Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

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Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby TheVat on September 9th, 2019, 9:02 am 

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story ... acy-228045

What caused the stir? Rosenberg, a professor at UC Irvine, was challenging a core assumption about America and the West. His theory? Democracy is devouring itself—his phrase — and it won’t last.

As much as President Donald Trump’s liberal critics might want to lay America’s ills at his door, Rosenberg says the president is not the cause of democracy’s fall—even if Trump’s successful anti-immigrant populist campaign may have been a symptom of democracy’s decline.

We’re to blame, said Rosenberg. As in “we the people.”

Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.

His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on September 9th, 2019, 10:39 am 

Okay--- not wrong, as far as it goes --
but I think that's a fairly small-picture view. I believe civilization is fundamentally anti-democratic, and the more complex, industrial and technological civilization grows, the harder it is to govern at all, never mind govern by consensus. We've done astonishingly well for so many heavily populated nations to maintain any semblance of democracy this long, in a rigidly monetized global economy. When an economy breaks, so does the governance, and vice versa: no stable underpinnings, no continuity.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Fuqin on September 10th, 2019, 8:13 am 

Politics whatever cracy or ism you subscribe or adhear too are essentially belife systems, and belife systems are notriously fictional, go figer why the z#!T dont work
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on September 10th, 2019, 10:12 am 

Fuqin » September 10th, 2019, 7:13 am wrote:Politics whatever cracy or ism you subscribe or adhear too are essentially belife systems, and belife systems are notriously fictional, go figer why the z#!T dont work

Can there be a reality-based social organization that contains no belief-system or politics?
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby TheVat on September 10th, 2019, 12:29 pm 

I believe the Earth will still be orbiting the sun tomorrow, and still rotating. And that water will still be wet. And that narcissist autocrats will still be trying to enrich themselves while tearing down democracy and establishing crony plutocracy.

( Fuqin: Please use the spellchecker: it is your friend. )

And yes, large-scale corporate capitalism does drive an amoral system of incentives and rewards that do not really foster a true self-governing political entity. It's possible that the United States is simply too large to continue as a democracy, and will break down into several independent confederations of states, some more democratic than others. States where there is a longer tradition of public activism and protest and corporate watchdogging, like say Massachusetts, may fare better than states where obedience to authority and "law and order" are more highly valued, e.g. Nebraska.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on September 10th, 2019, 2:59 pm 

TheVat » September 10th, 2019, 11:29 am wrote:And yes, large-scale corporate capitalism does drive an amoral system of incentives and rewards that do not really foster a true self-governing political entity. It's possible that the United States is simply too large to continue as a democracy, and will break down into several independent confederations of states, some more democratic than others. States where there is a longer tradition of public activism and protest and corporate watchdogging, like say Massachusetts, may fare better than states where obedience to authority and "law and order" are more highly valued, e.g. Nebraska.


I've been predicting, and speculating on, that development for a couple of decades. Since the GWB contested election result. Really, when you consider the history, the union was never all that solid - and it seems to me, has been far too costly, in human and other lives, to maintain.
Humans tend to go for bigness without much reflection. Size has advantages, but we rarely weigh the pluses and minuses objectively. I figure Canada should be five countries; the contiguous States, maybe six - minus First nations territories. There would have to be room for negotiation regarding overlaps of political temperament at that arbitrary line at 49 N, and I don't know what the Arctic would prefer. Complicated, but doable.
Once you had like-minded majorities in control of their area, they could trade misfits. Then, whatever form of government each new country chose would work better without the constant strife.
Far too many resources are squandered on stalemate!

(Of course, some of those new countries would be... what's that picturesque description your head honcho favours? But at least the refugees from those places would have someplace to go.)
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby SciameriKen on September 10th, 2019, 3:15 pm 

TheVat » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:29 pm wrote:I believe the Earth will still be orbiting the sun tomorrow, and still rotating. And that water will still be wet. And that narcissist autocrats will still be trying to enrich themselves while tearing down democracy and establishing crony plutocracy.

