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  #1    
Old October 9th, 2013, 11:42 AM
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We all know the basic idea of democracy: the people choose what the government does. There are, however, a lot of different ways to go about making this happen. I'm asking what you think the best way is.

There are a lot of differences, but some major ones are:

  • Parliamentary system (like the U.K. where the head of government is determined by the law-making body, usually only one party or coalition controls the government at a time) vs. a presidential system (like the U.S.A. where different branches are determined separately and different parties may control different branches of government simultaneously)
  • Direct (where people vote directly on issues) vs. representative (where people vote for representatives and the representatives vote on issues)
  • Whether voting should be mandatory
  • How many political parties is ideal, or whether political parties are ideal at all
  • How elections should be handled (how often, winner-takes-all or runoff election, etc.)

Not expecting to reach a consensus on this, but it could be pretty interesting to see what kind of democracy each of us would prefer.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 02:34 PM
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The first thing that came to mind was a direct democracy. Then I realized, that's not exactly the ideal thing to have in a land where the vast majority of people are not well-educated on issues. To me, despite the occurrences, our current system seems the fairest and most well-suited for the country. The majority elects someone who they feel represents their needs, and in an ideal world, that person turns out to be who they say they are. Parties seem to be necessary since it's an opportunity for people of similar interests to assimilate. The number though is a tricky issue, as, obviously, you can't cover the interests of everyone, and once you target interests too in-depth, countless parties would arise, and more people would be dissatisfied with a winner.

Overall, I don't consider myself all that politically savvy, but I would say our democracy is structurally right where it should be. The candidates being able to live up to the standards of the people, and even up to what they promise is an entirely different story.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 02:37 PM
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Too much democracy can actually be a very bad thing. Having trouble with two major parties? Imagine if congress had six, or eight, or even say twelve. Imagine trying to reconcile twelve different ideological perspectives to get a vote through. Allowing everyone to vote, no strings attached, is also very bad because then you're allowing those without informed opinions (children, etc,.) to vote, thus dumbing down the electorate even further.

I don't really like the idea of mandatory voting. Being forced to vote by the government, even if you have complete freedom to vote for whomever you choose, doesn't quite feel right.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the notion of political parties. If they don't conduct themselves in a manner expected of an elected official, then that's the fault of poor candidates and an electorate who needs to get it together. There was in fact a time when political discourse in the United States yielded results, shocking, I know. Raise the standard of what is expected of an elected official. Now, excessive partisanship is toxic to a government, something that the Founding Fathers addressed at length back in the day. (Another shocker) George Washington would have some very choice words for Speaker Boehner and The Tea Party/House GOP.

The election system also needs to match the overall set-up of the government. In the U.S. at least, the electoral college needs to go the way of the dinosaurs, seeing as it invalidates the popular vote, technically. Imagine where we'd be if George Bush was never President.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 04:04 PM
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I'm going to pitch in with the cop-out answer - it depends. All of these factors play upon each other, and it's difficult to manipulate one at a time because a country's political system is built up over time and has its own unique way of doing things.

Spoiler:
A good place to consider the interdependence between the factors you've given us is the party system. First of all, parties generally reflect social cleavages. You have agrarian parties, communist parties, conservative and liberal parties, nationalist parties, socialist parties, green parties and so on. Depending on the political history of a country, people will assemble in different parties in different ways. For example, socialism caught on in Europe where class divisions were more visible, whereas people didn't envision society in terms of class as much in North America.

Secondly, institutions can influence the number of parties. In the case of voting systems, Single Member Plurality (or First Past The Post) tends to favour two parties - a dominant and an alternative - because the other losers aren't able to obtain seats and voters realize not to vote for them. In systems based on Proportional Representation, in which the system tries to allocate the number of seats based on the total proportion of votes received (instead of basing it on whoever won each individual seat), parties with fewer votes can still obtain representation and so they can survive. This explains why the United States has two parties and Germany has many.

