UKC

/ Democracy - over-rated?

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Wiley Coyote2 - on 06 Feb 2018

I don't want to hijack the Suffragette thread so here's a separate one with a genuine question that's prompted partly by the coverage but also a thought I've had for a long time.

What's the big deal with democracy? I've been voting since 1970 and in all those years I've never felt I  had any meaningful say in who became my MP because although I've lived in a few different constituencies they've always been  seats where a donkey in the right coloured ribbon would win. Sometimes a blue donkey sometimes red but the donkey would always have won. When people trot out that hoary old line 'You should be grateful. People died so you could have the vote' I can't help thinking "Well they really should not have bothered because it was pretty worthless."

In the West we worship democracy (or the illusion of it). It's an unquestioned article of faith like 'The NHS is the envy of the world' but looking round the world I wonder how much damage has been caused by promoting or even imposing democracy on others. I wonder if, for example, the average Iraqui  felt better off under a functioning dictatorship  where at least the taps worked? Or the average Libyan?

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mudmonkey - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracy is about a lot more than voting in a general election every four years. 

For example, you have the right to stand for election against the red/blue donkey, form a political party of your own, freedom of expression (including this forum), a free media, trial by a jury of your peers and presumption of innocence, freedom of protest, freedom of assembly......

I could go on all day. I suspect you might miss some of these if you lived under an oppressive regime and not view them as "pretty worthless."

I agree that attempting to impose/establish democratic societies in places like Afghanistan or Iraq from outwith is a good deal more questionable though.

Post edited at 15:12
Duncan Bourne - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I'm open to better options fire away

2
Wiley Coyote2 - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Andy Dines:

While I agree some of things are very welcome and often go hand in hand with a modern democracy I'm no convinced they are all co-dependent. eg  I'm not at all ceretain when it would be said that England became a democracy in a modern sense but I'm sure some of the things you list, not least trial by jury, would  pre-date it. Also the UK had pretty scurillous press long before it became a democracy as we would recognise it.

1
Wiley Coyote2 - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Duncan Bourne

> I'm open to better options fire away


I don't have anything in mind. I just feel that the orthodox dogma that democracy is wonderful is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that few people ever stop to ask whether that is true or not. Personally my view is a little more jaundiced.

1
profitofdoom on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Andy Dines:

> I suspect you might miss some of these if you lived under an oppressive regime and not view them as "pretty worthless."

Absolutely right. I have spent many, many years living in countries with no democracy no vote no mulitiparty system. There are no sanctions on the ruler/s except for their own worthless gang or party who might or might not rebel against them. You and everyone feels really powerless in such places and you need to watch what you say in public. In a democracy and living under the rule of law those in power are accountable and will be called to account for their wrongdoing if any

davidbeynon on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracies main function isn't getting what you want - too many competing interests for that to be possible.  It's useful because it gives you a way to get rid of leaders who completely screw things up without needing a full scale blood & ashes revolution.

The deal is that the leaders step aside peacefully when they become too unpopular and their successors don't persecute them.  If either side breaks it then you have fighting in the street, suspiciuously specific "corruption" purges etc.  All the fun stuff that happens in other places.

Post edited at 18:34
Flinticus - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I get your frustration. 

I would love something better but in the meantime proper PR could be helpful in shaking up the two main parties. To combat populism, we should enforce a higher standard of journalism and do something about the funding of parties & campaigns.

I know my own votes get lost as I do not vote for the near guaranteed winners in my area.

1
Bob Kemp - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

There’s an old saying along the lines of ‘Democracy is the worst political system except for all the others that have been tried’. I think that’s a reasonable view. And it’s worth remembering that there are many forms of democracies, with various advantages and disadvantages. Maybe your complaint should be directed at the ossified form of democracy that we have in this country?

The point made above about there being more to democracies than general elections is good too. One of the problems with our UK system is that it’s old and tired, and people don’t use the opportunities that still exist to participate.

1
Rock The Lobster - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> I'm open to better options fire away

When it comes to politics, how about Sortition? It's still a form of democracy.

This was the form of democracy used in Athenian politics. It's basically compulsory political service, similar to jury service for a limited time, say 5 years. This was used to avoid corruptions of power. Perhaps like jury services, exemptions can be made when in the best interest of the country. Or perhaps, a random selection from a pool of people who would be interested in political service. How about 2 pools? One female, one male with 50% of officials coming from each? Perhaps the betters ones could then be elected to a chamber similar to the House of Lords, to ensure that blatantly stupid policies would be returned to the parliament for reconsideration? But have no power of governance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition

Timmd on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> In reply to Duncan Bourne

> I don't have anything in mind. I just feel that the orthodox dogma that democracy is wonderful is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that few people ever stop to ask whether that is true or not. Personally my view is a little more jaundiced.

In Turkey currently, people are facing the possibility of jail for being openly critical of 'Operation Olive Branch'. A person I know from there hates Recep Tayyip Erdogan for what he's doing to the country she loves. I think democracy suffers when the only way people get engaged with what is happening in their country is to vote, when people start to think it's not worth voting, and when people perhaps don't keep informed on what is happening, which is where I think we're possibly heading in the UK, until very recently at least. 

