Misc => Debate => Topic started by: winterbane on December 16, 2014, 06:45

Title: Modern Democracy - Is it really all that good?
Post by: winterbane on December 16, 2014, 06:45
I used to talk about this kind of stuff all the time in college, so figured after reading a few of the other debate posts from last year, it might be worth raising a question (rather than reviving dead topics). Is Democracy really all it's cracked up to be?

I see a common sentiment that people think the US (and by extension perhaps the entire western world) is full of closed-minded, media-fueled intellectual black holes incapable of bringing any level of understanding to the rest of the world. But spending four years studying politics instead shows me that the United States' actions in the global community are hardly driven by common public interest, and instead the interests of wealthy politicians abusing a system they've learned to manipulate. Young people - the 20-somethings of the world - have no real shot at higher office due to the lack of realistic financing to compete with these politicians driven by radical agendas and lobbyist promises. Getting voted in as anything more than a member of the house is a pipe dream for most, and even that is unlikely at best.

I live in Canada and see a few of the same problems regarding foreign policy (albeit our social policy is far more reasonable). It just seems to beg the question, is this really the best system of government the world has to offer? People sacrificing their own principles and ideals for the funding required to 'play the game' so to speak, with the end results being only what major corporations (and by extension, politicians practically on their payroll)  can make some profit from?
Title: Re: Modern Democracy - Is it really all that good?
Post by: SaRo|Rapidash on December 16, 2014, 08:36
The trouble with Democracy is that when it was created it was intended for small scale Athenian collosseum type things. They did like little mini referendums for everything and it worked because there were few enough people for a referendum to work on everything, meaning they get the strongest mandate on every decision.

But now, nations have millions and millions of members. Under the Burkean model of US and UK government, you get representatives that are forced to vote on party lines rather than having their constituents at the heart of decisions. Democracy doesn't work when the House of Commons is simple point scoring between parties.

Referendums (or propositions, I believe it is in the US) are a way government can show democracy, but a government will only hold a referendum if they know they can win. Less so with propositions in the us, as they're held on moral issues which parties dislike affiliating themselves with, but certainly in the UK the government uses referendums to feign a mandate. This means they can't really be held account for a bad decision even though they knew they'd win.

Both the UK and the US have a two party system, under which some policies you will get no matter who you vote for. It also means that when one party gets a majority (which they almost always will - only hasn't twice in the UK since WW2 (1975 & 2010)), which means there is no effective opposition to policy as a strong party will push any policy through. It stops being democracy here - it becomes an elective dictatorship.

Look at policy's the UK gets under "democracy": Poll Tax; Iraq War; Reform of NHS. All of these were vastly unpopular, and only the latter is really close to justifiable in that 'we had to cut something'. I don't think democracy is impossible, but in think a two party system strangles any chance of it.
Title: Re: Modern Democracy - Is it really all that good?
Post by: winterbane on December 16, 2014, 15:51
A three or more party system hasn't proven itself particularly more effective though - you can see that in Canada, where minority governments have been disturbingly more common in my lifetime with extremely negative results - a government afraid of its own shadow, afraid to make any real decisions for fear of triggering another election so instead simply 'holding on' until the winds of public opinion are in their favor. What else would you expect from a politician? In the US, this 'party lines' rule is less strictly enforced, but the party maintains the authority to pull funding which effectively cripples prospective members. They can then run as an independent and that does them wonders getting re-elected in their home district, but effectively curbs their power influencing federal and even state politics.

In my experience, however limited it may be, a two party system has serious flaws in that it lacks any real semblance of democracy, but having more parties only creates governments afraid to act at all for fear of losing their precarious grip on power. Nor do coalition governments seem to be the answer - for examples there, look at Israel. Having a wide range of parties seems to result in the largest ones being the furthest extremes from one another. To gain power, a coalition between opposite extremes happens as well, but the end result is not amicable - someone ends up sacrificing their values, and political compromise is not something that lasts.
Title: Re: Modern Democracy - Is it really all that good?
Post by: SaRo|Rapidash on December 16, 2014, 16:33
It's true 3+ party systems can be bad for democracy also, but it at least allows for effective opposition. If the current Tory government had a majority, the UK would not have a Human Rights Act. The effective opposition is the fact that - although in coalition they have a majority - the other parties can overturn their decisions and they know they will. Regardless of my stance on the HRA, I know it's a wildly controversial issue and therefore effective opposition is needed to ensure parliament is actually reflecting the views of the people. A two party system innately removes any chance of this. Basically, a 3+ party system can be democratic, a 2 party system just isn't by the fact that one will always have an un-opposable majority with which to pass any legislation.

I don't believe coalition is good for a country, but it's certainly good for democracy. Democracy, in my opinion, is an outdated concept. You simply can't get true democracy in modern politics without a crazy budget to hold referendums on like everything. Whilst a system remains where politicians are tied to parties, there will always be a fault in democracy. I personally believe the House of Commons should run in the same way as the House of Lords, only elected, but that's just how I see democracy having it's best shot - where representatives have real debate rather than point scoring between parties.