Why is democracy inherently superior?

London:

Puuuuuure coincidence indeed, and you’ll never mention it again! :wink:

I don’t think Christianity was around in Ancient Greece, London. It being in that BC time and all…

And as for “capitalism,” well, it’s hardly like any liberal democracies operate on one strict Pure Free Trade level, is it? I mean, Sweden and the Netherlands are hardly like the US, economy-wise, and the US itself is capitalistic only when it suits its purposes to be so. I think that the common element of capitalism can be considered to be summed up in property rights, which in itself can be wrapped up in a nice little right to freedom of self-determination.

Greece may hav been the first, but the real flowering of democracy came in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ancient Greece could be more accurately characterized as “apardheit” than “democracy” with modern terminology.

Seems to me that the electoral college worked in this situation. It essentially kept the idiots (the majority of the voting public) from electing their man. In order for your stance to hold up you would have to assume that the majority of the voting population was in fact the superior intellect. If you believe that all I can say is you must not have a job that deals with the general public on daily basis.

So what?

I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, but why is “you’re too dumb to have an opinion” a justifiable stance to hold?

Before Cornflakes, you say ? I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the reply my colleague gave some moments earlier e.g. Ancient Greece = Not relevant. Universal suffrage, and all that. Woof Woof.

One of us isn’t well. The ‘US’ is not capitalist when it suits, you say … are you getting First Principles confused with party political (and transient) expediency ?

If not, please explain.

How long have we had universal suffrage in the west? Less than 100 years in the very best cases, IIRC, and in some cases less than 50. To claim that only countries with universal sufferage are democratic is a very strict view of democracy, and while I agree it’s the best one, it implies that the US wasn’t a democracy until the 20th century. I don’t recall a society moving to democracy before the last thirty years that gave suffrage to everyone immediately. The US was as “democratic” as ancient Greece at its inception, and universal suffrage came later.

It all depends on how you define “capitalist.” Is everything short of communism capitalism? Is anything with a free market capitalism? How free? Just Smithian economic policies?

Western countries are a mish-mash of socialism and capitalism, some more so than others. Scandinavian countries tend to be very socialist, and Europe as a whole is more socialist than America, but even America has a certain amount of socialist policy that cropped up when people decided that “pure capitalism” didn’t cut the mustard for the common man on the street any more. When you can call the systems of government in Sweden, England and America all “capitalist”, you know that you’re dealing with a word which has been stretched well beyond its original meaning into something much more broad and amorphous - much like “liberal” and “conservative” :). When you say “capitalism,” what exactly do you mean?

IMHO, democracy is superior to other forms of government like dictatorships or monarchies not because it gives the idiot on the street the chance to vote but for the following:

-Candidate selection is not as arbitrary as right of birth or brute strength
-It provides a peaceful mechanism of changing leadership. The alternative is a violent Revolutione!!! whenever you reach a critical mass of dissatisfied people.
-It works on the assumption that the government’s role is to serve the people, not the other way around

I guess that’s about it.

That’s what I think as well: With all the different voices and opinions in a Democracy, the implemented solutions will end up being the golden middle way, in order to please as many people as possible. The results will be averaged out, rarely straying to a horribly bad or overwhelmingly good solution to any given problem.

While the US has a lot of democratic structures, it isn’t a “real” democracy in the striktest sence. In fact, the only thing that comes close is probably the way they do things over in switzerland, where people can vote on decisions, instead of just betting on their favorite racing horse.

It’s not a bad thing - since things just wouldn’t work well (see the “average” argument above) if every Joe Plain had a say, it’s probably a good idea to have hierarchic structures in the top levels of government. Then again, it only works well as long as there isn’t a complete moron at the helm.

Just think about baseball.
The common alternatives to (contitutional) democracies are worse:

Monarchy: The governmental leadership consists of people who are there by birth, leading to an inbred aristocracy more interested in preserving its power than improving the lot of its citizens.

Various dictatorships: Rising in the power structure usually means killing or outmaneuvering your opponents. The leadership therefore consists of not the most competent, but the most ruthless, who are similarly indifferent to the needs of the citizens.

As has already been alluded to:

For the same reason communism is evil: everybody uses the term wrong!!

Pure democracy ignores ‘fringe groups’ of size up to 49% of the population. Educated persons (particularly college educated) are one of those fringe groups. This strikes me as a bad thing.

Thank heaven for republics!

I don’t think we should judge them on the Zeitgeist of the ancient world. If we imposed the idea of universal equality on ancient Greece then Athens certainly would be a true democracy, modern America probably wouldn’t, and Sparta would be like a certain country I’m not going to name.

Yep, but that is what happens when ideologically charged terms, like “democracy” and “dictatorship” are applied in a simplistic way to all kinds of societies throughout history.

Side note: In Athens you could vote if you were not a woman, a foreigner, a slave, or a freed slave.

