1.1 – Democracy

Democracy is a system of government by the people. It stands between the extreme anarchist rejection of all rules and the dictatorship of one supreme ruler.

1.2 – Inclusion

Participatory democracy has evolved from the Athenian democracy, which excluded women, slaves and foreigners, to today’s gradual inclusion of all eligible citizens:

From 1848 – Universal male suffrage in France,
to 1915 – women’s suffrage in Denmark,
to 1918 – UK & Canadian women’s right to vote,
to 1920 – American women’s right to vote.O

1.3 – Origins of Representative Democracy.

Great Britain and Sweden Monarchies of the 18th century, transferred some of their ruling power to elected political representatives.

This monarchic concession of power, kept the hierarchical legislative and executive governance in the hands of a few 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: … party dictatorships, or modern corporations.”

1.4 – Representatives’  “Term of Office”

Under the rules of representative system, we must realize that the legal authority we give to a representative, to make all political decisions for all of us, has 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. Therefore, the “term of office” creates a temporal dictatorship of representatives.

This dictatorship by representatives becomes the main source of 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.

While the “separation of powers”, for checks and balances, has been the choice of republics like the USA, the “blending of powers”, or bundling the three powers in one, has been the choice of parliamentary-monarchies, like Canada.

This blending of powers concentrates almost unaccountable political authority into the hands of the Federal Prime Minister, and the Provincial Premiers. They appoint Cabinet Ministers to form the executive governments.

A small group of elected legislators double their power when selected to become the executive government. Additionally, this small group of cabinet ministers are empowered to appoint court judges to form the judicial authority.

Consequently, monarchic parliaments, which blend political powers, and centralize authority in the hands of a few representatives, become prone to fascism or plutocracy disguised as democracy.

 

1.6 – Media Influencing Democracy

Media-Information is an indispensable factor in democracy because public opinion and decision-making comes from the information we have available.

Media can be, and should be used as an effective tool for factual information, but it can and has also been misused as a tool for fictitious propaganda.

Commercial media, owned and operated by a small but wealthy elite, can and has advertised and sponsored propaganda supporting their political narrative.

State funded media can also be coerced by the sponsoring regime to justify government’s policies.

Noam Chomsky explains this conundrum on his book Manufacturing Consent.

 

1.7 Money Influencing Democracy

Economic interests, hiring advertising experts to manipulate public opinion, have historically entrenched the corporate-narrative as the only reality.

For example, they have created an enemy syndrome to profit from it. The illusion that we are the good people being victimized by an evil enemy; therefore, they argue, it is our democratic/humanitarian responsibility to defend ourselves and others by destroying the evil enemy.

Like in the case of the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” which was used in 2002 by the U.S. politicians to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003.
This propaganda which instigated public support to attack and destroy Saddam Hussein in order to control the Iraqi oil fields, was carried out in the name of democracy.

This phenomenon is also explained in great detail 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 voter’s choice 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.

Regardless of any convention of majority rule, political decisions should always consider the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Liberties for minorities.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1712 – 1778 advocated the use of supermajority voting on important decisions when he said, “The more the deliberations are important and serious, the more the opinion that carries should approach unanimity.”

 

1.9 – One final precautionary word about the label democracy, is that, similar to religious labels, the name democracy has been misused by dictators to exert repressive authority; it has also been misused as a political excuse to occupy other countries, and to overthrow governments.

Having looked at several global perspectives and component of democracy, let’s review in the next chapter, the current Canadian political ideologies and system of governance.