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Why does the Western world think democracy is a magical, catch all solution?

There seems to be this sort of prevalent attitude in the Western world that democracy is something of a catch all solution for all the world's political problems.

Now, lets just get this out of the way. This isn't some pro-autocracy/democracy is bad argument, I believe the system has many benefits. I'm not for one second disputing all the good its done in many countries. What I am claiming, is that there are situations where its not the right answer.

Take for example the recent revolution and election in Egypt. Dictator toppled, Muslim Brotherhood elected democratically, uses democratic tools to get rid of democracy, toppled by military. If it wasn't for the military, chances are Egypt would have been going down the road to being a theocracy right now.
The same happens whenever a country with a long standing tradition of politically active religious groups with a wide voting base. Any democratic election will lead to democracy being canceled in short order.

While I dislike using it as an example, it also can't be ignored that Hitler originally rose to power democratically. The same is true for many other dictators, of both religious and secular leanings. That's what happens when a democratic tradition simply isn't there.

Any transition to democracy, needs to be done carefully, and with the bare minimum force of arms. Its not something that can be rammed down people's throats, and there are simply situations where the political climate doesn't allow it work.

I'm trying to get some insight as to why the western world doesn't see that?

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    Sep 4 2013: I don't think it does. In the U.S. the framers tried to avoid the tyranny of democracy with the republic.

    I think that if organized properly a country could survive longer that the apparent 200 year mark. But I don't see any reason that the U.S. will. The missing link seems to be in the area of quality control (as to purpose and function). Which in the U.S. started failing around the beginning of the last century. This is when the states started getting nullified, the 17th amendment, the Federal Reserve, income taxes, regulations, going off the gold standard, etc.

    With Rome, Argentina, USSR, UK, US the problem centered around money and exchange. They all got the notion that they could defy the laws of economics by printing money.

    This problem is a catch 22 as the politicians have to buy votes in order to get elected which requires spending at the same time it creates a culture of the individual being dependent on the government. So the culture of exchange gets perverted. Meanwhile the friends of the federal government benefit by the inflation which is a zero sum game very much at the expense of the middle class.
    • Sep 5 2013: i agree, but i have to point out that the gold standard doesn't work either. when the supply of money is limited like that, it encourages saving, so people keep their gold in their banks accounts and there is little moving around the economy. eventually the people with the biggest potential to save have all of the gold and if you need some to pay your workers with you have to outbid everyone else who also needs gold to buy stuff, and you end up with an even worse situation than we have now. as more and more gold is saved in bank vaults it becomes rarer and rarer and hence more and more valuable. it's happened a few times in history actually, notably in ancient rome. conversely with inflation there is incentive to spend your money, which means companies make sales, they pay their workers who then buy the products and services they need etc etc.

      what we need is a third option, or a fix to the current system or the gold standard system. recently i'm wondering if a law prohibiting the sale of debt might not be a good stat. half the reason all these moneylenders made out so well was they had no risk at all, they lent money then sold the debt so they won no matter how bad the loan went. it wouldn't prevent such irresponsibility if they themselves were the only ones set to lose out from it. you have any other ideas?
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        Sep 5 2013: What you say about the gold standard does not add up. You make the assertion that people keep the gold out of circulation. That is not true they lend the money out to earn interest. The higher the interest rate the more they want to loan. The lower the interest rate the more they want to borrow. This is a natural process that signals business when it is time to borrow and savers when it is time to consume. If the interest rate is low they say lets consume a nicer house or a fancier car etc. If the rate is high they say lets save.

        In fact that is exactly why we are looking at an apocalypse as the interest rates are kept artificially low encouraging people to consume and discouraging them from saving. The cronies aka TBTFs have sold their toxic assets to uncle Ben plus uncle Ben has also spoiled them by paying them interest on their excess reserves, encouraging them to not loan money out as they can keep it in their own bank at zero risk while getting interest on the money. Additionally uncle Ben has kept the interest rate low allowing them invest ahead of inflation, inflation is exploding in the high end markets as that is where the cronies spend there money. You do not see inflation in the main stream market as the excess reserves do not make it to the main stream market as they normally would via loans.

        This is where inflation hurts main stream America as the investors are allowed to invest ahead of inflation whilst the general public is paying higher prices for the goods he needs.

        .You give the rich too much credit regarding their ability to stay rich. The free market is damn hard and it is constantly playing king of the hill throwing the upper quintile off the hill frequently. The only exception to this is when they pay off the Bens et al to stay on top of the hill.

        Consider how much the standard of living of us mutts increased between the 1870's and 1912. The government didn't have regulations and we didn't have the FED.
        • Sep 5 2013: that seems to make sense, but how will people pay back more gold than they borrowed when there isn't any more gold in the world? if say banks have all the gold in the world and lend it out, how will the people who borrowed it pay back more than all the gold in the world? interest just doesn't work.

          under a constant money supply it will always be more valuable as time goes on, so it makes more sense to keep it for more value later. it's harder for the rich to stay rich under the current system, because if they hoard money it will slowly lose value. if we returned to the gold standard hoarding would make them richer, as gold becoming rarer and rarer as more and more of it is kept in vaults rather than circulating through the economy would make it more and more valuable.
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        Sep 5 2013: Consider that the standard of living really didn't change much previous to the mid 1800s after that we had electricity, automobiles, telephones, airplanes, steel, a 40 hour work week, cheap lighting fuel, gasoline, etc. etc. There were no regulations on this stuff because it was too much for the government to react to. There was no central bank to be bought off.