Parliamentary systems can also affect the character of parties. In the Westminster (UK, Canadian) system, parties tend to be "strong" in that members almost always vote in line with what the party wants. Part of this is because the Prime Minister also happens to be the party leader, and can decide the fates of his members. If they don't vote like he wants them to, then he probably won't consider them for promotion to Cabinet positions. And they probably won't be appointed to the Upper House once they retire. He can also expel them from the party if he wants to. In this system, the executive tends to "control" the legislature, especially in majorities in which 50%+ of members being of a ruling party essentially translates to 50%+ of the votes going to government motions.

This wouldn't happen in a Congressional system, as it's quite common for members of Congress to vote counter to their party's wants. First of all, the President is unable to expel party members and as such there's no fear from voting against the party line. As a result, members of Congress are more easily swayed by private interests in their riding. There is also less of an incentive for compliance as there's no cushy Upper House appointment waiting for them. This low party discipline also feeds back to the number of parties in a country - if there's no need to vote as a united whole all the time, it'll be easier to create parties that are grand coalitions of similar yet varying interests - take the Republican Party with classical "old school" liberals and the new right conservatives, as well as the Democratic Party with reform liberals and post-material, "hippie" if you will, interests.


^ demonstrates to me that it's impossible to generalize, not even for one variable, because all of these variables are dependent on one another. Going on Live's example, you would have to change the Constitution and the voting system for there to even be the possibility of having more than two parties. I think when you ask the question "what kind of democracy each of us would prefer", we inevitably answer "what kind of democracy would I prefer considering where I'm living now".

As for that, I don't have much to say about Senate reform in Canada. It's pretty useless, as it can't force the PM to resign, it's a place to put retired party faithfuls and generally works in favour of the ruling party, but the system is still functional enough for me not to touch it. I'm pretty satisfied with the political system as a whole. I'm happy that our executive has control over our legislature, as we don't have those silly instances when the president and the house are dominated by opposite parties, and we don't have to wait four years or for an impeachment for that situation to change. In Canada, the government might fall and we'll have another election to come up with a new one. To the Americans who might say "but teh freedomz and democracehs" I say it's democratic enough XP Canada's still a free country with constitutional entrenchment of rights. It might be 200 years younger than the American one, but it exists and it works - some argue too well.

As for comments on the United States, I'll wait until more of you have responded so I have some context to discuss - otherwise I'm just not intimate enough with how your government works. As for comments on other countries, we would all be very interested in learning more because most of us probably have no idea.

I'd like to suggest one more criteria to add to this discussion of democracy: federalism. Canada and the United States are both federal states in which government is divided between a national federal level, and a provincial/state level. This divided government comes with divided sovereignty, in that provinces/states can make their own decision without interference from the federal government (doing so would be unconstitutional). The effect is very profound when you look at the legalization of same-sex marriage - different states (and provinces in Canada's case) legalized it at different times - as well as in the defeat of DOMA, as Justice Kennedy cited state autonomy as part of his reason for striking it down (some section would prevent the federal government from recognizing all marriages, which would be unconstitutionally intervening against the sovereignty of the state, if marriage is a state responsibility). Countries like the UK, France, and Italy, on the other hand, are unitary states, and there is only one level of sovereign government. We could ask the questions: when is federalism desirable? would it be better for the government to be more united without this silly concept of dual sovereignty?
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Old October 9th, 2013, 04:26 PM
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In spite of the flaws in the US, this really is the best possible solution at this time. Too much democracy leads to mob rule, we know that's bad with plenty of examples in history. Too little leads to dictatorship style governments, which can be hit or miss but always attracts some of the worst kind of leaders. Now this may seem like a generalization, but it's not really, it's a conclusion based on historical and statistical evidence, but the majority of the population will always be .... stupid. It's part of our nature as a species, something we may one day evolve out of, but that's a long way off.