Thinking about it, the way in which charities are being given funding by the government to help to fill the gaps left by the rolling back of public services, if they're too critical of any government policies, they risk reductions in their funding or not getting any at all, which in it's own way undermines democracy in this country. 

Post edited at 20:54
Kean - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Purely devil's advocate but...my concerns about democracy are:

1. There are so many situations in which democracy simply doesn't work e.g. running a company, sailing a ship...we accept that democracy is not the answer in those situations, but we demand democracy when choosing our government. It suggests to me that democracy, in the long run, is doomed to fail. (Time for some more wine!).

2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

Columbia753 - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Understand your thinking but ask some one who lives with out democracy about it. Go to China, North Korea, Russia etc and taste the alternative. 

Never forget..............Freedom is the ability to say the truth even when its not wanted. George Orwell. 

Ciro - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

First past the post is a terrible voting system, which is guaranteed to polarise the politics towards a two party system, so I'd say don't confuse the problems it creates with an intrinsic problem of democracy.

Also, I'd say don't confuse our wars for the planet's resources with anything to do with democracy at all.

Post edited at 21:05
r0b on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Rock The Lobster:

Alternatives to our current system of democracy were discussed on this week's Reasons To Be Cheerful podcast, very interesting and well worth a listen:

http://cheerful.libsyn.com

Stichtplate on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

>...it's no contest, they win, no?

Apparently not. This particular social experiment has been running for quite a while now and while democracy is far from being perfected, it does seem to produce wealthier, healthier and better educated populations than any of the alternatives.

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Rock The Lobster - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to r0b:

> Alternatives to our current system of democracy were discussed on this week's Reasons To Be Cheerful podcast, very interesting and well worth a listen:

Cheers Rob, listening to it now. Unfortunately due to my outdated operating system the link wouldn't play for me, so I found it on YT.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npIOPFRp1vA

Dax H - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Safe seats do sometimes change hand's, grants not that often but it does happen

Gordon Stainforth - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

No one has mentioned parliamentary democracy, which gets round many of the basic problems of simplistic, populist democracy. It's the absolute core of our system and of all countries in the western world, and the best devised so far [??] ... and exactly what is being undermined by our present, very reactionary government (or, at least they're attempting to do so). But it could still be improved (in our country) by some kind of more proportional representation.

Rock The Lobster - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Ahem!

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/off_belay/democracy_-_over-rated-678830?v=1#x8726296

I would also really recommend the link that Rob posted, very interesting concepts for anyone who's interested. Perhaps "Deliberated Democracy" is a good compromise between our present system and Sortition? I've a feeling that some on here would be very much in favour and others, perhaps not.

Duncan Bourne - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

precisely.

Democracy is the stale bourbon in a barrel of mould rich teas. It is currently the best option we have to nibble on.

We could of course try communism (again I'm speaking world wide here), or dictatorship (always popular), Anarchy (as a form of goverment was popular in my day)

RomTheBear on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

The current system in the UK is not democratic.

 

8
cander - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

> 2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

To my mind the country that needs to be most concerned is China, with an increasingly successful economy based on manufacturing rather than a resource based economy there will be an inevitable expansion of the educated and successful  middle classes - at some stage they are going to want a say in how the country is run - if I was a Chinese communist I reckon I’d be tying myself in knots about how my one party state will fare in the long term.

 

Bob Kemp - on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> The current system in the UK is not democratic.

Not according to the Democracy Index - Uk ranks 16th currently. That's down the bottom of their list of full democracies. (The USA is listed as a 'flawed democracy', ranked at 21. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

Of course these kinds of index are dependent on the criteria they pick and the weightings they give them, but the point is that the UK is not that bad as countries go. Personally I'd have thought it came into the flawed democracy category, and it would be interesting to see other indices of this kind. And I'd be interested to hear your grounds for saying the UK isn't a democracy too.

pec on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

> 2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

I'm sure the leaders of Russia and China are pissing themselves laughing but I don't imagine their people are. Trump is an imbecile but I'd rather put up with him for 4 years in a country with all the other trappings of democracy than Putin for 20 years in a corrupt police state.

 

pec on 06 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> The current system in the UK is not democratic.


Spouting your usual unsubstantiated bollocks again, opinion masquerading as fact.

4
mudmonkey - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> The current system in the UK is not democratic.

Do tell?

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to pec:

> Spouting your usual unsubstantiated bollocks again, opinion masquerading as fact.

It depends how you define democracy, if you take the limited definition of a system with some form of elections, then yes.

But IMO you need at least free and fair elections, which is not the case, constitutionally guaranteed human rights, which we do not have, separation between the executive and legislative , which there isn't, access to the justice system guaranteed to everybody, which there isn't.

 

 

 

Post edited at 00:18
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Rock The Lobster - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

Not sure whether to agree with your post or not.

> IMO you need at least free and fair elections, which is not the case,

Believe it or not elections are actually a relatively new concept in democracy.

