Sunday, June 8, 2014

Democracy - What is it and do we live in one?

I drafted this post back in 2011, but never published it.... warning, I may contradict myself.

My favorite on line dictionary describes a democracy as, "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 determined by periodic free elections"; "rule of the majority".

Most people that you speak with inside the United States would say that we live in a democracy and if you ask them, "well, how do you know that?", they will usually speak to elections and something about freedom or the democratic process. When ask to define freedom, most say something about freedom to "do what I want".

I find both the online definition and the "common" person on the street definition of democracy intriguing, since at even the most mundane level of scrutiny would suggest that we do NOT live in a democracy.

Lets break it down:

Supreme Power Vested in the People - While we may believe this to be the case, I ask you to think about where the supreme power in our "system" resides? Do the people have more power than say corporations or banks? More power than the political parties themselves? How long would "the people" survive on their own if there was an uprising that ran counter to what the established commercial-government enterprise felt was reasonable? I don't have any clear answers to these questions, but I think the questions themselves beg us to think about it a bit.

AND Exercised by Them - only 50% of eligible voters vote at all in their lifetime and typically less than 33% vote in all/most elections to which they are entitled. Fewer than 5% of Americans have ever visited Washington DC. while 15% have visited one of the Disney parks. 73% of Americans can not name the 3 branches of government. Only 25% of Americans know the names of their Congressman and Senators. Less than 10% of Americans have ever written a letter to an elected official, posted an editorial in a newspaper or urged an elected representative to vote for or against a specific piece of legislation.

A System of Representation (via) Free Elections - There are only two political parties that consistently deliver "electable" people. How free is that? How involved are "the people" in the down selection process and once there is a down selection to two (or sometimes three) candidates, is that a free and open election? How much money does it cost to run for Congress? How is it that 13 Presidents (both parties) attended an Ivy League University, including the last 4 in a row?

Freedom to "do what I want" - There is no freedom to "do what you want" guarrenteed in the Constitution. I think what people mean is that there is a significant amount of freedom to move about and carry on with your "normal daily business". Well, I hate to tell you all, but that very same freedom pretty much exists in ALL countries. No government has the resources to monitor all of their people and the appearance of freedom to "live" exists in most places, even if you hate the government. Nazi Germany and other regimes that participate in genocide would be the glaring exception, but again sadly, only for those that are targeted.

Majority Rules - Ahhh, this is a favorite of mine. If the majority really ruled, then why would the wealthiest 1% pay little or no taxes in this country? If the majority really ruled, why wouldn't all elected officials, CEOs and Religious Leaders be women? After all women are in the majority.... If the majority ruled why wouldn't pot be legal? If the majority ruled, why would there be such a problem with education, when most people believe that an excellent education is something that government should be obligated to provide? If the majority ruled then why isn't there government subsidized/socialized/Obama-care in place? 55% say that they want it and 35% need it.

Either there are forces at work that are blinding us to the fact that we do NOT live in a democracy OR "the people", being so stupid, lazy and apathetic have turned their democracy over to others, so as not to be burdened with the work of freedom......

What about Socialism vs. Democracy? - The fact is that we are a socialist society.  By definition we build roads, schools and fund the military through a combined group effort.  Some right wing politicos through around the "S - word" like it is a bad thing, but they themselves benefit from government funded (yours and mine tax dollars) pay, medical care and retirement.  Anytime a politician uses the word socialism, pause and think ....  Technically, we and all of our Western Allies (I am sure that term makes the Japanese, the Australians and others very pleased) are Socialist Democracies (of a sort) in that we elect our officials AND we all at one time or another make use of governmental services, making us all "socialists" !!!

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