Did you know that most people don't actually know what trans-fats are? Consumers think "oh it's bad" because some news article published in some pop culture driven magazine said "scientists have discovered ...." when what they really discovered is just "too much of a good thing can be just as bad for you." The look into the whole carbon emissions mess, the hysteria caused by a finding that discovered there was a correlation between carbon in the atmosphere and an unexpected increase in the global temperatures. Now it's gone insane when, for all we know, we could cause even more damage to ourselves with some of the proposed solutions. Luckily the government has not been stupid enough to hastily jump onto any specific bandwagon in that regard, I mean, trying to eliminate the carbon in the atmosphere by releasing another chemical is really not a bright idea, but people wanted to do just that.

I don't like the US, honestly, and it's not the government that bothers me, it's the general population here. Most of the people are delusional still, and many are uneducated in spite of everyone screaming "we're number one" at every chance they get. But the government is set up pretty well, so well that the delusions of the politicians usually don't damage the country much, *cough*Bush*cough*. So if any form of Democracy as a government is better, I'd say the US. If the general population got smarter and joined reality, this country could be awesome again.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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It's so complex of a question, it's hard to eloquently and logically advocate one's position without a thorough study of all the many factors involved. The key is not to go too simple, or make assumptions. For instance, since grade school, at least in the US, democracy has only positive connotations; we are indoctrinated to believe that "the people" should have a say without fully examining what issues would likely arise from an empowered electorate. I.e.. the tyranny of the majority.

Further, before we can even examine democracy in the United States we need to acknowledge that we are actually a republic, an indirect democracy. Though, there are some processes such as referendums and initiatives that are direct forms of democracy. And technically, political parties are a more direct form of democracy. They, including interests groups, are coalitions of voters/citizens that pool resources to advocate and affect policy. So, it's not so simple to apply a single label to the United States or any nation given the complex structures.

Governments, including democracies, are very dynamic systems, especially, when factoring in divided government and federalism as Blah states above. Rather than describe a country, and label it by it's form of government in order to assess the efficacy of a form of democracy, these forms should be studied philosophically, taking into account human psychology. Afterall, two governments that are labeled the same in regard to their forms of democracy, carry out different processes and establish disparate institutions that make these two countries difficult to objectively compare. Not to mention, the effects of a country's economy, education system, foreign relations, culture, among other things affect democratic institutions. Just thought I should mention this to help guide the discussion away from categorizing countries with a certain form of government and then comparing their efficiency. Thus far, the conversation is quite interesting.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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The United States would be fine if it acted like it was supposed to: that is, being an alliance of various states rather than one single entity. This is what the Confederacy tried to do, but screw that right? After all, as long as a nation has enough land to fill your pockets, why should you let them create an ideal government? And don't say it was about black freedom - it never was. That's what's called a "propaganda scheme" which the fed govt has ALWAYS used to get what it wants, esp with wars.

^ To that, I say Anarchy. Or Monarchy. As long as governments don't have to CONVINCE their people WHY they should do something, lying and secrets won't have to exist, atleast as far as staying in rule goes.

As for the ideal democracy? Party-less Parliament which acts as a thinktank while direct democracy is still enacted.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 05:31 PM
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The United States would be fine if it acted like it was supposed to: that is, being an alliance of various states rather than one single entity. This is what the Confederacy tried to do, but screw that right? After all, as long as a nation has enough land to fill your pockets, why should you let them create an ideal government? And don't say it was about black freedom - it never was. That's what's called a "propaganda scheme" which the fed govt has ALWAYS used to get what it wants, esp with wars.

^ To that, I say Anarchy. Or Monarchy. As long as governments don't have to CONVINCE their people WHY they should do something, lying and secrets won't have to exist, atleast as far as staying in rule goes.

As for the ideal democracy? Party-less Parliament which acts as a thinktank while direct democracy is still enacted.
Your first point is a very welcome discussion about federalism - would the US be better if it was more decentralized? I don't think I know about American culture and history and geography to answer that in any meaningful way, except it might be a lot weaker in terms of its foreign policy. Would the United States be a state though? or an association of states? Would it be a regional organization like the European Union? What will be the responsibility of the "federal" government in this case?