( Fuqin: Please use the spellchecker: it is your friend. )

And yes, large-scale corporate capitalism does drive an amoral system of incentives and rewards that do not really foster a true self-governing political entity. It's possible that the United States is simply too large to continue as a democracy, and will break down into several independent confederations of states, some more democratic than others. States where there is a longer tradition of public activism and protest and corporate watchdogging, like say Massachusetts, may fare better than states where obedience to authority and "law and order" are more highly valued, e.g. Nebraska.


Perhaps this is the fear the founders have had the whole time about a strong federal government, which has been seemingly growing exponentially these past few decades. Perhaps the issue is the concentration of power? One federal source means those who can need only manipulate this main entity instead of having to do it 50 times in the different states. Is the answer to reduce the power of the federal government -- and not just that, but break up the large companies for which in a sense are as powerful as tiny nations all operating within our borders?!
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on September 10th, 2019, 5:30 pm 

I think ‘democracy’ needs classifying in this debate. There may be many types of democracy in the world. I can think of two main types – the President-led type and the Westminster type.

My impression (and that’s all it is) is that Presidential-led styles tend to have too many problems.

The Westminster type which we have here in Australia seems to have worked during my lifetime at Federal and State Government levels.

Essentially, we have a heredity-referee system controlling the overall function of our Parliaments. We have Governors of every State and a Governor-General at Federal level. Each represents the Queen who ultimately is the Chief referee of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since Oliver Cromwell’s day, the Queen (and the Governors) no longer have the power to have any say in the direct daily activities of Parliaments, but no parliament can be formed without their consent and approval; they also have the power to dissolve Parliaments that reach deadlocks, and to call for new elections.

As distinct from a stand-alone man acting as a President, the Queen or her hereditary replacement, and their representative Governors (along with their advisors) have hundreds of years of tradition and experience in Constitutional Law to guide them in their decision-making.

We had one occasion when a Governor (John Kerr) dissolved Parliament in 1975 (I think), appointed the Opposition Party as stand-in Government when there was a stand-off in the Supply Act. There was great unrest across the country over his decision, but he did call for a new election within a month. Fortunately, the election was clearly won by the Opposition Party, and this tended to justify the Governor-General’s decision. But at least, we had a referee who was able to dissolve a Parliament in which the Senate produced a stand-off by not passing an Act that was vital to the function of the country.

I find it curious that we have many people in our country who are urging us to become a Republic with a stand-alone man acting as a President. You all know the old saying -- "If a system is not broke, why fix it?"

But the point I'm making is that we need to classify systems of 'democracy' when we are talking about their sustainability.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on September 10th, 2019, 6:16 pm 

SciameriKen » September 10th, 2019, 2:15 pm wrote:
Perhaps this is the fear the founders have had the whole time about a strong federal government, which has been seemingly growing exponentially these past few decades.

A lot of that is down to militarism. You can't carry on thirty or more wars at any given time without a huge, well-equipped and mobile army and all the power to finance such an army. That's a very large-scale, long-term operation.
Perhaps the issue is the concentration of power? One federal source means those who can need only manipulate this main entity instead of having to do it 50 times in the different states. Is the answer to reduce the power of the federal government -- and not just that, but break up the large companies for which in a sense are as powerful as tiny nations all operating within our borders?!

I don't see how state-level governments can control nation-sized corporations: that kind of regulation takes a strong central power: a federal government. The Kochs already [effectively] own and rule... how many state legislatures? Twenty? Twenty-five? Plus their big red hands in federal politics. https://truthout.org/articles/tax-forms-reveal-koch-brothers-spent-millions-to-shape-state-politics-in-2017/
Of course, disbanding the federal administration would deprive them of a major target, but it would also free up massive funds to invest in the state-level dismantling of environmental protection, trade unions, public schools and all forms of social welfare. Their fiefdoms don't look terrific now. Imagine no opposition at all.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby -1- on November 8th, 2019, 9:45 pm 

doogles » September 10th, 2019, 5:30 pm wrote:I think ‘democracy’ needs classifying in this debate. There may be many types of democracy in the world. I can think of two main types – the President-led type and the Westminster type.