        Somewhat similar to today with computers, the internet, 3d printers, cnc, cell phones, tremendous increases in production. The government cannot figure out how to get it's pound of flesh from this paradigm.

        The only difference is that today we have the FED and they are responsible for the maladies that people are complaining about.

        All jobs are created by investment this is how small business becomes big business. But since the banks can make money by keeping it in their own bank at zero risk they are not lending to business' which is very risky. Unfortunately this is where the jobs are created and that is why we are not seeing any of them. If the uncle Ben had not bailed out the TBTFs that money would be available for investment and the interest rates would be high enough to encourage lending.

        This is a natural process that controls the money supply. It is only when failing business' fail that their assets can then be used to start new business'. Watch Detroit now that they have declared bankruptcy will they be able to start righting the ship after many decades of malfeasance.

        My main point is that before trying anything new we need to go back to the original function and purpose of government.

        This means GET RID OF THE FED. Repeal the 17th amendment. Rework the taxes (flat tax). Cut government in half.

        And most of all EDJUMICATE the citizens about inflation, the FED, and the function of government and how to live a real life.

        Incidentally inflation is NOT a natural outcome of the economy, that is a meme that you know who has sold to us mutts.
        • Sep 5 2013: i completely agree that there should be no central bank. perhaps a legal limit on the amount of money that can be created in any given year?
          investment is a relatively new concept and does not create jobs. not having a sufficient workforce to supply the current demand is what creates jobs. think about it - there a company Xincorporated that employs 100 people and sells everything it makes, with no outstanding orders at the end of each month. someone comes along and invests money in the company which is used to upgrade etc so more units can be produced each month. 2 things can result - either they don't sell any more than they did before before people can't consume any more, or because they are now cheaper, they get customers from a competitor, and the net consumption (and required workforce) doesn't change. the only time more will be needed is demand rises to a level they can't meet, which means they need more workers.
          i agree end the fed, cut government in half, but i'd add to that end corporate welfare, no more tax breaks or fat government contracts (which includes defense spending, as most of that is just money handed over to defense corporation who make huge profit from it).
          i also agree inflation isn't a natural outcome, but it helps keep money flowing rather than sitting in bank accounts where it can't contribute to any sales or salaries.
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        Sep 5 2013: "perhaps a legal limit on the amount of money that can be created in any given year?"

        That is irrelevant, when the value of money changes the price of the product or labor changes, the effect of the amount of money only has a short term effect.

        ".investment is a relatively new concept and does not create jobs. not having a sufficient workforce to supply the current demand is what creates jobs."

        That is not true. You are saying the constraint on more production is the worker. The constraint is price if the price is low enough the demand skyrockets. If what you say is true than how do you explain that 90% of the population were farmer 100yr ago today it is less than 5% with a much bigger population?

        "i also agree inflation isn't a natural outcome, but it helps keep money flowing rather than sitting in bank accounts where it can't contribute to any sales or salaries."

        In the earlier post I indicated how the standard of living increased from the 1870s until the 1912 yet the value of money remained the same you could buy the same goods with a dollar in 1912 that you could in 1870. There was no inflation in the time of the greatest increase in the standard of living.
        • Sep 6 2013: that's right the price of the product changes, so there's no effect there, but the important point is that the value of money decreases over time, which is desirable.

          no i'm saying the constraint on sales is the customer. you're right to bring up 100 years ago, because the world was very different then. we could barely produce enough and so growth depended on producing more. nowadays we produce so much that producing more doesn't equate to more sales; if you've got 100 customers buying 1 item each it doesn't matter if you make 200 or 2000 of them.

          where did you get those stats? the standard of living has been increasing for a very long time, under both periods of inflation and also of deflation. the value of $1 has never been stable, let alone for a period of 42 years. while $1 might buy the same things in 1870 as 1912, it was worth more or less at many different times between those 2 years.

          inflation in the US, never static:
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        Sep 6 2013: "the important point is that the value of money decreases over time, which is

        Why do you say that? It certainly is not desirable.

        "no i'm saying the constraint on sales is the customer."

        Like i said no it isn't it is the price.

        " you're right to bring up 100 years ago, because the world
        was very different then."

        Exactly 100 years ago there was no FED

        "where did you get those stats?"

