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The failure of democracy?

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OchyGTA
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#1

Posted 25 August 2013 - 01:23 AM

The UK and the US are often heralded as shining examples of the success of the democratic process. It's easy to accept this point as on the surface, we have a lot more individual freedom when compared to many nations in the East as well as other states dotted around the globe. It's usually argued that we also have a great political freedom in which we can vote for whoever we want without fear of repression by the state, or the fixing of elections.
However, we live in an age where we only have two real choices and both parties, on both sides of the pond, are slowly edging closer and closer together in terms of domestic and foreign policies. What we are seemingly left with nowadays is a two party state where both parties have similar aims and objectives to achieve said aims. Of course it's no where in comparison with the likes of China or Zimbabwe but to me, it's certainly a startling revelation.
Is the biggest failure of democracy creating a limited number of overly powerful parties and thus eliminating our political choice? Discuss and debate.

Rudy
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#2

Posted 25 August 2013 - 03:24 AM

QUOTE (OchyGTA @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 01:23)
Is the biggest failure of democracy creating a limited number of overly powerful parties and thus eliminating our political choice?

Not entirely sure about this. I believe, in UK, it isn't. I mean, there have been a lots of smaller parties (it's not hard to start one) and they often even get elected at local government level. Historically strong third parties have risen several times in the US too when the general public grows sufficiently unsatisfied with the two dominant parties. Then they fall apart after one of the two parties co-op their agenda, but that's not a bad thing. Currently there are no strong third parties because, despite what you believe, most Americans are satisfied with one of the two dominant parties.
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Ilikehotcrossbuns
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#3

Posted 25 August 2013 - 03:53 AM

The political systems of the west are specifically created that way to prevent any real political discourse. Having governments that actually represent public interests is bad for business.

TG-Moose
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#4

Posted 25 August 2013 - 05:00 AM

QUOTE (Ilikehotcrossbuns @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 03:53)
The political systems of the west are specifically created that way to prevent any real political discourse. Having governments that actually represent public interests is bad for business.

Yup.

D4 Damager
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#5

Posted 25 August 2013 - 10:16 AM

QUOTE (Ilikehotcrossbuns @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 04:53)
The political systems of the west are specifically created that way to prevent any real political discourse. Having governments that actually represent public interests is bad for business.

I think you'll have to explain yourself there.

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#6

Posted 25 August 2013 - 08:00 PM

QUOTE (D4 Damager @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 10:16)
QUOTE (Ilikehotcrossbuns @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 04:53)
The political systems of the west are specifically created that way to prevent any real political discourse. Having governments that actually represent public interests is bad for business.

I think you'll have to explain yourself there.

Well for one, having a system that values discourse and compromise for the benefit of the majority is bad for production. Secondly business laws and laws concerning the health and safety of citizens rarely coincide and usually do the opposite. Boy, what else. As for 'specifically designed' well I would point you to the laws that allow private control over party funding, election running etc etc etc. I'll be honest man, this requires more effort than I'm willing to give for a grand theft auto forum.

D4 Damager
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#7

Posted 25 August 2013 - 08:02 PM

Well how can I understand what you mean if you can't be arsed to actually tell me what you're trying to say?

Ilikehotcrossbuns
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#8

Posted 25 August 2013 - 08:07 PM

QUOTE (D4 Damager @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 20:02)
Well how can I understand what you mean if you can't be arsed to actually tell me what you're trying to say?

Come on chap I did explain, just in a lazy abridged way. Besides, this topic is just so vague in it's request that you could type war and peace essays here and still not fulfill what is being asked.

Melchior
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#9

Posted 26 August 2013 - 05:07 AM

QUOTE (OchyGTA @ Sunday, Aug 25 2013, 11:23)
Is the biggest failure of democracy creating a limited number of overly powerful parties and thus eliminating our political choice?

