USA the leader in democracy?

Given that almost every US administration has declared to the world that they are and allways will be the beacon of light, the perfect example of a democracy and its people. Surely the aftermath of the recent and unfortunate natural disaster yet again casts a dark cloud over this declaration? What with the almost immediate and obvious breakdown in civility and respect for laws. A nation that preaches equal rights for all its citizens whilst trying to keep low key the fact of an embarassing approx. 40 million living below the international poverty line out of a population in excess of 297 million. The direct and indirect disdain for non-whites and their subsequent relegation to the sidelines!

Is the debate ‘why is the US perceived as the leader in democracy’, or is it ‘is the use perceived as the leader in democracy’…or its it just a rant against the US thinly veiled as a debate?


As I recall, the words are “Bring us your tired, your poor, your hungry” but doesn’t say anywhere that those things will be fixed once here.

And things being bungled is just as much a part of democracy as monarchy. In one case, everything that the most care about the most gets done and everything else sloughed off. In the other, everything that the one person cares about the most gets done and everything else sloughed off.

Both meanings and no it is not a rant against the US thinly veiled as a debate.
It would be interesting to hear the arguments that “justify” these perceptions and not just from American citizens.

The American Foreign Policy thrives on such an ideal and yet it leaves a lot of unanswered questions not only in the homeland but also throughout the nations that have felt its presence. Be it positive or negative.

What country is everyone from, can you put that into your replies?

I’m from the US. I don’t see the admin claiming to be a perfect beacon of democracy. however I think the US does want to promote democracy. We invaded Iraq in the hopes of creating a democracy, we have set up aid funds in the middle east that reward democratic reforms. we helped fight communism along with western europe (but we used dictators to fight it so that doesn’t really count for much).

All in all if you ask me the US is one of the least representative developed liberal democracies because of how we treat the weakest and poorest among us. We treat our poor way worse than any other developed country. we have the 2nd lowest minimum wage (only Japan is lower), no universal healthcare, no/crappy maternity leave, our education expenses are pretty high and the military is made up mostly of poor people. We have more people in prison than any other country because we fight drug wars to prevent people from doing what they want with their own bodies. So we are not a beacon of light, but we are still reasonably respectable and we do try to export democracy.

I doubt we have 40 million below the international poverty line. The international poverty line is probably too low for most americans to fall under, I thought that the int. poverty line was about $2/day.

While pointing out that the mayor and police chief of NO are also black, I’m presuming that you’ve read enough American papers online to know that there is indeed a lot of self-criticism going on about this.

As for democracy, well, most of us still know men who served or are buried in Europe and Asia as they pointlessly and violently wasted the last two centuries killing each other and mindlessly following dictators and failed grand political philosophies, many of which tried to forced everybody into mediocrity so that “nobody would be poor”.

…and before someone rightly rounds on me with a list of dictators and nasty folks America has ‘supported’ or at least tolerated, I was just painting with as broad a brush as the OP was, in the spirit of the thread.

Poor people in the US almost always have electricity, indoor plumbing, free schooling, immunizations, televisions, and more than one pair of shoes. So a poor person by American standards is still much better off than the poor in another country where the bar is set lower to begin with.

One final thought–in a place where people are largely allowed to succeed beyond their wildest dreams, surely some will fail beyond their worst nightmares. The balance between helping the latter while not over-regulating and taxing the former is something each state works out differently. Louisiana happens to be one of those that has the biggest disparity and is atypical of states to begin with in a lot of ways that are manifesting themselves in a particularly terrible fashion.

I’m currently a US citizen to answer Wesley Clark’s question. I was born in Mexico if that further amplifies things.

Ok…fair enough then.

Why is the US perceived as the leader in democracy: A couple of reasons spring to mind. First off, its the oldest democracy in existance in the world…and arguably the nation that made democracy happen. Yes, the French beat us to it, but then they threw their revolution away and backslid (plus the whole hacking off the heads thing during the revolution).

In addition the US is THE worlds superpower today, outstripping, for the time being, all other countries from a military, economic and cultural perspective (meaning that US ‘culture’ is pervasive throughout the world…not that this is necessarily a good thing, nor that our ‘culture’ is necessary superior or anything). So…combine those things and thats why the US is perceived as the current ‘leader in democracy’…by some. This view is by no means universal, though for myself I think its valid.

Is the US perceived as the leader in democracy: Well, this is pretty subjective but I’d say, by and large, the US IS perceived as the leader in democracy throughtout the world. Certainly everywhere I’ve been if one is talking about democracy the first nation that springs to mind is the US. As I said above this isn’t a universal by any means, but I think that its generally true that the US is generally perceived as the leader in democracy. Why not Europe? Well, I can think of a lot of reasons, most of which have to do with their past. In addition democracy is kind of a more recent thing in much of Europe. Its entirely possible though that in the near future Europe will superseed the US in the perception as the ‘lead in democracy’…it just hasn’t happened yet IMHO.

