TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Which is the best form of democracy?

Most of us have some form of "representative democracy" but did you know that there are also other forms of democracy?

And within a representative democracy there's an entire upheaval of versions of it.

Direct democracy and Delegative democracy are some examples of versions other than the representative system.

I myself am a proponent of a form of deligative democracy called "Liquid Democracy"

So, which democratic system is the best according to you and why?

Here's a Wiki on the different forms of democracy, I advice reading it to get an overview of the topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_democracy

Topics: democracy
Share:
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2014: Should try them both. Direct democracy first. We won't know until we try it
  • thumb
    Jan 15 2014: The major difference between the representative and a direct systems of governance is the voter.

    That is to say, in representative systems the voter simply pokes its head into the system every few years and casts a ballot. The rest of the time their participation involves clapping or sneering at the decisions being made and the personalities in governance with no effect voice in any of the legislation after casting that ballot. .

    In a Direct system you vote on the issues that matter to you and the legislation itself and the representatives simply carry it out the will of the popular vote.. Kind of like they were mere employees and not celebrities. .

    I prefer the more Direct approach.
  • thumb
    Jan 15 2014: Does anyone know of a nation that has a democracy component in its educational curriculum? Neither Canada nor the U.S. has and that failing is no accident. Imagine trying to understand math without any practice or training, or reading or writing or riding a bicycle. Without the knowledge base to understand that democracy means 'rule of the people' - and its origins and intent - nor the practice of consensus building and seeking compromise, real democracy has a tough road ahead..

    But anyone that accepts the so-called "representative" and party system as a viable form of 'democracy' in this day and age truly has no real understanding of neither the word nor the concept of democracy.

    ,
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Yup, we have it here in Sweden. Don't you cover it at all!?

      Granted our curriculum is not solid and we aren't taught about things like Direct democracy but we are taught about the Athenians and the evolution of democracy up until the 1920's when the big changes stopped here (women were allowed to vote).

      Not sure if you have a translation add-on but if you do you can read this http://www.skolinspektionen.se/sv/Tillsyn--granskning/Kvalitetsgranskning/Genomforda-kvalitetsgranskningar/Demokrati-och-vardegrund/
      • thumb
        Jan 17 2014: Jimmy,
        William could be forgiven his lack of knowledge about Sweden, it's far away. But, he shows a lack of what is going on here in the States, which if I understand his location, is a few hundred miles away. Although, the study of political science is diminished in our primary public schools, most of our major universities have extensive programs even to the doctorate level in political science. I studied political science at the undergraduate level and I can say that a substantial amount of class time was devoted to the democratic processes in direct and through representative forms of governance.
  • thumb
    Jan 31 2014: Hi Jimmy!

    Best form of democracy would be one that truly comprehends the Greek word, "deme."

    Best!
  • Jan 24 2014: It appears that the best form of democracy is the "more perfect union." Not to sound old fashioned or cliche or put forward an American Ideal but a more perfect union identifies a hands off approach to doing what the people want with the only requirement being that a vote be taken and counted and a place be provided for this to occur. Democracy is really a place and time. Do you agree?
  • Jan 18 2014: I do not believe that there is any kind of perfect democracy. In every country where a form of democracy is being practised you find a kind of self tuning process going on where the old system is adjusted to deal with the new. Democracy must be of this character since the world always throws up all kinds of new circumstances, attitudes, etc. Any system which remains rigid will eventually collapse under the strain or show all sorts of problems as it groans under the pressure, consider for example the occasions of sexual deviancy from Catholic priests because they are not allowed a normal sexual expression in their lives.
    • thumb
      Jan 20 2014: While perfection will always remain out of reach of an imperfect race, is that an argument for not trying to improve upon the existing structures? While practice may not equal perfection there is plenty of evidence for practice leading to ever greater improvements. Flying machines and the wheel are common examples.

