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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:

          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.”

    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.
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    Gord G

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    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.
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    Sep 23 2013: Hello Nadav,

    Some reading you may find very interesting: Will democracy make you happy? Key take away quote:
    ---- BEGIN QUOTE ----
    "To assume that democracy automatically makes people happy is to assume that the tail is wagging the dog," says Inglehart. In other words, the well-intentioned nation builders and democracy exporters have it backward. It's not that democracies make people happy but, rather, that happy people make democracies.
    ---- END QUOTE ----

    Here is one very interesting scientific study published in 2004:,d.aWc&cad=rja.

    The study shows that there is a positive correlation between democracy and happiness. That is just one study, but it is interesting to read.

    Correlation does not show cause and effect.
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    Sep 21 2013: I always thought democracy was the aristocracies way of including new blood and duping the masses while at the same time the most prominent old money pulls the strings, for most of my life i've come across people quoting a saying every now and then "The round table".

    I'm wondering when there might be a woman dictator, it might work. The more i think about it the more i like it, of course in this day and age prominent women have to face a new wall. The ugliness of humanity online.
    • Sep 21 2013: Some democracies play out that way, but not all of them, thankfully.
      The problems start when candidates need to start funding their own campaigns, which means that they can now be freely bought. Still better than having the rich rule directly by a fair margin though, as even a bad democratically ran oligarchy gives the politicians more wiggle room. Crowd funding can also help alleviate the problem somewhat.

      As or women dictators, there have been a few throughout history (especially if you're willing to expand your idea of the modern dictator into the similar ancient emperors and kings). Few and far apart, and none that I can think of in recent years, but they were there. Hard to say if they were any better or worse than their male counterparts though--the small sample size to compare doesn't help.
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        Sep 22 2013: I liked my last prime minister, she was great but not perfect, no one can rep the whole population. The little Caesar we have in place now had to face a scared country and set about doing something that no one likes to do, bring down labour costs but unfortunately this is what happens when debt becomes an issue.

        What we truly face and many will not have the capability to understand it is the rise of the use of the management engines that will be developed to do what they will be created for, managing for a few. It will appeal to the small govt group and the younger set, primarily the younger male group excising their problem solving self. A very lineal aspect of ourselves. I know, it comes across as utter conspiracist crap and totally unbelievable and i have no evidence or hard proof so it is totally speculative but one thing i've learned in life is that the most outrageous is closer to the truth than we think.

        Personally i think we are completely tribal and predicated towards building towards aristocracies and then emporers.


        Ever since Gobekli Tepe we have been on this path.
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    Sep 21 2013: A very wise colleague once said the best form of governance was a "benign dictator" - the crucial point is the benign bit - a leader who does no harm. Unfortunately, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Dictators may start off with popular support, but they acquire a taste for the good life and end up feeling entitled. Look at Robert Mugabe.

    Democracy has many, many problems and I don't know anyone who lives in one that doesn't moan about it. But, until humanity can become benign - it's perhaps the best option we have.

    In the USA the parties are polarised - so you will always be upsetting a significant proportion of the population whoever wins. In the UK the parties fight for votes in the middle ground, so it's difficult to know who to vote for - a plague on all their houses, so to speak. Cynical I know - but really quite true.

    Interestingly, Belgium had no clear winner at their 2010 election and the county went on running perfectly well for 589 days without an elected government in place!
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    Sep 19 2013: Let me be clear about the so-called "representative" system of democracy practiced in North America. In fact, the majority of people in both Canada and the U.S. of A. have been successfully indoctrinated by their corporate and political masters into thinking that they are still democratic nations..

    Political parties are, themselves, special interest groups and, as such, come to us with all kinds of agendas -often hidden, prejudice and beliefs- also often hidden, until they are able to gain office and then the electorate is stuck with them for years before they can be pried loose. Meanwhile the damage they cause, the resources they squander, the wars they embrace, the debt they pile on us and the initiatives that are lost can take decades to recover, if they can be recovered at all.

    Meanwhile nations like Norway and Iceland have strong referendum based systems of grassroots, bottom up decision that both informs and directs the actions of their elected officials, not the other way around such as we see in North America. Both nations have healthy, debt free economies, easy access to things like education, health care and public transportation along with far more freedoms of choice, voice and activity than any North American has ever had.

    But their version of democracy is not the norm around the world, especially in those nations where corporations, criminals and other dictatorial interests dominate their political and representative systems of governance.
  • Sep 19 2013: Ignorance
  • Sep 18 2013: I believe that the west (Christianity) basically believes in free will as the base for both religion and government, moreso than most other cultures that are still mired in theocratic control or have recently broken from it. We prefer to lead ( or fool ourselves into believing that we lead) rather than to be led. This has made it easier for democracy to catch on in the west than elsewhere.
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    Sep 18 2013: What I consider as West's cardinal sin is the blind belief that democracy alone suffices to ensure order and prosperity.

    But external democracy does not suffice; it must be eked out by consummate civility in social relations if it is to lead to the extinction of the ugly propensities.Kings are by instinct perfectly corteous, for they feel that this is the only way to make their privileged position endurable to others. But the same should apply to all men. Equal courtesy actually creates the one intelligent equality between people of otherwise different social positions who, nevertheless, want to feel as good as others.

    Now, external democracy and courtesy surely can't turn the Earth into a paradise, the struggle for existence can not be abolished, therefore there is one more crucial element: the treatment of this struggle as a matter of sport. The consequence is that defeat does not lower a man, but is to be valued as positively as victory provided that a good fight has been put up.

    Without these two elements, i.e. courtesy and the conception of the struggle for existence as a matter of sport, democracy means nothing.
  • Sep 18 2013: At the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, for some countries, the most of male citizens were allowed to vote. Before of that just 2/3 % had the legal right to vote and, when the process leading democracy to the liberal istitution was completed, everybody thought that times were about to change. Many historians are inclined to believe that this represented the basis of totalitarianism because THE MAN could conquer the power fom the bottom (the enormous number of new electors). In spite of that I firmly believe "men make the difference". In the past peoples were used to deal with dictators and privileges and total lackness of rights, but then somethng changed. Some faught to gain what every person deserve, therefore, they struggled and succeded. What politicians and blind populations do with the hard efforts of those men and women is not the logical consequence, so democracy
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    Sep 18 2013: There is no democracy for fools .

    Just imagine a village surrounded by a large river.The only access to go in and out is a concrete bridge that was built decades ago by the central government.One day, one of the residents who are fishing at the river find sth odd look with the bridge. Foundation cracks appear.Because he’s one of a few villagers who have knowledge abt construction,he would propose to the head-of-village so that the bridge will be renovated as soon as possible.

    The problem is,they need lots of money to fix the bridge. All people gathered in the village hall.The head of village asking their opinion.Democracy.It’s whether thy’ll repair the bridge using their money or just waiting the central government to fix it which will take times.That’s a fatal way to make decision,isn’t it? Although the whole world says it's the best way: democracy.

    Because most of the people do not understand anything abt civil construction, they do not understand about standard of safety,they argue emotionally,not logically.And more than that, not many people are willing to give their money for bridge repairs.They are the stakeholders on the implications of their decisions,they think it’s better to spend money for other purposes.At the end of the democratic process, the chief-of-village decided to take the decisions by the majority vote.As predicted,the vote to pending the repair gain victory.The repair is delayed.

    3 weeks passed,on a sunny morning, when the bridge is crowded with the people crossing it, as the children go to school at another village,the bridge suddenly collapsed.15 children died during the incident. 5 others died while being transported to a nearby hospital.It’s really a high price to be paid for the majority vote, Isn’t it?

    Is democracy the best system given by God? Written in the scriptures?Obviously not. Democracy is a human creation. In historical records, the authoritative system can also bring a better welfare. eg. Ancient Egypt, Roman Empire.
    • Sep 18 2013: Comparing the history of democracy with the history of autocracy will lead you nowhere. Democracy, in its modern incarnation has only been around for a very short time period, while autocracies are as old as the dawn of recorded history.
      Yet there are still disastrous examples of both. For every Roman Empire you have a North Korea, and several dozen nations so lacking in notability no one but history professors remember their name.

      Still, I wouldn't say democracy is fundamentally worse than other forms of government. The single biggest advantage is probably that If you manage to set one up properly, you may yet see rebellions, civil wars and general civil unrest pass you by.
      No point in turning to armed resistance when its easier to wait for the next election, which does wonders for a country's stability.
  • Sep 14 2013: Democracy, in its ideal form is capable of satisfying the needs of the people to a high degree but not all and not everything just the essentials. This is not what we have now but it is, I believe, netter than most alternatives such as dictatorialism, a monarchy, communism etc. These other forms appear to stagnate after a while often ending up in new revolutions which simply maintain this cycle.
  • Sep 14 2013: Democracy as we prefer to know it and the reason for its popularity is because it goes against our natural instinct to control each other harshly. Power concentrated in the "one" is leadership or guidance that we as peoples seek but abhor at the same time. Democracy is unruly and unpredictable but so innately aligned with our humanity. Birth, death all the elements that comprise our natural state even in one party systems is all democratic. So we can establish that we peoples see, unpredictable events ie revolution, and leadership as an extension of our natural state. Democracy provides those intellectual elements that resemble our human nature. That's why we crave it and want more of it. It's who we are, but that doesn't mean it was the only way we have lived since our existence. Dictators or leadership from one has been typical of concentrated power and our nature to control each other harshly. As parents we scold our children with "you better. . ." We don't have democratic talks with a child that doesn't want to cooperate.

