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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 12:48 pm 
Smeric
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I propose to start a thread discussing the support for democracy and authoritarianism: among different populations, under different circumstances, for different reasons.

To start us off, I suggest the following article and the research contained in it:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/23/opinion/international-world/centrists-democracy.html?smid=fb-share It shows the conclusion that centrists are more prone to scepticism with respect to democracy than political extremists.
It is a surprising and interesting conclusion which is mostly supported by the data (authoritarianism seems to be more popular among the far-right however).


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:19 pm 
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Russia, China, Turkey, and some eastern European nations are all converging on the same model of democracy where, although multiparty elections are fair and frequent, a single governing party controls enough power to bend the competing parties to the will of the primary one. These nations tend to have strong heads of state and long-term stability, so that foreign diplomats know that the nation theyre dealing with will be the same 10 or 20 years down the road, and can make long term alliances.

I dont include Venezuela in this category because I dont consider it a democracy and I dont think Chavez & Maduro have ruled long enough for the country to be considered stable. N Korea is stable but does not even pretend to be democratic. Saudi Arabia and other sheikhdoms have the same situation.

I think the survey referred to in the link is confounded to some extent by the fact that centrists are often people who dont follow politics closely and dont see what all the fuss is about, and tend to favor quick solutions to problems even if it means betraying their ideology. So while the pattern is true, it doesnt follow that ideological centrists are more authoritarian than the left or the right.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 3:30 pm 
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I suggest clicking through to the original paper, which is far more precise:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fOGwtR ... GbaoH/view

The graphs there have 5 positions, not 3: left, center-left, center, center-right, and right. And the three "center" points don't merge; center-left tracks more closely with left, center-right with right, than with the "center".

He also, crucially, gives the numbers and percentages involved. Presuming that for the NYT article he grouped "center-L/R" with "L/R", his "center" category is 44.6% of the sample. (Left is 27%, right is 28.4%.)

What does it all mean? I have no idea. The framing suggests it's a huge problem, and certainly a declining confidence in democracy is a bad thing. Still, it's equally possible to come up with some alternative framings:

a) Centrists are those who don't care that much. If you're well-informed about politics, in this very polarized time, you'll probably choose left or right. And caring a lot about politics is quite compatible with trusting the basic mechanisms of democracy: neither left or right in the US and Europe really want to take over by force— they want to take over by elections, because obviously the people really agree with them.

b) Centrists are (partly?) the people left out by the current polarization— populists, people who are "authoritarian" and "libertarian" on the political compass. If you look at other surveys, this is a pretty big group in the US, and it would be understandable if they feel left out.

c) Respondents may understand "best political system" or even "very good political system" far differently from the researchers. People might agree with Churchill: democracy is bad, but other systems are worse. Or they think it sounds wrong, Pollyanna-ish, to agree with the researcher's utopian-sounding "very good political system".

I would think it would be pretty easy to add follow-up questions to see if any of these alternatives are on the right path.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:53 am 
Smeric
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jmcd wrote:
I propose to start a thread discussing the support for democracy and authoritarianism: among different populations, under different circumstances, for different reasons.

To start us off, I suggest the following article and the research contained in it:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/23/opinion/international-world/centrists-democracy.html?smid=fb-share It shows the conclusion that centrists are more prone to scepticism with respect to democracy than political extremists.
It is a surprising and interesting conclusion which is mostly supported by the data (authoritarianism seems to be more popular among the far-right however).

oh, boy, finally my habit of running analysis on WVS datasets comes in handy.

I've run the data through SPSS a few times and i've arrived at the conclusion that this result is a lie: while the trend is there, its only on the tail ends of the distribution, and the effect is not very big or linear, and therefore its probably due to the fact that what the guy catalogues as "centrists" are really just people who aren't very passionate about anything, as zompist suggests: the people who report to not be either very left or very right on that particular dataset also report caring less about homosexuality, caring less about atheism, and caring less about mostly everything: furthermore, the analysis the guy runs is kind of ad-hoc and seems to me like its desperately trying to figure out a way to make centrists look like fashies: what he argues is that "people who aren't VERY left or VERY right are also less likely to say that democracy is VERY important" or somesuch: in reality, when you run regular correlations on the original data (as opposed to on his questionably recoded data) the effect fades away, even using spearman's rho, which is susceptible to all sorts of correlations and not just linear ones. it is my opinion that the result in that article is false or, at least, doesn't even reproduce using his own data.

Also, the article seems to me dishonest: not saying "very good" when asked how good is democracy is very different to "Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists". My conclusion is that Adler's work is false: you are all, of course, welcome to double check this, the WVS dataset is available on their website, and on my dropbox shoud you want the link.