      So, are there any systems you prefer over others?
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2014: Mr Clegg,
    And if I count my thumb, the other hand and both feet, I can get all the way to twenty.
    The question begs, why didn't you do a google search on your data and check the info.
    But, as I said in item 4. I am willing to bet that the idea of this democratic governance that is being discussed will not even generate a ripple of interest among most Americans. Currently there are two positions that Americans will take, The first is "we don't want to be bothered with running the government, that is why we elect people to do it, and if they screw up, we'll elect someone else.
    The other is "If I help you win this election, what can you do for me later?".... There will be a few who attended classes conducted by those surviving members of the Age of Aquarius, who went into academia and are all excited about something "new".... :)
    • thumb
      Jan 20 2014: in fact I did a search and am disappointed but not surprised no one else bothered to, especially yourself.
      http://www.ipl.org/div/stateknow/popchart.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population
      for example. In other words, over 80% of the states have less than 10 mill.

      At least you honestly affirmed the lack of democratic understanding in that failed nation.
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2014: Let's see, 80% of 50 is about 10 and 10 is 5 times the 2 you mentioned... are we done splitting hairs?
        It's not the lack of understanding in this failed nation of democracy, it's in tilt toward socialism the precipitated the noted failures... Our current situation increased downward with President Wilson and has slipped from there. But, be not afraid, a stable Canada is close by and welcomes refugees crossing their southern boarders. And Canada will welcome us to take up the space of all the Canadians who have headed south. It will be balanced.
  • thumb
    Jan 16 2014: Jimmy,


    Yes, those and Rome and Athens, come to mind.

    But, a personal question. If I understand you are Swedish and isn't Sweden a constitutional Monarchy? Further, your country has great natural resources, a culture that is strong and caring, and has survived in tact for... a couple of hundred years or more? I also believe that your country has a democratically elected Parliament similar to the US House of Representatives. And by all standards, Sweden is doing well, unlike here where there is a turmoil of clashing ideologies.

    So Why? Why are you so ... "excited" by a new form of "democracy"?

    We have a saying here in Texas.... "If it ain't broke, don't fix it""

    Are you proposing to change Sweden? Will a new form of government make the country better?
    Or are you just supporting this democracy form for other countries like us???
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Hey Mike,

      It's true that we are a constitutional Monarchy on paper, but as with most royalty today we simply use them for commercial purposes, there are many that wish to get rid of (not kill, just make "not royal") the royal family I'm one of them. They still cost us a lot of taxpayer money...

      Yes, natural resources, culture and have been a unified nation since about 1280AD

      We do have a democratically elected, well let's call it a parliament and I guess it is somewhat similar to your HoR But there are many differences that separate how our governments work, but let's go with the thought that they're the same for simplicity. But we are also having a big clash of ideologies here. Basically we have the left, the right and the Nazis (not kidding, the past 8 years have been a haven for them)...

      By the comparative standard Sweden is doing well. But on everything else we're going right down the drain, perhaps not as fast as you are but we're all heading in that direction.

      You do not view it as broken, I do. I can assure you that I do Mike. Or maybe not broken but certainly insufficient for our day and age.

      You know at one time in history no one could vote, then only free men could vote. Then some other men and then some other. Then we let other ethnics in to vote and finally women.

      But no one ever asked the question "Vote on What!?" and "How often?". It's choosing between bad and worse as it is today!

      Hell yeah I'm proposing this for Sweden, if my party makes it into parliament this year as of now (things may change) I'm going to parliament. And I purpose this for every nation.

      It would finally enable the true meaning of democracy which is Demos = People and Kratos = Rule.

