What is democracy?

Richard North, EUReferendum, has posted what would appear to be the first of his articles that he promised in the run-up to the meeting which is due to take place next weekend in Harrogate. At that meeting it is the intention to set 6, maybe 7, “demands” in a similar manner as did the Chartists in the 19th century. An interesting question is posed, one that asks whether representative democracy has had its day.

To consider what is “democracy” it is first necessary to consider the origins of the word; and from Wikipedia we learn its roots:

“demo- + -cracy, from Middle French democratie (French démocratie), from Medieval Latin democratia, from Ancient Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratia), from δῆμος (dēmos, “common people”) + κράτος (kratos, “rule, strength”).”

In other words, taking a simplistic and logical view, democracy translates as ‘people rule’; which means that representative democracy, as we know it today, is not democracy in any manner, shape or form; but a bastardized version of ‘dictatorship’, hence my continual use of the terms “elected dictatorship” and “democratized dictatorship”.

When considering that one of the problems the attendees at Harrogate will have to confront is the difference twixt what I term ‘faux democracy’ and ‘the real thing’, the question that then arises is: what is ‘the real thing’? Is it not necessary to first decide on a system of democracy, especially when considering how to apportion power and the balance of power?

I have attempted to play Devils Advocate and as a result it would appear that what has arisen is that in considering how to fix what is a rotten system of democracy and proposing as a first step some ‘demands’, we have a ‘chicken and egg’ situation?

As ever, just asking…………


9 Responses

  1. Andy Baxter says:

    Un dilemna interesante as my wife would say!

    There are so many constituitonal issues facing us that have to be addressed; both written as in our contitutional documents (which I would argue are flawles but perhaps require some modernisation via ‘amendments’)and unwritten under the conventions that have arisen over centuries (which I would argue are in need of dire scrutiny or outright abolition)

    The nearest example I can see to ‘people power’ is Switzerland, but their constitution came about after decades of strife and power struggles after the vacuum left by Napoleon’s defeat in Europe culminating in a relatively bloodless civil war which established ‘soveriegnty’ of cantons under a federal governance. Since 1874 and latterly 1999 the principle of ‘people power’ demanding votes on issues of local and national importance via referenda has been firmly established.

    that said people do not always make the right decision is obvious but at least they have the power to make their own mistakes and not be led like sheeple to slaughter.

    That ‘representative democracy’ in Britain in its present form is not fit for purpose is unequivocal. However representatives are needed I would argue to be entrusted with office and the power that goes with that to lead and direct policy that comes from local empowerment.

    Currently there is no way to control and hold to account current representatives except at the election cycle but the worst sanction that can be imposed is loss of office (and the privileges and baubles that go with such!)

    just as an aside I have toyed and explored the idea and I would love to see, the abolition of political parties per se, or disbar members of such that are in existence or were formed from holding any office! just a thought! that wuld make for an interesting local councils and Westminster but I digress….

    People who seek election to office and the power that this can bring need to have two clear and unequivocal points brought home.

    firstly that they hold office and the use of such power is for the benefit of locales they represent; this can be achieved I beleive by a system of regular ‘scrutiny committees’ held in public where those who hold office have to justify their actions to the committee and public set against benchmarks as laid down by the policy ~(via referenda) that they have been elected to execute.

    secondly sanctions (where evidence of abuse of power via misconduct in public office or failure to adhere to policy where they choose to follow their own agenda’s) said sanctions being both civil and criminal, need to be in place to pursue incumbents where evidence exists of such abuse.

    it siickens me that MP’s council chiefs and councillors up and down this land can milk the public purse to such an unfettered degree without any accountability whatsoever, in a civilised sense its downright unjust but in a revolutionary sense it books a lamppost with a hangmans noose on it!

    I would add no system can be flawless and work perfectly for any system is designed by people with inherent flaws and errors of judgment.

    But I would argue we can make what we have better by shifting the balance of power to the many not as it is being held by the few.

    just saying….lol

    • david says:

      I see no problem with political parties and to abolish them would be counterproductive methinks.

      They just need controlling – simples.

  2. Mr Phipps – please contact me at patrick.worrall@itn.co.uk

    Patrick Worrall
    Channel 4 News FactCheck

  3. Peter S says:

    Good luck in Harrogate at the weekend.

    I believe any discussion of democracy MUST start from the premise that it is, above all else, a surrender – by the People.

    An election is a negotiation of the terms of that surrender – whereby the People decide to whom their power shall be surrendered.

    The Contract implicit in an election is that the chosen Representative shall take that power and (as the condition of its surrender) express it in the designated place – the ‘House’ – where it shall best be able achieve its effect and satisfaction.

