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Old 2007-01-23, 00:12   #1
jasong
 
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"Jason Goatcher"
Mar 2005

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Default The United States of America is not a democracy.

I'm sick and tired of politicians deceiving my fellow Americans and calling us a democracy. We're not a democracy and never have been, we happen to be a Constitutional Republic, a nation with a written Constitution.

I tried to tell a friend this once, and he told me we're a Constitutional Democracy. I don't wish to offend anyone, but a little bit of thought reveals that this is a nonsensical concept. If we're a democracy, then a majority of the people can vote to change anything just by arranging it. What's the point of a Constitution if there isn't some sort of buffer zone?

Maybe people disagree with me, but considering how democracies(according to the correct definition) in the past have fared, I really wish the word would un-redefine itself.
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Old 2007-01-23, 00:58   #2
brunoparga
 
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Wait a minute. I don't think US democracy is perfect (an indirectly elected President? A gerrymander-elected Congress? Come on!) but saying it's *not a democracy* seems to me as going too far.

Let's think: there are people. On the one hand, people have senses and feelings and they can perceive the same senses and feelings in others; thus, we all tend to recognize in one another some rights (physical integrity, freedom of speech, of coming and going and so on). On the other hand, people are the original, legitimate source of power. Because of the simple fact that in any community larger than a few dozen people it seems impossible to have everyone participating equally in every decision-making, people recognize representatives to rule for them.

The reason why the US *is* a democracy is that, most of the time and before the current Presidency, the latter aspect (representative power = Congress) was prevented from denying the former (inherent rights = Bill of Rights). Without such fundamental provisions as the Bill of Rights or the UN Declaration of Human Rights (entrenched in at least one basic law I know of, the Brazilian 1988 Constitution), in places where only the "power" side of the equation exists, there isn't democracy, there's at best a tyranny of the majority.

Bruno
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Old 2007-01-23, 02:25   #3
jasong
 
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Brunapargo, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. The United States of America has a strong, robust form of government, in my opinion. My beef is with the fact that the word 'democracy' has been redefined. There is more than one definition of democracy, our Constitutional Republic as one example, and the so-called pure democracies which don't last long because people always seem to want to try and get as much money in their pocket as they can. Since the poor and middle-class will always outnumber the rich, selfishness kills a pure democracy.

That's what my problem is. I don't want ignorant people to want to change our government to be more like a pure democracy. I think calling us a democracy increases the likelihood that something dangerous like this could happen.

That's my beef, in a nutshell. Somewhere, there's an ignorant person with a great personality who personifies my fears and wants to get elected.

I want to change what we're called so that people have one less stupid mistake to make.

Last fiddled with by jasong on 2007-01-23 at 02:26
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Old 2007-01-23, 12:10   #4
xilman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
Brunapargo, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. The United States of America has a strong, robust form of government, in my opinion. My beef is with the fact that the word 'democracy' has been redefined. There is more than one definition of democracy, our Constitutional Republic as one example, and the so-called pure democracies which don't last long because people always seem to want to try and get as much money in their pocket as they can. Since the poor and middle-class will always outnumber the rich, selfishness kills a pure democracy.

That's what my problem is. I don't want ignorant people to want to change our government to be more like a pure democracy. I think calling us a democracy increases the likelihood that something dangerous like this could happen.

That's my beef, in a nutshell. Somewhere, there's an ignorant person with a great personality who personifies my fears and wants to get elected.

I want to change what we're called so that people have one less stupid mistake to make.
The US, like the UK and many other countries is a representative democracy. The people elect representatives every so often and then (by and large) leave them to get on with it.

Paul
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Old 2007-01-23, 16:56   #5
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But when more than half the people do not bother to vote most of the time, it is fair to assume that something is wrong. BTW, I agree with brunoparga that the US is definitely a democracy. And on several levels it functions better than most other democracies.
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Old 2007-01-23, 20:08   #6
cheesehead
 
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jasong,

Your intentions are commendable but, like it or not, democracy (like many other words) has evolved to have multiple correct definitions.

From Webster's Third New International Dictionary:

"1 a : government by the people : rule of the majority b (1) : a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly ... -- called also direct democracy (2) : a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them indirectly through a system of representation and delegated authority in which the people choose their officials and representatives at periodically held free elections -- called also representative democracy"

followed by seven other definitions.

The United States of America is a 1 b (2) democracy, AKA representative democracy (as well as being a WTNID 2 a republic and 2 b republic).

Most folks are not going to be impressed by your pickiness unless you use those adjectives direct and representative. If you do, then they'll be impressed by your pickiness, but won't change anything. For U.S. politicians, pickiness about democracy in public oratory is usually a liability, because they're almost always using definition 1 a (which is probably how that became the a definition rather than the b definition :-).

As for being constitutional, well ... too many of us, including this llama, fail to regularly perform "a walk or other exercise taken for one's health" IMHO.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2007-01-23 at 20:53
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Old 2007-01-23, 20:30   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garo View Post
But when more than half the people do not bother to vote most of the time, it is fair to assume that something is wrong.
Not necessarily. I can also argue that if too many (percentage) bother to vote, then there is also a "problem".

Most people are relatively apolitical. They are not passionate about their government as long as they feel that it does enough to "protect" them and, doesn't "get in the way" of their leading their own lives as they wish. It is only where they feel that the goverment is "going too far" or "not going far enough" that they become vocal.

Thus, voter apathy may be a sign that the government is (perceived to be) doing a very good job, and a high turnout might indicate that there is "a problem".
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Old 2007-01-24, 02:37   #8
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Wacky,

I think I understand what you said. I don't agree. First, low voter turnout may rise questions regarding the democratic government's legitimacy, which may in turn favour undemocratic solutions - which are *always* worse for the absolute majority of the people. Second, voter apathy doesn't usually mean the people are generally satisfacted with their government; I'd say it seems, from what I hear from people here in Brazil, that they think any of the available options is equally bad. I think these two facts were present in the last French presidential elections: when ultra-right wing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen presented himself as an alternative to the traditional parties represented by Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac, voters went there and took Jospin out of a runoff which seemed certain. Then Chirac got an overwhelming vote against Le Pen.

Finally: the way people show the government it's doing fine isn't staying home having a barbecue the day of the polls, is going out there and voting for them. At least that's what I do

Oh, and, to jasong's certainty that direct ("pure") democracy can't ever work: check this.

Bruno
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Old 2007-01-25, 15:33   #9
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Voter apathy may also be due to cynicism. "Our vote is not really going to change things" as all available options are equally bad. If you think about it, the spectrum of political options, offered by the two main parties in the US and the three main parties in the UK isn't very large. Moreover, the mainstream media in both countries does try to create the impression that no one else has a chance of winning. And then when something like a Jesse Ventura happens all the political pundits display their surprise.
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