      Not a few people, not a bunch of people who know nothing of what actual life is like. But ALL people should be able to participate in the democratic process whenever they wish to do so. Not every 4 years and not just being able to choose between bad and worse but be able to choose anything!
      • thumb
        Jan 16 2014: OK, you are not happy with how your country is going... I see that in my country also.
        But, I am looking at what has been done in the past and worked well, before we went on this tangent as a nation. I am not saying that the past was correct and final, just that is a good place to start from.
        You are proposing something that has never been done on the scale you are facing.
        Sweden has 10 mil people. Here in Texas, we are 4 times that size... the entire US is 32 times bigger and how would this system work in the USA. There are a dozen differing cultural entities in the US. Talk about not getting together with two political parties now, how would it work for us with a dozen or even more.
        As I see it, your governance is based on participation by all.... what about those who don't want to be bother by governance, lots of those here and worse of all, what about those issues that are so... toxic.... nobody wants to deal with them. I know that pure democracy has worked... it has worked best here in the US. But, it is limited by size and commonality. A fishing village in the state of Maine can pull it off, But here in Texas, we don't agree with towns 100 miles away let alone about Maine fishermen some 2000 miles from here
        I wish you well on the conversion in Sweden and we'll be watching to see how it works.
        But, if it doesn't, will you be able to put Sweden back together, it's a pretty good country now...

        PS. If you are elected to Parliament.... Congratulations. I wish you the best.
        You are doing something I would never do... run for office.... for so many reasons. There are things in my past... and worse, I'd be afraid that I would become one of "them"
        • thumb
          Jan 16 2014: In case you didn't notice this earlier " Population should not be a barrier anywhere and particularity in the U.S. where the vast majority of states do not come close the 10 million pop. of Sweden and only California and Texas being significantly larger. And California has had a referendum system for years making such a transition relatively easy" After all, each state is supposed to have some measure of autonomy hence the state by state legalization of pot that is becoming a growing trend there - pun intended.

          Of course I can understand how difficult it is for most Americans to even participate in a discussion about the democratic process when they have no grounding in the concept to begin with and have been indoctrinated with the propaganda nonsense that the U.S. is some sort of champion of democracy elsewhere. It really is ironic that such a "champion" would fail so miserably at educating its own on the democratic process they are so cavalier about elsewhere.
      • thumb
        Jan 17 2014: William.
        You are right and you are wrong.
        1st. The democratic governance as described has never been done on 10 million pop. Please feel free to enlighten me.
        2nd You are correct, each of the 50 states act more or less autonomous, however, all national law is the province of the federal government.... now we are talking 320,000,000.
        3rd. Check the population of the 50 states...a few more then Texas and California exceed 10 million.
        4th. Most Americans don't care about democracy anywhere. They do get angry when they are attacked or cruel rulers do bad things, i.e. Hitler, Hussein, to mention a few. But, ask most any of them about the government in.... Canada. A majority would be surprised that Canada had one. They would say "If Sgt Preston and King are happy, we are happy".
  • thumb
    Jan 16 2014: There is a lot of support for democracies as a governing system, I see it as in a context of a small town, there has been several examples of success. But for large nations, I like constitutional republics. Properly established, the population can be relatively safe and free. However, there is an Achilles heel in constitutional republics. Too often, some of those who are free and relatively safe find themselves constricted by the constitution and began to press for change... they press for democracy, because in a big country, people can be swayed by a charismatic public speaker and the country can slip into a dictatorship. I look back in history and too many democracies have devolved into rule by a few or one.
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: So you're going to say Germany, Soviet and China, right? But then I'd go on to explain that they were never democracies for long and very few have gone the road that you speak of. Or do you have any real world examples of this development?
  • Jan 16 2014: When I lived in New England in a small town, the major decisions were made at the Town Meetings. Everything was done by direct vote. It was interesting to watch. Because everyone knew everyone, it was possible to discuss and once in a great while, change the vote. I am not sure it would have worked for larger gatherings.

    For larger diverse populations, maybe the representative form is the best we can do. I think we should change it so that it is easier to recall a representative.
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: This is the system that I purpose as the best one.

      If you'd care to watch a 5 min video most would be explained in that. Also in my system you can instantly recall your vote for someone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg0_Vhldz-8
      • Jan 16 2014: What you are proposing is similar but not exactly like the voting of shares in a corporation with proxy. Somehow I am not sure I would think of that process as Democratic 8>))
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Population should not be a barrier anywhere and particularity in the U.S. where the vast majority of states do not come close the 10 million pop. of Sweden and only California and Texas being significantly larger. And California has had a referendum system for years making such a transition relatively easy.

