Thomas Ware

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Is our democratic system out-dated and in dire need of reform to fit the 21st century?

In our modern society citizens of democratic countries have received a powerful voice to oppose or push their own political ideals. Whilst democracy works on a majority system it is often questionable whose majority the system is favouring. In Australia the vast majority of citizens are in agreement and see no problem with gay marriage, according to the latest polls. The decision to change current legislation is solely in the control of the government. In a democratic system it would seem that the government should change the legislation to represent the view held by the majority of Australians, however, the beliefs and values of individual government officials are what ultimately decide the outcome that being against. It seems a failure in democracy when the public isn't represented by their government in that the political values do not reflect national ones. The other face of this coin is in common sense reform/policy where what is best for the country is prevented by opinion polls and political agenda rather than national interest.

Some believe that the current democratic system was most effective when people lacked the knowledge to make political decisions in their best interest and were represented by someone who did. The accessibility of the internet and widespread accumulations of knowledge has made individuals more aware and in a better position to make their views well known but often to fall upon deaf ears. The 'big brother' watching the government through media and the internet also seems to have created a system where the government is scrutinised at every turn and in some cases the risk of losing an election is more important than changing bad election promises or making unpopular but necessary policies.

  • Apr 30 2013: I think a democratic system would be a great idea. For now, we are stuck with Oligarchies ruling over a highly distracted, highly entertained, and highly medicated public.

    How does one reform a democratic system that is not democratic?
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    Apr 30 2013: No, I do not think that it is outdated. However, I think that we are abusing our power. We need reform in the government not because our system is outdated. We need reform because slowly we are headed down the wrong path. We are becoming corrupt and out morals are shifting. We cannot continue to do this. So yes, we need reform but not due to the reason that our system is outdated.
    • Apr 30 2013: I agree. It's us, not the system. The only real change is the one that occurs inside of people's characters.
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    Apr 30 2013: No. The ethics and morals of the 21st century are in dire need of reform to fit the tenets of democracy.
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    May 11 2013: Of course our systems of democratic decision making needs reform. No political process can ever be deemed beyond reform or even dismantling, especially as those whose lives will be, inevitably, dominated by those decisions become more and more demanding of that reform. After all, if we are sincere about it being democratic, then the process must reflect the needs and ideals of its constituents, namely the people governed.

    And, as we see in this 21st century, more and more people are well informed, and competent enough and capable enough to actively participate in their political processes. They don't need or want anyone to "represent" them. They decry the politicians and their parties as irrelevant middlemen and announce that the "party" is over. These empowered citizens are the face of democracy in the 21st century. They want direct, participatory democratic decision making. The internet and social media opportunities furthering this process are both timely and, ultimately, will become key aspects of that reform process.

    Referendum balloting is another important component of the democratic voice and, although there are still some serious concerns over who drafts the tone and content of the referendum question, those concerns are only technical ones and will be worked out as the reform process progresses.

    On the educational side, imagine a generation or two of young people who had been given both the information regarding the various forms that the democratic process can take and then the opportunity throughout their schooling years to practice those forms within the school setting? Does anyone else find it odd that there are so few nations that profess themselves to be democracies - Canada and the U.S. for example - that do not have any educational curriculum regarding democracy itself?
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    May 6 2013: Hi Tom,
    I have considered your statement and you have made some good points, where you have confused me is in some of your definitions. for example, I understood that Australia was a constitutional monarchy using a parliamentary system with elected representatives. Which if I understand it, people in a certain area elect a representative to the Parliament where federal policies are determined in line with the written constitution. Further, the Parliament holds interpretation of the constitution and is held by a court. The USA has a similar system not in name but in execution.
    Now the point of the electorate being lazy or uneducated or whatever has allowed the elected to assume a level of control that is beginning to mirror the old political systems of those days before the magna carta. Mankind fails to learn from history. 2500 years ago, Athens was a democracy (of sorts) and failed, Rome too.
    A 1000 years ago, people started to take charge again and today we almost have true personal freedoms and it is beginning to slip from our fingers again. Too many peoples are allowing their "government" to do more for them and taking more control of their lives. Soon, government will do everything for us and we will have no control of our lives.
    In the USA, a bill of rights was added to our constitution to insure the people of their individual rights, including a watchdog of the government insuring that the people had an eye on the government. The watchdog has now been domesticated by the government, leaving the people without that warning bark. And other rights are under attack.
    Those who say they know what is best for everybody, scare the hell out of me. What I hear is " I want to take control of you and your life."
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    May 4 2013: Thomas, In order to answer this I must look at all of the parts individually. I live in the USA so I need to evaluate the Constitution ... I have read it often and think it is a good document ... I do not always agree with how it is interperated by SCOTUS or by politicians. As an example how can Obamacare be a tax ???

    The next would be to ask are we being truely represented. Politicians have two goals .. 1) getting elected and 2) getting re-elected. They pander to big money to "buy" their office and then represent their interests.

