is something you have to fight for - it's not something that will be given to you by your leaders. Power is always corruptive and the less we get engaged the longer we drift from democracy. Every generation has to earn it by struggle!  B)

I tend to agree with Leon Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” theory. Trotsky was of course referring to what happened in the Soviet Union. This theory can be applied to any political system. For example, it is generally believed that George Orwell’s Animal Farm was about Stalinism. However, Orwell made it clear in essays he wrote at the time that he believed this was also a problem for all political systems. Although he had been a life-long supporter of the Labour Party, he became very disillusioned with Clement Attlee’s post-war government. Orwell and Trotsky both believed that the Communist Party was the new ruling class in the Soviet Union. Orwell feared that the Labour Party might abuse its power in the same way. Orwell had been deeply shocked by the power of propaganda during the Second World War. While working for the BBC he had an inside view of this process. 1984 was based very much on this experience at the BBC where he was responsible for lying to people in India about the progress of the war.

Orwell was wrong about Clement Attlee. However, his fears have been realised by the governments led by Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The problem for any “dictator” (and modern UK prime ministers have tremendous power over the political process) is that they rarely accept that they will one day have to hand over power to another. Some like Stalin and Franco die in the job but in modern democracies the leader is eventually ousted with arrange for a successor to continue with their work. Thatcher therefore ended up by destroying the Conservative Party. Tony Blair is a far more successful “dictator” in the sense that he can disguise the role he plays (Thatcher of course loved letting everybody know that she was leading a battle against the non-believers).

If a democracy is to remain true to its original ideals it needs to be constantly challenged and reformed. It is not in the interests of political leaders to reform our flawed political system. After all, it is this system that gave them this power. The real challenge is how do we find ways of forcing our politicians to make changes that will enable us to become a fully-functioning democracy.

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If a democracy is to remain true to its original ideals it needs to be constantly challenged and reformed. It is not in the interests of political leaders to reform our flawed political system. After all, it is this system that gave them this power. The real challenge is how do we find ways of forcing our politicians to make changes that will enable us to become a fully-functioning democracy.

And now, please, instead of all your criticism, which we all red about during the past a couple of years you could maybe start with these three points you so cleverly put down.

1) ….. it needs to be constantly challenged and reformed …….. How?

2) ….. how do we find ways of forcing our politicians to make changes ……. of the democratic political systems I presume you meant. Yes how? Tell us.

3)…… to become a fully-functioning democracy. Please tell us what do YOU see as a fully-functioning democracy without any misconduct whatsoever.

Since the time of Robespierre, Danton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Disraeli and all the other political thinkers and practitioners plus all by political matters interested philosophers (not to mention the honourable and from time to time in these debates useful Leon Trotsky) it’s up to you now to outline your own view of how the problem should be solved.

Thank you.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda
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John, in helping you understand the important difference between a republic and a democracy you might find this essay by David Barton helpful:

Republic v. Democracy

by David Barton

We have grown accustomed to hearing that we are a democracy; such was never the intent. The form of government entrusted to us by our Founders was a republic, not a democracy.1 Our Founders had an opportunity to establish a democracy in America and chose not to. In fact, the Founders made clear that we were not, and were never to become, a democracy:

[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.2 James Madison

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.3 John Adams

A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way.4 The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.5 Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for the First Amendment

We have seen the tumult of democracy terminate . . . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in despotism. . . . Democracy! savage and wild. Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and wise to thy level of folly and guilt.6 Gouverneur Morris, Signer and Penman of the Constitution

The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.7 John Quincy Adams

A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils.8 Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

In democracy . . . there are commonly tumults and disorders. . . . Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.9 Noah Webster

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.10 John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

It may generally be remarked that the more a government resembles a pure democracy the more they abound with disorder and confusion.11 Zephaniah Swift, Author of America's First Legal Text

Many Americans today seem to be unable to define the difference between the two, but there is a difference, a big difference. That difference rests in the source of authority.

A pure democracy operates by direct majority vote of the people. When an issue is to be decided, the entire population votes on it; the majority wins and rules. A republic differs in that the general population elects representatives who then pass laws to govern the nation. A democracy is the rule by majority feeling (what the Founders described as a "mobocracy" 12); a republic is rule by law. If the source of law for a democracy is the popular feeling of the people, then what is the source of law for the American republic? According to Founder Noah Webster:

Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.13

The transcendent values of Biblical natural law were the foundation of the American republic. Consider the stability this provides: in our republic, murder will always be a crime, for it is always a crime according to the Word of God. however, in a democracy, if majority of the people decide that murder is no longer a crime, murder will no longer be a crime.

Much of what David Barton is writing about refers to what we in Europe call a “representative democracy”. In this sense, there is little difference between the political systems in Europe and the United States.

