Democracy: Warts and All

I am currently writing a paper for a political philosophy course on my ideal state (we are reading Plato’s Republic).  I have made it a democratic one, despite some serious misgivings.

I realize that the people can be easily fooled by sophists and schemers, but in the end, I think that democracy represents very well the dignity of the common man.  In fact, I am tempted to think that democracy is the best form of government, despite Churchill’s lament.

How democracy is structured is probably more important than if it is the best form of government.  Our federal republic is pretty good as it stands (unless you are Ruth Bader Ginsberg, of course; according to her, South Africa has a much better constitution than our own), but there have been some serious flaws discovered over the centuries.

Can you name a few?  The compromise on slavery and the inability of the Supreme Court to enact the 14th Amendment to protect black Americans from Jim Crow laws both stand out prominently in my view.  Furthermore, can any of you come up with a better way to utilize the democratic process that is so integral to the dignity of the individual?

11 thoughts on “Democracy: Warts and All

  1. One way to better our democratic process is to do away with the electoral college in the presidential election. Also, follow the Australian example and make voting a requirement not a choice.

    One problem with our democracy is the discrimination built into the system against criminals. If 1 in 5 americans have been in jail, prison, or on parole, it is common enough to recognize these people as full citizens, but when you’ve committed a felony you cannot vote.
    The more i think about it, the less i think i answered your questions.

  2. I’d say the mediocure education system in a country that is run on advertisment. Ohh burn. you know what I’m saying, These kids are fighting all kinds of distractions and we can only do so much for them. Not only the book sharing, and other things that our society deems degrading. We lable teachers and professors people who couldn’t make it. HOW TERRIBLE IS THAT. THEY ARE THE ONES THAT CHOSE NOT TO MAKE IT, TO HELP YOU MAKE IT.

    Just a flaw in general to evolution of humans would be drinking milk, boarder lines, and pastoralism.
    Flaw in congress would be the NO TERM LIMITS.
    Flaw in Supreme court is NO TERM LIMIT

    I think we can both laugh saying the abolishment of slavery wasn’t a compromise it was a command. People would have torn this place up! ha…

    Did you see O’bama in the speech today, I dont think he can make it another 4 years, he’s tired. He did give a shout out to being “were he was because somebody thought he would be good” or something like that in the last 5 min. It looked like he said fuck the cards. He’s just a pawn by now. He gets so worn down by others b/c thats the backyard politics that’s going on in America, when the people are left to the party in the front with tax cut debates and sport…

    • bradswrite,

      Careful when you bag on the U.S.’s mediocre education system. The bloggers here are all college professors (except for me, of course)…

    • They know when there’r getting shafted, not a question of self-worth or character, just the opposite. I mean public primary school.where the sun doesn’t shine… when kids actually give up on it all. Besides you think teachers, even college, can speak freely? -too much of a liability. Cover the basic material so everyone can get back to ‘life’, thats the way it seems to me.

  3. When I reflect on your post, I think about TRENDS. When I was a boy, [Oh, God, was that 50 years ago?] Earl Warren was my intellectual leader. My father was called a communist because he argued with my school’s principal. The polity swings one way or another. it is always in flux.

    in my old age i’m more and more convinced about my conservative ideas. I wonder what the world will be like when you’re 67.


    • I am 22. How do you feel about the words, “When your young your democract then when your old republican?”
      My father says this to me.

      I don’t like that, he knows something that I don’t.

    • TD,

      I don’t know if I’ll live to be 67! For some reason I envision myself dying of thirst in the Gobi desert or being bitten by a cobra in the jungles of New Guinea.

  4. I guess I’m a Churchillian democrat, but I’m a pessimist in general.

    I think that sometimes when people talk about democracy, they forget that we are supposed to be ‘liberal’ democracies. ‘Democracy’ is the part where people vote and ‘liberal’ is the part where people have inalienable rights, checks are put on the legislative process, etc.

    Both are integral to the dignity of the individual; democracy, because the people should be the ones deciding their own fates and liberty, because individuals should be free to make their own decisions about their own personal lives.

    The two really do go hand-in-hand, but sometimes they conflict. And, nowadays, people seem to forget about the ‘liberal’ part. For example, people often make the argument that same sex marriage should be decided in the legislative process. Or consider the way people complain about “activist judges overturning the will of the people”.

    I guess I didn’t answer your question though. You asked how we could improve the system, but I don’t have an answer for that. Like I said earlier, I agree with Churchill.

  5. Maybe some humble perspective from a non-academic, novice intellectual, individual who might live within this democratic bubble, would be useful.

    Simplify law, and make it more accessible to the individual. 51 Titles in the U.S. Code? Over 4,500 federal laws? Untold number of departmental regulations? 3,000-page bills enacted by people who do not understand them (who writes them anyway?).

    The structure should bind the several branches to principle, and demand conciseness in the authoring of law, and clarity of intent. The simplest formulas are always the most beautiful, and useful. (see, Declaration, Golden Rule, Exodus 20, Einstein…) A limit on the length of bills would also serve as a limit on government in general.

    The individual is core in a democracy, and the process should not be beyond his reach, or overwhelm him so, that he may not select his representative by reason, or further recognize intrusion on his or his neighbor’s liberty. The people are the ultimate check and balance on the system, but if they be separated from it, the scales will continually tip toward tyranny.

    Also, what would be wrong with a basic civics test prerequisite to voter registration? Immigrants are tested before they gain that luxury.

    Last, a system of taxation that prevents government from rewarding or punishing.

    Humbly, tdv

  6. To build on subconch’s thought – I’d like to see the bills in Congress annotated with the specific sections and lines in your “perfect country’s” Constitution that relate to or empower the writer to draw up the bills.

    Personally, I’d like to see state-nullification a common resolution to improper or unpopular legislation. Rarely used, but more available (and understood to be more available) than here in the U.S.

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