> constitutionally guaranteed human rights, which we do not have,

I would say that we're certainly getting there.

> separation between the executive and legislative , which there isn't, .

Agreed.

> access to the justice system guaranteed to everybody, which there isn't.

Agreed.

Checkout the link posted by r0b if you haven't already. Some very interesting comments:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/off_belay/democracy_-_over-rated-678830?v=1#x8726331

There's a YT link if it doesn't work in my following post.

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Rock The Lobster:

> I would say that we're certainly getting there.

With the political pressure around terrorism and immigration, I would say we have been going backwards on human rights for the past ten years. A trend particularly acute in the UK but not only.

Post edited at 00:28
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David Riley - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracy is the amount of control you have over your system. More democracy, more control. Which  I think is better.  I'm surprised mathematics has not quantified it, as with most other seemingly unfathomable subjects. Then we could develop much better systems and measure them properly. All existing democratic systems seem extremely poor to me.

If you don't like any democracy then your ideal place would probably be a prison.

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to David Riley:

> Democracy is the amount of control you have over your system. More democracy, more control. Which  I think is better.  I'm surprised mathematics has not quantified it, as with most other seemingly unfathomable subjects. Then we could develop much better systems and measure them properly. All existing democratic systems seem extremely poor to me.

There are plenty of powerful mathematical tools from game theory and statistics to measure influence and control.

You are right the current systems are extremely poor. 

Starting with the electoral system, this is a system in the UK where about 10% of the voters in the powerful constituencies have  more than 30 times as much power as the least powerful, and where you get a vote if you're from India, but not if you are from Germany.

I don't think anybody can call this a fair electoral system .

Post edited at 01:22
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Wiley Coyote2 - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to David Riley:

> Democracy is the amount of control you have over your system.

> If you don't like any democracy then your ideal place would probably be a prison.

I think the burden of my OP was that I don't feel like I live in a terribly valid democracy, merely an illusion of one or perhaps a pale imitation. I get to make a meaningless mark on a ballot paper in an election every four or five years with, at least in the constituencies where I have lived, a pre-ordained result. As for  control, watching the perversion of the narrow Brexit vote, itself won by lies, further  twisted into the most extreme version possible and seeing that touted as 'the will of the people' at the behest of a handful of Tory fanatics aided by an opportunist Opposition leader, feels more like being held captive on a runaway train. So you will have to forgive me if I am a little underwhelmed by  democracy

 

3
Timmd on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> In reply to Duncan Bourne

> I don't have anything in mind. I just feel that the orthodox dogma that democracy is wonderful is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that few people ever stop to ask whether that is true or not. Personally my view is a little more jaundiced.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/29/550586/Turkey-Syria-Kurds-Afrin-YPG-Erdogan-SDF-

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-security/turkey-detains-nearly-600-for-opposing-syrian-offensive-idUSKBN1FP109

The sharing of information and opinions based on it are an integral part of democracy, so that people can become more aware and engaged and have their say in what happens. 300 people or more have been jailed in Turkey as a result of saying the wrong thing on social media about the military action in Syria.   

The only alternative to democracy, possibly other than the method similar to jury service, is the kind of chilling oppression which is increasing in Turkey, or that which is in Russia, where critics of Putin seem to end up dead or in jail. We must engage with our democracy to keep it.  I think Gordon is spot on about parliamentary democracy being critical.

Post edited at 02:49
ian caton on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Maybe this country is over centralised. In France there are lots of local, regional elections for posts that have real power so the feeling of influence is increased. But most stuff is nationally funded here so centralisation is understandable.

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to ian caton:

> Maybe this country is over centralised. In France there are lots of local, regional elections for posts that have real power so the feeling of influence is increased. But most stuff is nationally funded here so centralisation is understandable.

Most big European democracies are flawed. Apart from maybe Gernany.

They are archaic structures with crooked undemocratic systems, held together by nationalistic myths and a political rewriting of history of a united people, which in practice, is not united.

Not only that but it is systemically flawed as decision making is concentrated, and therefore any mistake or lapse of judgement has catastrophic consequences, and decisions are made by people who will not suffer the impact of those decisions.

2
Duncan Bourne - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

It might worth considering what the purpose of government is.

1.     I would say that the primary purpose of any government is to achieve stability followed by prosperity (for the country as a whole and specifically for the elite). Allowing people to believe that they individually have a say in what goes down is part of that stability for democracies.

2.     As populations grow the governance of them inevitably becomes more complex. As differing vested interests vie for prominence. So we have many layers of government not all of which are elected (ie judges, police chiefs, civil service jobs etc.), we have pressure groups, we have steering committees, lobbyists etc etc. This means that the individual’s ability to change things is reduced (but not eliminated)

Post edited at 09:14
Duncan Bourne - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

3.     Most democratic governments are a balancing act between dictatorship and mob rule. Too much top down driven policy without consultation of the electorate (ie voting) becomes oppressive. Too much relying on the “will of the people” to steer things can be equally counter productive.

