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What is democracy?

(16 Posts)
absent Thu 30-Jun-16 07:41:18

We've heard a lot of talk, particularly recently, about democracy, but what does it actually mean? Is it simply one man/woman, one vote or is it more than that? Does it involve the fourth estate and media freedom – so where does the Murdoch Empire fit into that? Is a simple arithmetical first past the post truly democracy? In the UK there have been many elections when the first past the post has had far fewer votes than the other candidates combined, so is that democracy? Does it really provide a majority and a mandate?

I am not talking specifically about the recent referendum, but that is also relevant; I am wondering about our concept of democracy. I am curious about how other people feel about this much bandy about word/concept.

granjura Thu 30-Jun-16 09:02:25

It's a very interesting question- and one perhaps those of us who have lived in different countries, with different types of democracy, maybe asking ourselves more often than those who have always lived in the same system (mind you that applies to the education system, health care, etc too).

The First Past the Post system is certainly cited as a system which really is not very democratic, for the reasons you stated. Especially when the second Chamber is not elected, and has groups automatically represented that do not reflect the current UK situation (as in one religious group only- but at least inherited peerages have gone).

I currently live in a democracy where everyone can bring about a project for a new law or project- as long as they can gather a certain number of signatories. If they do, it has to be voted on by the people- that can happen at local or national level. It's very very hard work to study all the issues to be voted on- perhaps 5 -6 times a year, often 4 or 5 totally different issues.

It sounds ideal? But is it? We have seen how manipulated people can be by the Press, especially some sectors of it- and how lies in campaigns go unchallenged. The right wing party in Switzerland, called UDC in the French part and SVP in the German part- are notorious for putting full magazines of shameful posters, cartoons and lies in every letter box before any such vote- like UKIP they are supported financially by some very rich people and have vast amounts of monies for their campaigns.

daphnedill Thu 30-Jun-16 09:14:45

Democracies also need to have built in protection for minorities. Otherwise it's no different from a medieval battle.

floorflock Thu 30-Jun-16 11:02:51

My own views are that you are only democratic on voting day, for the rest of the time you have to put up with whatever is decided in your name and actually have no comeback on the incompetance of the Government (whichever is in power at the time). The top are never held accountable. You can write to MP's about any issue you like but only get a general letter in return saying that your views have been noted, by whom? Certainly not the person you write to (if it's the MP) Democratic - I don't really think so.

adaunas Thu 30-Jun-16 11:27:38

Democracy is evidently the right to complain if you don't get what you want.

daphnedill Thu 30-Jun-16 11:29:31

True democracy depends on voters being informed and being involved.

daphnedill Thu 30-Jun-16 11:30:39

ooops clicked too soon.

True democracy also respects the law and human rights.

moxeyns Thu 30-Jun-16 11:34:11

A very interesting question! For me, democracy has nothing much to do with what voting system is in play, and all about the ability of every individual to be heard, without fear or prejudice.
However, I'm also very troubled by how that applies to Murdoch, etc.

granjura Thu 30-Jun-16 12:36:23

moxyeins- but that was the point I made. In the UK we have First Past the Post system which clearly means that every individual is NOT heard in elections.

If you live in an area which is not representative of your political views- then you know in advance that your vote will go straight in the bin- which is what happened to me for 40 years. I always voted, out of principle- but I might as well have stayed in bed and not bother. So the 'system' is very important.

crun Thu 30-Jun-16 13:27:54

It's certainly not "I won't agree to anything that's not in Britain's self-interest". When you have a world full of countries all doing the same, that's anarchy not democracy. It's not letting the rich opt out of the community because they pay more in contributions than they receive in benefits, either. If it was, we'd allow millionaires to opt out of paying income tax for the same reason.

M0nica Thu 30-Jun-16 19:51:45

Essentially the system of representative government most countries have in the absence of a better alternative.

daphnedill Thu 30-Jun-16 19:55:48


Great definition! That just about sums it up, which is why I wince when the word is used as some kind of battle cry. It actually has little meaning. The key word is 'representative'. Politicians are representatives rather than delegates. We hand over control to politicians and just hope that they will represent our best interests.

Morgana Thu 30-Jun-16 19:57:53

We have a sort of democracy in this country, certainly compared to other countries in the world. However it is very flawed,as granjura said above, if you live in a constituency with a large majority, then your vote does not count. One further problem is that every party in power fiddles with the constituency borders to give themselves more votes. What irritates me particularly is that every MP votes as their party in parliament dictates - not taking any account, normally, of what their constituents want. There was a movement not long ago to make MPs more accountable to their constituents and giving the latter the power to recall their MP. We see the effects in the current turmoil in the Labour party, where party members back Corbyn, but their MPS are putting in theh knife to get him out. Maybe all the current turmoil in both Labour and Tory parties could lead to a realignment of our parliamentary parties?

daphnedill Thu 30-Jun-16 20:07:55

I think you've hit on a very real problem, Morgana. Does an MP follow the party line, stand for election 'as is' and risk not being successful (representative) or respond to local concerns (delegate) and risk losing the support of a national party, so that we could end up with hundreds of independents?

Claudiaclaws Thu 30-Jun-16 23:01:33

Democracy must be something more than 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

James Bovard

Eloethan Fri 01-Jul-16 00:35:49

I find the hallowed tones used when referring to a so-called Democracy a bit annoying.

Of course, it is important that everybody has the right to vote for the people who represent them. But I'm not sure how fair a system is when most of its news media is controlled by a very small and partisan number of people. Also, as others have said, in order for people to make a meaningful contribution and be properly represented they must be properly informed and educated. I'm not sure that our education system does equip people to analyse and question what they see, hear and read.