      However, what you describe in your town meetings is a community involvement similar to the one I have lived in for 35 years. Of course some communities are more cohesive and functional than others regarding their decision making. But the representative system is more about factions who compete with each other and even attack each other and seldom work towards a common goal in the manner of a community.

      Canada, by and large, used to have that town hall community as part of its identity but in the past 50 years or so that has been chipped away at by U.S. influences especially through development the tar sands, auto industry and a few lesser players. Now we have a Tea Party prime minister who would be far more comfortable politically south of the border. But I suspect there is still enough of that community identify left that a Direct system would work here. Staying with the representative system is just too depressing to contemplate.
  • Jan 14 2014: I really don't think direct democracy could work. It is a lot like communism. The general idea of peace amd equality is nice, but then human nature kicks in and you have dictators running the show.
  • Jan 13 2014: I'll start off by saying that direct democracy is basically a disaster waiting to happen.
    It'll quickly degenerate into a populist mess that ends up zig-zagging between policies instead of following one through (think high initial costs with no longer term benefits, because everything is cut at the first sign of trouble), at the whims of public opinion which comes and goes like the tides, only not half as predictable.
    There will also be very little room for expert advisory, and the sheer amount of non-stop voting and campaigning will cost a fortune. It'll also be well and truly terrible in making rapid, decisive decisions in the face of crisis.
    Finally, it won't necessarily lead to better decision making. On the contrary, the public is usually under informed and over opinionated. 80% of Americans supported invading Iraq when they couldn't eve place it on a map.

    So, leaving the direct system by the wayside, which is the best form of representative democracy?
    I lack both the expertise and research to answer that, though one can probably wager that like most things, some forms are better tailored to the needs of certain areas.

    My own country runs with a single house parliamentary democracy that seems to be working reasonable well considering the obstacles it faces.This despite lack of proper separation of church and state, no constitution (no one could agree what would go on it), a massive military presence, being surrounded by enemies (a challenge for civil liberties) large and occasionally secessionist minorities, and a democratic tradition of only 70 years or so.
    The system must have some serious merit if it managed to keep that mess in one piece, without as much as a single coup attempt to show for it...
    I say, don't fix it if it ain't broke.
    • thumb
      Jan 13 2014: Navad, where are you from?

      Also did you know that Switzerland has Direct Democracy to a large extent?
      • Jan 14 2014: Israeli, lived in the states for a few years as a kid (long enough to figure out their democratic system was a broken mess, apparent even to a self centered teenager), and eventually ended up moving back.

        Now, my country has its fair share of problems, but the parliamentary democratic system seems to have helped mitigate those.
        With all due respect to the Swiss, your country is famed for having no real problems at all compared to a normal nation. It gives you time to experiment with bad forms of government without it really doing that much damage. Without a war in two hundred years, a strong economy, no real trouble with violent minorities (compared to the standard I'm used to at least), and longstanding and strong traditions, even a monarchy could have probably done fine.
        • Jan 15 2014: I thus guess people like you will not criticize Chinese government so much, for it is widely criticized in west for the lack of western democracy in China.
          Somehow, I agree with your idea. At least I do not think the American style democracy is good enough.
        • thumb
          Jan 16 2014: Navad,

          I'm Swedish not Swiss, there's a difference. :)

          But don't you think that you might have reversed the cause and effect of it? That we've had no war and "no problems" (but that is far from true) because of our form of government?
      • Jan 16 2014: You tell me. When did Sweden become democratic, and since when does it have a strong economy and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors?
        Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe those two parameters predate democracy.