4.     Despite what people claim having the vote does change societies. So what the voting public feel is needed will influence government policy. So even if your blue donkey wins what it does in government will be mitigated by how many votes the red donkey got and both donkeys will adjust their policies according to what they perceive the voting public wants, in order to garner their votes. Eg. Green policies become more mainstream because green politicians win a larger share of the votes. Even if they don’t win or even look like they might win, if they have a significant amount of votes that might swing an election then the major parties will try to grab a share of those feeling and increase their majority. Which is why democracy is not just about voting. It is also about protests, pressure groups, writing to MPs, lobbying etc. Voting is really just the big “and the winner is….” Reveal at the end of a long process.

BnB - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracy is about much more than electoral procedures. The three words that best encompass the importance of democracy are:

Trial by jury

pec on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> It depends how you define democracy, if you take the limited definition of a system with some form of elections, then yes.

Democracy is obviously not a black or white, simplistic binary choice. Like many things it exists in degrees, I'm sure you appreciate that.

But by most internationally recognised measures the UK is right up there as being a 'proper' democracy. 14th in this list for example out of 167 countires in the world

https://qz.com/1192687/the-us-is-not-one-of-the-only-19-fully-democratic-countries-in-the-world/

and rated as one of only 19 fully democratic countries in the world which interestingly France is not.

Other indices are available but they all put us in much the same position and rank us in the top division of 'fully democratic' countries.

So as I said, you do have a habit of spouting unsubstantiated bollocks at times.

 

DancingOnRock - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Perhaps because we don’t live in a true democracy but in a Parliamentary Democracy. 

Imagine the mess that is Brexit happening anytime we had to make a decision in anything. Everyone trotting off to vote on every little minutiae that is currently voted for in the commons and the lords?  I’ll stick with Parliamentary Democracy thanks.    

neilh - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

Not sure on Germany. Regional powers often in cahoot with industry may have lead to the issues like Dieselgate ( fiddling tests which pollute the atmosphere and have probably caused lots of deaths). There is a hidden often corrupt side ( in UK terms) to the German miracle.

And for all its glory they still have issues like the gig economy and alot of people on low wages with poor contracts. , very similar in reality to the UK.

All that glitters is not gold.And in Germany their regional system is if you like a nationalistic myth playing to Bavarian history.

Personally I find the level of accountability at a local level in US great.Also freedom of information in the US refreshing. They make mistakes and then there is an openness about correcting it.Its just at the top level it falls down.

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to neilh:

> Not sure on Germany. Regional powers often in cahoot with industry may have lead to the issues like Dieselgate ( fiddling tests which pollute the atmosphere and have probably caused lots of deaths). There is a hidden often corrupt side ( in UK terms) to the German miracle.

> And for all its glory they still have issues like the gig economy and alot of people on low wages with poor contracts. , very similar in reality to the UK.

Sure but you are just talking about the economy. I’m taking about the democratic system. I think federalism in Germany works pretty well.

> All that glitters is not gold.And in Germany their regional system is if you like a nationalistic myth playing to Bavarian history.

Sure, but fragmenting limits the harmful consequences of bad decisions. 

> Personally I find the level of accountability at a local level in US great.Also freedom of information in the US refreshing. They make mistakes and then there is an openness about correcting it.Its just at the top level it falls down.

Completely agree. This is exactly my point, some states can make bad decisions, it doesn’t take everybody down. And others states can learn from what hasn’t worked. Less fragile.

1
Bob Kemp - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> With the political pressure around terrorism and immigration, I would say we have been going backwards on human rights for the past ten years. A trend particularly acute in the UK but not only.

You're conflating democracy with human rights here. They're not the same. Democracy can (unfortunately) co-exist with human rights abuses. The 'tyranny of the majority' is argued to be an enabling mechanism here.

jkarran - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

> 2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

By offering us candidates willing to work find ways to cooperate over longer time frames than a single election cycle to address the big long term issues we face? Democracies can plan and invest for the public good, ours has and does. Making that process more efficient, cleaner of cheap electioneering is the job of good candidates and an engaged public. If as it appears we don't really care or actually want our little election season bribes we get what we deserve, give or take the significant distortions imposed by our dysfunctional FPTP electoral system. That system is not intrinsic to democracy and is in large part the cause of disruptive short-termism and competitive races to the bottom in Britain. There's no driver with single party majority government to find reasoned middle ground solutions which can be agreed upon, no need to call on evidence over dogma as the thing coalitions can unite around.

jk

Post edited at 12:03
RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Bob Kemp:

> You're conflating democracy with human rights here. They're not the same. Democracy can (unfortunately) co-exist with human rights abuses. The 'tyranny of the majority' is argued to be an enabling mechanism here.

I am not conflating. I consider constitutional protections of human rights a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy.

As I’ve said I don’t define democracy restrictively as simply having some form of electoral system.

Tyranny of the majority is not democracy (as the name implies!)

Post edited at 12:01
1
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Nothing is perfect - that's life!

neilh - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

Take you point on fragmentation, but its lead to a lot of local corruption between finance, manufacturing and local government in Germany, which spills out into the rest of the world.If it was localised then fine.

