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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 9:46 am 
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Bloom - The term "democracy" is simply less specific. Those who took you to task were incorrect for doing so. _The Federalist Papers_ reveal serious concerns about allowing simple majority rule to govern. The founders understood the majority can be way off where justice is concerned. Then they formalized a nation that didn't consider black people human beings. Go figure.


Last edited by U2 on Wed Feb 25, 2004 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 9:52 am 
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Democracy or Republic? Republic, absolutely. Mark Twain even rewrote one of our favorite songs about it:

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
his lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps --
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom -- and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich --
Our god is marching on.

Mark Twain
(Brought Down to Date)
(1900?)


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 9:54 am 
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U2 wrote:
Then they formalized a nation that didn't consider black people human beings. Go figure.


I was going to say: By Jim's definition the US was not a democracy, and therefore not a repbulic, before 1865 (probably not before the 1960s if you take the right to vote to include a realistic shot at actually voting).

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:06 am 
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Uh.. Sorry to drag this back to Ralph Nader, but I noticed that his left eye doesn't blink. Is he missing an eye or has he had a stroke?

When I studied civics back in the 9th grade back in 1955, we referred to a democracy as meaning what Jim calls "direct" democracy. Actually, IIRC it was called a pure democracy, ie the system that is a majority or "mob" rule.

Such a system is bound to fail as when people realise that they can vote themselves "bread and circuses", they tend to do so.

I have been yelling "we are a representative republic, you idiot!" at radio and tv for years and years.

There are an amazing number of so called educated folk that cannot read and understand our constitution. The words seem very plain to me, but what do I know..


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:17 am 
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fancypiper wrote:
When I studied civics back in the 9th grade back in 1955, we referred to a democracy as meaning what Jim calls "direct" democracy. Actually, IIRC it was called a pure democracy, ie the system that is a majority or "mob" rule.
..


Ah, that is very interesting. There is on the one hand of course the classic assault on democracy by Plato (or Socrates, if you will). Plato considers democracy (rule of the people) a decadent form of the rule of the wise.

But I think what was going on in US highschools in 1955 was not so much a platonic argument. After all that wasn't a time when education in the US was exactly unbiased, and Communism, in the Marxist system, aspires to direct representation (a bit of a joke in practice, of course).

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:31 am 
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Governance by the electorate requires the constant presence of accountability and disclosure, not simply the act of placing a ballot in a box. If you have a representative who serves on an intelligence committee - make an opportunity to visit with them about oaths. Oaths of office (to represent you) and the oaths of committees (to protect information) are considered in conflict by some representatives. It's very enlightening.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:35 am 
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Bloomfield wrote:
U2 wrote:
Then they formalized a nation that didn't consider black people human beings. Go figure.


I was going to say: By Jim's definition the US was not a democracy, and therefore not a repbulic, before 1865 (probably not before the 1960s if you take the right to vote to include a realistic shot at actually voting).


This is exactly right. Not only by my defintion.
Here's the OED.

Democracy: government by the people; a form of government
in which the power resides in the people and is exercised
by them either directly or by means of elected
representatives.

Republic: any state in which supreme power is held by the
people or their elected representatives, as opposed to
a monarch, etc.

It follows logically that a republic is a democracy.
I agree that dictionary defintions can be mistaken,
but I do think these are alright. There may be
important issues here, but whether a republic
is a democracy or whether the USA is (now)
a democracy isn't one of them. Best


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:42 am 
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Jim - I assume you realize that either defintion was manipulated by not defining blacks as "people".


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:48 am 
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jim stone wrote:
If the supreme power were the constitution,
then no politcal system with a constitution could
be a democracy. The supreme power isn't
the constitution, but the people. The constitution,
at least as it presently exists grounds a political
system where the supreme power is in the
hands of the people. The people can amend the
Constitution. If they do so that only male white
property owners above the age of 50 can vote,
we would no longer be a democracy.