        It is empirical, just look

        Regarding inflation just find an inflation calculator, the one i used showed a dollar in 1800 would be worth $1.89 in 1912

        This is not much of a debate. My only point is that we need to get rid of the FED. If you can pry yourself loose from your ideas I recommend the Mises institute to consider what I talking about.
        • Sep 6 2013: it is desirable as i explained before. if money holds value then it inherently becomes more valuable as people keep it and the amount in circulation declines, making it rarer. if people are saving as close to 100% of their income as they can (as they would if their money is worth more the longer they hold onto it) the economy basically freezes as nobody spends.

          it isn't the price. if your favourite $2 hamburger is suddenly only $1 that doesn't make you buy 10 of them instead of 5. in the past this was true because people wanted 10 hamburgers but could only afford 5. we are now in an age of abundance so that rule only exists in old textbooks.

          right 100 years ago there was no fed, but there was still inflation and deflation, and since the fed came in there has also been both inflation and deflation.

          i don't disagree with you about the fed, it should be ended.

          i did look at the stats, they show that the value of $1 has never been the same, look for yourself: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Historical_Inflation_Ancient.svg

          what i'm talking about is the gold standard not being a solution but being even worse than the system we had now, as i said from the start: "i agree, but i have to point out that the gold standard doesn't work either."
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        Sep 6 2013: "as i explained before. if money holds value then it inherently becomes more valuable as people keep it"

        That statement is non secular. you are ignoring the FED and it's ability to print an infinite amount of money.

        "it isn't the price. if your favourite $2 hamburger is suddenly only $1 that doesn't make you buy 10 of them instead of 5"

        Then the customer spend his money on something else. Look at the variety of products available now compared to 100 yr ago.

        "right 100 years ago there was no fed, but there was still inflation and deflation, and since the fed came in there has also been both inflation and deflation."

        "i did look at the stats, they show that the value of $1 has never been the same, look for yourself: "

        You look, take any inflation calculator and look at how the dollar's value remained stable before 1912 and then the value after 1912.

        Are you hearing any of this? Or am I just talking to myself as usual?
        • Sep 7 2013: u mean non sequitur i hope ;) ? you're right the fed can print an infinite amount of money and that's bad. it would also be bad if no more money was every printed, which is and has been my point from the start. i said "if money holds value" ie i'm talking about *if* we were to use the gold standard as u suggested, not about the current system.

          right again the customer spends his money on something else, so the company that put invested money into higher production has gained nothing, just as i explained.

          i hear you fine you're just not correct. there's a reason the inflation calculators look like the dollar was stable, even though it actually wasn't, which is why you need to look at graphs not calculators, and why you're getting a false impression by relying on data from calculators. it's complicated, so i'll just say that it's akin to the reason why if you measure a coin with a ruler in summer and again in winter, it'll appear not to have changed, when in actually it will have shrunk in size.
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    Sep 19 2013: Democracy is the most successful in creating the illussion that power belongs to the people, when it doesn't.
    It is easy to sell; it is a believable lie. In fact, it is the most believable lie.
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    Sep 19 2013: Some reasons we believe in democracy:
    1. It is the system in which our social selves develop. We correctly realise that it would be traumatic for us to adapt to a different political system, and incorrectly extrapolate this to think that all people should feel most comfortable with it.
    2. In the evolution of political systems, democracy is one of the most recent. Since western society has gone through feudal systems and dictatorship, we see democracy as more modern and therefore a better replacement.
    3. In the evolution of society and technology, democracy coincided with the technological revolution that brought material wealth to the masses. Although this is no necessary association, we perceive it as a causal relationship.
    4. Democracy appeals to our desire to consider ourselves as being in control of our own lives. Putting a cross on a ballot sheet once every 4 years appeases our unease with other people making decisions that determine our fate.
    5. Media coverage highlights bad things happening. Within our own lives this is balanced by positive personal experiences. We lack such information about other cultures so the total information at our disposal is skewed in favour of our own culture..
    6. Because this system it influences our daily lives, our attention goes to specific policies. This distracts us from critically considering the system itself. The details of other political systems have little impact on us, which allows us to critically view them at a higher level.
    7. We adopt the opinion of people we respect or are in a position of authority. Most of these people within our culture are in favour of democracy (often because their job is based on it).
    8. We realize that we are powerless to change the political system we live in, but believe that other systems can be changed. Since differences in political system often lead to problems the conclusion that it would be better if the whole world were to adopt democracy is justified, if unrealistic.
    • Sep 19 2013: So, in short, a collection of bias and logical fallacies have more to do with the "magical solution" attitude than actual logical argument.
      Actually a pretty good answer, if a disturbing one.

      Reminds you just how completely irrational people tend to get, concerning even the most important of issues. Most of them grow less rational even, because important issues tend to flare up their emotions and gut reactions even more than the mundane.
      Just one of those problems that's deeply and thoroughly imbedded into the heart of human nature.
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        Sep 21 2013: Exactly. Of course, none of this means that democracy is not a pretty reasonable system, only that the reasons why we support it may not be rationally justified.
  • Sep 18 2013: I see your point.
    Democracy isn’t necessarily the answer for everything.
    We sometimes think we need a charismatic dictator or system that can control the situation more efficiently.
    And for some countries, it’s true that the society gets stirred by abruptly established democratic system. They are just not used to it yet. Sometimes it creates chaos.

    However what we put our faith(so to speak)in it is not the system of democratic society itself, but the core spirit of it.
    Democracy: “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democracy?s=ts

    I think the reason why the Western world thinks democracy can cure all is based on its basic idea that respects human dignity and the power of individuals. For many countries, democracy has been earned. It’s not just western world that pursues democracy, people in the other parts of the world have seen it and also seek the same thing.

    But there still are some problems that democracy somehow doesn’t seem to solve it right, which in turn, gives us a room for being skeptical.
    It’s worth questioning the blind faith in some particular political system.