I personally find the bearpit of UK politics more enticing than alot of the European models.( which come across as well boring apart from the odd fisticuffs). Its all a bit to polite.

Rock The Lobster - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to neilh:

Perhaps you're right. I've never really thought of politics as being a form of entertainment rather than being about reasoned debate.

1
RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to neilh:

> Take you point on fragmentation, but its lead to a lot of local corruption between finance, manufacturing and local government in Germany, which spills out into the rest of the world.If it was localised then fine.

I disagree, in fact it could be argued dieselgate is simply the result of the centralisation of regulation enforcement, at European and US level.

what do you prefer, inevitable local corruption, or inevitable global corruption ?

> I personally find the bearpit of UK politics more enticing than alot of the European models.( which come across as well boring apart from the odd fisticuffs). Its all a bit to polite.

The bearpit of U.K. politics is all theatre, but in practice they have little to no impact on policy making. Governments typically get 98% of their bills through, and in the vast majority of case with only superficial changes.

Post edited at 13:09
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r0b on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

> 2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

This is one of the key arguments for something like representative democracy. The decision is made by people whose only stake in it is as citizens. Rather than politicians who see every decision through the prism of their own re-election.

The podcast I linked to up the thread really convinced me that we need to pursue something like representative democracy to re-balance the increasingly partisan "democracy" we currently have. Difficult decisions like what to do about health and social care get kicked into the long grass by successive governments as they are too scared to pursue them as they are seen as electorally toxic.

 

neilh - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

Well the Germans seem to have a very good local regionalisation system that leads to global corruption!

Clearly you have a different view, and I respect your right to say so!

rogerwebb - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> I think the burden of my OP was that I don't feel like I live in a terribly valid democracy, merely an illusion of one or perhaps a pale imitation. I get to make a meaningless mark on a ballot paper in an election every four or five years with, at least in the constituencies where I have lived, a pre-ordained result. As for  control, watching the perversion of the narrow Brexit vote, itself won by lies, further  twisted into the most extreme version possible and seeing that touted as 'the will of the people' at the behest of a handful of Tory fanatics aided by an opportunist Opposition leader, feels more like being held captive on a runaway train. So you will have to forgive me if I am a little underwhelmed by  democracy

An illusion of democracy that has delivered a Scottish Parliament, allowed a political party to campaign for and get a referendum to break up the state. That allowed that referendum to run without state interference. That allows people to campaign against the government without fear of arrest. That allows journalists to operate freely. That provides state funded representation to individuals (citizens or not) to defend themselves against charges brought by the state.

It's a pretty good illusion.

As for the meaningless mark with a 'pre-ordained result', if you don't like that get out and campaign, it can be quite effective, look at what the SNP did to the pre-ordained results.

It's not perfect by any means but it is open to reform without violence in a way non democratic systems are not.

 

DubyaJamesDubya - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Have you considered that these donkeys might do whatever they like and steal whatever they want if they thought there was no ultimate sanction of being voted out.

Bob Kemp - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> I am not conflating. I consider constitutional protections of human rights a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy.

For an ideal democracy, maybe. But is there such a thing? Take Australia - 10th in that list I linked to of most democratic states, but: "Australia is a vibrant multicultural democracy with a strong record of protecting civil and political rights, but serious human rights issues remain."

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/australia

> As I’ve said I don’t define democracy restrictively as simply having some form of electoral system.

> Tyranny of the majority is not democracy (as the name implies!).

The idea of tyranny of the majority was conceived as a direct objection to democracy. It was seen as a key problem with democracy. It's identified with democracy. You seem to be measuring things by some perfect gold standard of democracy. You should clarify what that is. 

 

RomTheBear on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to neilh:

> Well the Germans seem to have a very good local regionalisation system that leads to global corruption!

That is plainly incorrect. It’s not their regionalisation system that lead to global corruption. It’s on the contrary, the fact that the regulation enforcement is centralised.

Even if there was no local gov in Germany, this would have have prevented VW for installing defeat devices in their cars and cheat the whole system. The issue was that regulation enforcement was centralised in the EU and the US, so they need to defeat only one or two regulators instead of hundreds.

 

2
jkarran - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to r0b:

> This is one of the key arguments for something like representative democracy. The decision is made by people whose only stake in it is as citizens. Rather than politicians who see every decision through the prism of their own re-election. The podcast I linked to up the thread really convinced me that we need to pursue something like representative democracy to re-balance the increasingly partisan "democracy" we currently have.

Do you mean direct democracy? We already have a representative democracy, pretty much the textbook definition of one.

> Difficult decisions like what to do about health and social care get kicked into the long grass by successive governments as they are too scared to pursue them as they are seen as electorally toxic.

Difficult decisions are difficult. They need capable people with the time and resources to properly inform themselves, to weigh the options and consequences if they're to be made well. They need people with the communication skills necesary to explain the costs, benefits and compromises to a public pulled this way and that by competing interests. Skilled politicians and the permanent machinery of state goes a long way toward that. Asking Jo public to click a button on their phone to decide important complex issues puts real power in the hands of the very few with the resources to acquire our most popular media and entertainment outlets.