You can't have a party-less parliament, unless there is strict constitutional reason for it. And even if there was, there will still be alliances and political cliques that will occur. The strength, or party-ness of a party is a continuum, spanning from strong parties in which the leader can more or less tell his members what to do, to weak parties like those in the United States in which members are more responsive to their constituency versus a party leadership that's on top of them all the time. Even in China, there are political cliques and alliances within the National People's Congress (their legislature), with a lot of horsetrading behind the scenes as the two major cliques try to get "their boys" into executive positions, even though they must be Communist Party members - which is effectively party-less. I'd imagine an arrangement like that to occur in a country that does not allow multiple parties in its parliament.

If you're talking about a parliament acting like a think tank then I guess the "parliament" would only have an advisory role to the people with no "real" power. How would they get their positions without being part of a party, elected or appointed? I'm not a fan of direct democracy though, because if voter apathy is a growing problem, imagine if the voters were now handed the reigns of power. I'd imagine that the government would be very unstable because of the inconsistency. Might be easy for whoever allies with the guys with the gun to take over and brush aside democracy altogether.
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Old October 9th, 2013, 06:04 PM
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I find the current system the United States has to be the best.

The executive, judicial, and legislative branches create a system of "checks and balances" in the federal government.

Often times the people truly don't know what's best for them. It's better to have representatives who can spend all their time on politics and make quick and decisive decisions when necessary.

Voting is a right that all people should have, unless they do something to have it stripped away, and they should be allowed to not exercise that right if they so choose.

Any and all political parties are welcome.
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Old October 10th, 2013, 08:38 AM
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Oh yeah, federalism. Knew I'd forgotten something big.

I think federalism can work in some ways, but isn't a good idea in others. It certainly makes sense to divide up duties and have a tiered system of government so that the top, central government deals with big things that affect the whole nation and smaller governments down the line deal with more local issues. The big problem I see with this system in practice (here in the USA) is that you don't see a lot of consistency where it comes to rights and that you end up with a disproportional system of representation. (The Senate has two representatives from each state, no matter how many people in the state there are. My state, California, has over 50 times the population that Wyoming has, but both our states only get 2 votes in the Senate.)

I know that federalism is meant to be a recourse against mob rule, to give the minority a way of having their say and all that, but I don't think it works as well in practice. It's an aspect of democracy which, I think, impedes the working of government. And that's one area where, although I have mixed feelings since this topic is so broad, I think America doesn't do so well. Our system is made to be a little slow so change doesn't happen so quickly. Part of me thinks that even though I may not like one party being in control of everything some of the time (when it's a party I don't like :p) at least any changes they make can be changed back when a new group takes the reigns.

Oh, and completely aside from all of that, there shouldn't be any money in politics at all. Bad idea.
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Old October 10th, 2013, 09:07 AM
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I thought the Senate was supposed to give all states some say in national decision-making. It's a purposeful distortion of democracy to ensure majoritarian rule doesn't turn some people or groups voiceless. I guess the Canadian Senate is just as pointless as the American one, then probably even more though, because ours rarely rejects bills.

If politics is about money (the concentration and distribution of power => resources), my opinion is that money will inevitably be in politics. If money be the output, then money must be the input as well (not necessarily money, just the influence of wealth <= power in general).

Hmm, we can also extend the discussion of democracy to the level and scope of democratic control within democracies. This is very important because the bureaucracy may work without (or with some autonomy from) parliamentary oversight. Some argue this creates a democratic deficit while others see that loss in democracy a necessary evil (or not evil at all) for the purposes of policy continuity (which as Scarf mentioned doesn't happen with parties switching all the time). For example, countries tend to make monetary policy (the control of the money supply) relatively autonomous to the legislature in order to control inflation and the stabilize the value of the currency. In the United States, you see this tension between autonomy from the congress and congressional oversight in calls to "audit the Fed", and to stop them from "printing worthless money". Which policies should be more autonomous from parliamentary oversight? Which policies should have less? Is the bureaucracy too powerful? too inefficient? or not powerful enough? To what extent and to whom should the bureaucracy answer to: the executive? the legislature? or perhaps more or less to themselves?
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Old October 10th, 2013, 09:30 AM
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If politics is about money (the concentration and distribution of power => resources), my opinion is that money will inevitably be in politics. If money be the output, then money must be the input as well (not necessarily money, just the influence of wealth <= power in general).
I was thinking more in terms of elections. Campaign finance. You know, dark money influencing people to vote one way or another and distorting how fair an election is. Right now in the US it's really easy for someone with a lot of money to throw it into political races, or to threaten incumbent representatives with a well-funded challenger if the incumbent doesn't do what you want. *coughKochbrothersfundingthegovernmentshutdowncough*
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Old October 10th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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#americanpoliticalproblems

Oh, I see. But you know, some people argue it's their democratic right...