    Still, so far, it’s the fairest system where we can confidently seek justice.
    I believe, based on the concept of democracy, people should move on.
    Starting from democracy, we should ponder about the things that this ‘young, and somewhat clumsy system’ has hard time dealing with.
  • Sep 7 2013: Democracy has run its course. The checks and balances written into our Constitution have been ruined by partisan politics and the wholesale purchase of votes and "lobbying" by corporations and interest groups of business and slprofessional "societies." The Constitution must be amended to eliminate literal interpretation of "corporate" as anything but an entity. Revocation of Citizens United is just the beginning, though democracy will never be safe from fascism or plutocracy.
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    Oct 2 2013: Because that's the system people have in the West and they have to justify it somehow. Who would admit having an inferior political system?
  • Sep 27 2013: Nadav Tropp, You wrote.
    Why does the Western world think democracy is a magical, catch all solution?
    ..there are simply situations where the political climate doesn't allow it work.
    I'm trying to get some insight as to why the western world doesn't see that?
    Today, President Obama sells Democracy to the middle-east by Force of Arms,
    and Economic Sanctions. The United States President has not been successful.

    "Democracy” is an ideal only.. It is a propaganda "word", used to fool citizens,
    and Wars are planned to further Secret agenda's. 850,000 US Gov't Employees
    hold Top Secret clearances. That seems to be a lot of secrets.
    This week the AP disclosed US Officials are using Secret Email Accounts,
    Perhaps to avoid disclosures the Freedom of Information Act might require.
    The AP has recently been attacked by the US for other reports..

    While this has been exposed, the NSA and other Agencies continue to Spy
    on American’s telephones and computers. That month long vacation taken by the
    Congress was time “not” well spent. President Obama seems quiet on the
    In America, Democracy in Action is fun to watch. Like shearing sheep.
    2 political parties, 24/7/365 solicit and collect huge amounts of monies to pay
    advertising bills and thereby control the media's content and the polls they use.
    Voters use both the media and the polls to decide who to elect, from a slate of
    candidates provided by the 2 political parties. The 2 political party’s Leadership
    split the US Gov't., and do not care who wins.
    The US spends more budget on it's Military than all the other nation's combined.
    "Bully Politics" not "Democracy" makes the US political world revolve.

    As long as Americans will work hard and produce supporting products for WAR
    the United States Gov't will continue to milk the cow.

    "Preemptive Wars Upon Other Nation's Shores" is the Political Foreign Policy
    the United States has followed since at least WW2.
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    Sep 9 2013: We don't. Its just the best system we have come up with so far.
  • Sep 9 2013: Because it is the easiest to subvert.
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    Sep 7 2013: Mr. Nadav,
    Not a lot rational discussion of alternatives to Western democracy, but a lot about what's wrong with it.
  • Sep 6 2013: Part of it is a hold over from the Cold War. Two major powers emerged one labeling itself as democratic and the other as communist. The veracity of these labels is questionable, but they divided up the world into who allied with which power but part of this was labeling oneself democratic or communist and embracing aspects of this label. This period of history is largely over but these ideas still hold power.

    The other part is the notion of where does government draw legitimacy. For example, ancient kings claimed they had a divine right to rule and were raised above normal men. Democracy is in some ways a reaction to this. It says that we are all essential equal and the only valid place to draw legitimacy to rule is from the people who will be ruled. So every non-democratic country is an illegitimate use of power to oppress the people by basic definition. The only stable government is one that derives the right to rule from legitimate means and not by force.

    So while I see your point that democracies can self-destruct and fail, the chief way to institute a democracy is by instituting a democracy to teach the people, "hey, you are what makes a government legitimate". If you voted you added legitimacy to the government. If not, is a non-democratic government really legitimate?
  • Sep 6 2013: First, most Westerners have no idea what democracy actually is. All democratic forms of government, be it mobocracy, indirect mobocracy, or constitutionally limited democracy, are strong GIGO (garbage in garbage out) forms of government. They rely heavily upon the cultures of their individual countries. Thus, if a country has a cultural tradition of tolerance and civilized behavior, its democratic government will be tolerant and civilized. If it is a country of bigoted savages, it will produce a savage, violent government. The history of the Liberal Democracies of the west make it difficult for westerners to understand this. Western countries have very long traditions of traditional law superseding personal power, of a custom of fundamental equality, and of general social tolerance. Thus, when democratic institutions became the mechanisms of government, they had long precursors. The Parliament of the UK started as a council of a king and nobles who were essentially seen as equals to that king. It was a matter of a change of degree. Absolute monarchy was actually an innovation in Europe, introduced in the 1600s. Before then, the most "absolute" of kings had to admit noble families to power or risk losing his throne. Thus, one could say that the road had already been partially cleared.

    Countries in other parts of the world do not have this tradition. Instead, their traditional governments have been completely top-down. There was no tradition of great local magnates who could tell the monarch to go whistle. Instead, the local powers only served as flunkies of the monarch. So, when a democratic government appears, it merely takes on the same form. To make matters even worse, European powers actually made the anti-democratic social trends even stronger through their colonial policies of divide-and-conquer, appointment of native officials with dictatorial power, etc.
  • Sep 5 2013: There are no magic bullets, democracy or otherwise. All forms of organizations and governments are dependent on hard work to maintain them. Some forms of government are easier to maintain, they have tools built into them like "checks and balances" for example. Some forms are more resielent to difficulties. Some forms are more changeable to keep pace with the chaning populance's views, morals, and lifestyles. I can go on an on with decriptors of degrees of difference between governments but the bottom line it without and active effort by the leaders and especially the goverened to maintain and protect the system it will collapse under the weight and strain of corruption and social strife.