Still, there's lots of room for improvement!

jk

Post edited at 15:39
r0b on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

You're quite right, it's not representative demcracy I mean but (probably) participatory democracy.

I recommend listening to the podcast where they explain it much better than I can

http://cheerful.libsyn.com/episode-20-rescuing-democracy-from-ancient-athens-to-brexit

But the idea is you take a representative sample of the population, randomly selected, educate and inform them on the issue at hand, the let them debate and come up with a proposed solution.

It's definitely not democracy by opinion poll (or referendum!).

Rock The Lobster - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> Difficult decisions are difficult. They need capable people with the time and resources to properly inform themselves, to weigh the options and consequences if they're to be made well.

Like Brexit?

> They need people with the communication skills necesary to explain the costs, benefits and compromises to a public pulled this way and that by competing interests.

Like politicians do?

> Skilled politicians and the permanent machinery of state goes a long way toward that.

Skilled politicians? Surely, an oxymoron.

> Asking Jo public to click a button on their phone to decide important complex issues puts real power in the hands of the very few with the resources to acquire our most popular media and entertainment outlets.

Like Murdoch does?

> Still, there's lots of room for improvement!

Like parliament?

 

2
Timmd on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Rock The Lobster:

It's tricky to grasp exactly what you mean with your short responses.

1
jkarran - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to Rock The Lobster:

You've rather lost me, you're mostly just agreeing with me?

jk

1
DancingOnRock - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to r0b:

Unfortunately you’d fall at the first hurdle - Trying to educate a random selection of the UK population. 

Rock The Lobster - on 07 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> You've rather lost me, you're mostly just agreeing with me?

Not really, I'm suggesting that the things that you've outlined are either, already happening and they're not very good or worse, they're already happening and are despicable.

 

Post edited at 23:01
1
Rog Wilko on 08 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Don't have time to read all this thread at the moment, so sorry if this point has been made ad nauseam but the problem with the OP is that you quietly conflate democracy with the present voting system in the UK. It was a great disaster that the other recent referendum, that on the voting system which the Lib Dems forced on the Tories during the coalition government of 2010-2015, was largely ignored by the population and of those who did vote probably many if not most hadn't bothered to find out what it meant and just voted for no change because most newspapers were against it based on the argument that only the existing system gave firm government (yes, I know what you're thinking!).

BTW, it is a matter of constant irritation to me that the present system is described as First Past the Post, which is odd, as there is no post of any sort, let alone one labelled 50% of the vote. A much better name would be Winner Takes All.

RomTheBear on 08 Feb 2018
In reply to Rog Wilko:

First past the post is completely stupid, it’s a system where we end up putting people who have a majority against them in power.

A system where people routinely get the opposite of what they want can hardly be called democratic, frankly.

1
Webster - on 08 Feb 2018
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> I'm open to better options fire away


I believe it was Plato or Aristotle who said 'Benign dictatorship is the most efficient form of governance' or words to that effect. Frankly I am inclined to agree. The problem is, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (also said by somebody important at some point...) so a benign dictator will likely never exist.

tom_in_edinburgh - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I think the system to watch is the Chinese one.   They have modernised and improved economically incredibly quickly compared with democracies.   I read somewhere that many senior Communist party leaders in China are engineers where in the West we tend to get lawyers, PPE majors and self-publicists like Trump going into politics.  Success in the west is a lot more about presentation and manipulating opinion and less on technical skill and applying power.   If a government led by engineers do the math and figure they need a high speed rail line between two cities they build it and f*ck property rights.  Their main project expenses are the materials and productive labour not legions of lawyers and bankers so it gets done cheaper and faster.

Communism and planned economies have obviously failed many times in the past but in the past computers were nothing like as powerful.  The Chinese seem to understand and embrace technology.   If you couple a planned system to massive computer power, massive data collection, tolerance for enterprise and a focus on technical and scientific progress and do not allow religious views to influence regulations you may well end up with a society that develops and deploys new technologies far faster than democracies and as a result gradually pulls away from them economically and militarily.  

 

Post edited at 01:56
Duncan Bourne - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Webster:

I agree with you there. Two problems with the system. One, as you say power corrupts and there are plenty examples of that, and three one persons benign is another persons evil. As a concept it seems close to that of the types of absolute monarchy that existed in europe a few centuries back. Then you get wars of succession and the like.

Post edited at 06:42
Dr.S at work - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> I think the system to watch is the Chinese one.  

 

Indeed - the next 50 years willbe fascinating.

RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

No matter how efficient the Chinese technocracy seems, it’s not sustainable. Too many single points of failures. For a start, it oppresses large groups of people.

1
neilh - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Have you been?

I have on business.....their censorship  curbs curtails academic and civil freedom..and that will ultimately cost them. When you cannot use simple things like What's App or facebook or get on BBC news websites ( other than the censored local one) you deep down know that it is going to all end in tears. When you go in so called state of the art factories and see what really happens, you breathe a sigh of relief. When you seen the number of underemployed young people doing meaningless tasks just to keep them busy, it is quite frightening.You see vast housing skyscrapers unoccupied and more being built.