My impression (and that’s all it is) is that Presidential-led styles tend to have too many problems.

The Westminster type which we have here in Australia seems to have worked during my lifetime at Federal and State Government levels.

The governor was a smart person who made the right decision.

Had the governor been a lesser person in terms of ability to make the right judgments, the Westminster type system would have had a lot of problems, too.

I don't think that from that one example a right thinker would extrapolate and generalize that the Westminster style is superior and has fewer and lesser problems. Whereas your article, here presented above, and liked by TheVat and by SciameriKen, did precisely that.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby -1- on November 14th, 2019, 4:39 am 

Serpent » September 10th, 2019, 10:12 am wrote:
Fuqin » September 10th, 2019, 7:13 am wrote:Politics whatever cracy or ism you subscribe or adhear too are essentially belife systems, and belife systems are notriously fictional, go figer why the z#!T dont work

Can there be a reality-based social organization that contains no belief-system or politics?

I am curious what your answer is to this question, Serpent.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 14th, 2019, 7:48 pm 

-1- » November 14th, 2019, 3:39 am wrote:
I am curious what your answer is to this question, Serpent.

This one?
[Can there be a reality-based social organization that contains no belief-system or politics?]
I can't imagine anarchy sustained, on any scale, one day past the group hangover, when they realize just how much damage they've done. Even units as small as a nuclear family are political, have a shared world-view and operate on a definable social principle.
If at the center of that principle is the idea that all members are of equal worth, the group can work democratically. Other ideas can work equally well - so long as the members of the society all hold the same belief and follow the same rules.
If some pigs make themselves more equal than other horses, the society goes to the dogs.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on November 15th, 2019, 6:00 pm 

-1-, I'm sorry I missed your post, citing one of my comments, some time back.

I agree with you when you say that a single case does not prove a point.

I'm not a political person, so an interest in such things is quite peripheral to my general interests.

Perhaps another way of looking at the situation is to compare the numbers of civil wars occurring in Republics with those occurring in Nation members of the Commonwealth of Nations since the late 1600s. Wikipedia keep a list of Civil Wars on this site -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civil_wars. I don't think you will find many, if any, members of the Commonwealth in the list. There have been one or two uprising of indigenous groups, but I'm not sure that those groups even had voting rights at the time.

From a common-sense point of view, I personally see advantages in having an Hereditory Referee system for solving parliamentary stand-offs, as distinct from having a 'Stand-Alone person' who is also personally involved in the issues as the only final decision-maker.

Well, I suppose another way of saying it, is that a glaring deficiency of democrattic Republics is that they do not appear to have a referee system with hundreds of years of tradition behind them to resolve 'stand-off' situations.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 15th, 2019, 8:37 pm 

doogles » November 15th, 2019, 5:00 pm wrote:Perhaps another way of looking at the situation is to compare the numbers of civil wars occurring in Republics with those occurring in Nation members of the Commonwealth of Nations since the late 1600s.

That's a very good approach! And probably a pretty good indicator, as well.

From a common-sense point of view, I personally see advantages in having an Hereditory Referee system for solving parliamentary stand-offs, as distinct from having a 'Stand-Alone person' who is also personally involved in the issues as the only final decision-maker.

I agree. The Governor General is essentially outside the political arena and has a longer view than any partisan factions.
In fairness to the US republic, they did institute a Supreme Court, which is supposed to safeguard the constitutional validity of legislation, and the Electoral College that was intended to oversee the selection of representatives. That they're not working very well now isn't caused, IMO, by flaws in the structure, but by abuse of the agencies and processes.
Still being fair, Westminster itself isn't in tippy-top condition just at the mo.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby edy420 on November 15th, 2019, 8:51 pm 

People are losing faith.