    One of America's great watch dogs of government, the press, used to do a very solid job keeping the people informed in a relativly unbiased way about the in's and out's of government actions. Now it seems we only get a polarized view depending on the news source and real facts are hard to come by. This dumbing down of the information available to the Americal public will make a hard job of maintaining the government even more difficult. You soon can get to a state of general apathy with taking actions that need to be done and the work to maintain and protect the system goes undone.
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    Sep 3 2013: i agree pretty much. here are some arguments.

    1. the rise of the west is not caused by democracy, and the wealth and wellbeing is hardly connected to it. the west is on the rise for a good 400-600 years, and democracies in their true form are ... 70? 50? one can see the seeds of democracy earlier, as early as 1000, noble men challenged the absolute power of the monarch, and the circle of decision makers constantly grew to finally incorporate the majority. however, another way of seeing it is increasing freedom and decreasing coercion. and a strong case can be made for freedom being the actual reason of growth.

    2. i can't find and i forget the name of the gentleman who studied ancient greece, and came up with the rule: a democracy can last to the point where people figure out that they can vote themselves special privileges, at which point the game turns into a race of who can loot the central budget faster. you can see where this method leads in modern greece. but they are not that much ahead of the curve, many if not all countries follow that path.

    3. one can not change a society by creating systems. every society is formed based on the mindset (knowledge, culture, religion, habits) of the people. by imposing a system, you change none of that. the only thing you can achieve with imposing a system is you can skip ahead if a society is ready for the new system, but can't implement it on its own. but imposing the system does not seem very smart in that case, does it? i mean, why not help instead?

    4. not directly related, but it is so actual unfortunately. you can not bomb a country into democracy. why do we even need to say this?
    • Sep 4 2013: You know, #4 should be really obvious, and yet, for some people, it really isn't.

      I suppose that's what happens when people start supporting the invasion of a country they can't even place on a map. Herd mentality in its true, disastrous glory.

      If one sheep can trip and fall off a cliff, and the entire herd jumps after it, humanity will always be able to scoff and say "we can top that".
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        Sep 5 2013: RE: " That's simply how most of the Arab world works today.". I think you should re-title your post to something like: "Democracy Is Not Viable For Syria!". Then we can focus on your concerns for Syria rather than on the faults v. merits of Democracy.
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    Sep 3 2013: I assume you include the USA in "the Western world". The USA is not a Democracy. The USA is a Representative Republic. The distinction is important because the USA is a Republic composed of 50 individually governed States forming one nation under God. It has worked well for the USA and that may explain why it is thought, by many, to be a good idea for other nations who have been suffering under a corrupt Dictator, an oppressive Oligarchy, or an inbred Monarch. It is not "magical", it is hard work and demands constant vigilance to defend liberty. Do you propose some form of government where the people who are being governed are wholly without representation? That sounds like a magic, catch-all solution to me.
    • Sep 4 2013: My problem isn't with any of what I'll call the "established" democracies.
      Places like the US or most of Europe, where democracy is well established and working well.

      My problem is the west trying to forcefully ram democracy down the throat of places like Iraq, or automatically condemning the Egyptian military because they removed a democratically elected, but not democratically run government.

      Once you have all the requisites in place--a democratic tradition, a cultural aversion to knock down the government with force of arms, and proper separation of church and state, a democracy works wonderfully. I live in a such a country myself (though we could do with better separation of church and state, but that's an issue for another day), and I'm in no way suggesting we remove the system. Its not perfect, its just not as bad as all the others.

      In some country without the requisites however, democracy just doesn't work.
      Look at the recent Arab Spring for example. Not a single, proper democracy has yet to emerge out of the whole mess, despite all the economic damage and blood spilled.

      A failed transition is worse than no transition at all--loss of life and stability for nothing. The western world needs to recognize this, and avoid making such transitions in foreign countries by force of arms.
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        Sep 4 2013: Perhaps forcing an end to the atrocity of using Sarin Gas on his own subjects is not about establishing a democracy as it is about saving innocent people from a long, painful and grotesque death. Lately the USA seems to be interested in stopping the homocidal maniac at the top. Once that's done we don't just pull-out and let the next demon step-up. I think your question is timely and important. Once the goon is gone what should be done... appoint a queen, a president, a high-priest, a prime minister, etc.? I cannot imagine a government better than one devoted, not to itself, but to the people. Of course such a representative government becomes more distorted and malignant as the people become more ignorant and apathetic as we in America are now experiencing. Nonetheless, a representative form of government cannot be discarded from the list of new horizons for a newly freed nation.
        • Sep 4 2013: Syria is actually a good example of what I'm trying to explain.
          I have no issues with bombing Assad's regime into dust, but trying to forcefully install a democracy in Syria would simply not work for an number of reasons:

          1. The concept of separation of church and state in the area is simply non-existent.

          2. no democratic tradition, but instead a newly established culture of removing a regime you don't like by force.