China may have too many issues locally to pull away from the rest of the globe. Its trapped by its huge population and keeping a lid on that.

neilh - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

100% agree.

Post edited at 09:56
Phil79 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracy is the worst system imaginable, apart from all the others.

jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Webster:

The Queen? Doubt anyone else gets away with as much as we do, we even wanted democracy too and she let us have it.

jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

PR is worse, you only end up voting for a party, not somebody that you actually want to represent you.

jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

I wholeheartedly agree, put the power in the hands of engineers and see how public infrastructure, recycling and pollution are tackled!

C Witter on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

To be honest, I think you need to think a bit more clearly. You're confusing one question with another.

What is democracy? Do we have democracy? What does it mean when we vaunt "our democracy"? What does it mean when we "bring democracy" to another country? Is our electoral system democratic? Why, if we have a "democratic" system, do we not see material improvement to our lives?

Personally, I don't see British, European and US capitalist societies as particularly democratic. The problem here is not that democracy is overrated, though, but that political and economic structures are designed in ways that limit democratic participation - e.g. top-down corporation versus workers' cooperative; a financial system that uses economic forecasting to intervene in political decision making; the privatisation of public space, infrastructure and services; political parties that are resistant to the influence of their membership; governments that try to keep important decisions like Brexit away from scrutiny, debate and voting... the list could go on...

Equally, what worries me is that people today are so quick to give up on the idea of democracy without a fight...

2
RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> PR is worse, you only end up voting for a party, not somebody that you actually want to represent you.

I’m not necessarily advocating PR although a mix of PR seems useful.

Instant run off systems such as the Alternative voting as proposed in the AV referendum fixed most of the issues since the top two candidates are compared head-to-head

Why people didn’t vote yes is beyond me, there was no rational reason to vote no in this referendum. AV is just a superior voting system on almost every criteria, it just is a mathematical truth.

Sometimes I despair.

Post edited at 12:03
5
jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> Why people didn’t vote yes is beyond me, there was no rational reason to vote no in this referendum. AV is just a superior voting system on almost every criteria, it just is a mathematical truth.

> Sometimes I despair.

And half America voted for trump, and the Tories do well. Maybe instead of despair there should be a bit of effort into understand what the opposition voter is thinking and why they think that?

 

Bob Kemp - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> The Queen? Doubt anyone else gets away with as much as we do, we even wanted democracy too and she let us have it.

How exactly did the Queen let us have democracy? We already had it. 

1
Bob Kemp - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> And half America voted for trump, and the Tories do well. Maybe instead of despair there should be a bit of effort into understand what the opposition voter is thinking and why they think that?

And after, then despair...

RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> And half America voted for trump, and the Tories do well. Maybe instead of despair there should be a bit of effort into understand what the opposition voter is thinking and why they think that?

Believe it or not I do the effort, probably more than most people in fact. The problem is that you hit a wall when the opinion you disagree with appears to be based on either ignorance, or plain lies.

I’m all open ears to anyone who has valid argument that AV is worse than FPTP.

AV is a good example because it was one of those rare, maybe unique, instance of a policy change being put to the vote, that we can prove, with mathematical certainty, to be better than the status quo.

And yet people voted against it.

Post edited at 12:38
6
neilh - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

Mathematics has no real say in politics which is just as much about passion and human irrationality.

jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

It is just a left wing or right wing voting system, except that you get the extremist loonies vote when their candidate is removed.

RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> It is just a left wing or right wingl voting system, except that you get the extremist loonies vote when their candidate is removed.

Whichever way you look at it, it is less f*cked up than a system that puts in power people who have a majority of people against them.

why people voted against it, I don’t know, I suspect the press told them to vote no so they did.

2
jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> Whichever way you look at it, it is less f*cked up than a system that puts in power people who have a majority of people against them.

Really? You may as well ban all political parties bar two in that case so you get a clear majority.

1
RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> Really? You may as well ban all political parties bar two in that case so you get a clear majority.

Sorry but it doesn’t make any sense.

I am taking about the MPs and first past the post. As it is many MPs are elected although they have a majority against them. If you don’t understand why it is fucked up, then I am probably right to despair !

Post edited at 19:20
3
jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

They're not against them, just for others. If they were against them they'd group together to stop them winning. 

 

All because you want the green vote added to yours...

 

At least we wouldn't have an SNP government with what you propose!

Post edited at 19:26
2
8A machine elf - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

The voters in the UK look to the media narrative to guide them in their choice of candidate or party and that media is owned by a bunch of capitalist ruling class parasites.  They dictate which representatives of the business parties of capital you should vote for and the vast majority of voters who know nothing about politics will follow what they say.This has been going on for decades and is how the cabal of ruling class oligarchs keep control of this so called democracy which is nothing more than a dictatorship of the bourgeousie.  

I prefer a dictatorship of the workers.

Post edited at 19:31
3
RomTheBear on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> They're not against them, just for others. If they were against them they'd group together to stop them winning. 