Just a couple of observations. Laws that have passed by referendum, the ultimate form of democracy, have been struck down as unconstitutional. When they're in conflict, the constitution trumps the people. The people do have the ability to amend the constitution, but the US constitution is very difficult to amend. It's by no means impossible, but is so difficult that it's only happened 17 times in the last 202 years. I think France has had almost that many constitutions in that time. Also, Federal judges and justices, the people who interpret the Constitution, are appointed for life, largely to make them less susceptible to the will of the people, i. e., the tyrrany of the majority.

We certainly agree more than we disagree; the power is largely in the hands of the people, but the few exceptions are important.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:17 am 
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U2 and Chas, we agree. Best


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:38 am 
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Bloomfield wrote:
But I think what was going on in US highschools in 1955 was not so much a platonic argument. After all that wasn't a time when education in the US was exactly unbiased, and Communism, in the Marxist system, aspires to direct representation (a bit of a joke in practice, of course).
Oddly enough, the only study I remember of Marxist communism was some brief mention in our studies of World War II.

We studied it quiet thoroughly and quite honestly and balanced, I thought, when I was in pre-flight school in the US Navy. Of course, after they had gone through the idealogical thoughts that were taught, they showed the actual results of the policies, and indeed, practical communism is just as bad as pure democracy.

The Mayflower charter is a practical example of one of the first US trials of the communist ideas. It lasted a year, IIRC. Why should I bust my butt raising crops while my neighbor goofs off and I have to give him my stuff. Screw it, I'll goof off too.

Anybody know about his eye?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 12:03 pm 
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I should have been more specific, I suppose, and said that the US is not, and never has been, a Direct Democracy.

And yes, I think the distinction is important - I don't think that direct, town-meeting-style democracy works well once you have more than a few thousand people (at most) making decisions.

But I also meant to raise the point that chas did - the electoral college was designed to allow states - not individuals - to chose the electors, and that it was one of the compromises needed to get the various states to accept the Constitution.

There are a lot of things in our current system that are odd, when viewed in isolation. But we sometimes need to remind ourselves that our current system, despite any flaws it may have, is a compromise that evolved over time to suit our needs. Though designedly difficult, the Constitution can be changed, and it has been when enough people agreed that it was necessary.

I'm not certain that perfection is possible - and what I deem perfect might seem excessively flawed to others. There are a number - a large number - of things in our current system I'd like to see changed in some way. But taken as a whole, I think our system has served us well, and the inertia built into the system has probably saved us, more than once, from the excesses of enthusiasm.

Being - I hope - a practical sort, I'm willing to work with the system as it is, and try to improve it when I can. But flaws and all, I think - on the whole - it's a pretty good system.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 12:34 pm 
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Ah, that is very interesting. There is on the one hand of course the classic assault on democracy by Plato (or Socrates, if you will). Plato considers democracy (rule of the people) a decadent form of the rule of the wise.

Are you sure about that, Bloomie? I thought democracy was a decadent form of timocracy, which would indicate government not by the wise but by those who seek public honor. In the Greek polis to seek public honor was considered a good thing. The leaders in a democracy, by contrast, would be demagogues.

EDIT On reflection, I'm not sure of that. Plato certainly suggested the desirability of rule by a basileus philosophos. I'm no longer sure if he considered democracy to be its opposite. Aristotle was the one who had the three forms of government, balanced by their three corruptions. For Aristotle, timocracy <--> democracy were a pair. Also aristocracy <--> oligarchy and monarchy <--> tyranny. Or something like that. /EDIT

Well known fact about the supposedly original democracy, Athens. Citizens were actually a pretty small minority, greatly outnumbered by resident foreigners and slaves.

BTW, since people have been talking about the electoral college, here's a column a friend showed me today that assesses (could that possibly be spelled right??? :-? ) from that standpoint:

http://www.boblonsberry.com/writings.cfm?story=1345&go=4

The author has a colorful style.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 12:59 pm 
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Oh, I am sure you are right about Plato. :)

I think it's interesting, btw, when the U.S.A. is referred to as "the Republic". I happen to agree that it is a republic, because it is a democracy replacing a monarchy, but it's not called that. It should be referred to as "the Union" or "a republic," right? (And is, sometimes.)

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Last edited by Bloomfield on Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:26 pm 
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Oh, I am sure you are right about Plato.


Well, c'mon! That sounds kinda grudging. How 'bout everything else? :lol:

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