#muhfreedomz
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Old October 12th, 2013, 10:46 PM
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Recently, as in today, my grandmother took it upon herself to show me her old high school report cards...during lunchtime. While normally I try to ignore her and focus on eating, the report cards she showed me were...interesting. She once took a class called Problems of Democracy. I looked it up and found only this:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com...emocracy/?_r=0

^ I believe you all should read it. It's relevant to this thread.

The article states that Problems of Democracy was a class during a movement for Civics classes in education in the 1980s. However, my grandmother was in school...in what, the 40s or around that?

In other words, this class has existed for years and years... Yet I only heard of it now that I'm out of college. Shouldn't this class be taught in an education system regardless, esp. since our nation is democratic in nature?

In this thread, we ask what the best kind of democracy is. I believe our answers would be far more complex and meaningful...if that class was in our curriculum. It is as if the government does not want us to think our nation has problems when, in truth, it has far too many.
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Old October 13th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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I think representative democracy is probably the least damaging system and it has a pretty good asset to it in that it's pretty flexible depending on the country's characteristics. A federation like in the USA, Brazil or Germany wouldn't work in a country like Portugal, for example. I can't speak much for the USA, but the original purpose of the union was to help compete internationally, not only in terms of military but also economically. The USA is the most perfect example of a federation today, because the states have enough freedom to rule their laws compared to the federal government. In my country, for example, the federation is almost a lie since the federal government takes precedence. Lawmaking powers are imposed constitutionally but the states and municipalities do little more than passing local bills. The state constitutions have zero relevance. It may be a good thing because most of the relevant subjects have universal ruling across the country, but it's a model that doesn't take into account regional differences.

The biggest problem in any democratic system is lack of political education. It's very often in my country that corrupt people keep being elected as well as celebrities with little political interest. The political education is a matter of conscient voting as well as active participation in political activities. It does no good to complain about the options you have as a voter when your group doesn't spawn someone who represents the views of your group. So the system needs to be accessible to new entrants as well as give them a chance of victory should their influence be strong enough. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen in my country.
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Old October 16th, 2013, 06:20 PM
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I think a lot of this discussion is coming from a First World, Western experience. Would a democratic system be appropriate for a developing country? There's something to be said about countries thriving under a certain amount of authoritarianism - which usually happens to be more than imaginable to Western eyes.
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Old October 16th, 2013, 10:56 PM
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I think a lot of this discussion is coming from a First World, Western experience. Would a democratic system be appropriate for a developing country? There's something to be said about countries thriving under a certain amount of authoritarianism - which usually happens to be more than imaginable to Western eyes.
Certainly the best kinds of democracies are ones accompanied by stable economies, high levels of education, and widespread prosperity among the citizenry.

Which countries would be thriving under authoritarianism?
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Old October 17th, 2013, 06:58 AM
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I would say Asian countries, whether from China to Singapore, Indonesia to the Phillippines, all have more authoritarianism than tolerable in the West. However, democratizing hasn't shown the best results, especially not for the poorer ones. It makes it harder for the states to suppress Islamist movements, which although gain from democratic freedoms, are not very democratic themselves and wish to alter their political systems.

I don't think much can be said about democracies in prosperity. It's kind of like the jackpot. It's definitely not a model that the rest of the world can follow.
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Old October 17th, 2013, 09:31 AM
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I would say Asian countries, whether from China to Singapore, Indonesia to the Phillippines, all have more authoritarianism than tolerable in the West. However, democratizing hasn't shown the best results, especially not for the poorer ones. It makes it harder for the states to suppress Islamist movements, which although gain from democratic freedoms, are not very democratic themselves and wish to alter their political systems.