    The voters (us). Most are greedy, self centered, and uninformed. The politicians can tell most of us anything and never live up to anything and get away with it for multiple terms in office. We have come to expect them to be low life scum .. and they can't even live up to the low standards they set for themselves. Then we re-elect them. Duh ...

    So in the USA ... IMO .. the system is fine ... those adminstrating it and those it was designed for (the people) need to be improved.

    As for the polls ... I once worked in analysis and can tell you the results are determined prior to the first question being asked. Please do not put faith in polls. Questions are designed for a specific target population and the outcome is no accident.

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    May 1 2013: Direct Democracy is working in Denmark and Switzerland. It is essentially a process towards rule by referendum. We have the means at our disposal to represent ourselves. No country needs deaf representatives. We only get to chose which individuals will ignore us. All we need is the involvement of sufficient numbers of voters to demand recognition. No government can ignore the clearly expressed will of the people. We can have government by the few for the few or government by the people, for the people.
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    May 1 2013: Since you classified this as a 'debate', I would be on the side of 'yes' to your title question. 'Democracy' presupposes an 'educated electorate'. But 'educated' does not mean 'we provide education'. It means (I would define it as) all citizens have equal education and access to information. And that is certainly not the case in current democracies. What is being 'sold' now is that we, for 'realistic' reasons, will allow those who are better educated and/or have greater access to info to 'represent' us and our best interests. We can all see how that's working out...
  • May 1 2013: Governments are really comprised of laws and the people who make them. Issues arise with the selection of those people.

    - The system of having the more knowledgeable represent the interest of the people actually does work. The problem is that governments don't have really knowledgeable people in those positions.
    - However, law is an all encompassing field so what you really need is a braintrust of (ethical and moral) specialists and non-specialists that have enough combined knowledge and experience to make a single worthy representative.
    - Then there is the issue of, how does an unknowledgeable person decide who is actually knowledgeable enough to represent them? (catch 22!)

    These has been true since the very beginning.

    Now, let's look at the reality.

    1) With few exceptions, it's the large political parties that decide the few choices we have. And the candidates the choose are only need to be personable, have a vague knowledge of current affairs and not say something stupid.

    2) Now that you have your choices people select who to vote for by one of the follow:
    -- arbitrary/blindly/anyone but the last guy
    -- vote the "party line"
    -- trust a friend's choice
    -- a very narrow selection of issues
    -- get as much info as possible to make an informed decision.

    It's unfortunate but very rarely are people really informed.

    3) That's pretty much the same way bills are voted on but a "friend" is corporation which gives money to your re-election campaign and expects you to vote the way they want you to. I think a large part of this is because so many bills are submitted that there is not enough time and consideration (or even read the bill!) put into making a conclusion, so the path of least resistance/consequence is taken.

    i think that perhaps the braintrust as a representative is a better system but each representative would have to be voted for individually and i think having the results weighted by occupational relevance would help in choosing the right person.
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      May 2 2013: If the citizens are as uninspired as you have indicated, then I am not sure there is a better system. They will be governed as you have indicated.
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    May 1 2013: yes. bigtime
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    May 1 2013: I was watching a parade of soldiers marching by when a woman exclaimed, "...look, my son is the only one in time". After a second look, sure enough, the entire regiment was out of beat with the marching drums but one soldier.

    Being in the majority does not necessarily mean being correct. I am a strong supporter of debate and rules to govern debate and staunchly against dictators.

    Over all I would have to agree with Mike Colera.

    Society, as a whole, needs to mature and become more socially responsible. Education helps us to realize that not only are we wrong but that others are right; while our answer is correct, it is not necessarily the correct answer for this situation. A sense of social responsibility helps us to understand this and put it into action without having to have someone else point this out to us.

    What is social responsibility? It is the individual understanding that the needs of the many out-weigh the needs of the one.
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    May 1 2013: So, it's not the political system in this case democracy, but the people. If the people don't pay attention, they will get the government they deserve. So, the question begs, Are the citizens of your country satisfied with their government, if not are they voting in new representatives.
  • Apr 30 2013: No matter the system, corruption must rule, unless the officials are held to account and they aren't.
  • Apr 30 2013: It is not out-dated at all. In fact as people become more and more educated, there need a democratic system. The problem with a democracy is that fads may change the government. Seeing that problem, voters must be educated in what each candidate believes in and not what mudslinging commercials say. Your second paragraph i must disagree with, because that is the same thing that occurred in England in which the American colonies (I'm from the United States) were 'represented' by those that they did not elect but who would keep the American Colonies' interest in the back of their mind. The Colonies rebelled and the United States were united under the Articles of Confederation. The interests of the people must be represented by those they elected otherwise those in power will loose touch of the interests of the people. However a democratic system must abide by the rules and boundaries set from forefathers. Otherwise you get the current political status of America. Plus you must remember that the first to vote were rich white land owners, who were very well educated so the idea that a democratic system run by those who have no knowledge of any political ideas seems suicide.
    Thank you sir that you express your ideas and questions.