120

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. ~ a quote commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin So, to answer your question: When is a democratic vote actually the wrong tool? Any time the rights of minorities matter. Pure democracy is mob rule. That's one reason the United States is not a pure democracy. It's a constitutional ...


116

That's not what he said. John Kerry said: But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both –and it won’t ever really be at peace. So what he is trying to say here is that In his opinion, Israel should embrace a two state solution. If Israel does not split off Palestine ...


102

Let's take a moment to visit how the word "lobbying" came about. In the British Houses of Parliament, there is an area called Central Lobby (between the Commons and the Lords), which is where members of the public could meet their representatives to discuss an issue and persuade them to support it. The term "to lobby" came from the location in Parliament ...


87

Some problems I can see with this idea: Unbalanced incentives In point two, you claim that this system would encourage votes from people who "understand the value of the vote", but is that really true? Votes are very important in aggregate but a single vote, not so much - the overwhelmingly most likely outcomes of adding one vote are either 1) your ...


85

The only obstacle between a government by the people and a dictatorship are the people.


80

The simplest answer is that a US President can't just arbitrarily throw anyone in jail. (At least overtly: we're not talking about covert ops here.) About the most a President could do would be to direct the Department of Justice to have the FBI (or some independent commission, like the current Mueller one) do an investigation. Then if creditable evidence ...


79

Most democratic countries have a constitution which says how the state functions and what kinds of laws can and can not be made. Laws which contradict the constitution are usually declared invalid by a constitutional court. However, most democracies also have a process by which they can modify the constitution. This usually requires a larger majority than a ...


58

I wasn't able to find an answer online, so I called the Office of the Clerk of the House to ask why they use stenographers instead of electronic recording devices. They gave me a list of reasons: To preserve the decorum of the House. House members like having a stenographer they can talk to about the record (to have something re-read, or to have their ...


54

Fact checking is neither easy nor instantaneous. The time taken to fact-check even a simple statement and do it thoroughly is measured in hours, not minutes. For example, let's take one of Trump's most famous and simplest lies, one most clearly known to be false, that his inauguration was the biggest in history. To get a definitive answer you need to: Go ...


53

One is an expected form of power transfer, the other is not. In a parliamentary democracy, each representative has a mandate from their constituents, and only in aggregate can they form a government. If that government can't command a majority in the parliament, they basically can't govern, but someone else might be able to. Depending on the exact ...


53

Both democracy and ochlocracy are forms of government where political activism by citizens is tolerated as part of politics. The difference is that a democratic state follows its legislative, executive and legal processes and follows the rule of law, while an ochlocratic state ignores these in order to appease public sentiments. A couple tests you can use ...


51

All modern democracies are representative; it's for purely pragmatic reasons hard to see how a large community could govern itself directly by the people without introducing representative intermediaries. The really interesting question for me is whether the United States, though formally a democratic republic, are factually ruled by a relatively small ...


50

What is the purpose of democracy? It's more a philosophical question than a political question but let me try a brief answer: First, it's a reasoning bias to imagine that things always exist for a specific "purpose". Things exist for various reasons (historical, cultural, ...) which are not always optimal or even logical, let alone "virtuous". Whether ...


49

Democracy works for decisions where (a) everyone is equally informed (or at least there is no reasonable way to exclude the ill-informed) and (b) everyone is equally affected by the outcome. So, bad situations to use a democratic decision making process are where either: (a) not everyone is equally informed. Voting on the value of the Planck constant, for ...


48

Many countries adopt some variant of solution (3): Putting restrictions to the usage of wealth in political situations. This solution is used in many western states, but is of course a violation of free speech and the possibility to exercise political influence at will. The assumption "of course this is a violation of free speech" is not universally ...


43

I reject your basic hypothesis. You're conflating influence with votes. It is not common to buy votes. We have secret ballots specifically to make this hard and laws to make it illegal. That's not to say it doesn't happen but it is not encouraged in any democratic society. However, influencing voters is encouraged. This has been true since the dawn of ...