    The Greeks upon creating the democratic forum for government looked to it as en extension of their health. An intellectual pursuit. As the Olympics were for the body, democracy is for the mind a mental pursuit.
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    R H

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    Sep 12 2013: We like democracy because we can be as ignorant as most people, and be rich enough not to have to be democratic anymore.
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    Sep 12 2013: The United States is more of a Republic nation rather than democracy. In a lot of overwhelming religious countries people do not realize that their needs and wants could be met if only they had the power to do so. Setting up a "democracy" implants the idea that people deserve certain basic human rights that should be protected by law. Imperialism is not and should not be the end result but, an understanding that there are others fighting for your cause(s)
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    Sep 12 2013: Navad, I agree with your explanation but would have titled the discussion differently. When I read your title I was offended and came to your conversation with a chip on my shoulder. When I read the explanation I was disarmed.

    You are quite correct that democracy must be sought after, embraced, and accepted to be effective. Being forced is never the correct means to implement anything.

    Examples are really failures of political figures and a total lack of diplomacy. As a example the US courts countries for all of the wrong reasons. Helping the country is at the bottom of the list. Geographically strategic, mineral or oil rich, in demand for corporate cronies, etc ....

    All forms of government have both good and bad points. I have the right to complain about my government in the USA and I enjoy that. In other countries that would not be condoned.

    In short I agree with you that forcing change just because you can is stupid and ineffective.
    • Sep 12 2013: If the provocative title got you into the conversation to begin with, its done its job I'd say. First impressions are more than an impression, they're also a foot in the door. Sometimes you just need to be rude to get things done.

      Still, glad to see you agree with overall point of the conversation..
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    Sep 12 2013: The main reason Westernized nations are so gung ho about democracy is that they have been regaled by their governments from the day one is born about the virtues of democracy. In other words, whole populations have been indoctrinated with the message that their system of governance is, in fact, democracy in action and that, despite its obvious failings, it is still the best form of governance so far devised.

    Ironically, when similar messages regarding other forms of governance are disseminated by nations deemed un-democratic by the Western establishment those messages are, quite accurately, deemed to be propaganda and brainwashing. Then to put an even finer point on it the Westernized populations may well be regaled by local politicians that, while propaganda and brainwashing occurs "over there", it could never happen here because we are so "free" of such influences.

    I suspect that more than a few readers are chuckling to themselves by now :) simply because the idea that the "representative" system of democracy that is practiced in the vast majority of westernized nations is "real' democracy is quite laughable. Any student of the democratic system of governance can tell you that the "representative" system is but one variation of democracy and a very poor one at that. All but the most obtuse amongst us can see that the majority of elected "representatives" in the Westernized nations PRIMARILY represent whoever finances the politicians campaigns and/or whoever has seduced, manipulated, bribed or otherwise corrupted that politician

    Real Democracy is bottom up not top down. It is participatory and direct. It deems politicians to be a waste of time and money preferring managers and directors to head their agencies and who can easily be fired and replaced. Real democracy means those governed make the decisions not their employees. Conversely, when any form of governance is imposed upon a population it is, by nature, at serious risk of failing.
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      Sep 27 2013: While I find many of your arguments interesting and even compelling, you don't live here, do you? :) My family, like many families in the U.S., taught me to believe "from the day one is born" as you say, that my government is, at its core, trying to do the right thing by its people. HOWEVER, it needs to be closely watched and reminded by its citizens when something goes awry. There are virtues of democracy, but not every American is so naive to believe that our way is the only way for every person at every time in every situation.

      It's a little dangerous to group 300 million diverse Americans into one assumption about our beliefs about government. It would be no different than Americans making assumptions that every city in the Middle East is too dangerous to visit or every country that is Socialist must be Communist. These stereotypes most definitely do exist and are often perpetuated by our media. The thing is, we DO live in a democracy. So I can go to sites like TED or others to get the real picture from people who live day to day in these locations, learn something new, and use that knowledge to hold my government and media accountable.

      We're living in the information age now. There are no more excuses about information being withheld from us. The "victim of our government" mentality is no longer an obstacle. A number of writers here have indicated that this is why massive government protests here and in a few other countries haven't taken off. The newest generation of Americans entering adulthood has discovered it simply doesn't need permission to access the information it needs to do what it wants. It will be interesting to see if that turns out to be true.
  • Sep 11 2013: Didn't really understand the full meaning of your question... however i think i can provide my insights to answer it. Democracy is a process where the people have felt what it is like to live in an oppresive society and strived to ensure that freedom and rights of every person is protected, in contrast to having it oppressed.However we must remember there is a large element wherein cultural context can shape this thinking. What we may consider as a "modern" western democracy may not be what some societies envision.

    You are correct is saying this is something that should NOT be rammed into peoples throats. The change has to be from within its society. But change can only happen if there is pressure to change either from within or from outside. Without pressure, people from within are reluctant to voice out that they want change. And they are reluctant because of the oppressive nature of their society. When a sudden momentum comes, it is often a disaster.

    Do not blame the west for pushing its type of democracy to other countries. If there was no pressure from outside , there wouldn't be any change or transition at all in the country-in-question and expect the people to be reluctant to go against the government. Pressure must exist... because slowly the country will modify its society to adapt to a democratic system in order to be a part of the global community.
    My other side views which few people may agree, is that an oppressive society is needed for the following reasons:
    1 it conditions the people to want their voices to be heard and therefore want a democratic system.
    2 It stabilizes the people from getting too many radical ideas and quell the formation of many pseudoleaders that will bring about the collapse of its society from too much fighting.
    Social Stability is very important before moving to a democratic system. Because democracy is unleashing a barrage of ideas on how to run a country.However,also know this: once a dictator sit, he doesn't leave.
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    Sep 11 2013: that's al we've been introduced to and taught that it was the best possible way.
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    Sep 10 2013: I think you have to be an objective thinker to explore this question properly. It starts with the realization that democracies are run by humans. Humans have a great desire for power, control, etc. Creating a democratically elected government doesn't mean that the outcome will always rise to the label that democracy has among other forms of government. The variable has to do with the people who become the democratically elected officials within each government, particularly if they are not objective thinkers. The Muslim Brotherhood are objectively speaking, not remotely objective thinkers. In fact they happen to be dishonest to the extreme. The reason we have what we have in Egypt is exactly because of the willingness of the democratically elected government to transform that country into a religious state regardless of the will of the people.

    Now if we remove the impact that democratically elected governments have on democracy in general, then we can have an objectively honest discussion of the merits of democracy as compared to other forms of government. Generally speaking democracies attempt to provide representative powers to the people. They also tend to have greater balances of powers knowing that it is inherent for man to desire power and ultimate authority. Democracies in and of themselves do not guarantee that the people will get what they want as a whole but they do a reasonable job as compared to Dictatorships, Theocracies, and other authoritarian government systems by comparison.

    Now the problem that many will have with my viewpoint is that objective thought has become a hate crime. Objectivity requires us to be willing to judge one form of government to be better than another. Being objective means that something is worse than something else and our subjective thinkers don't permit themselves to do that. Should be interesting to say the least.
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    Sep 10 2013: Here are some thoughts on democracy in general:

    "I used to believe in democracy until my mom gave my sister the biggest chicken in the soup simply because she was bigger."

    And here are some of my thoughts: there is a certain democracy imperialism in the West - let's invade [place country] and bring them democracy, help them abandon their savage political ways as we, the West, who have been victorious in wars against non-democratic systems during WWII, now have/claim to have/usurp the right to say which political system is best. This way of thinking is flawed in its foundation, often shows hubris, disinformation, lack of knowledge and closedmindedness, as mentioned in Eric Li's talk. Why this imperialism? Because of bias? Hubris? Closed-mindedness? Lack of information? This is my humble attempt at answering the last question in your conversation - why doesn't the western world see that democracy isn't necessarily a magical solution to everything.
    Moreover, democracy in a lot of Western countries is nothing more than a popularity contest, a sociopolitical beauty pageant, and not cooperation of the most competent and legitimate representatives of certain groups. There is little room for competence there - the electorate votes with their hopes or non-political convictions, having no time or ability to reasonably assess the candidates, the candidates and apparatus around them focus on how to be elected, whom to convince, often forgeetting the real isues. No overhead should be chosen simply because of that.

