Global Concepts of Democracy.
1.1 – Democracy
Democracy, a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. The ancient idea of democracy has been understood from different perspectives. Democracy has also been used and misused as an excuse to occupy other countries, to overthrow governments, and to exert, sometimes benevolent, but often repressive authority. Here are a few perspectives of democracy.
1.2 – Inclusion
Participatory democracy, in most nations, has gradually evolved from the Athenian democracy, which excluded women, slaves and foreigners, to today’s universal inclusion of all citizens. E.g. – Universal male suffrage in France, following the French Revolution of 1848
1.3 – Origins of Representative Democracy.
The current representative democracy is a concession derived from the monarchies of Great Britain and Sweden in the 18th century. At that time in history, democracy was improved by shifting some ruling power from the monarchs to elected political representatives.
This monarchic concession of legislative and executive power, to a few political representative, also meant that the hierarchical power to legislate the rules of governance was officially kept in the hands of a few manipulable representatives.
Noam Chomsky alerted us of this political flaw by saying: “The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes priestly casters, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.”
1.4 – Term of Office
Under the rules of representative system, we must consider the legal authority we give to a representative to make all political decisions for all of us, during a “term of office.”
In fact, the “Term of office” restricts citizens from making any political decision other than electing a representative, every three or four years, on Election Day. Therefore, the term of office system creates a temporal dictatorship of representatives.
This dictatorship of representative becomes the main sources to political abuse, public frustration and people’s apathy or cynicism.
1.5 – Democratic Separation of Powers.
We have inherited from Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic, the system of governance called “trias politica”, meaning the separation of three political powers: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.
The “blending of powers” has been the choice of parliamentary-monarchies, like Canada, while the “separation of powers” has been the choice of republics like the USA.
This blending of powers concentrates almost unaccountable political authority into the hands of the Prime Minister and his/her appointed Cabinet Ministers.
Either way, executive, legislative, and judicial practices concentrate supreme power on the prime minister; thus, taking it away from the people.
These few elected legislators become the executive government. Additionally, this small cadre of politicians assumes the authority to appoint supreme court judges and Senators.
Potentially, monarchic parliaments as well as republican systems which centralize political power in the hands of a few representatives, become prone to fascism or plutocracy disguised as democracy.
1.6 – Media Influencing Democracy
Media is an indispensable factor in democracy because rational decision-making comes from a well-informed population. Media can be used as an effective tool for factual information, or it can be misused as a tool for propaganda.
Commercial media, owned and operated by a small but wealthy elite, advertises and sponsors their political representatives. Once elected, political representatives, indebted to their financiers, inevitably lobby for their sponsors’ agenda.
1.7 – Money Influencing Democracy
Economic interests, hiring advertising experts to manipulate public opinion, have entrenched their narrative as reality. They have historically misinformed people by creating the illusion that we are the good people being victimized by an evil enemy; therefore, they argue, it is our humanitarian responsibility to defend ourselves by destroying evil.
For example, the “weapons of mass destruction” propaganda that was used in 2002 by U.S. politicians to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003 which instigated public support to attack and destroy a fictitious enemy. This phenomenon is best explained by Greg Palast in his book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”.
1.8 – Democracy by Majority Rule.
Majority Rule is constituted by a conventional agreement. Sometimes it has no predetermined threshold, as in “First Past The Post”, where the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.
At other times, a simple majority of 50% + one carries the motion. But, on issues deemed very important, a “Super-majority Rule” of two-thirds, three-quarters, or more is required to carry the motion.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau -1712 – 1778 – advocated the use of super-majority voting on important decisions when he said, “The more the deliberations are important and serious, the more the opinion that carries should approach unanimity.”
Direct Democracy by any convention of majority rule must always consider and do its best to accommodate, the human rights and concerns of minorities.
1.9 – Whom to Elect Vs. What Policy to Elect.
Electoral concerns, among supporters of representative systems of governance, are about the conventions of what constitutes majority. Competing representative parties debate about the logistics of party proportionality, to maximize the number of their elected candidates.
Electoral concerns, among supporters of direct democracy, are focused on directly deciding on social policies by referendum, rather than in electing representatives, or debating the procedural details of how to elect representatives.
Having looked at several global perspectives and component of democracy, let’s review the current Canadian political ideologies and system of governance.