        Fact of the matter is, democracy is a rather weak regime type, and is notorious for being the hardest government to set up properly. With a dictatorship, you just start running things, shooting the odd dissident, and that's that.
        With democracy, it takes years and years of stability, a greater degree of separation of church and state (which already existed in Europe since the treaty of Westphallia following the 30 years war back in the 17th century, back when democracy was still "that odd ancient Greek idea"), and a strong democratic tradition, none of which you establish overnight.
        This is why most modern democracies are prosperous. They had to be to turn democratic to begin with. Otherwise, the fledgling democracy is deposed by some military coup, armed minority, or even an elected leader that decided he wants to be president for life.

        Granted, democracy may help you to stay prosperous, but other factors are typically more significant.
        In my own country, a strong military presence consisting mostly of conscripts (the type of people who typically don't want to grab power, and will refuse an order to do so) probably has more to do with the nation's stability then the democratic government. Being surrounded by enemies also helps in its own strange way--if you can stop them at the border, they make for a great unifying force; again though, you need a strong military for that.
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Nadav, are you suggesting the dysfunction you describe is so potent that both Israel and the U.S. are incapable of getting past it? That is a sad commentary indeed. However, there are just too many examples of corruption dominating representative systems around the world. Change is both necessary and inevitable. Do you reject the idea of voting directly on the issues rather than crossing your fingers that your representative will, in fact, represent your interests?
      • Jan 16 2014: I don't think any form of government can completely eliminate dysfunction, or even come close to doing so. Dictatorships are pretty good at relieving one type while creating another, while representative democracies are usually better at mitigating an existing dysfunction.

        Direct democracy on the other hand will have the opposite effect of worsening it.
        As I said, the public is usually under informed and over opinionated. Say you for example, need to decide whether or not you invade Iraq; here are the things you need to consider in order to make a sound and rational decision:
        --The military side of things (is an invasion even realistic? How long will the initial fighting take? How expensive will it be, in both senses?)
        --The geopolitical side of things (what am I trying to accomplish, and how long to I need to stay? What is an invasion actually likely to accomplish given the world political stage? How are the locals likely to react to an occupation?)
        --The economic side of things (do I have better things to spend this money on at home? what are the effects of the resulting rising cost of oil? How much political resistance will I face bringing defense budgets back down after the war?)
        --The stuff I didn't think about off the top of my head (How is one person expected to keep track of so much, anyway?)

        As you can see, you need an entire team of experts and a few solid hours of research to get even a preliminary examination. You can't possibly expect so much information to be relayed to the public--80% of Americans couldn't place Iraq on a map before the war, despite most of them supporting the invasion.

        Therefore, you need a small group of people, advised by as many experts as possible making the decisions. The reason for having those people elected is to make it harder for them to become self serving like usually occurs in a dictatorship.

        All government is bad government, but some types are worse then others, and few are as bad as no government at all.
        • thumb
          Jan 16 2014: Interesting, you admit you have no direct experience with direct democracy but are certain it won't work This attitude seems ingrained, despite the knowledge provided by people such as Jimmy that it is working. I suggest finding a better model to work from than the U.S. which has been a failed state for ages and which has no grounding in the democratic process worth mentioning.
      • Jan 16 2014: The US' problem isn't the representative system per say, but rather the way its implemented.
        As much as they pride themselves with being one of the world's oldest democratic regimes, being such an early adopter comes with side effects, namely a less then full proof implementation of many of the concepts.

        Gerrymandering, filibustering, the electoral college, the system being specifically designed to prevent the entry of a third party, the vice president specifically being elected to have different views from the president to pander to a larger audience... The list goes on, but none of these are fundamental problems with representative democracy. My country doesn't have any one of those for example--the benefit of being one of the newer democracies, plenty of failed experiments to learn from.

        My problem with direct democracy isn't ingrained. Having examined the concept rationally, I simply came to the conclusion its a really bad idea. It works in some parts of the world because those same parts would have ran just fine with almost any form of government.

        In a stable country, the elected parts of the governments can pretty much disappear with no ill effect for extended periods--the civil service pretty much runs itself anyway. During crisis on the other hand, that's when a government really earns its keep, and direct democracy is pretty much non-functional during crisis (reacts too slowly, and too indecisively), so what's the point of having it at all?