    And since the tag is 'should democracy be forced' - Scandinavia has a long democratic tradition, one of the regions to first grant women the right to vote, frequency at the urns is often over 80%, but very few are aware of the fact that it was actually illegal NOT to vote in the first half of the previous century. A citizen had to pay a fine for not showing up. Is that forcing democracy? If so, it was successful.
    • Sep 10 2013: There's quite a difference between forcing democracy on a foreign entity, and forcing your own citizens to vote.
      One is a purely internal process, which honestly doesn't seem that harmful, and may even have some advantages. The other involves war and occupation.
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        Sep 10 2013: I understand and realise that, it was just a thought. Many societies today have become uninterested in elections feeling that nothing changes whoever's in power. That was why I mentioned the fines for voting evasions. And yes, it did have advantages, just as introducing fines for not sorting trash and recycling will have in the long run, it has been introduced in Germany. It made the society more aware of both their duties and the political and socioeconomic situation around them.

        When it comes to forcing democracy on foreign nations - I did address this above, I wonder what you think.
        • Sep 10 2013: What I think? I thought I was being pretty obvious about being against the whole business.
          Its hard enough to set up a proper democratic regime without it being some foreign occupier's idea.

          Attempts to force democracy from without rarely end well. The regime change is, as any regime change, painful, and if it all reverts back after an election or two, its all been for naught. Waste of money and lives of everyone involved.
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    Sep 10 2013: The Federalist Papers discuss (among other things) the difference between a democracy and a republic. Two different things! In a republic, the populace elect the best among themselves to represent them and to immerse themselves in the technical details. The presumption is that the representatives work for the common good and analyze things toward that end. In a democracy, on the other hand, the people make decisions in their spare time and according to the limited information they have available. Most Westerners live in a mixed system combining the best and the worst of both systems.

    Corporations, on the other hand, operate on a whole different set of ideas. Supervisors and managers are hand-picked by their higher ups. Employees are expected to obey directives and to operate as teams within parameters set by their higher ups. Everyone accepts the fact of corruption at higher levels -- and puts up with it if everyone is productively employed. Interestingly, some nations operate on this model. China (in which 'the party' runs on corporate assumptions) comes closest. It remains to be seen if the corporate model or the democratic/republican model prevails -- but most bets are on the corporate model. At least so far.
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    Sep 10 2013: Some fail to see the harm of individualism (used in a negative way) in a democracy. There are other ideas but many do not push or believe in something just could be better than what is.
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    Sep 9 2013: From Robison's The Case for Rational Optimism
    Yet, we often hear that democracy in practice is overrated, even meaningless, or worthless. We have discussed the imperfections of democratic government; no system could ever be perfect. But government accountability to people, through the ballot box, makes all the difference in the world. We frankly fail to value this enough. Its absence in communist Russia and China resulted in more deaths than in both world wars plus the Holocaust. China has imprisoned, tortured, and sent thousands to labor camps just for belonging to an exercise club, Falun Gong, which the regime vaguely fears.
                Democracy gives citizens crucial protections against government, limiting what the most powerful can do, making everyone more safe and secure. That happily lowers the stakes in political competition. Losing an election doesn’t mean losing your livelihood or your life.
                Granted, dictatorship can be governmentally efficient. Though it’s a false myth that Mussolini made the trains run on time, Chile, China, and Vietnam did open up their economies by decree, with great results (Vietnam’s poverty rate fell from 58 percent in 1993 to 15 percent in 2007). In democracies like Germany and France, voters resist such liberalizing reforms; as we’ve seen, democracy is not an unmitigated blessing, and an empowered citizenry can be obstructive. Yet still free countries, by and large, are more prosperous than tyrannies. And human aspirations are not just economic. Chileans, after gaining economic freedom and prosperity, then insisted on political rights too. Even if it were true that dictatorship could produce better raw economic results, political liberty is itself an important element of human well-being, for which people are willing to pay a price.
    • Sep 9 2013: Democracy gives citizens no protections unless they are lucky enough to be in the "majority". A democracy can easily vote to exterminate a minority and take its stuff. Jim Crow was a democratically-imposed policy. A democracy can define "citizen" in such a way that later conquered peoples never factor into political decisions, except as "subjects". Democracy offers no protections. It offers no guarantees of freedom or justice. Democracy's only true benefit is what it lacks:

      Democracy lacks deniability. In a democratic country, be it a mobocracy, an indirect democracy, or a democratic republic, the people ultimately have no deniability. All evils done by a democratic government are, ultimately, the responsibility of the people. Under any other form of governance, the people have deniability. In a dictatorship, the dictator is ultimately responsible. In a party state, the party is ultimately responsible. In an aristocracy, the nobility is ultimately responsible. In a democratic polity, the people are ultimately responsible. However, if the people embrace evil ideals, democracy will not prevent the state from doing evil. The difference is that responsibility for the evil cannot be shifted away from the people.

      It is this, and this alone, that has the possibility of begetting all the alleged virtues that are blindly associated with "democracy". But this is reason enough to advocate democratic governance, not because it brings about paradise, but because it holds out the possibility of forcing people to take responsibility for how their governments do things and act accordingly.

      To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Democracy is the worst possible form of governance, with the exception of every other method that has been tried.
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        Sep 10 2013: Yes I agree, this is the reason I am in favour of democracy even over technocracy (which I used to think was superior), in the end the people have to make their own mistakes, learn and not be able to point fingers anywhere and take the responsibility themselves for the choices their elected government makes for them.
        E.g. For a technocratic government, globalisation and free trade is a no brainer, there is not a single serious scientific research that has serious doubts about its global benefits. However, every recession protectionism rears his head, with the people embracing its calls to protect national interests and production. These calls will not go away, until the policy is in place and its economic sting is felt, only then will we, as a people, learn and be able to move forward.
        • Sep 11 2013: The yardstick is really very simple: Does a form of government ultimately lead to the infantilization of the people? If so, it is a bad form of government. The same is true of individual government policies. If the people are denied self-accountability, they will be infantilized. If they cannot avoid self-accountability, they might actually act like adults. Accountability brings adult behavior. Removing accountability brings childishness--not child-likeness, with its images of innocence and joy, but "childishness" in all the worst senses of that word.
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      Sep 10 2013: Well said Victor. It is difficult to argue that Democracies tend to have the highest quality of life for the largest percentage of people. It is not that they are cynical it is that they will not permit themselves to judge something that is better than something else. That would be a hate crime. The entire talk was posted on this basis which was to spend a significant amount of time cherry picking situations where democracy didn't work out that well, ie Egypt or WWII Germany, for the purpose of trying to make democracy seem not all that good and other forms of government, ie communism, seem not all that bad.

      The problem is that this attempt at neutrality on all subjects means we have intentionally made ourselves stupid by abandoning objective thought. Watch it unfold. When faced with objectivity most will begin purporting vague generalities in an attempt to avoid the obvious, which is that democracies by in large are the most effective form of government for the largest percentage of people. The one's that are extremely opposed to objective thought will begin calling me names.
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        Sep 11 2013: "Democracies tend to have the highest quality of life"

        it is to be demonstrated whether democracy is an effect or a cause.
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          Sep 12 2013: A seemingly valid point, but perhaps, irrelevant, since democracy, the freedom to govern, can be seen as a goal in itself. And were causation not proven, the mere correlation ensures that at the very least this freedom can be obtained without the loss of quality of life.
          Btw, often democratic principles are taken into account when measuring quality of life, so the official Quality of Life indexes are by definition positively correlated to democracy.

          And if I had to take an educated guess, I would guess democracy increase standard of living and are ultimately a cause.
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    Sep 9 2013: Because democracy is by far the most preferable form of government. Not because of the socio economic rules it enscribes, because it doesn't any, but because it is the only form of government, where its rulers are held accountable.
    From Robinson's The Case for Rational Optimism
    Yet still cynics insist that democracy is unsuitable for some cultures and that some are not ready for it or capable of understanding it because they’ve never had it, don’t really want it, and are bound to screw it up if they get it. All this was said about Afghanis before their first-ever election in 2004, yet they voted with huge enthusiasm and made a reasonable choice. And it was said most relentlessly about Iraqis until the day that millions of them literally risked death to vote. I will always remember the pictures of Iraqi women proudly holding up inked fingers, showing that, for the first time in their lives, their voices had been heard.
                With all the talk about how this country or that one has no experience with democracy, and so can’t possibly succeed with it, we seem to forget that not so very long ago there were almost no democracies in the world altogether. Yet democracy has proliferated and not just in the West. Look at India. Until 1947, it was ruled by princelings and British functionaries, without voting, legislative bodies, or constitutions, no popular sovereignty whatsoever. Then, poof: full-blown democracy. And it took hold. India has remained (with one brief interruption) quite a vibrant democracy ever since.
                People everywhere understand well enough what it means to participate in governance. And there isn’t anyone who doesn’t want it. That’s not some “Western” cultural idiosyncrasy. Furthermore, when considering all the cynicism about the shortcomings of democracy, let’s not forget what the alternative is: dictatorship, tyranny, repression. Does anybody, even the most cynical, think that’s preferable, to produce better outcomes and a better world
  • Sep 9 2013: The ideal of democracy is good but I think it only only works when people is well formed and educated.
  • Sep 9 2013: perhaps we are just all duped into thinking that we are living under "democracy"...but perhaps this is just my being way too cynical (at least I am content with the political system and leadership that I am under)

    just another thought: are we content with the amount of "say" we have? I am not very politically involved so I cannot say that I fully understand the different ideologies. However, I still remember during the past year when our school-transit program is to be changed. We were given two options to vote on, and two options only. Just the fact that we are able to choose between options does not in my mind make it truly democratic as what we can vote on is pre-determined and limited to by a higher authority
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    Sep 9 2013: Re: 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.