    Failure to honour this Contract provides the People with the right (and inclination) to unsurrender themselves. That is: to change the democracy into something else.

    ‘Failure’ constitutes NOT the Representative’s lack of success in satisfying the common will of those he holds the power of (for lack of a majority in the House), but in his reneging on the Contract by which that power was surrendered to him.

    ‘Power’ is the expression of ‘will’. In a democracy, it is the expression of the common will (of the People).

    In our current state, ‘failure’ arises when the Representative abandons the will of the People and replaces it with the will of the Elite (of which, by access to the House, he becomes a part). This error is more likely when the Representative – and the Elite – have no living knowledge of the People in a state of unsurrender – and so believes their surrendered state to be their natural state (ie, their unconditional state).

    Therefore, the People – in seeking to protect and ensure the honouring of the Contract by which they have agreed to surrender – must take all steps to prevent any will of an Elite from usurping its own.

    This may be done through more a formal, written, Contract – presented to the People by each person bidding to become their Representative in the time immediately prior to the election. It would list all the various expressions of a common will which – as Representative – he shall agree to make. And it is to this that the successful Representative shall subsequently be held to account – as it shall have a greater legal value than any expression of the will of an Elite.

    Also, prior to the election, the People shall decline any person designated by an Elite (in the name of a Party) as a Candidate for their representation. Any free person may step forward and present themselves to the People as a Candidate – and choose, of his own free will, a Party badge which in his belief best encapsulates the various expressions of a common will he agrees to. If elected to represent the People, he has the legal right to be a part that named Elite in the House – and to fully participate in however it may choose organise itself.

    If more than one person steps forward choosing the same Party badge (in a constituency), then they shall all be entitled to seek to become the Representative of the People in the name of that Party.

    Thereafter the election, the surrendered People shall have the right to recall a Representative who has failed to express their common will in the House. And replace him – so that their power may remain surrendered for the good of all.

  4. david says:

    Interesting idea that contract thingy- however methinks it needs further discussion.

  5. Peter S says:

    David – I agree it needs more discussion… and more thought. I’ve tried to shape it –

    Democracy is nought but the negotiated surrender of the people.

    On condition that a representative, elected by the people, shall assert their common will (desire).

    These being the fixed terms of the contract by which the people surrender.

    The representative shall come together with others as an elite.

    Therein, the representative shall negotiate all obstacles to that common will.

    So that it shall endeavour to be satisfied and surrendered to by all people (as the law of the land).

    As the representative is ‘of the people’, their common will and the representative’s will must be ‘as one’.

    ‘Frustration’ is the state wherein the people are surrendered and yet their common will is not asserted.

    If the representative asserts a will uncommon to the people, they shall be justified in ending the contract and becoming unsurrendered.

    On ending the contract, as unsurrendered, the people shall be absolved from paying all tax and duties to the elite.

    This shall continue until a new representative is found – by election – to whom the people shall again surrender.

    Where the common will of the people is not (or cannot be) known, it shall be sought by referenda (eg, annual budgets, constitutional matters etc).

    • david says:

      Except that we, the people, should not surrender one iota of our right to govern ourselves, both nationally, locally and personally.

      I have to return to the words of Ronald Reagan: If we cannot govern ourselves, then who among us can assume that right.

  6. Peter S says:

    Nor are we, the people, surrendering our right to govern ourselves.

    What is being surrendered is:
    1) any claim to the primacy of an uncommon will over the common one
    2) the act of asserting the primacy of the common will (to the representative of it)
    3) any mechanism other than the designated one by which it shall be asserted

    I think that, at any time, the people are ambivalent towards the value of the democratic mechanism. This makes it important that any discussion of it starts with (and affirms) the premise that, for the mechanism to function, it requires the agreement of the people to surrender.

    Such a discussion, for example, may be motivated by little more than a refusal to accept (ie, to surrender to) the primacy of the common will – because that will is at odds with the will of the discussion’s participants. In other words, the discussion would be merely a conspiracy to unsurrender.

    Whereas, a discussion on how best to improve the mechanism to which the people surrender – so that it might better function in asserting their common will, and better hold its primacy over all other will – would recognise the single event the discussion sought to avoid was the unsurrendering of the people.

    In surrendering, we, the people, are claiming our absolute right to govern ourselves. What is surrendered is the obstacle to – and the saboteur of – that right.

    To extend the words of Ronald Reagan: If we cannot surrender – then to whom must we submit?

  7. Peter S says:

    …come to think of it, in the old days we would have been required to surrender to God and Country.

    Seeing as we have got rid of both, having nothing to surrender to is perhaps the crux of the problem.

    They still place a value on these things in America – which may go a long way in explaining why their democracy is healthier than ours.

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