The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: Democracy - how to achieve it?
Replies: 21   Last Post: Dec 14, 2012 9:33 AM

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Democracy - how to achieve it?
Posted: Dec 9, 2012 8:56 AM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

On Democracy

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 (
Usage 1.
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 -
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, 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 and from the "John N. Warfield Collection" held at the GMU library (see;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 and concerns of direct concern to them.

Some documentation about the OPMS is provided in the attachments herewith.


Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.