    Can you expound a little more on what you know about the situation in Egypt, or what you think happened there?
    When you make a follow up statement like this, "If it wasn't for the military, chances are Egypt would have been going down the road to being a theocracy right now." I have my doubts about how well informed you are.
    • Sep 9 2013: I live on Egypt's northern border (Israel), and follow the news from there quite closely. An unstable Egypt has repercussions for my country.

      I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to prove my familiarity with the subject without a wall of text on recent events that would bore us both to tears.
      If you have some test you'd like to run, say it, but otherwise, you'll either have to do your own research or take my word for it.
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        Sep 10 2013: A presidential election was held in Egypt in two rounds, the first on 23 and 24 May 2012 and the second on 16 and 17 June. The Muslim Brotherhood declared early 18 June 2012, that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won Egypt's presidential election, which would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the Arab world.[1] It was the second presidential election in Egypt's history with more than one candidate, following the 2005 election, and the first presidential election after the 2011 Egyptian revolution which ousted president Hosni Mubarak, during the Arab Spring. The term of the regime lasted little over a year as Morsi was ousted in a military coup on 30 June 2012.
        In the first round, with a voter turnout of 46%, the results were split between five major candidates: Mohamed Morsi (25%), Ahmed Shafik (24%), Hamdeen Sabahi (21%), Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (18%), and Amr Moussa (11%), while the remaining 2% were split between several smaller candidates. The elections set the stage for the divisions that were to follow, along Islamist and secular lines, and those opposed to and those supporting the former political elite. Islamist candidates Morsi and Fotouh won roughly 42% of the vote, while the remaining secular candidates won 56% of the vote. Candidates Shafik and Moussa held positions under the Mubarak regime and won 35% of the vote, while Sabahi was a prominent dissident during the Sadat and Mubarak regimes.
        Following the second round, with a voter turnout of 52%, on 24 June 2012, Egypt's election commission announced that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi had won Egypt's presidential elections. Morsi won by a narrow margin over Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister under deposed President Hosni Mubarak. The commission said Morsi took 51.7% of the vote versus 48.3% for Shafik. Morsi was sworn in on 30 June 2012 and was later ousted ...on 3 July 2013 following the political struggle that resulted from his constitutional referendum
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          Sep 10 2013: since when copy-pasting long texts with irrelevant details considered an argument? or you believe that the actual date of the election is relevant?
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        Sep 10 2013: [edit source | editbeta]
        In November 2009 amidst the political controversy over the then prospective 2011 presidential election and the constitutional impediments placed in the faces of candidates under the amended Article 76 in the 2007 constitution and amidst speculation about then-president Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal running for the post, Mohamed ElBaradei decided to respond to the continuous pressing from people who asked him to run for the 2011 election. ElBaradei said in a statement sent from his office in Vienna to Al-Shorouk newspaper that "He did not announce willingness or unwillingness to participate in the upcoming presidential election... and that he will clear his position on the presidency after November".,_2012

        On 14 January 2012, he withdrew his candidacy in protest against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' alleged usurpation of power as he criticised the road map of transition to a civilian government following the 2011 revolution.[68] ElBaradei called it a "travesty" to elect a president before a new constitution has been drafted
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        Sep 10 2013: Add to all of this that the Army, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the overthrow of King Farouk in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.
        On the last day of the presidential elections in June, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) abruptly introduced an addendum to March 2011's Constitutional Declaration, which gave the military body authorities at the expenses of the president. Morsi's down fall was has attempt to usurp power by nullifying the constitution that provide for his election. Morsi wanted full power to author, approve and promulgate legislation, an authority not usually ascribed to the executive body. The people protested and the Army stepped in. Was it a coup? The constitution before Morsi changed it favored the military's authority.

        Egypt was NEVER going to be a theocracy under Mommand Morsi.
        • Sep 10 2013: The Muslim Brotherhood's entire agenda demanded the canceling of democracy for theocratic rule. Morsi had already began changing the constitution in various undemocratic ways and limiting minority rights. He did have the brains not to do it all at once, but that's about it.

          The eventual goal was theocracy through dictatorship. Without the military's odd sort of pro-democratic coup, it would have probably happened.

          I don't quite understand what you're trying to claim. That Morsi just wanted to become a two bit dictator but without the religious backing?
          Because that's not what the Muslim Brotherhood stands for. Their overall objective was a transition to theocratic rule. They've typically said as much themselves, even if they toned it down when it was time to get elected.
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          Sep 10 2013: Theo,

          So what is your point as it pertains to democracies compared to other forms of government? I haven't seen one yet. My guess I'm quite certain is spot on, but I'll let you spell it out for us.
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    Sep 9 2013: I can't say I agree with Eric Li's views on the ideal government, but I agree that democracy isn't the catch-all solution. Though I believe it's important to note that there is no direct democracy in the world today. Unlike Athens, democratic nations today elect executives and representatives, and operate as constitutional republics.

    Hitler was elected democraticly... where was that in our other conversation? Why couldn't Germany wait for someone else to be elected? :P
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      Sep 9 2013: "Hitler was elected"

      actually he wasn't, but this is nitpicking. he almost was.
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        Sep 9 2013: My mistake. He was a popular fellow.
    • Sep 9 2013: Direct democracy is completely impractical in a modern nation, unless you want the entire population going to work in the morning and voting on a dozen major issues and ten times as many minor ones every afternoon.

      Its also a spectacularly bad idea.
      The public is always under informed and over opinionated. When invading Iraq for example, 80% of the US public couldn't find it on a map.

      The big advantage to democracy is that it allows a form of fluidity in the government--a willingness to change and adapt much greater than other regime types due to the greater accountability and regular changes power.
      You still want a relatively small group of informed people making all the decisions though. What democracy allows you to do is prevent them from going power mad, and allowing you to replace them if they're doing a bad job. Reflecting the public's general opinions also helps, but I always found it less crucial to be honest.

      In Hitler's case, and all the others where anti-democratic factions were voted into power--that just goes to show you how important a democratic tradition is. Democracy is an inherently weak regime; it has a myriad of advantages when its up and running, but actually getting it there isn't easy and isn't always realistic, especially if the populace isn't convinced its a good idea (like in Germany when it was forced on them after WWI--the problem was it was some armed foreigner's idea).
      It takes 3 years to build a ship, and 300 to make a tradition. As true in government as it is in the navy, though thankfully 300 is a high estimate, otherwise we'd never get anywhere.
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        Sep 9 2013: I wouldn't want everything to be decided with an online poll either. Plato called Athens an ochlocracy, and argued that it would be better to be ruled by a tyrant than a bad democracy. Democracy wasn't a popular idea in the 18th century either, the general consensus being that it was mob rule.

        But Eric Li argues against an elected republic as well. He makes some good points. States could run more efficiently if ran like a company. But they wouldn't offer the liberties that we enjoy in Western nations (though this is a topic of amusement for the Chinese, as Western governments have been eroding these liberties). Looking at the bickering chaos of Republicans and Democrats in the US, and then looking at the efficient control of the State by the CPC in China, I see what he's saying. But take a look at the political prisoners in China and the control over the press. Eric Li doesn't see a problem with that. Instead he says "Adaptability, meritocracy and legitimacy are the hallmarks of China's one-party system". Conditioning?

        Though a good point to be made is that our liberties come from constitutions, not democracy or parliaments. As long as basic rights are codified and enforced, I'm sure any form of government could work.
        • Sep 10 2013: The problem is with any non-democratic rule, is that even if the rights do stem from constitution or other legislation, the government is above those, and could cancel them if so it chose. From a practical standpoint through force of arms if not legally.

          For such a such a set up to work, you'd probably need as strong a tradition as you have in a modern, functional democracy. Otherwise, you could easily get what happens in democracies where an anti-democratic group wins the elections.

          Might just work if someone ever sets up something like it, though. Who knows.
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        Sep 10 2013: Nadav,

        What is your preferred form of government? I've noticed those that are critical of democracies have yet to state what they believe is the best form of government. At a minimum they realize that whatever credibility they built in this discussion would be crushed. Get to the point, if you have one.
        • Sep 11 2013: If you read carefully, you'll notice that I'm mostly critical of imposing democracy on a foreign entity by force of arms.

          I have no problem with democratic regimes in of themselves. Its difficult to properly set up, but once up and running, I do believe its the best form of government we have.