          3. there are more independent militias than you can shake a stick at, from secular moderates to jihadist fanatics. Democracy is an inherently weak regime; further weakness by way of removing the government's monopoly on violence... doesn't help.

          4. Syria itself is something of a colonial lie. There is no Syrian people, there are a lot of different minority groups lumped together under one government. No matter how the war will end, Syria won't be a single country by the time the fat lady sings.

          Combine all of these, and you quickly reach the conclusion that one of two scenarios is possible.
          The first, Assad stays, and years of civil war eventually deteriorate into a failed state situation, with each militia in control of its own little region, which may or may not still be considered part of Syria.
          The second, is Assad goes, at which point the militias will turn on each other fighting for dominance (sort of like in Afghanistan when the Soviets pulled out). Syria fragments.

          The only thing that could change that is intervention on a massive scale--occupation of the entire country. And once the foreign forces leave, the country may, or may not remain democratic (ending the war doesn't end the factors that led to it breaking out in the first place), and all the effort would have been for naught.

          Democracy will be some unpopular concept forced on by foreign occupiers. There will be violent resistance.
          These sorts of processes need be internal, or they'll lead to nothing. And even then that may not be enough.
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        Sep 4 2013: RE: "Syria is actually a good..." Your points have weight but I cannot join you in assuming the better choice for government is one where the people being governed have no voice.
        • Sep 4 2013: I'm not claiming that non-democratic system is fundamentally better.
          I'm claiming that at this specific point in time, democracy would simply not function properly as a system of rule in certain places.

          If you look at the democracy currently in place in Iraq following a long and bloody US occupation, you'll notice that its not particularly friendly towards the West (there's a reason the CIA used to set up dictatorships in the cold war, easier to control), has no proper separation of church and state, is less stable than Sadam's regime used to be, and is busy repressing minorities.
          I'd even go as far as saying that as far as a post war democracy can function in that particular country, you can't hope for much better. It might just work out in the long term, but who knows?

          Take the Arab Spring for a less optimal situation.
          Not a single proper democracy has yet sprouted from the whole mess, and not for lack of trying. Throw in the economic damage and lives lost in the process, and I honestly can't think of a single nation that bettered its lot by trying and failing to set up a democratic regime.
          Libya may turn out to be an exception in the long run, but looking at for example, Egypt or Tunisia, where democracy has actually worsened their lot...

          And this is without throwing in foreign invasion, which most of the world would see as a type of neo-colonialism, and respond violently (its surprisingly easy to mistake "chosen of the people" for "colonial puppets").
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        Sep 5 2013: RE: "I'm not claiming..." . Again, your points are salient but the fundamental assumption that Arab people are incapable of governing themselves and need to be controlled by totalitarian force is not acceptable.
        • Sep 5 2013: That's simply how most of the Arab world works today. I'm not saying there aren't exceptions, I don't pretend to know it well enough to cover my bases. Lack of a cultural perception for the need to separate church and state is a major obstacle though.
          The truth of the matter is, there were a lot of pro-democratic revolutions in the Arab world recently, and non of them have yet worked.

          I'm hoping Libya may be headed for a proper democracy, though I don't know them well enough to hazard a guess. I understand they've had a free election and new government lately, so that may yet turn out well.

          Egypt might also work now if the Muslim Brotherhood will be limited in the elections in some manner. You just can't have a movement whose stated objective it is to cancel democracy get elected.
          When they first got rid of Mubarak though, it was obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power and try to cancel democracy. When you need a military coup of an elected government, and running a not-exactly-free election process to make democracy work, you know you've got a problem.

          I can with 100% certainty say that democracy won't work in Syria though, for the simple reason that Syria has no reason to exist as a single state. Its a collection of minorities governed by a single entity due to a colonial mistake--a civil war waiting to happen. And now that it did, Syria will naturally fragment.
          Some of these fragments may turn democratic, and have it actually work. Its far too early to tell.
        • Sep 5 2013: Hmm, it just occurred to me that Lebanon is both Arab, democratically run, and doing reasonably well with it as a system of government.

          Granted, Lebanon has got a lot of problems, but they don't stem from it being a democracy. In fact, the current system may well have saved them a civil war or two.
          It also averted the Arab spring on simple virtue of "just wait for the next election".

          I'd say that this is a case where democracy works well in the Arab world. Exception to every rule, and all that.
  • Oct 2 2013: Because they are under the illusion that democracy means responsible government. Unfortunately when all parties you have to choose from are taking graft to fund the advertising campaign that puts them in power you have no vote that can save you from corrupt, inept and irresponsible people getting into power. And then they have the gull to say "if you don't vote, you're part of the problem." How about "if I don't rally the citizens and incite a revolution, I'm part of the problem?" I feel like the tipping point is fast approaching in United States.
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    Oct 1 2013: Living in the United States I am sorry to say that I have found many of those most vocal on the subject seem to be least informed on it. Don't get me wrong there are many intelligent people willing to share ideas and give back, but unfortunately people with the most extreme opinions are the ones who make the news and feature on talk shows.
    That being said, I've met many people who have no interest in following along with what is happening outside their country, let alone their community, unless if it affects their price of goods. I think the issue is that we aren't being encouraged to educate ourselves in such a manner or take an interest in such things. Gossip magazines far outsell Time magazine and newspapers. If I may quote Richard Dawkins, "It has become almost a cliche to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics."
    My point is I believe many in western world appear to follow such an idea because it is what they primarily know and do not dwell on finding an alternative solution, from the lack of education or interest in the matter.
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    Oct 1 2013: I think it is an arrogance that is inherent in the psyche of the Western political ruling-class that makes them think they have the right to inflict their version of political organisation onto others, whether they like it or not and whether it fits the cultural needs of the people they are trying to inflict democracy onto or not.