Barton quotes people such as James Madison, John Adams, Noah Webster and John Quincy Adams to criticise democracy. For example, he quotes John Adams as saying: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Of course, at the time these people were writing there were few examples of democratic systems in existence. It is therefore not intellectually justifiable to use these people to support your arguments on democracy.

The one thing that marks out Barton’s arguments that makes them different from the debate that is taking place in Europe, concerns religion. Barton argues: “Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion. The transcendent values of Biblical natural law were the foundation of the American republic. Consider the stability this provides: in our republic, murder will always be a crime, for it is always a crime according to the Word of God. however, in a democracy, if majority of the people decide that murder is no longer a crime, murder will no longer be a crime.”

His example is not a good one. Murder was a crime before the emergence of the Christian religion. It is still a crime in all societies. However, in the case of warmongers like George Bush, murder has to be redefined as being part of a “Just War” (the original definition of a Just War has to be changed in order to justify aggressive acts of wars against other nations).

In truth Barton is referring to other political and social issues like abortion and homosexuality. That these laws should not be changed as it is said that the Bible makes clear what its view is on these subjects. This is not true of course as Christians can find quotations to suit both sides of the argument on these issues.

The view that you cannot update your laws to take account for changes in society is a bizarre one. The same goes for the democratic system. Murder will always be wrong but attitudes towards subjects such as abortion, birth-control and homosexuality will change over time.

I suspect what Barton is trying to justify is the inequalities that exist in America. A truly democratic system would deal with this problem. It is only when you have a deeply corrupt political system that these inequalities, that Jesus Christ was so much opposed to, can continue in the way that they do in America.

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And now, please, instead of all your criticism, which we all red about during the past a couple of years you could maybe start with these three points you so cleverly put down.

1) ….. it needs to be constantly challenged and reformed ……..  How?

2) ….. how do we find ways of forcing our politicians to make changes ……. of the democratic political systems I presume you meant. Yes how? Tell us.

3)…… to become a fully-functioning democracy.  Please tell us what do YOU see as a fully-functioning democracy without any misconduct whatsoever.

Since the time of Robespierre, Danton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Disraeli and all the other political thinkers and practitioners plus all by political matters interested philosophers (not to mention the honourable and from time to time in these debates useful Leon Trotsky) it’s up to you now to outline your own view of how the problem should be solved.

It is probably impossible to create a “pure” democratic system. Most countries have opted for a representative democracy. The main problem is how do you make sure that the elected member truly represents the constituents. In most cases, the elected member represents his party more than the constituents. The part is often under the control of vested interest groups. This control is gained by the use of money to fund the party. They do this in return for certain policies to be implemented.

One way of dealing with this problem is to break the chain between the politician and these powerful interest groups. One way of doing this is to have the state fund political parties. These decisions would then be based on ideology rather than financial pressures. If this is not done, those with the largest amount of money, will shape decision-making.

It is also necessary to look at the way that people with money shape political opinions. Currently, owners of the mass media are in a powerful position to control the outcome of elections. Currently television companies in the UK are forced to broadcast party political messages during election campaigns. I believe the same thing should happen with newspapers and other forms of mass media.

The amount of money a party gets from the state should depend on membership. This would encourage parties to become more democratic organizations. (One of the major reasons why political parties have lost members is that individuals have lost most of their power over recent years.)

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It is probably impossible to create a “pure” democratic system. Most countries have opted for a representative democracy. The main problem is how do you make sure that the elected member truly represents the constituents. In most cases, the elected member represents his party more than the constituents. The part is often under the control of vested interest groups. This control is gained by the use of money to fund the party. They do this in return for certain policies to be implemented.

One way of dealing with this problem is to break the chain between the politician and these powerful interest groups. One way of doing this is to have the state fund political parties. These decisions would then be based on ideology rather than financial pressures. If this is not done, those with the largest amount of money, will shape decision-making.

It is also necessary to look at the way that people with money shape political opinions. Currently, owners of the mass media are in a powerful position to control the outcome of elections. Currently television companies in the UK are forced to broadcast party political messages during election campaigns. I believe the same thing should happen with newspapers and other forms of mass media.

The amount of money a party gets from the state should depend on membership. This would encourage parties to become more democratic organizations. (One of the major reasons why political parties have lost members is that individuals have lost most of their power over recent years.)

I am afraid that the fight for establishing a true democratic system will never come to an end.

On one hand, citizens have to keep watch on any attempt of undermining civic rights (current debate in Britain about anti-terrorist measures is a good example), but, on the other hand, we have to be conscious that we (West) live in the countries where the most democratic systems ever have been established.

I agree with John that big money and media can jeopardise democracy (Lobbies, Murdoch, Berlusconi...), but, at the same time, I am not so confident in the state. So far we have too many examples of how (democratic, not to mention the rest) governments use their authority in an antidemocratic way.