Well, thats true of all nations…not just the US. The US is by no means perfect. Far from it. But we have a self correcting mechanism that tends to keep us on an even keel over the long haul, and our people are extremely self critical…more so I’d argue than any other nation on earth. Your problem seems to be with the present administration…and thats fair enough. However, they are only here for 8 years (only 3 left to go), and then we’ll have a whole new government. And after the this administration I’d bet the farm we’ll see some of that self correction taking place. My guess is that the Republicans will run a much more moderate and concilliatory candidate in the next election…or they will lose big time. And the Democrats will probably run a moderate/liberal candidate…and the election will probably be their’s to lose.


Can we have a cite that any administration claimed the US to be “the perfect example of a demcracy”? 'Round here, we call that type of statement a strawman.

You’ve made the false assumption that democracy = no poverty. A country could be a perfect democracy and still have lots of people living in poverty. Also, a country could be a dicatorship and have no one living in poverty.

You’re not making a case for democracy, you’re making a case for a welfare state. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a case for a welfare state (that’s a perfectly valid position to take), but it has little to do with demcracy.

American Revolution 1775-1783

French Revolution 1789-1799.

I don’t follow the logic. How does being a democracy help a country deal with a natural disaster? :dubious: How are you defining democracy? Can you really measure democracy? Is the UK more democratic than the US? What about those countries who have more liberal voting laws but have more socialistic economies?

When I studied poli sci and econ, I was told (rightly by my advisor) that it is dangerous to mix the two. Sadly, this is what is being done in the world today. First of all, cite for 40M US citizens/people living in the US are living below the international poverty line, which is, I hope you know, like $1USD/day. There might be almost that many people living in what the US government considers to be “poverty,” but the definition of which is widely debated between socialoligists, economists, and political scientists, legislators/politicians. You do know that in the US there is no clear definition of poverty? This leads to political wrangling and fights in ideology.

A breakdown in civility in the middle of a crisis is definite grounds for people to behave with such lawlessness. This is just human nature. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, it’s just the way people will act, especially if the disaster is large and effects many people. The larger the disaster, the larger the number of people affected, the more people will behave like Lord of the Flies.

Yeah, and that is good. However we can do better than that. Our poor have the lowest minimum wages, least healthcare access, worst maternity leave, some of the most expensive higher education, etc.

However the poor in the US do have it pretty good, even compared to middle class americans of 50 years ago.

I think they’re related. Laws designed to assist and protect the poor are a sign of representative government that is concerned about the well being of the vulnerable.

Er…right. Sorry. No idea where I got the notion the French Revolution happened first.

slinks away


But that’s exactly my point. Democracy doesn’t mean that the voters have to be “concerned about the well being of the vulnerable”. In fact, it’s unlikely that a real democracy of strict majority rule (ie, not a representative democracy with a constutition ) would care much at all about the poor.

You are confusing demcracy with compassion, as has the OP.

Ahh, we’re pretty democratic here in Canada too ya’ know?

The problem is that such an argument amounts to nothing more than “Be grateful things suck less now than they used to,” which is setting the bar rather low. You could just as easily say “Be grateful we’re no longer eating contaminated bread tainted with alum” or “Be glad you’re no longer dodging pig shit on the streets of NYC,” for all the good that’d do.

I’ve heard and read this claim being made by nationals of prety much every nation on earth : the Americans, the Italians, the British, the Spaniards, the Russians, the Algerians… My mother was stating the same about France last week.

For some reason, all people want their fellow citizens to be the most self-critical, the most prone to complain and bicker on earth.

Well…I’d rate the French as pretty high too, for whatever thats worth to you clairobscur. And I’d also agree with the Germans on a few points (in fact, I might be willing to conceed to the Germans, especially as far as guilt trips go)…and the British too for that matter. :slight_smile:


The poverty line in the United States is set at about twice the world average income. By almost every economic measure, the United States is healthier than any other major western nation. The U.S. is currently outpeforming the rest of the world in economic growth by about 30% per year, which is rapidly widening the gap between the U.S. and most other countries (a few like China are growing even faster, but Europe isn’t).

The U.S. generally also scores near the top of the list for economic and political freedom. Americans are generally taxed less and regulated less than citizens of other countries, with some smaller exceptions.

The U.S. political process also dominates the world’s media, simply because the U.S. is so important to the rest of the world. I’ll bet you there are plenty of people in the world who know more about the U.S. government than their own governments, and pay more attention to American politics than to their own.

So when we talk Democracy, it’s only natural that America becomes the standard to compare to, for better or worse.