Okay, basically it works like this. In a representative democracy, you need to take power away from the majority of the population or else we'll see schizophrenic policy. This is done by having two major parties that, while agreeing on most things to a degree, are divided (at least ostensibly) on a major issue. In America, it's culture; Democrats are progressive and Republicans are conservative. In Australia, it's support for the labour unions, if you support them you vote labour, if you're a deluded Randian nutjob, you vote Liberal (conservative). Britain is an interesting case because people seem to be divided on attitude alone, rather than stances (read:terms like "[insert news paper here] reader")

This means that only the people who don't care about that issue (basically, the most educated elements of the population and business interests) vote differently every year, and ergo, can participate in the "democratic" process while the rest of the population are excluded and more or less robbed of having any input into the running of their country. The only way to have a proper democracy is to have a decentralised direct democracy. Representative democracy is either a sham democracy like we have now, or a schizophrenic mess of a nation that changes its foreign and economic policy, along with its flag, government system and name like it changes its shoes.

tl;dr


OchyGTA
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#10

Posted 06 September 2013 - 12:29 PM

@Melchior

 

I'm not asking for us to wind up with a system like Greece as that's just a complete shambles of the democratic process. What I'm asking for is a slightly wider option of choice. Look at the UK for example; we have two main parties who are the only realistic options for winning power. In the past, both Labour and Conservative were very different entities, standing for and representing different classes of people. Now both parties are full of privately educated elitists who by no means represent the average person yet, they are the only choice we have.

The question I was posing was whether this is a failure that stems from the development of democracy itself. 

 


Melchior
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#11

Posted 06 September 2013 - 02:22 PM

 

The question I was posing was whether this is a failure that stems from the development of democracy itself. 

 

I thought I answered you, more or less. There's nothing inherent to democracy that leads to limited choice, but having a large, centralised state that requires cohesion on the majority of issues is why we see the "failure of democracy" as you put it.


OchyGTA
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#12

Posted 06 September 2013 - 03:18 PM

Ahhhh ok I think I misinterpreted your post. 


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#13

Posted 06 September 2013 - 06:16 PM

It's all about the money. Campaign donors (aka the people who choose our representatives) will never take the risk of throwing millions of dollars into a third-party candidate with no chance of winning, no matter how charismatic they are or how promising their ideas may be. Democracy is more of a sport than it's ever been before. Completely polarized nations, fueled by media partisanship, see it as a cut and dry duel between the two powerhouse parties. The parties, as you said, more or less have the same lobby groups in their back pockets (Big Oil, etc.).

 

Another problem, at least in the US, is general apathy and distraction. Sure, you may know many people in the bowels of the internet that are passionate and informed about what's going on around them, but the majority of youths and younger adults are too distracted by reality television and social networking to take action. Perhaps because the actions of our leaders aren't directly affecting them yet. 


El Zilcho
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#14

Posted 07 September 2013 - 12:55 PM

The failure of democracy marked out here is actually a failure of one of the most crucial mechanisms that underpins it: electoral systems.

 

First past the post (the electoral system that requires a simple plurality, that is more than second place, rather than being proportional or majoritarian), in both the US and the UK, is the facilitating factor of your criticisms. It's nature means that two party dominance is common, as tactical voting (when people can see only two big parties have a realistic chance of winning a particular seat, they may vote for only the one they can tolerate the most, rather than the smaller one they truly agree with) siphons off people's votes to who they can stomach, rather than who they want.

 

Once said order has become established, unless reform is undertaken, the natural progression would be the two parties become catch all spheres, representing all things to all people in their general ideological direction, and truly working towards none. Whereas, with proportional representation, a plethora of political opinion can be represented, and so voters respond to this by voting for who they want, with first past the post, it becomes a slog between two giants.

 

The solution would be a change in electoral system, either to a mixed system such as MMP in Germany, or AMS in the Scottish parliament, or to a purely proportional choice, such as party list (as is used throughout Europe) or STV (in Ireland). These give voters more choice, and while it does carry the drawbacks of coalition government (debatable, coalition in my view is a positive, albeit obviously far less coherent than a single party government) it, from the foundations up, alters the party system and allows for a break on the duopoly, that we can see with the Republicans / Democrats.


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#15

Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:37 AM

US can be hailed as a shining example of capitalism, not democracy.
Democracy works best in countries that have multiple parties and lot of local democracy. In 2-party system You are always against the other and I don't quite get the bashing. Seems ridiculous.

I don't see the failure of democracy, it's purpose is trying to achieve as much equality as possible. I'd like to think most people want that.

People often mix democracy with capitalism.
They are two completely different things.
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Rown
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#16

Posted 10 September 2013 - 05:38 AM Edited by Rown, 10 September 2013 - 07:18 AM.