I don't think much can be said about democracies in prosperity. It's kind of like the jackpot. It's definitely not a model that the rest of the world can follow.
This seems kinda like a Catch-22. They're poor so they can't thrive under democracy, but because they're authoritarian the majority of the population is relatively poor so they don't have the agency to participate in democracy.

You look at places like South Korea or Japan and they're doing pretty well and they hadn't had some bumps in the road to democracy. What made them different? My knowledge of Korean history is pretty lacking, but I know that there was a large postwar push in the US to rebuild Japan.
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Old October 17th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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To be brief, a democracy in which only the informed and or educated can vote. I am not thrilled that "the majority" are ignorant and as such are making decisions accordingly.
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Old October 17th, 2013, 09:39 AM
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Japan...doing pretty well
AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

You watch too much anime, darling.
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Old October 17th, 2013, 09:54 AM
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AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

You watch too much anime, darling.
I'll thank you to tone down the 'tude, please.

And I've lived in Japan. I can personally attest that it's a pretty stable place. Clean, with healthy people, and although it's government has mostly been dominated by one party, it recently showed that the people are willing to step up and change things when they wanted to. Which is just what you'd expect from a healthy democracy. You'll also notice there are no government shutdowns, roaming mobs, or other signs of lawless states.
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Old October 17th, 2013, 10:05 AM
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Hmmm...

Well, the issue of problems in Japan and public disrest is...different from other places. The Yakuza are generally the bad dudes in Japan - so people oftentimes let them handle issues concerning public disrest. Also, though a criminal organization, the Yakuza uphold various chivalric traits, which makes them show their disrest in less harmful ways than other groups normally would.

I will say that Japan's govt, itself, is fine - but I just don't think the nation is. You still have issues when it comes to living SPACE, whether it's clean or not, and different tidbit issues exist very differently in different regions due to different living situations.
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  #24    
Old October 17th, 2013, 10:56 AM
Kanzler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarf View Post
This seems kinda like a Catch-22. They're poor so they can't thrive under democracy, but because they're authoritarian the majority of the population is relatively poor so they don't have the agency to participate in democracy.

You look at places like South Korea or Japan and they're doing pretty well and they hadn't had some bumps in the road to democracy. What made them different? My knowledge of Korean history is pretty lacking, but I know that there was a large postwar push in the US to rebuild Japan.
It's very very important to study the politics and history of all countries to understand the context in which democracy exists. South Korea and Japan emerged from a Cold War context, in which the United States dominated the world economy and influenced the rules of international trade. They were also major American allies and received major American support. Japan was constitutionally restricted to low military spending, and both Japan and ROK are under the American security umbrella, so they experienced a peace dividend in which the national purse can be diverted from military spending to development spending.

The ROK government underwent many political transitions through military dictatorships and one party rule - much like what we see in the rest of Asia right now. In fact, the communist parties were crushed by both the Americans and American-backed capitalist government. Democracy in Korea and Taiwan were repressed for the longest time. Korea went through many coup-d'etats and constitutional changes. In Taiwan, freedoms began to be protected slowly.

Anyways, both of these economies were able to expand their export industries while limiting foreign imports. This is why Korean and Japanese companies are so powerful worldwide. Their setup is increasingly harder to do in today's world of global capitalism.

Democracy is a process, not a state of being. It is something that has to be sustained and worked for - and thus the conditions of democracy must be met before it can be sustained. The ROK, Taiwan, and Japan achieved these conditions sooner or later - as well as with the help of a world order that suited them. I cannot say the same for the developing countries of Asia of today.
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  #25    
Old October 17th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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But going back to your point democracy from the Western world. You're saying that these east Asian countries needed to get their national security/economies/etc. under control before they could get the kind of democracy in place that they have now, but are you also saying democracy would have been bad for them during this whole process? that it should wait until all these other foundations are laid before introducing it?
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