I’m not sure to whom you are responding. I would just like to note that if you are suggesting that it is simplistic, and therefore inappropriate, to apply the word “democracy” to ancient Athens, then I would have to respectively suggest that you are way out of line. We may not like the idea of the ancients not practicing universal sufferage, but that in no way interferes with the fact that they were practicing democracy. We may not like its form, e.g. positions of power being chosen by lot or only a small number of voters choosing what goes on the agenda, but that does not give us the right to claim that they weren’t democratic.

To put another way, if some dictator comes along and figures out how to become some sort of uberfascist, that in no way makes Mussolini less of a fascist himself.

js: Yes, i was responding to you! :slight_smile:

It was a follow-up to my first post in this thread, in a manner.

Of course can the term “democracy” be accurately applied to ancient Greece, the term itself has that particular origin. What I object to is a use of the term in a so to speak “platonian way”; As an abstract idea that may have been born in ancient Greece but remains the same through the ages, inside the confusing cloud of Zeitgeist.

Pretentious moi?

What I mean is really just that the differences between “democracies” are as significant as the similarities, and that the same goes for “dictatorships”! To such extent that the terms are inappropriate when used carelessly. As in “we are a democracy and therefore inherently better than them, who are a dictatorship”.

Well, when do you think ‘capitalism’ got into its stride anywhere, let alone in the US. Wasn’t it in the wake of that event that happened down the road from where you are … now, what was that … hmmm … hmmm … oh, ‘The Industrial Revolution’ !

Question: Did the Industrialisation of society (urbanisation usurping feudal farming, etc, etc … ) begat universal suffrage (as well as ‘capitalism’ itself) and, also, did the nature of Christianity inherently facilitate said economic novelty (wealth spreads wider, pressure for universal suffrage grows proportionately) ?

Answer to be about 20-25,000 words and is due at the end of Term. Thank you.

You seem to be talking about levels of personal taxation apropos what the State provides * within* Capitalist societies ?

If it’s got a stock market, it’s Capitalist, init ?

RandySpears, thanks for the note. Yeah, I guess you’re right about that–“democracy” has become a very diverse entity and it is problematic to apply it without qualifiers. Thanks for clarifying!

RandySpears:

Well, if we could realistically do the former, it would certainly be nice. But the thing about dictatorships is that the people typically don’t get to choose. If we said, “Hey, Iraq, here’s this democracy thing, you wanna give it a try?” I find it hard to believe that Saddam would respond with, “Okay, let’s give that the ol’ college try. You Iraqis lemme know if you’d like me to come back if the democracy experiment doesn’t pan out.” And if anyone says anything like, “You know, I hear democracy might be a not-so-horrible thing,” they get their eyeballs carved out with a spork.

So unfortunately, the way to do this is to forecefully remove the dictator in question, then instill democracy ourselves, and once it’s up and running, exit stage left. If the people really decide that they prefer a dictator, they’re more than welcome to instill one after we’re gone.

I would ammend that to read “…to carry through the will of a very few people…” All a dictatorship needs to function is to make happy a few bodyguards. You keep a cabal of extremely loyal people in your immediate proximity, and you can terrorize the people all you want. The people won’t be able to mobilize an effective revolt, and they’ll be unlikely to try, anyway, for fear of disappearing. Throw in a little propoganda here and there, and your regime can get away with murder. Literally.
Jeff

But see, You do use the terms “democracy” and “dictatorship” so losely that they lose their meaning. And you do seem to think that any democracy is inherently and always better than any dictatorship which leads you to the very dangerous conclusion that we do have a right to give “democracy” by force to the countries described by you as “dictatorship”. Now many countries in the world today have a form of government you would denote “dictatorship”. Maybe the majority. Do you support military intervention against all of them? You don´t. So that terminology used in that way becomes meaningless as a motivation in itself to invade.

Some historical perspective. At the birth of the golden age of western civilisation, the renaissance, more or less all our countries were Monarchys. Monarchy is in effect (supposedly-) God given Dictatorship. A dictatorship in your sense for all practical purposes. Assume for the sake of argument that an arab state at that time had acquired “democracy” from the ancient greek texts that they also were familiar with, and taken it up as a form of government. All other things eqal, worship of Allah, calling sacred war Jihad etc. Assume that arab state is called “Iraq” (ok folks i know but for the sake of the argument).

Now. Is Iraq suddenly justified to “free” europe of Monarchy? Are they even more so justified to free France when a mass of people are being slaughtered there because of their religous beliefs? Is Iraq justified to invade Scandinavia to save the witches? Will they be welcomed as liberators? Will Sweden thank Iraq for democracy?

So what’s my point? Simply that those terms should be used with qualifiers and awareness.

Simplistic. Those measures you prescribe are no bullet-proof insurance against a revolution. The french revolution f. e. did not come about because the monarchy had to much scruples.