Ok now you’re just pretending to be really thick for the sake of the argument.

 

 

2
jonnie3430 - on 09 Feb 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

I'm being thick? Do you understand that with what you propose we may not have as many SNP msps and mps? That most of them have a majority against them?

1
RomTheBear on 10 Feb 2018
In reply to jonnie3430:

> I'm being thick? Do you understand that with what you propose we may not have as many SNP msps and mps? That most of them have a majority against them?

I don’t see the issue, I just don’t want to have a system that elects people a majority doesn’t want. It’s not really hard to understand.

4
Big Lee - on 10 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> but looking round the world I wonder how much damage has been caused by promoting or even imposing democracy on others. I wonder if, for example, the average Iraqui  felt better off under a functioning dictatorship  where at least the taps worked? Or the average Libyan?

I think often it's neoliberalism, not democracy, that gets promoted primarily in the places mention. The West wants access to countries resources, the classic one being oil. Democracy is just an affront to justify the regime change necessary to achieve that. Strong, stable leaders willing to introduce greater free trade to foreign countries is what the West wants. Essentially back door colonialism. More often than not that means propping up dictators rather promoting less predictable democratic institutions. The sad thing for me is that there's very little our own democracy can do to change this approach given it's mostly done covertly with full details often not appearing until years later.

Timarzi - on 10 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

We do still have an individual leader and hierarchy of government, it's just that we're offered the chance to express a preference from time to time.

thomasadixon - on 10 Feb 2018
In reply to Kean:

> 1. There are so many situations in which democracy simply doesn't work e.g. running a company, sailing a ship...we accept that democracy is not the answer in those situations, but we demand democracy when choosing our government. It suggests to me that democracy, in the long run, is doomed to fail. (Time for some more wine!).

Companies are democracies.  All shares get an equal weight and the majority decide what happens.  Employees of the company don't get a vote, just like employees of the state don't get a vote (unless they also are citizens, of course).

> 2. In the competitive, complex reality of globalisation, how can democracy hope to compete with China's "10 year plan"? I'm sure Russia and China must be pissing themselves laughing at how democracy has served us up Brexit and Trump...it's no contest, they win, no?

China's still slowly playing catch up.  It is no contest, absolutely.  Democracy won - see e.g. Japan and SK.  That's aside from the brutal repression suffered by many under China's rulers, which I'd hope would also count against them.

1
bouldery bits - on 11 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

Democracy does seem silly.

Anarchy for me please.

C&C Phil - on 11 Feb 2018
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

(And the rest of you 'peops'). I believe the technical name for the kind of political system we are (supposed) to live under is; 'an elective oligarchy', democracy is just a word 'they' put about because it makes us 'plebs', feel better about the situation, as if we genuinely have a say. (We did with brexit!) I'd say that the correct term for our system is; 'a plutocracy' the propertied, money 'men' rule and our current crop of politicians are mere front men and lackeys for them because they can wreck our economies by denying financial support. They have no patriotic alliegance to any particular nation so they can move the money/property rights around as they like. They currently patronise the USA, and it's the greatest military power and an interesting link between the USA's national debt and it's arms budget. Mao said that; "Power issues from the barrel of a gun". I think he was very nearly right, ultimately though political power lies with the human will, though with a divided and ignorant/dummed down populace, 'see; Thatcher on; "there is no such thing as society" the only human wills that matter are those the propertied elites. Of course the western powers; in a fiat currency system, 'cook the books' they need to, one reason perhaps why they killed Gaddaffi since he wanted a gold standard. Oh, and I reckon most of this terrorism is a result of hoodwinked types like the Muslim extremists from places like Saudi and Afhgani being financed by the plutocrats to wreck their own societies, I'm not sure why, though 2 issues come to mind, (1). Oil, (which may become less important as high tech is implemented so that may be a case of the 'old guard' perpetuating it's MO, and then there's (2). all their 'middle management' hangers on who make gains out of wars in other ways, arms for instance, and all this takes money of course that has to be moved around, (lent & exchanged), which the plutocrats like. Technology is both a blessing and a curse of course, looks to me as if we will soon have no use for most of the 'workers', just a few egg heads and machines to make everything else. We may not need that many egg heads either eventually AI will do a lot of that, I believe that computers could be just or more 'creative' as the humans that currently fulfill these roles.

Those that have spoken about 'human rights' have an important point IMO, but they can't just be any rights for 'all humans', (in this 'anarchistic/state of nature' sense)they should preferably be of a 'fundamental nature' and we need to start to hear the term 'universal-isable' (between all people of if not 'good will then at least of 'no malign intent' towards others) being used in this context. 'Freedom of Religion', freedom to practice Satanism? Something like the 'Golden rule' / Kantean catagorical imperative, needs to apply. It's the only religion you need IMHO.

This is my first post by the way, this is supposed to be a climbing site, and here I am spouting off about politics again! LOL. (Going back now to the 'dating sites' to speak to the 'LOL Bots') LOL, etc.

 

Post edited at 21:44

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