    I think that some of the Western Political Elite's notions as to why they think they have this right, come from the historic past - the Empire building... However in my considered opinion Democracy is NOT a catch all magic pill, where one-size fits all and I do not know who in their right mind would suggest this?

    Democracy at its' best works when it is part of the culture, the general population is fully engaged in the political process and honestly represented by their elected members. As someone who is proud to be British it is also my view the so-called western democracies are increasingly not very democratic. I personally object to the adversarial nature of democracy in the UK - the two main parties get hung up on their ideology and forget about the national "greater good" - things such as economic stability, social and economic mobility, the health and well-being of it's citizens, upholding and protecting the Human Rights of its' citizens.
    In the end I conclude that because people are not perfect the socio-economic and political systems by which we allow ourselves to be governed are not perfect either - as human-beings we are flawed so our systems of governance are flawed and I look forward to a day when the measure of a man or woman's' success is not determined by what the individual owns or how much money they have in the bank, as is the case in Western Democracies, but rather by the amount of good that individual has achieved in their community and in the wider world.
  • Sep 30 2013: "What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea"- Mahatma Gandhi

    Gandhi also said ""The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated"
    Judging by this standard we rank really, really low and like he said "uncivilized".
    America is certainly not an example of how a great nation will succeed in the long run. For that as odd as it may sound coming from a proud American we may have to look at China. We are at a very young age and we act like the spoiled rotten bullies on the block. Just like bullies we force our way on smaller nations, stealing there resources and polluting there country and when we have all we can get we move on leaving them in shambles. Larger countries that can defend them selves we make trade agreements and then send in our lawyers. If they flex there muscle we back off and try an end run. Sooner or later we all have to grow up.
  • Sep 30 2013: I believe that the leaders of the western world realized that they could control and manipulate people using democracy. People in democratic countries are under the impression that they (the voting public) are in control.
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    Sep 30 2013: I'm not sure if there is a coherent singular position on democracy from the so called "western world"

    I'd suggest most people in the west prefer representative democracy over about monarchs, dictators, one party states.

    Who is suggesting it s a catch all solution?

    Many would suggest that there are several foundation's that help representative democracy work reasonably well.

    separation of church and state. minority rights, equal treatment under the law. Human rights infringed in law. Transparency. Low corruption. And perhaps a society that values all these things.

    I suggest part of the problem Egypt is Islam that wants to push it's religious values.

    also it has taken centuries, renaissance, enlightenment, civil rights etc in the west. also only a few decades ago that civil rights we re enforced in the us. aborigines voting in
  • Sep 29 2013: Democracy is ill. Latest parliament elections in Latvia attracted slightly more than 50% of electors. And then 1/3 of population is 65+, overrepresented then in elections, and steering policies of state towards socialism that state can not afford. Democracy is nic thing at its ideal form, that can not be achieved. Democracy (representation of people in policy setting) has to be re-invented, before it is cartoon democracy, where politicians pretend they do what people want, but people pretend they know what they want...
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    Sep 28 2013: The idea that people can be "too empowered" is a very peculiar notion indeed. Of course, in an era when so many children still live at home well into their 30's and 40's, perhaps it is all the personal responsibility that comes with empowerment that causes the concern. No doubt about it, a Direct and Participatory Democracy requires the active involvement of those being governed and, as such, can be time consuming and even frustrating. But usually the experiences we value the most often are. Of course, practice invariably equals improvement in any endeavour, while personal empowerment flourishes with the taking back of responsibility. .

    Surely no one would deny the personal satisfaction and empowerment that occurs when we become better informed enough on a subject to then discuss its pros and cons in depth? N Tropp's Iraq invasion reference is a good example. A system of public discourse could very well have quickly exposed the many misrepresentations, hidden interests and undeclared prejudices used to justify the attack. In fact, the idea that one person, or insular group, regardless of their title or political position, can send a nation to war may actually be the best argument of all for the Direct system of Democracy.

    Conversely, in this information and mass communication era there has been an explosion of involvement and commentary on all sorts of issues that is only going to grow exponentially as more and more people insist upon being able to speak directly to their nation's decision making processes.
    • Sep 28 2013: What you're suggesting is simply not realistic.
      The vast majority of business required to run a country on even a day to day basis involves some very complicated issues, from all walks of life. Everything from finance, to science, to security to political and economic issues so convulsed and complex that even the experts occasionally come up stumped.