          There are just some places in the world where a democracy would simply not work, especially if forced. The part where you "get it properly set up" is the issue here. Elections and parties aren't enough, you need a strong democratic tradition, and thorough separation of church and state as well.
          As the state both are things isn't changed overnight, but instead strongly ingrained in the local culture, democracy may be anything from an easy sell to an impossibility.
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    Sep 8 2013: The reason why the Western world does not 'get it' is because they presume that we are all the same. That we all think the same, have the same beliefs and they do not take into account the huge differences in culture, religion, beliefs, ideals, and learnings from an entire lifetime. To impose democracy, or impose any way of living on a vastly different culture, is to deny the other culture their own beliefs, values, ideals, religions and way of life. Democracy is supposed to be about everyone participating equally in elections, in making laws, having a say on how their country is run, however that does not fit with cultures where there is a very set hierarchy, where some people have more of a say than others, and even situations where there are those who speak for others. Every country that we the Western world have gone into, to FORCE Democracy (how bout that for a misnomer), things have gone very badly. The people of those countries are suddenly expected to live under a vastly different system with rules and structures that are completely alien to them. So yeah, they rebel and fight against such massive change. Think about it this way, imagine if suddenly your democratic, westernised country suddenly became a dictatorship, with some guy you had never seen before told you, I am in charge, I will tell you how to live, what to do, and I will make every decision, without looking to you the people for guidance or support. Because, hey, its for your own good and I don't trust you to make those decisions. What would we do? You know exactly what we would do.
  • Sep 8 2013: I believe that foisting democracy is a tool to assuring freedom and liberty, something that even those living within such a society have long taken for granted or do not understand. Perhaps they will not until those life qualities are taken away from them. I believe there are societies that include citizens who have long lived under dictatorships where the citizenry is, for the most part, not ready to properly participate in a democracy. For instance, the Cubans prior to Castro. I believe the citizens of a democracy MUST have an understanding of their roles and responsibilities in preparation to properly and responsibly participate in a democracy. I suggest reading the dialog between the colonel and the mayor in Steinbeck's "The Moon Is Down" to understand the distinction between a free and autocratic society.
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    Sep 8 2013: I am not sure of all the Western World, but I have some thoughts on the USA part. We have taken on a role of promotion of democratic principals to all who are not enjoying democracy as a moral prerogative.
    History tells us that the greatest cause of human misery is not floods and famine but man's inhumanity to man.
    So, the US has extended vast resources in military power and political influences in world to promote democracy.
    And these efforts have at times been wasted.
    So, what to do? Well,
    One thing is to withdraw all US military forces from around the world and cancel all defensive treaties. Ask that the UN relocate to a country that is not so polarizing in world opinion.

    "Fortress America"! "Isolationism"! "How could we do that?"

    Well, what we have done has not worked that well, what is there to lose?

    "Our friends?"

    If they are our friends, they will understand. If not, they won't care. And we can still help the innocent, we just don't have to get involved in the political arguments.

    "But the world will collapse into chaos and war. We could be attacked"

    That may happen and our military should be made as strong as our technology can develop. And the world should know that an attack on the US will result in immediate and total annihilation.
    Is this a ridiculous concept? Well, yes, but look at what the US is doing today. Are we going to debate the degrees of ridiculousness?
  • Sep 8 2013: Democracy is not the goal of President Obama's proposed military response. He also is not advocating regime change, because we have no clear partner on the rebel side. His intent, as I understand it, is to clearly show that we will not tolerate the use of WMD (chemical in this case).
    As a 30-year Veteran of the US Army (4 yrs enlisted, 26 years DA civilian - all but two years served in US Army Europe - now thankfully retired), I can tell you that signalling our military response and eliminating the surprise factor is against normal doctrine. Our Commander-in-Chief has NO military background and I am not confident in his Defense Chief. GEN Dempsey was clearly uncomfortable at the hearing, which I believe reflects the real world concerns of the military - current active duty and retired. I was "activated" as a civilian during the bombing of Kosovo and can tell you that killing by bombing is a horrendous psychological burden on the pilots and crews that fly the missions, as well as the support staff. We may not be putting boots on the ground, but we are asking our military to again engage in armed combat in a vaguely defined mission of dubious national interest. I recommend that everyone listen to John Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 4/22/71 and really listen to the concerns raised. Our military is sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic and I pray that Congress really ensures that military action is the will of their constituents before they commit one manhour of military effort to the civil war Syria. I would hate to think that Mr. Obama has used the phrase "red line" ill-advisedly. You cannot cram democracy down anyone's throat - especially a complicated tribal, multi-party, dictatorship like Syria. We also need to think about the impact on the UN Refugee situation already jamming Jordan and other friendly Arab nations. This will only exacerbate a huge problem.
  • Sep 7 2013: I suspect that many citizens in Arab countries equate democracy with a more prosperous life. They mistake the riches of the west with our democracy. Any discussion about democracy must inextricably include wealth and economics.

    Where there is wealth, there is power and centuries old Eastern traditions of wealth and power is very poor soil in which to grow a democracy.

    The greatest contribution American citizens can make to the people of the world who yearn for democracy is to make our own democracy more powerful than any Corporation. Sound like a dare.
  • Sep 7 2013: Nadav Tropp, great subject.

    Your last couple of paragraphs seemed to fit today's political schedule....

    "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?"
    My response --
    As we gird ourselves and prepare to punish Syria by ramming Democracy
    down the people's throats.

    This is my paraphrasing of the NY Times video containing something
    Mr. Obama calls the "norm" -- in his speech at the close of the G20.

    "and when there's a breach this brazen and of a "norm" this important
    and the international community is frozen, and wont act, then if that "norm"
    unravels, then other "norms" will unravel.""

    then bringing his message closer to home, Mr. Obama also said that --
    "Each member of congress has to decide what he believes is right for America."
    Mr. Kerry when interviewed said that -- “There are a number of countries,
    in the double digits, who are prepared to take military action,”

    Mr. Kerry added -- “We have more countries prepared to take military action
    than we actually could use in the kind of military action being contemplated.”

    The United States and France would be the two major powers in any attack,
    but Mr. Kerry insisted that he had offers from other nations, which he did not identify.
    Not identifying your Partners in armed aggression?
    WoW !!! They must be a motley crew.
    • Sep 7 2013: Actually, there is no talk of turning Syria democratic.
      The current talk is about a limited action that won't even topple Assad's regime. Its designed as a form of "punishment" for the atrocities committed to deter such action in the future, and to assert western influence in the area, not as any attempt to change their style of government.

      Democracy is simply not the issue at hand.
      • Sep 7 2013: Nadav, Thank you.
        Obama might disagree about the regime change he has in mind.
        Try researching Clinton's limited shock and awe of Baghdad.
        If it doesn't convince you of the folly you seek to inspire, nothing will.

        Punishment? Who gets the spanking? Assad. His subjects?
        His cities? His infrastructures? His Oil Fields, His Mining Projects?
        His Tourists? or his innocent men, women, and wee babies?

        Who gives the "punishment" for the "alleged" atrocities committed
        to deter such action in the future, and to assert western influence
        in the area?

        Who's Boots will be on the ground first?

        Are the Saudi Arabians, Western? The Turks? The French?
        The double-digit (secret) Partners?, or is it only the United State's
        as represented by the 'doorstep located' 200 Tomahawk Cruise
        Missiles, one Aircraft Carrier Fleet, and US based $Billion Dollar

        And how many Partners are there? -- France, Turkey Saudi Arabia
        and double-digit others (top secret) if you can believe Kerry, and
        who else?

        An unwieldy Partnership to be controlled by whom?
        What if France, Turkey, or the Saudi's decide to take leadership?
        Or maybe just bicker?

        NATO was broke after the Libyan limited action WAR.
        Which nations have funded them for this new limited action WAR?
        What part will they play?

        What assurances do other "troubled nation's citizens" have that they
        can ever again rely upon the United Nations for justice to be dispensed
        with integrity?

        Will Syrian neighbors jump to take advantage of weakness and expand
        their borders? Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan?

        So many unanswered questions. Who did the original sin?
        Putin says Terrorist's, those who infiltrated the Rebels.
        Obama says Assad's Government.
        Others say the attacks have been coming from Jordan.

        Obama has 850,000 Top Secret Employees in his government.
        We cannot even get the time of day out of them.

        Democracy is not the issue at hand. But Integrity sure is !!!
  • Sep 7 2013: Mea Culpa, and I thank you NT for your very civil response to my reply to your post. I say mea culpa because I stand guilty of using your post to riff into a general reply to Mr. Li. His lecture is, in my mind, a quality piece of choreography, but, unfortunately, this almost obsessive attention to calculated effect is symptomatic of the wholesale blunting of curiosity going on in torture-testing public education in still Imperial China. Mr. Li is not available for an open exchange, or anything redolent of messy consensus bile evacuation, his clock-work machine of a presentation would not stand up under cross-examination— it's take it or leave it, and I'm not obliged to inform anyone about who is speaking out of my mouth.

    Democracy, de jure or de facto, may never come to China, but consensus has been flourishing there for thousands of years, and elsewhere of course, and under the peer-to-peer pressure of information networking, party-lines tend to tie themselves in knots, or hang those who play with them. History I think shows that a change of institutions, in and of itself, changes nothing at the conscious core of social practices.

