GS Chandy has submitted a comprehensive
summary of what democracy might be considered to be. It is also
perhaps worth considering the alternatives (what democracy is not)
eg dictatorship/ oligarchy/theocracy etc.
What are the benefits of democracy? Well to name one, it allows
for the 'losing side/s' to do so gracefully. Ie it allows for the
prevailing side to go ahead and do the 'wrong thing' in the eyes
of their adversaries - without leading to hostilities.
Is a party system necessary for a functioning democracy? I would
say so, for a jurisdiction of any considerable size. Although I am
not sold on a 2 party model - since both parties then regress to
the 'centre'. 3 or more parties will allow for actual differences
And what about the society - can a society with great differences
in wealth/education/health care etc remain democratic? I tend to
doubt it. A robust & dominant middle class seems a
prerequisite. And there is always the danger of
elections/politicians being 'bought'.
And what about responsibilities? The art of compromise comes first
to mind - for elected officials. And for citizens - the
responsibility to be informed and active. Can a society where 30%
vote be 'democratic'.
Gary Tupper, Canada - not fully democratic, but hopefully "getting
On 12/9/2012 5:56 AM, GS Chandy wrote:
There appears to be considerable foncusion about just what 'democracy' might be (and how to bring it about in specific nations).
My own country, India, while it DOES have elections that can be shown to be reasonably 'free' (and 'fair') by most standards, is actually far from being democratic. It turns out, on examination, that most elections held under conditions of 'nominal electoral democracy' (which is what I call our 'democracy' in India) are in fact profoundly flawed in nature - not democratic at all.
I believe the USA also is far from bring truly democratic, in practice on the ground.
I believed it would be well worth the time and effort to try and find out just what this wonderful beastie, 'democracy', might be.
So, I started with my own favorite definition:
My definition of Democracy:
-- government OF the people;
-- BY the people;
-- FOR the people.
What we actually have achieved in India is only:
-- government OF the people;
-- BY some of the people;
-- FOR a few of the people.
This is evidently a far cry from true democracy. How then can we move to become a true democracy? Is this going to be possible at all? (From whatever I've been able to gauge about the USA, I believe the US too is in this kind of situation).
I used Google to investigate a bit further about just what 'democracy' might be. And discovered the following:
A: Merriam-Webster Definition (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy):
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
B: Free online dictionary - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democracy
Usage 1 is more or less the same as the Merriam-Webster Definition
(Therefore, the definition I am using passes muster).
C: Wikipedia has a very useful entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy, which contains much useful background.
D: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A most useful article indeed, providing much food for thought and action. I strongly recommend this piece for anyone needing some authoritative and insightful ideas on the subject. In particular, the Stanford Encyclopedia's ideas on 'normative democracy' are worth close study - this may help people wishing to move towards true democracy from whatever they have in place at any specific moment of time.
There are more than 18 MMMMMMMMMillion links to 'democracy' on Google. I have not even looked at more than a very few of these. My aim is only to try and arrive at a reasonable understanding for myself of 'democracy', which I could pass on to my grandchildren, who are studying it in school - and to help me try and develop tools to enable development of democratic practices in organizations and in society in India.
Here are a couple of common understandings of what 'democracy' is/how it comes about in a nation. Some of them seem to be 'misunderstandings' (in my view).
1) The regular conduct of 'free' and 'fair' elections means the nation is democratic. Not true at all.
It seems to be true enough that 'free' and 'fair' elections are NECESSARY for democracy - but such elections are not SUFFICIENT to ensure the practice of democracy (as we have seen in India).
2) Democracy is 'easy' to practice. NOT TRUE AT ALL! It requires relentless effort by citizens to first win democracy (even 'nominal democracy', such as what we've achieved in India); and then it takes more regular effort on the part of sizable numbers of those citizens to ensure that the hardwon nominal democracy moves towards becoming a true democracy.
3) Capitalism is an essential pre-requisite for democracy. Not necessarily true at all! Haim and his cohorts and consorts are, I believe, regularly making this grievous error.
4) Socialism is an essential pre-requisite for democracy. I believe Paul A. Tanner believes this to be the case. In my view, this is not necessarily true - though the 'socialist paradigm' is closer to 'democracy' than is the 'capitalist paradigm'; as Soviet Russia and the horrifying gulags of Stalinist times proved, it is all too easy to slip from a humane view of 'society as it could be' (implicit in Marx) into something else entirely.
5) 'Mathematical economics' is helpful to ensure 'equity' in society; this appears to be Paul A. Tanner's view. Not necessarily true at all (in my view). Most of the extant and operating economics is, in my view, still the 'dismal non-science'. Mathematics may well be a very useful tool to help us develop economics into a science - but that has not been accomplished at this point of time. The profound insights into 'economics of systems' of Georgescu-Roegen (and others) do not seem to have been developed into a usable set of tools for operating our societal, financial and economic systems.
6) 'Microdemocracy' is useful to promote 'democracy'. In my view, this idea of Kirby Urner's is entirely justified. My reasoning goes like this: if two people working together can learn to practice democratic behavior, then it may become possible for more people to practice democratic behavior - which may then lead to democracy in larger groups and perhaps even in whole nations.
7) The 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) - a systems aid to problem solving and decision making developed from the seminal contributions to systems of the late John N. Warfield* - is, I believe, a most useful tool to help us learn what democracy really might be and then to move our society towards democracy. *Professor Emeritus, George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, VA, USA. More information about Warfield's developments is available from http://www.jnwarfield.com and from the "John N. Warfield Collection" held at the GMU library (see http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=gmu/vifgm00008.xml;query=;). The OPMS goes a step further in that it enables individuals and groups at any level to apply the sophisticated concepts of systems science, with minimal preparation, to issues an!
ns of direct concern to them.
Some documentation about the OPMS is provided in the attachments herewith.