      Taking my example of the invasion of Iraq, have you considered what one would have to know in order to make an informed decision? Not even the right decision, just an informed one. Here's a short list:
      --Iraqi culture and internal politics, as well as those of its neighbors.
      --Military history, in particular placing an emphasis on Iraq and its neighbors, and western invasions of middle eastern countries (several dozen campaigns across almost as many wars overall).
      --The ramifications on international relations.
      --The finance of the entire war and its prolonged economic effects both at home and on the international front.

      And the list goes on. Each one of those items is something on the order of an entire semester's worth of studying if properly explored. And its about as bad when it comes to other major government decisions. The public isn't going to know all this; it could hardly be bothered to find Iraq on a map after all.
      This is why you want to delegated decision making to a small group, preferably experts (or politicians advised by experts, as is the norm today). The public is only capable of very superficial decisions due to how horribly under informed it is (by choice I might add; most of this stuff is publicly available, if grand in scope).

      Public opinion is a horrible tool for decision making.
      Its useful for electing governments because anything else would devolve into a self serving dictatorship, but that doesn't make it a good system by any means.

      Throw in an after thought, direct democracy is also very limited when it comes to rapid response and decisive decision making in face of emergency.
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        Sep 30 2013: Who knows, If you tried it you might come to like it as much as the citizens of those nations already practicing their own variations of Direct Democracy :)

        Citizens who still support the democratic principles but have had enough of the corporate kleptocracies that dominate the representative systems in North America.
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    Sep 27 2013: Thanks for responding. Just to reiterate, my comments are focused on the representative version of democracy favoured around the world and that this version s an extremely poor and inadequate variation on the democratic process as any informed student of the subject can attest to. Yet the rhetoric supporting the representative version is endless in its breast-beating declarations of superiority and that rhetoric easily fulfills the definition of brainwashing and propaganda.

    Real, grassroots democracy means those governed decide not their officials. The very origin of the term democracy means "rule of the people", not their officials. There are nations where the process is far more democratic than found in North America and tons of information age data supporting that premise. Yet there is no nation that has fully instituted the bottom up democracy that the name represents.

    But more and more people are calling for real democracy every day. I recommend checking out Direct Democracy and Participatory Democracy links to see where democracy and the representative system diverge and how Direct Democracy empowers while the representative form disempowers. .
    • Sep 27 2013: Direct democracy is a horrible idea for a number of reasons more practical than ideological.

      For a start, the system gets more and more cumbersome with size. Unless you want your population going to work by day and voting by night, you need to start delegating decisions, and a lot of them. The vast majority of them, in fact.

      Worse however, is that the public is always under informed and over opinionated. Take for example the US' invasion of Iraq; at the time of the initial incursion, 80% of Americans couldn't even find it on a map. Yet quite a few of them supported an invasion of a country they hardly knew existed. Not the most informed of decisions, to say the least, and most of the more complex issues that face a modern nation are just as complicated and the public just as ignorant.

      Finally, there's the matter of decisions that need to be made in secret. National security, quarantine of contagious disease, going to war, that sort of thing. Even going through a parliamentary body is a significant hindrance to those types of decisions that need to be made quickly and quietly. Getting the whole populace involved is nothing short of idiotic.

      Direct democracy empowers the general public, I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing, is that an over empowered public isn't necessarily a good idea.
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    Sep 27 2013: Democracy rule is the finest tool to keep people thinking that they are free and they have choice to choose out of limited representative while whatever the majority decide the less majority people suffer out of it. Actually Democracy provide a cycle that is fueled with the dreams which partially can be fulfilled with the help of rich people so that their business continue to flourish but it also gives opportunity for new entrant to develop himself, but at last people suffer. e.g. when automobile were introduce very few people were able to buy it, thus the roads which were wide open, the traveling was fast, luxurious, and were status oriented. But More and more people could afford it to buy because of democracy what happened too many vehicle were on the road and traffic jam, lot of chaos started to happen. just imagine in India the population of 125 crore started purchasing automobile and put them on road what will happen the basic use of Vehicle reaching fast is not served but the business of Automobile selling Flourishes. It is all about a system which gives the high authority and rich people more opportunity to keep their Money and Power Rolling.
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    Sep 27 2013: I think its because western mind is incapable of admitting that appropriateness is not necessarily a virtue in numbers but in excellence. A democratic decision is a decision acceptable to most, there is no guarantee it is the best/most correct decision.
  • Sep 27 2013: The Western world conducted a focus group and found 11 of 14 Westerns polled thought Democracy has been beneficial in sustaining the illusion of free will. They felt if they were given the opportunity to experience more overt political dogma they would lose their sense of independence. In addition, they prefer to buy their own guns as opposed to having them government issued.

    [again. A comment for your consideration and amusement]
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    Sep 24 2013: Because they don't practice pure democracy. Which is why Americans as example spend so much time arguing over our constitution.
  • Sep 23 2013: How about looking at it from a different perspective? Democracy seems to be the only system that is resistant to revolution. Recently in a conversation I have heard the argument that if it goes on like that any longer, people will go to the streets and overthrow current government/system (I live in a democratic country). But if it would happen what exactly would they replace democracy with? What could they possibly change if (at least theoretically) the power already belongs to them? Democracy is given to us as an excuse - politics cannot manage the country, but they are not responsible for this problem - the people who voted on them are.