    Institutions give form to changes in experience; they represent, in an external form, changes of belief systems, of assumptions, of an emotional culture. Under pressure of the information age, our moribund democratic processes don't quite know what to do with 24/7 on-going, continual consensus deliberation in a transparent gold-fish bowl. Our own USA model representative form of democracy was supposed to provide, to the representing few, adequate resources of information and a total monopoly on the right to public deliberation in order to allow flexible and unitary governance; presently we can see that these tools have become the weapons we use to politically beat on ourselves and prevent anything from being decided in order to protect the rights of minority voices (who don't have to say who they are).
  • Sep 7 2013: Eric X. Li's defense of China's one-party governance practice (forget 'system'), to which this post is linked, exemplifies its own absurdity. It's impossible to know for whom, and for whose benefit he is talking; to prosper in China as he has, we need to ask if anyone has any serious expectation he might say something that would bite the hand that feeds?

    In fact, Mr. Li owes his fortunes to the post World War II Breton Wood accords, which imposed an open-trade policy on global commerce; to better assure conditions of peace in the developing global environment, the principle of open trade under international law was aimed at defusing the prewar practice by states of competing internationally from behind closed doors as exclusive enclaves of tribal destiny, for which destructive and provocative private plundering in the rest of the world was framed as noble and good. It was a recipe for endless war.

    In fact, if you look at recent policies of Chinese openness to a hot-house form of capitalism, what you see is a government sponsored effort to attach itself parasitically to the developing global free market so as to skim some mass consumer benefits to stave off growing public opinion beginning to doubt the wisdom of a government mediated link to a global domain starting to take on the instinctive character of a promising community of practices— which young Chinese desperately know they are being prevented from learning and cultivating.

    The power of Chinese culture is visible in its resourceful and characterful people, of which Mr. Li's very artful double-talk, ironically enough, is a superb example. But, none the less, the rising power of media nourished, consensus deliberating public opinion is not going to evaporate under the sustained pressure of clever semantic illusions, which is to say "hot air."
    Talking systems and democracy here is just chasing after a red-herring. There are less silly forms of aerobic exercise.
    • Sep 7 2013: I referenced it for parts of the arguments inside, not the whole thing. There are some real gems in there coupled with a great deal of absurdity bordering on propaganda.
      Make of the talk what you will, its not central to the discussion.
  • K M

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    Sep 7 2013: Democracy keeps the masses in check like any other mass political system. However, democracy has the characteristic of anti-hierarchical sentiments i.e. no dictator can tell us what to say, what to feel, what to think or how to behave. That is the cement of the Western world and we believe it is in everyone's benefit to decide what they can feel, think or say. Indeed this means that democracy is inherently less efficient than, say, fascism or communism. But losing some efficiency is the price we are gladly willing to pay for personal freedom. At least in theory! In practice is a wholly different story, and indeed forcing "the vote" onto non-Western people is a nonsensical idea, especially if those peoples adhere to hierarchical/authoritarian family structures.

    In my opinion, democracy only works for people who are anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian to begin with. Politically that is, because of course corporate culture is where our hierarchies live.
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    Sep 7 2013: Democracy defined loosely: Government elected by the people for the people (without defining the role of the government). When the majority of the people are lulled into slow brainwashing (either by a religion or by money or any other dogma) the country will lead to theocratic leaning democracy (Pakistan, Turkey, etc.) or plutocratic leaning democracy (UK, USA) or dogmatic democracy (USA and it's American Exceptionalism). So the question is: does democracy exist in the purity of spirit?

    Just as Christianity, Islam, Judaism (I am not naming eastern religions since the west is the focus), have evolved into dogmatic religions; western view of Democracy is turning in to the next dogmatic religion with very little regard to local human condition. The current Western view tends to have "free market" tint on the democracy and anything that would support the "free market" or dogmatic tint will be supported by the West under the disguise of democracy. The underlying assumption is that wealth and financial wellbeing can be achieved through democracy and hence let's support democracy. Where as other cultures view government differently, the role of government is not measured through GDP, but through many other parameters. Case in point: Bhutan's aristocratic leaning young democracy measures Gross National Happiness index.

    IMHO, the Western countries are now adopting plutocratic democracy, and hence view the rest of the world as an opportunity for trade/business and grow their own bottom line. Hence western countries propose the magic pill of democracy to neuter local resistance in different countries for their own benefit. Though cynical, you will find significant support through historical evidence to this answer.

    After reading many comments, it is very obvious that "there is something wrong here" is the prevailing view. I am not sure, if that answers the original question or debate has turned to "grand global solution" for political system??
  • Sep 7 2013: Would you prefer that every time a government was overthrown we replaced it with a dictatorship? Sure Democracy is not always nice but think about it - in Egypt those people were out on the streets calling for democracy. If the USA/west had moved in and said "nope, secular dictatorship for you", you would be outraged! I would be too, because democracy is what people want and if we force them into a dictatorship it breeds even more resentment than letting them join the club of flawed democracies.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Sep 6 2013: believing in democracy as the only good govt. allows the u.s. to meddle in the affairs of other countries 'for their own good'.
  • Sep 6 2013: I LIKE JAY LENO
    He goes out on the street and asks simple questions of simple people.
    Most of the time they give really stupid answers.

    So, my simple question is, Who is the Western World?
  • Sep 6 2013: I tend to agree with a lot of what you are saying. Our constitution tried to solve the religious question by making it unconstitutional to make any laws that respected religion. Unfortunately,our religious right has been rewriting history for many years, and an awful lot of people buy into it. I suspect this democratic republic will be facing some awfully hard questions in the near future, and our supreme court unfortunately allows their religious views to taint their decisions.
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      Sep 7 2013: Just a small but so important point... the USA is a constitutional republic. States may be defined as more democratic but...

      Also, I am not sure that the religious right has been that active in "rewriting" history, it seems that most of the challenges to the amendment has come from not the "religious right" but others. Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of others more then the religious right, but I can't determine motive. Nobody can.

      Some have called it religious tyranny by the minority. that's a strong statement.
      • Sep 7 2013: How can you say that the religious right hasn't been actively seeking to rewrite history? I remember some of that ilk trying to use the under god part in the pledge of allegiance to prove that the U.S. is a Christian nation. They are still actively trying to convince people that the founding fathers thought of the U.S. as a Christian nation when that is clearly not the case. What about blue laws that were put into place by the christian majority, What about the cry of they are taking God out of the classroom, [he was never there], what about the cry that christianity is under attack[clearly not the case they are the attackers] I could go on, but whats the use. There is a clear cut agenda by the religious right to change the U.S. into a Christian nation, the takeover of the republican party is a clear example. Barry Goldwater [a real republican] forsaw this event, and foretold it's outcome. AS for the supreme court Scalia clearly uses his religion in most of the cases he decides.
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          Sep 8 2013: Let's see, where do I begin. Yes, Christians can be zealots when they espouse their beliefs. And then there is the fact that most of the earliest settlers from England came here for religious freedom and they were Christians. I can't remember the last time Pat Roberts filed suit inn Federal Court unlike the the American Atheists who do so on a daily basis. And just what religion is Scalia? He is a strict constitutionalists, I find refreshing as I am too.
          PS Bad news, Most of our law is based on Judeo Christian Law.
      • Sep 8 2013: Wrong! most of our law is based on English common law which is pagan at best. Again Christians wanting to rewrite history. If you have read history you would know that the settlers that came here where running from yet another Christian group as Christians can't even get along with there own kind. The religious freedom they sought was freedom from governmental religion which is why we have the clause about respectin no religion.Scalia is not a strict constitutionalist as he has essentially taken away the rights of gays [ and no marriage is not a christian concept either] and allowed the in god we trust to remain on our currency which is clearly unconstitutional. So, Bad news, you need to get the facts straight about law.
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          Sep 9 2013: Oh gosh, I must not have deserved all good grades in law classes. And yes,Christians can't get along with other Christians, then there are Shias and Sunnies, Progressive and Hascedic.... Nobody gets along with nobody.

          Scalia is a strict constitutionalists, so says CJ Roberts. Who am I to disagree. When did he take away rights from Gays? The SCOTUS rules on constitutionality of law. I don't believe he took anything from anybody.

          Wait a minute, modern marriage is a christian concept instituted by the Roman Church about 600 years ago. Spousal contracts are civil actions that go back thousands of years. People call spousal contracts marriages but it's a misnomer.

          Common law is pagan at best? Pagans had no common law. The judeo/christian rules as defined in the 10 commandments became the basis for most common law. If you get a copy you can follow down and many are word for word.... thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, etc.

          Timmy, you are wound too tight. It's all not that bad. Read carefully, think thoughtfully and you'll be at peace and gain wisdom... it's what I try to do.
      • Sep 9 2013: 30 minutes ago: Yes, Yes you must not have deserved them and my name is tim or timothy not timmiy. Modern law is based on English common law that is most definately pagan. The fact that we do not demand an eye for an eye is proof enough but if you combine that with fines or weregild as the pagans would define it you have your answer.Whether or not you want to equate the word marriage with a spousal contract means nothing as in the eyes of the law a "spousal contact performed by a judge is evry bit the same as a marriage done in a church. Do not attempt to change the history in front of me as you will lose. You are actually useing another died in the wool christian as your proof that Scalia is a strict constituionalist? That would not fly in any debate, might as well take FOX as the truth. Please go back to your university and try to get a refund on your historical education.

        taken right off wiki, but it is in several other places as well.