In my view, "first-past-the-post" voting system in Britain blocks and adultarate public opinion (It is a great problem now with a Conservative Party that does not know how to oppose Blair's New Labour government). What to say about "gerrymandering" in the US?

Representative democracy has serious faults, but, what sort of antiterrorist measuses would have been passed in Britain if they had been approved by the public direct vote?

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I believe the biggest obstacle to the establishment of real democracy in western countries is the deepening but false ideological message that democracy is synonymous with capitalism. We are therefore left with a a market place view of democracy where elites compete for the people's vote in the context of a profoundly inegalitarian social and economic system.

Important concepts of deep participation, political equality and responsive government, which should characterise what democracy really means, are at best marginalised and at worst lost for good - see USA and increasingly the UK for prime examples :(

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I believe the biggest obstacle to the establishment of real democracy in western countries is the deepening but false ideological message that democracy is synonymous with capitalism. We are therefore left with a a market place view of democracy where elites compete for the people's vote in the context of a profoundly inegalitarian social and economic system.

Important  concepts of deep participation, political equality and responsive government, which should characterise what democracy really means, are at best marginalised and at worst lost for good - see USA and increasingly the UK for prime examples ;)

Very important point. In fact, capitalism, because it creates so much inequality, is at hear anti-democratic. I would like to think that capitalism could be tamed and therefore could allow for a fully functioning democracy to be achieved. However, the jury is still out whether this is possible. All the signs are not good. Except in the area of mass communications, power is concentrated more and more in a small riling minority.

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Don't you find that sad, or disconcerting?  Or am I over-reacting? Maybe it's all a lost cause, and I'm the odd man out. I just always thought there was more to life than material acquisitions, especially when these acquisitions happened to create such a negative effect on our surroundings, and on the planet, itself.  If we could put a shuttle in orbit, why haven't we been able to perfect another form of fuel or energy withwhich to power our vehicles, heat our homes, etc.?  There's got to be another alternative source.

You are not alone Terry. There are several members of this Forum who still hold onto their beliefs they developed in the 1960s. We won the political argument for a better, fairer world, but were defeated by the right’s control of the mass media. This enabled right-wing extremists to take control of the political system. On another thread I have illustrated the role that Rupert Murdoch has played in this.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4644

Murdoch has tremendous media power in the US, UK and Australia. Murdoch owns 179 newspapers worldwide and all of them supported the invasion of Iraq. Murdoch admitted in an interview in the Guardian that he had ordered all his newspapers to support this war. The main reason for this was his belief that the invasion would result in lower oil prices. This in turn would increase share prices and would help the economies of both the US and UK before Bush and Blair went to the polls. He was wrong about the price of oil and the stock market but with his help, Bush and Blair won their elections.

It is no coincidence that right-wing extremists like Murdoch now supports so-called left of centre organizations like the Labour Party. This strategy began after the war when the OSS and later the CIA used Marshall Plan funds to bribe left-wing politicians in European countries. Tom Braden, who was head of a CIA fronted organization, International Organizations Division (IOD), admitted in the 1970s that it was vitally important in the fight against communism to “turn” the leaders of left of centre political parties in Europe (they were particularly active in France, Italy, Greece and the UK).

In the 1980s Murdoch supported right-wing political parties such as Thatcher’s Conservative Party. By the 1990s, despite the propaganda of Murdoch’s media empire, people began to reject this right-wing agenda. By about 1996 it was clear that in the UK the British people were ready for change. Murdoch therefore had to get to Tony Blair in order to get him to follow Thatcher type policies. This has been highly successful and Blair has loyally followed Murdoch’s policies.

Murdoch of course does not work on his own. He has many allies in his successful strategy of stopping governments from employing progressive taxation and closing tax loopholes that enables people like Murdoch to avoid paying any tax at all. A couple of years ago an article in the Sunday Times pointed out that the Labour Party was mainly funded by a small group of extremely wealthy businessmen. Apparently, they were concerned about what would happen when Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as leader. Over the years Brown had made speeches in favour of progressive taxation and closing tax loopholes. This group had been threatening to cease funding the Labour Party. Murdoch, who is apparently head of this group (he does not provide money to the Labour Party but uses his newspaper empire to support its policies), had a series of meetings with Brown. It has recently been reported that Murdoch now has no problems with Brown replacing Blair.

In the US Murdoch currently supports the Republican Party. If as I expect, the American public become disillusioned by these right-wing policies. Surely it is only a matter of time when people begin to reject these expensive foreign adventures and become concerned about the US budget deficit. When that happens, people like Murdoch will do what they did in the UK, they will begin to manipulate the selection of the 2008 Democratic Party candidate. Although on the surface they will appear to be to the left of Bush, once in power, they will play the same role as Blair plays in the UK.

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