42

A good example of a system trying to prevent this is the Constitution of Norway. The constitution has various ways to protect itself from being altered in undesirable ways. Changes to the constitution require a 2/3 majority in parliament, and perhaps more importantly, they require two consecutive parliaments to confirm the changes. This means that if a ...


39

That would require a workable definition of "lobbying," and it would almost certainly exclude things you do not want to exclude. A citizen phones his representative to tell him his opinion about a proposed law. Not lobbying, I presume. A citizen tells his friends to phone their representatives to tell them their opinion about a proposed law. Probably not ...


36

I love this question, if simply because so many people have misinterpreted Kerry's statement. He is stating that if Israel commits to a one-state solution, they will have to choose between being democratic and representing all of the people within the country, or remaining a state in which only Jewish people (and a small minority of Arab Israelis) are ...


35

Join a political party and become an activist for it. Being an activist gives you much more of a say in party policy and behaviour than J. Random Citizen because: You get to vote on internal party decisions, and since most people are not activists this gives you a disproportionate level of influence. The party needs activists and doesn't want to make them ...


34

This was actually a big concern of the authors of the Constitution. They were thinking in particular of the example of Oliver Cromwell from their own father's generation. He gained power as Prime Minister, and slowly over time remade himself into military dictator of England, eventually dispensing with parliament altogether. The basic idea they tried was to ...


33

Impeachment is a prosecution process; it only applies for gross misconduct, and the threshold for its success is really high. The PM can retire with only moderate shame after losing a vote of no confidence, but an president who is impeached and convicted ought to go to jail. A vote of no confidence, on the other hand, simply indicates that the government is ...


32

Up front: Holocaust Denial is not limited under U.S. law. There is an adequate list on Wikipedia of free speech exceptions, that for convenience I will replicate here: Communicative impact restrictions (e.g. incitement, elicitation) False statements of fact (e.g. libel, slander, perjury) Obscenity (very tightly interpreted, and only regulated in public) ...


30

The major difference between these two systems is that in a Presidential system, the executive leader, the President, is directly voted upon by the people (Or via a body elected specifically for the purpose of electing the president, and no other purpose), and the executive leader of the Parliamentary system, the Prime Minister, is elected from the ...


30

The problem you are running into is the conflation of "lobbying" and "special interests." Lobbying, at its most basic form, is attempting to influence a representative to vote a certain way. An election is really nothing more than a special case of lobbying - only instead of influencing a representative, you are attempting to influence all voters. A "...


30

The possibility of populist demagogues rising to power is unfortunately a drawback of any democratic election system. Any system where you have an institution which is able to overrule a democratic vote of the electorate is by definition undemocratic. There are of course lots of other voting systems than first-past-the-post which promise more democratic ...


30

Yes and no. A democracy is merely a memetic system: it's a set of ideas codified into formal laws and informal ideology and norms. As such, specific beliefs can objectively undermine this memetic system, if they are popular AND contrary to the system's stability. A belief that a religious deity is strongly opposed to democracy can easily undermine ...


29

Democracy is entirely the wrong tool when you need fast, consistent decision-making. This is why every successful armed force in the world is some flavor of dictatorship, rather than making decisions by majority vote.


28

How could so many rich men like George Clooney and Bill Gates vote for Hillary Clinton? After all, she openly said that she thought it was sexist to hire a man (Donald Trump) over a woman (her). And we all know that she wanted higher taxes on better off people compared to Donald Trump. No one seems to ask that question. Perhaps they simply didn't ...


28

Stability. Security is an illusion. Take this to mean even security in the belief of a set of rules as protecting you or anyone else. If rules by themselves are enough then making murder illegal should solve all murder. Protests mark civil instability. Any instability can be a potential weakness to be exploited. The instability of a protest can have far ...


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