        At both the federal and state levels, the law of the United States was originally largely derived from the common law system of English law, which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War.[
      • Sep 10 2013: I take exception to your statement,

        "Pagans had no common law. The judeo/christian rules as defined in the 10 commandments became the basis for most common law. "

        This statement is not only wrong, it is exactly what I was talking about. Every school kid I went to school with knew about the code of Hammurabi, or the edicts of Rome, or even British common law which had it's beginnings in the times before christianity. All of these were PAGAN, and all had moral codes that seem to line up with Judeo-Christian morals with one exception which proves my point, they only fined someone were as the Judeo-Christian demanded like for like. This whole statement of yours only proves that Christians are actively trying to "change" history favourably in their stead.
  • Sep 6 2013: Democracy has its advantages as well as its disadvantages also. And one of the disadvantage is that when clever politicians,criminal and mafia , and the nexus of both highjack the system , then the people get trapped into the system.Due to democracy the people can't do anything , they can only vote . This is what is happening in India now.Some 2500 hundreds years ago during the times of Chanakya India faced the same situation , but during that time democracy system didn't existed in India. Chanakya along with his disciple Chandra Gupt Mauraya raised the army and started the war with the then greedy rulers and dethroned them .But, now as India has a democracy system , people can't raise the army and dethrone the moron politicians, who are no less than criminals indulging into lot of scams.
  • Sep 6 2013: Because they are programmed?
  • Sep 5 2013: I think Winston Churchill said it best "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

    no one will deny there are problems with democracy, tyranny of the majority, etc, but compare it to the others
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    Sep 5 2013: I read so many ideas, I am overwhelmed. Brenton says that democracy needs to be beneficial to all. I am not sure should it be beneficial or merely provide an individual to seek his own benefits. For example, in New York City it is an offense for a twelve year old to open a lemonade stand and sell drinks. You can say "that's New York", but those laws are all over the USA. I am reminded that the USA is a Constitutional Republic and not a Democracy. OK, that's true.
    Lindsey tells me that the people in Maine were able to prevent certain projects from occurring. I am not familiar with these issues, but, I hope that these issues were carefully considered, sometimes people too quickly judge proposals on their face and loose benefits that may have come. I have done that and now have regrets.
    I can go on, but the point is that democracy can be a loaded gun in a child's hands if if is to provide benefits instead of opportunities.
  • Sep 5 2013: Democracy also needs to be beneficial to all. The crisis toward cost of living is putting government in the pockets of industry who are increasing the essential cost of housing, utilities and education. Rural students in Australia are turning away from university studies as of cost associated while more and more placements for national students go to local metro students. John Nash's game theory would make an awesome solution if someone could figure out the values to assign in this huge equation, maybe even a artificial neural network, and instill the government to cap essential cost of living in the private sector as to limit providers to charge at cost price, returning providers of essential living needs back to a government. Where is the commonwealth monarch and what are they doing to stop third world regression?
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    Sep 5 2013: Nadav,

    There is an old saw in christiainty "Chrstianity hasn't failed it just hasn't bee tried yet" and we could say the same of democracy. The first democracy in Greece was not a sustainable model . Based on sortition ( of which I am a big fan) it still gave way to the tyranny of the majority which is not a way to govern with wisdom.

    Jefferson realized our constitution in the U.S. did not reflect the inclusive vision he expressed with "we hold these truth to be self evident..etc." but he felt another constitutional congress would break apart what had been forged already and that the task would be to somehow make that constitution work toward the principles of inclusion, tolerance and equal opportunity that he expressed..We haven't really accomplished that yet but each amendment to the constitution has tried to move us there.

    We had two conversations on this directly to the heart of your question. Is democracy synonymous with capitalism and occupy a new vocabulary. In our conversation on democracy we looked at the beautifully inclusive and wise constitutions of many nations that serve,humanity and serve the planet like Iceland's ( which was crowd sourced through 23 randomly selected citizens and completed in a matter of months), or Ecuadors or Brussels. All are more mature foundations for democratic government than our own or the UK.

    Egypt is a perfect example that there is more to democracy that forming parties and holding elections. ( I wrote about that at te time. I bristled when Hillary (Clinton said "all Egypt has to do now is form parties and hold an

    At our TED conversation on Occupying a new language I coined the phrase "conviviocracy" which is more the ideal Jefferson envisioned. "From the Spanish " live together as one ( EEK Jaime lubin what is the correct exact meaning of convivir?) The point being democracy can't be about parties and elections and majority rule.
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      Sep 5 2013: Lindsey,
      Good points all, except where you say that the constitutional amendments have moved us.....
      some have and some haven't. I am not sure that 17th which basically eliminated the intended Senate and created a bi cameral or maybe bi polar House of Representatives moved us in that direction. And after the 16th was passed since the Federal Government would spend more then tariffs could provide was written open ended to allow any or all forms of taxes (see ruling on "fees" for not buy health insurance) to a rate of 100% of all income. There are others but that is another conversation.
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        Sep 5 2013: Mike you are clearly more learned on the constitution than I so I readily concede to your corrections.

        My historical point is that Jefferson new at the git go we dodn't have the right consitutin for expressing a sovereignty based on inclusion, equality, and equal opportunity and that we have made fitis and starts towards that in various ways over time.

        My point is there is no place on our tiny and very fragile globe for sovereignties based on tribal dominations whether by the plutonomy or by some ancient former ruling group or in Israel case based on one state for one people. All Sovereignties have to be inclusive.

        Another TED Conversation I enjoyed and that came out of a very heated divisive TED conversation on Israels & Palestine was about the need to take personal responsibility for our belief systems , to update our belief systems. Belief systems and governments that do not serve life, do not serve humanity, do not serve present and future earth cannot be encouraged and sustained or form a foundation for a tyranny of the majority.

        The Occupy movement has touched a different way of "we the people" transcending all the errors and limitations of our government not through the anarchy of sits ins camp ins and demonstrations but through an awakening that ultimately "we the people' actually are in charge and can bring about huge shifts. Here in Maine we are evolving an amazing "many voices" crowd sources activism supported through the internet. With no help from press, or law, or government agencies or our elected officials and with not one moment of violence spoken or otherwise we turned back a multi billion corporation that wanted to build a 22 million LPG tank in a tiny Maine village. We also have stopped a privately planned and developed 4 lane toll road through the Maine wilderness. What we are evolving and putting to work seeks the common wisdom by supporting individual thinking and questioning.
  • Sep 5 2013: Nadav, why do you think democracy is not a magical, catch all solution? You provide some arguments as do other contributors. I see there are several things to consider to have a likely answer. First is simply taking a poll with enough respondents in each country to gain some confidence it reflects the country's overall view. Simply ask if they would rather make their decisions or allow others to make their decisions for them. If you find that country that says allow others to make the decisions for them, then don't bother with that country. All others may prefer the magical catch all solution of democracy.
    Now the question becomes what is required of it citizens for a democracy to work? People may desire control over their lives, but how much, where does my rights end and yours begin - you have to know these and produce laws, norms, or mores for these. Learning who and how to trust representatives is not easy. Evaluating/vetting those to lead is not usually intuitive. Media is not helpful either. Like Egypt, they make foolish (in this case extremely poor) mistakes at first. Making your own decisions can be hard and even daunting. Ask any teenager (lacking pertinent knowledge) going out on their own how those first 6 months went without their family. Most wishing for democracy have no realistic view of what and how one works and their part in it other than voting. A democracy is not made with one national vote.
    The reason Europe and those surviving and some struggling democracies are doing as they are is because every single one of them has had extraordinary support from the US. Most for several decades. They are just now beginning to stand on their own and become a force for change in other parts of the world. Look at each democracy's early history to include the US. Each had great struggles; none ever knew for sure if it would work. Hitler is the poster of one failing.
    It takes two generations for a change to take root, three to become the norm.
    • Sep 5 2013: Notice that in your argument, you're making the unspoken assumption that the push and political will for a democracy are both inexhaustible.

      That's simply not the case.
      Its very easy for the process to stagnate and die. After which, all you're left with is the instability of a new regime which isn't even democratic. If you removed the old regime by force, the cost is probably a lot higher.

      Taking your analogy of a teenager going off to live alone for the first time, timing is everything. Some could easily handle that sort of thing at 15, others aren't ready when they're 20. The thing is, running a country is a lot harder than living alone, and the repercussions for mistakes are much graver.
      Where as an unprepared teenager probably won't manage to cause too much harm, an inept government can lead a country into ruin. In such a scenario its quite realistic for the people to just chalk off democracy as a failed experiment, and switch over to something else, after all the damage has been done, and to no real benefit.