Go back to a time when most of America had faith in the leader. It could not fail.
The last time I looked at polls that portrayed faith in the leader, it was more like 50/50, the country is divided.

The OP is right though, the people are to blame. They voted for a T.V personality, instead of someone capable.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 15th, 2019, 10:25 pm 

The US was born divided. The single biggest mistake was the founding fathers. Half of them were slave-owners and the other half accepted that. The subsequent compromises and accommodations set the new nation up for its epic civil war - the cold version of which is still going on.
Early expansionism and aggression wasn't a terrific idea, either. It set the new nation up for endless foreign military embroilment. The concomitant need for an ever-growing army and spy network has gobbled up a disproportionate amount of resources and created a climate of paranoia, jingoism and propaganda.
The third lethal factor is - has always been - rampant capitalism. The efforts to curb and regulate business came too late and too feebly to have a meaningful effect. The money-changers pitched their tents in the temple of democracy when democracy was too young and inexperienced to protect itself. And they're not only refusing to move out; they've finally installed one of their shills in the pulpit.

Those three early blunders permeate every aspect of American politics, demographics, culture, economy, foreign and social relations.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on November 16th, 2019, 9:27 pm 

edy420 wrote:People are losing faith.

Go back to a time when most of America had faith in the leader. It could not fail.
The last time I looked at polls that portrayed faith in the leader, it was more like 50/50, the country is divided.

The OP is right though, the people are to blame. They voted for a T.V personality, instead of someone capable.


I couldn't help myself from sharing this quote, I've just read, by Winston Churchill "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute talk with the average voter."
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 16th, 2019, 11:52 pm 

Churchill was an autocrat and aristocrat, with an innate contempt for the common people who lacked his cold, sad advantages. He was no bloody use except in war, when he could bark orders - some of which were questionable in retrospect, though, obviously, nobody dared question them at the time.

Democracy would work a helluva lot better with a level standard of education, information and efficacy.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on November 17th, 2019, 2:26 am 

Whatever his failings Serpent, I would love to have a fraction of his ability to summarise situations into a few well-chosen words.

I agree with you that "Democracy would work a helluva lot better with a level standard of education, information and efficacy." Where's Athena these days by the way? She was always pushing more and better education as the solution to all problems.

I would add just one more element to your "education, information and efficiency" and that's 'a better understanding of the level of egocentricity latent in each of us in our decision-making'.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 17th, 2019, 2:35 am 

doogles » November 17th, 2019, 1:26 am wrote:Whatever his failings Serpent, I would love to have a fraction of his ability to summarise situations into a few well-chosen words.

Yes, the pithy and withering epitaph. They were very effective. How many of them were true?

I would add just one more element to your "education, information and efficiency" and that's 'a better understanding of the level of egocentricity latent in each of us in our decision-making'.

Eh? People with power don't need any such understanding: whatever they want is obviously good for everyone. ( a high tide floats all boats ). The disenfranchised don't need such understanding: they're quite well aware that whatever they want won't matter unless they cut off some heads. Such understanding is only for the middle-middle, who are entertained by the illusion of responsibility.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on November 17th, 2019, 4:11 am 

You were quick off the mark Serpent. I thought everyone on the other side of the globe would be in bed by this.

You sound as if you are not a fan of Winston Churchill's. That's okay. But it's difficult to establish 'truth' in such pithy statements. I just admire his ability to convert the description of many situations into a few pithy words. To me, that's a huge talent that I envy. It's a personal thing.

You've commented negatively on a suggestion of mine that "I would add just one more element to your "education, information and efficiency" and that's 'a better understanding of the level of egocentricity latent in each of us in our decision-making'."