The failure of the ballot was well put in a couple videos by CGPGrey which I'll provide here:

 

 


 

 

Rown :rampage:


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#17

Posted 10 September 2013 - 07:02 AM

All electoral systems concentrate too much power in one body by virtue of their design. FPTP is pretty poor at directly translating votes into seats, especially in nations with constituency-based systems; in contrast AV and variants of Proportional Representation tends to translate into disproportionate amounts of power for smaller parties.

Rafe
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#18

Posted 14 September 2013 - 01:45 AM Edited by Rafe, 14 September 2013 - 01:48 AM.

The failure of democracy is better illustrated by the domain of public choice economics, specifically Phil Converse's research well over 50 years ago. His contributions evolved into a general structural criticism of democracy, not representative democracy but democracy. Basically the impact of one vote is unlikely to alter the outcome of a democratic contest so the voter has to contend with the value of political information. Assuming you spend hours studying contemporary policy and particular candidates the probability of that information having an impact on the outcome is infinitesimally small. As a result it's rational to be ignorant about politics atleast with respect to trying to alter democratic outcomes for your own welfare. A person may have extensive political knowledge for academic reasons or to accrue social capital (impress friends or sound self-important, ego ), or for financial/legal career purposes however to the average person this political information really has no value. 

 

In many ways this is a Tragedy of the Commons problem. Society benefits from an informed voter but the voter benefits from spending his time watching Big Brother or Jersey Shore rather than being a responsible voter as the outcome of his uninformed selection is unlikely be different if he had total omnipotence and he voted. 

 

This goes hand in hand with the concept of Rational irrationality in that spending time contemplating information or deliberating inside your head is also expensive so voters are incentivized to temporally discount the consideration of political information, or just not think as much about something. This leads to the adoption of heuristics: Candidate A's tie looks nice, Candidate B looks attractive or has a confident sounding voice i will vote for them. 

 

I see no real solution here as education isn't the problem it's information about contemporary events. Further more even if you could force the population to be more educated on politics some political agency would have to design a syllabus and lesson structure and that calls into question the objectivity and whether the actual will of the people has any real fidelity and it's just an echo or representation of those that present the information to the un-educated. I don't think any teacher i have ever had was free of political bias. 


Melchior
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#19

Posted 15 September 2013 - 06:18 PM

Rafe, you're running on a misconception. "Democracy" essentially means "everybody participates, and everybody participates equally." It doesn't necessarily mean "learn about politics in your own time, then go and vote 'yes' or 'no' on some policies." Direct democracy  is less about tallying up all the yays and nays and more about compromise and synthesis.

 

You make interesting criticism of representative democracy, but you're only critiquing representative democracy. Nothing you said applies to any model of direct democracy I've ever heard of. Political information has great value in a decentralised society.


Rafe
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#20

Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:48 AM

Rafe, you're running on a misconception. "Democracy" essentially means "everybody participates, and everybody participates equally." It doesn't necessarily mean "learn about politics in your own time, then go and vote 'yes' or 'no' on some policies." Direct democracy  is less about tallying up all the yays and nays and more about compromise and synthesis.

 

You make interesting criticism of representative democracy, but you're only critiquing representative democracy. Nothing you said applies to any model of direct democracy I've ever heard of. Political information has great value in a decentralised society.

no... I never spoke about other means of "Participation" like lobbying, hacking voting machines, protests, marches, civil disobedience, running for office yourself, terrorism etc. I was simply talking about voting and voting only. If democracy involves voting on something and you internalize a significant amount of voters in your system you begin to erode or diminish the value of vote generating the voters paradox.

 

I suspect you seem to be talking about anarcho-syndicalism which i have no issue with as long as i as a holder of unequal intellectual capital can defect or exit from my syndicate and negotiate for unequal benefits from a competing syndicate bettering my position while evading what i believe is potential exploitation from my previous employment in teh initial syndicate. There are plenty of good collectivist models of product delivery where all workers are owners. 

 

Obviously if you are talking about voting in a SMALL collective institution of a few thousand people or a few hundred individuals that collectively own some capital you have increased the value of the vote. But as you say there are other dynamics going on like the recognition of social capital or expertise, there is direct deliberation between labor units and you have invested relationships there and stability so there is a social commerce inherent in that relationship that is stabilized by iterative interactions as Trivers argues is important for the evolution of altruism in social species to begin with.

 

Since the dialectical horizon has not yet been reached most people are talking about democracy as its' practiced in representative or parliamentary systems or theoretical non-representative systems where you interface with some centralized body.





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