[EM] Democracy

Don & Cathy Hoffard dchoffard at verizon.net
Sun Mar 15 19:41:42 PDT 2009

Democracy is difficult to define.  The Greeks (Aristotle) simple defined
democracy as "Rule by the Many".  The question is what does "Rule" and
"Many" mean.  This definition defines "Rule" as political power (control)
and "Many" as all the people (members/citizens).  Most people would thus
define democracy as a system of government where all of the political power
(control) is in the hands of the people (citizens/members), where each
member of the public has equal power, and where they have a right to
exercise their power (voting/etc.).  Let us call this a minimum requirement
for a democracy.  If a governmental body does not have these three minimum
requirements then we can say they are not a democracy.   There are some
definitions of democracy that would make a democracy work better but are not
the fundamental requirements.  One of these is to have the basic
governmental functions separated.  You could also state that a county needs
a "Bill of Rights" as the minimum requirements to be a democracy.  You could
list 100 requirements that are necessary to be a democracy and list the same
number of definitions of democracy.  We need to ask, could we have a
democratic government that has only the three basic factors of democracy
defined above.  We need to stop looking at a democratic county (US, etc.)
and say that if another county does not have all of their governmental
features then they are not a democracy.  

                      PRACTICAL DEMOCRACY
                (Selecting leaders FROM the people)
                     To select better leaders, we must select the most
principled of our 
                     people as our representatives.  The method must be
democratic (i.e., 
                     allow the entire electorate to participate),
egalitarian (i.e., give 
                    everyone an equal chance to participate), and it must be
in harmony with natural human responses.

              Fred Gohlke

Fred Gohlke states that a democracy must "give everyone an equal chance to
participate". That is everyone as a right to be considered for a
governmental office.  That does not mean that everyone should have an equal
chance to be selected.   You could say that everyone should have the right
to submit an application for the governmental job and each applicant needs
to be considered fairly and equally.   In a democracy it is the
responsibility of the selecting official (the people/voters) to decide who
is best qualified for the job.

In a true direct democracy the people must make "all" the decisions.  Thus
they make the laws and implement those laws.  This type of government may
work of a homeowners association of very small city but not for a large
government entity (city/state/country).  What people can do to make a
workable government is delegate some of their powers.  The people can
delegate their power to someone to help them make laws and run the
government.  This could be called a "delegated democracy".  If we delegate
this power to someone are you are giving up our power?  One thing the people
could do is to vote for one person (a manager) to make the laws and run the
government.  If the people do not like how the manager is running the
government they can fire the manager at any time. The people are always in
control at all times and can exercise (voting) their control at any time and
thus this type of government can still be called a democracy.   If the
manager is elected for a term of four years (with no recall provision) then
there is no democracy for those four years.  They could vote in a "King for
life" but by doing this they are in-effect voting democracy out of existence
(or at least until the King dies).  Why, because the people no longer have
any power nor do they have the right to exercise that power (voting).  The
King is really a dictator, because he has the absolute power.

In most government systems the people are willing to give up some control in
the name of efficiency and stability.  Most people do not have the expertise
to make good laws so they hire individuals who do have that expertise.   If
you want your car repaired you hire a mechanic.  But you do have the right
to select your mechanic.  It would also be very costly to have presidential
elections weekly/monthly/or even annually.

The people also could elect representatives who in turn would select the
person the run the government (manager/president).   Many cities in the US
have what is called a city manager type of government. They elect a city
council and they in turn select a city manager.  This type of government is
called a "representative democracy". This is not a true democracy by our
definition above because the people do not have any say in the selection
(power to select) or any control after the selection.  If the people do not
like the decisions of the city manage makes, what are their options?  They
cannot remove the city manager thus the people have lost control of the
government (the city).  Let us assume that we can recall our city council
member.  The people do still have control over their city council members
(their representative) and thus have some power.  By selecting a new council
member there is no guarantee that the "bad" (not representing the views of
the people) city manager well be replaced. This type of governmental system
is similar to a parliament type democracy and trades off democracy for
efficiency and stability.

The President of the US is elected by the people (well almost) and not by
the congress.  Thus this system of government is a little more democratic
than a parliamentary form because the people have more control in the
selection of their President.  Once elected for a four year period however
the public as lost all of their control and thus the government system is no
longer a true democracy, at least for the next four years.  They cannot
recall a sitting President for four years.  Congress can remove a President
but only on "impeachable offences" and not for incompetence or for not
following the wishes of the people.

You may say that the people do not elect the President; the Electoral
College elects the President. This system could be called "democracy by
proxy" and is a form of democracy where you give up your power  to someone
else who in turn pledges (by contract or law) to vote for the person you
voted for (or in this case the person your state voted for).  The voters are
still in control of the selection.  There is however the problem of equal
power in that a voter in a small state has more voting power than a voter in
a large state.  If the system had equal voting power and proportional state
voting this proxy type voting could be labeled as a true democracy.  This
voting system is done in the corporate world of stocks all the time.  In a
stock voting world a stock holder can give their proxy to someone who in
turn votes for you.  Because a voter in this type of presidential election
process has more control over the selection of head of the government it
tends to be more democratic than the centralized parliamentary type of

Fred presented an interesting election method (Triad method).   The question
is it consistent with the definition of democracy. 

                   Re: METHOD
                   1) Divide the electorate into triads, groups of three
                  2) Assign a date and time by which each triad must select
                       one of the three members to represent the other two.
                        a. No participant may vote for himself.
                        b. If a triad is unable to select a representative
in the
                            specified time, the triad is disqualified.
                   3) Divide the participants so selected into new triads.
                  4) Repeat from step 2 until a target number of selections
                         reached.  The target number will be the number of
                         offices to be filled and the community's candidates
                         county, state and national elective offices.

Fred Gohlke

Let us look at one citizen.  A retired worker 75 year old who has put in his
time and is not interested in being the city manager.  He would thus not
want the other two to vote for him.  By not being selected to advance to the
second round he has lost his right to vote.  He no longer has any say in the
selection of the city manager.  You may say that it is his right not to seek
the job.  But, in a democracy it is his right, and the right of "all"
citizens to select their leader.  Thus the Triad method violates one of the
most fundamental principles of democracy.  Another citizen making $200k and
the job pay $50 would also decide not to seek the job and would thus lose
their right to vote (in later rounds).   And finally, a citizen who cannot
read or write would also lose their voting rights. 

You could change the Triad method to say that the final 9 would decide who
would get the job and not require that you select only from the final 9.  In
this way our three citizens could have a chance to be part of the final 9.
It does not make the method consistent with our democratic principles but it
is closer.

Another problem with the Triad method is that the best person (the one that
would be selected by all of the citizens) for the job may be eliminated on
the first round by two men who don't like the third persons looks or they
thinks she is too liberal (or too conservative).  Also the best person could
also be eliminated because someone on her Triad didn't show up.

Most cities (and government entities) allow anyone seeking a political
office to get X number of signatures and get on the ballot.  If the person
can't get the required number of signatures then they are, in all likely
hood not the best person (determined by the voters) for the job any why. 

Fred's concept of equal opportunity is important. We do need to find the
best way that allows all those seeking an elected position an opportunity to
apply and to be considered fairly and equally.  But we should try to do it
in a way the preserves the fundamental principles of democracy. 

Don Hoffard


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