      Sometimes, staying put with a bad situation does less harm than trying to fix it. Democratic transition can do a lot of good for a lot of countries, but it isn't for everyone.
      • Sep 5 2013: I think you have visions of the 60s and 70s when the US foreign policy was to force democracy on the world. I don't see the US forcing democracy on anyone until they have become untenable to themselves or the world. There are many places the US hasn't forcibly thrust democracy upon a nation state. North Korea is the poster example. However, when you want or expect help from me, then you have to move in a direction I believe will improve the plight of your people. (Now whether because I'm just a good guy or because it will benefit me later is not being addressed here.)

        The simply idea of democracy has provided the "culture" for improvement to everyone’s' standard of living far beyond anything before it, so why would I not push it for everyone to have it particularly when a group of people are in a struggle with other forms of governance. Democracy is in my opinion the most difficult to establish but provides the greatest benefit to its people. You may see the disaster as avoidable, but those in the middle of it see it as their path to the life they are being denied.

        We have a difference of point of view. You see us as thrusting it upon them. I see it as offering them what in their heart they already seek. It is the leaders that wish to maintain their power that creates the disaster you wish everyone to avoid. I'm not sure I can name a democratic state that didn't come from some sort of difficult transition from another form of governance. Therefore, I reject your methodical move to democracy. It comes in jerks and twists not planned and linear.
        • Sep 6 2013: That's precisely the problem right there.
          You see it as "offering them what in their heart they already seek". They see it as a form of neo-colonialism.
          You need to understand that most of the world still has bad memories from the colonial era.

          Democratic transitions need to come from within, otherwise it just looks like some foreign occupier's ideas. As I've said here before, "chosen of the people" is surprisingly easy to confuse for "western puppets".

          By the way, US foreign policy never included a worldwide democratic transition. During the cold war, setting up puppet governments was more important, and dictatorships were easier to control.
          My problem is with the more modern "lets force democracy on Iraq" mentality.
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    Sep 5 2013: Every country has their own characteristics, their own way to deal with matters, if they try their best to meet people's needs and get a positive result, especially for a peace society. Let it go, and just respect and wish instead of changing them.
  • Sep 5 2013: many of us do see that. what happens though is some people are brought up to believe that patriotism is a good thing and this has an unfortunate side effect - they then equate everything that their country does as inherently good, without even considering if it actually is or not.
    i think i disagree with one of your premises though, and i think you even disputed yourself. the democratically elected government only needed to be toppled by the military after they then got rid of democracy. it's not that the military was needed, or that democracy doesn't work, it's that bad things happen when true democracy is subverted, which can happen in many different ways. real democracy really does work best, problems only occur when people aren't given real democracy.
    • Sep 5 2013: Not exactly accurate.

      The problem is that changing a nation's system of government comes with a cost. You loose stability no matter what you do, and even when changing to a truly democratic system, you may well get violent resistance.
      This can easily result in great economic damage, great loss of lives, and if the violence is severe enough, potentially a coup resulting in all of that pain having been for nothing.

      In a lot of countries, the first thing a democracy would do was elect a government that would get rid of democracy. That's what happened in Egypt for example--the Muslim Brotherhood was out to set a very non-democratic theocracy in Egypt, and was quite open about it. Got voted into power anyway.
      In Egypt, they had the military preform an odd sort of pro-democratic coup. If they didn't have that, Egypt would be going the way of Iran today, easily leaving it off worse than they were under Mubarak. Even with the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, who knows how the current mess will turn out--they really were better off with their then dictator than they are now.

      If democracy doesn't have much of a shot to begin with, any transition will be a needlessly painful process that leads to nowhere.
      Now, in Egypt, no foreign power forced their revolution on them. If it was a foreign power, you can be sure things would have gotten a lot worse a lot quickly, because being seen as a foreign oppressor's idea, the democratic government wouldn't have lasted a month.

      If there is one thing all the various people around the world can agree upon, is that they don't like foreign occupiers.
      Democracy is seen as a very Western idea, and would be seen in many places as imposing foreign values by force of arms. Not exactly what you need for a struggling new regime, which is already inherently weak in nature.
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    Sep 4 2013: A pillar of democracy is that it has the support of the people it represents. A government should always work for the people it represents, and not for a select few who farm the people like herd animals.
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      Sep 4 2013: actually, it is a dreamworld. in the real world, governments should do what grants them votes. if working for people grants them votes, they do that. if bombing syria grants them votes, they do that. if war on drugs grants them votes, they do that. if lying shamelessly grants them votes, they must do that. if we trust the people with voting, we also must accept their final authority, and should not have other values than the majority vote.

      if it sounds scary, you are not a fan of democracy. neither do i.
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        Sep 4 2013: " in the real world, governments should do what grants them votes" I feel that is the dream world.
        In any reality I know so far politicians promise anything and everything and deliver only what they themselves deem is good for they themselves, if it happens to benefit the populace then so be it, if not oh well !

        however, we the people have every responsibility to hold them accountable
        we may have the wheel but we will continue to improve the wheel
    • Sep 4 2013: I agree with the "should", but "should" and "actually does" are two very different things.
      If every government already looked out for the best interest of the lot of its citizenry, we wouldn't need democracy at all. We could just skip the entire election process, and all the dictators of the world would be benevolent. If only...

      Democracy works great in theory. In some countries, it even works great in practice. That list of "some countries", unfortunately does not include all of them.

      In some political realities which exist in certain places around the world today, democracy simply doesn't fit, and therefore should not be imposed upon by force of arms.
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        Sep 5 2013: In a less than perfect world it is foolish to strive for perfection, but it is wise to aim for continual improvement.
    • Sep 5 2013: which i'd argue isn't democracy at all.
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    Sep 3 2013: Democracy and most other political systems barely allow for innovation within them, that's a core problem.
    I also feel that policy makers are always a generation behind.

    A transition to democracy must be without corruption and fraud. Corruption is bound by culture and human behaviour. Without stability in the society and social pressure against it, it is not going to change.

    The people making the policies is not a bad thing, but I feel that these policies always have to be bound by advise from unbiased experts and scientists, not by those (corporations) who pay the most to influence politicians ( surely a perverse stimulus on most policies).

    Two innovations I do see in governance:
    An experiment of the european commision:

    Societal wisdom networks (for policy making):
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      Sep 3 2013: And that is the problem. Somebody has to advise the people... some one expert or scientists, some one who knows better then the people... So, if there is someone expert or a scientist, why get the people involved at all. And surely those experts and scientist would turn down handsome payouts that politicians accept.
      What is needed is some huge computer that can objectively run all our lives and then we would have no problems. OK, but I would keep an eye on the guys writing the program
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        Sep 4 2013: Would become a boring world.
        The 'computer' would figure that whiping out all terrorists, psychopaths, low IQ, high testosteron or corruptive people alike is a good idea, where would you draw the line.. No, that would be so morally wrong and against human rights.

        Do you think it would become a choice between maintaining what it means to be human (always evolving and learning, yet with acceptance of all its flaws) and survival of our species? Because policymaker actions impact our conditions and that of our planet and its resources directly.
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    Sep 3 2013: You are correct. Democracy in any form is difficult. And for a people to become democratic over night or in short order from a life under a restrictive governance almost never happens. It took the West nearly a thousand years to form the democracies they have today and that transition was not all that smooth.
    The West sees democracy as the best way for men to live free. They do and they want everyone to have that same opportunity. The point is that if the West does not encourage democracy with all possible means, who will?
    Are we too pushy? Yes. And the alternatives? The West could simply ignore the rest of the world and let things happen as they may and that is an international policy, but... if the west did that and with vibrant economies that depend on world trade, would the rest of the world fall into dictatorial chaos ending the necessary trade?
    If it was easy, we would have nothing to talk about
    • Sep 4 2013: I have no problem with doing what we cant to help democracy along in a more passive manner, but doing it through force of arms should be discouraged.

      These changes can be hard enough without being seen as a foreign invader's idea. You must remember that most of the world still has bad memories from the days of colonialism--a lot of them see democracy as just another set of strings from the western puppet masters they've just managed to overthrow.
      Invading them and forcing a new system of government that goes completely against everything they're used to isn't something that's going to improve that situation.

      Any transition to a different form of government can either be a slow, largely internal process, or a short and painful transformation. The former sticks a lot better than the latter, and I honestly think its a mistake to go for the latter when it has such a low success rate and great cost (both financial and in blood).
    • Sep 4 2013: All forms of government ulitimately involve forcing people to abide by whatever decision is made. It doesn't matter if that decision is made by a tyrant or 500,001 out of a million people. There will always be people who are forced to act in ways that they feel are contrary to their best interests. That is the inherent flaw of government and the reason why governments always seem to devolve into tyranny.
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        Sep 4 2013: i don't agree to the "always will be" part
        • Sep 4 2013: Technically, you are correct. It is theoretically possible for 100% of the people to vote the same on an issue. That case becomes less and less likely as more and more people are involved. If my memory is correct even the vote to declare war against Japan here in the states had one decenting vote in the Senate and that was after they attacked us.
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        Sep 4 2013: i was talking about a free society, one without government
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    Sep 3 2013: I would interpret this less as a case of believing this is a magical solution to all problems than a case of deep aversion to concentrations of power. Similarly, there is a preference for "checks and balances."