You responded "Eh? People with power don't need any such understanding: whatever they want is obviously good for everyone. ( a high tide floats all boats ). The disenfranchised don't need such understanding: they're quite well aware that whatever they want won't matter unless they cut off some heads. Such understanding is only for the middle-middle, who are entertained by the illusion of responsibility."

That's could be a realistic feet-on-the-ground assessment of the situation. But it puts you and I in the same boat.

Do you realise that I could use the same arguments to say that your 'education', 'information', and 'efficiency' could all be dismissed on the basis that "Eh? People with power don't need any such understanding: whatever they want is obviously good for everyone. ( a high tide floats all boats ). The disenfranchised don't need such understanding: they're quite well aware that whatever they want won't matter unless they cut off some heads. Such understanding is only for the middle-middle, who are entertained by the illusion of responsibility."

But I won't dismiss your original points because I think they have validity in spite of your own subsequent points of argument that could dismiss each of them as idealistic waffle in the real world of democratic politics.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 17th, 2019, 12:09 pm 

doogles » November 17th, 2019, 3:11 am wrote:You were quick off the mark Serpent. I thought everyone on the other side of the globe would be in bed by this.

The healthy ones were... I imagine.

You sound as if you are not a fan of Winston Churchill's. That's okay. But it's difficult to establish 'truth' in such pithy statements. I just admire his ability to convert the description of many situations into a few pithy words. To me, that's a huge talent that I envy. It's a personal thing.

I would have admired him greatly, had he made a career of writing and painting. It's only his politics i deprecate.

That's could be a realistic feet-on-the-ground assessment of the situation.

Or it could be a facile aphorism. I can do a Churchillian summary - but I prefer Wilde. (It's a class thing, or an inside/outsider thing. Or just sympathies.)

Do you realise that I could use the same arguments to say that your 'education', 'information', and 'efficiency' could all be dismissed

I realize that could be said, but I don't agree that it would be accurate. On consideration, I conclude that "egocentricity" means self-interest. In that case, yes, it's true that we vote for what's good for us. But a high standard of education and information across the board would automatically make all voters aware of how their individual self-interests form a social contract, and how they as individuals, classes and ideologies can co-operate to defend their interests from exploitation and oppression. Efficacy would render that informed self-interest overt, rather than latent. It is precisely the cumulative self-interest of voters that drives any functioning democracy inevitably toward socialism. That is why elites are constantly forced to nobble, undermine, corrupt and derail democratic process.

But I won't dismiss your original points because I think they have validity in spite of your own subsequent points of argument that could dismiss each of them as idealistic waffle in the real world of democratic politics.

Good, because in the real world "democracy" is just such a syrupy ideal.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby doogles on November 18th, 2019, 7:07 am 

I'm pleased Serpent that you said "On consideration, I conclude that "egocentricity" means self-interest. In that case, yes, it's true that we vote for what's good for us."

Yes, and I believe that the more we become aware of that, the better we can achieve mature group-decision-making on all issues at all times, and not just during elections.

I have no problems with the rest of your views on individual self-interest during elections.
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Re: Are humans just not able to sustain democracy?

Postby Serpent on November 18th, 2019, 10:02 am 

doogles » November 18th, 2019, 6:07 am wrote:[self-interest]

Yes, and I believe that the more we become aware of that,

How could we fail to be aware of that? Throughout our recent election, the only message of a major party was: "pockets, pockets, pockets, pockets". Even the progressive parties emphasized that far from giving anything up, we would get more from the government. (In fact, somebody really needs to step up and say : "We stop this wasteful behaviour, or we die." - but nobody dares to tell the truth, because we are perceived as too dumb to understand anything but our immediate self-interest.)

the better we can achieve mature group-decision-making on all issues at all times, and not just during elections.


Only if we're allowed to. With the oversimplified partisan misinfomation in commercial media; with funding as the decisive factor in political campaigns; with two-party format and limited platforms and electoral tampering and half the people never represented... no, we can't achieve any kind of group decisions. All we can do is entertain the illusion that we're choosing the lesser evil.
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