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I dont include Venezuela in this category because I dont consider it a democracy and I dont think Chavez & Maduro have ruled long enough for the country to be considered stable. N Korea is stable but does not even pretend to be democratic. Saudi Arabia and other sheikhdoms have the same situation.

Why is Venezuela not a democracy, may I ask? I trust there's some better reason that merely not being subordinate to US foreign policy. Much has been made of the last election's turnout, but in reality it was still higher than a lot of countries, including my own, which are univocally called democracies (even though, for example, out constitution was written by pinochet collaborationists). Now, I'll agree that lately the technical quality venezuelan elections have been going to shit, and they've been getting less free and fair: but, again taking Chile as a comparison, we've had up until lately a binominal system which by design ensures that the results of elections are not proportional to voter preferences, and no one called chile a non-democracy.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:32 am 
Smeric
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Zompist: Those are all interesting pistes and ideas.

Soap: I am intrigued by the idea that China would be a democracy. I presume you are referring to the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:55 pm 
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A brief comment: the OP is framed misleadingly. "Democracy" and "authoritarianism" are not opposites - they are point on perpendicular dimensions.

Democracy is a way that governments are constituted. A democracy is a polity in which political decisions are meaningfully made either by the people at large (direct democracy) or, through delegation, by representatives meaningfully selected by the people at large (representative democracy). ['democracy' can also mean the property of being such a polity, the political system of such a polity, or the specific processes through which the system operates in accordance with this principle].

A democracy can be contrasted with, for example, an absolute monarchy (decisions are made by an individual selected through laws of inheritence) or a military junta (decisions are made by a self-selecting council whose members are drawn from senior representatives of the armed forces). Few major countries today are not democracies. Most non-democracies in the modern world have been dictatorships (in which a single person or small body has absolute authority to decide all political questions), although historically many non-democracies were some form of republic (in which there was no one single body with ultimate authority, or in which such a body was structured to make its intervention rare or impossible, and in which decisions were instead made by a number of competing bodies).

Authoritarianism is a way that governments operate. A government is authoritarian (in this sense) when it involves itself in many spheres of life, removes avenues of legal dissent, and imposes stern penalties for illegal dissent. Authoritarian states are constrasted with 'liberal' or 'libertarian' states, in which the government withdraws to permit spheres of free, independent civil decision-making, including a relatively relaxed approach toward dissent.


Western nations are mostly "liberal democracies"; but both words there have a job to do. Being a democracy doesn't make you liberal - there have been some very authoritarian democracies. The French Revolution created a democracy - but an extremely authoritarian one! And contrariwise, being liberal doesn't make you democratic - there have also been some relatively liberal non-democracies.

Non-democracy tends to encourage authoritarianism, and vice versa, but they're two distinct types of thing.


-----------

China is not in any way a democracy and doesn't claim to be (yes, it claims to be 'democratic', but even it acknowledges that it's not using the normal definition of that word). It claims not to be a dictatorship - it has multiple institutions of power, including democratic ones, that can in theory, and do very occasionally, check one another - but appears to be almost a dictatorship, and to be rapidly heading toward being one completely.

Russia is probably not a democracy. It is on paper a democracy, but given the extreme coercion of opposition candidates (including their imprisonment and/or assassination) and widespread problems with the fairness of the polls, it probably can't be considered one in reality.

Turkey and Venezuela probably are democracies, but they're not very good ones. They do still hold meaningful elections, but their elections are far from being free or fair.

So I would say: Turkey and Venezuela are badly flawed democracies; Russia is a pseudo- or 'paper' democracy; China is not in any way a democracy (in the usual sense of the word).

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:00 am 
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You tell them, Sal. That's very true.

Soap wrote:
although multiparty elections are fair and frequent, a single governing party controls enough power to bend the competing parties to the will of the primary one.


There's a case for saying that this has happened in the UK since about 1979.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:50 pm 
Smeric
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Torco wrote:


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I dont include Venezuela in this category because I dont consider it a democracy and I dont think Chavez & Maduro have ruled long enough for the country to be considered stable. N Korea is stable but does not even pretend to be democratic. Saudi Arabia and other sheikhdoms have the same situation.

Why is Venezuela not a democracy, may I ask?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_Constituent_Assembly_election,_2017

This would be the equivalent of Trump throwing ~200 extra electors, all GOPers, into the electoral college and saying its OK because hteyre previously serving govt officials.
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Soap: I am intrigued by the idea that China would be a democracy. I presume you are referring to the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China?
china has competing political parties, yes. they just are subject to the will of the communist part. its the same, structurally, as any other democracy, you just have so much power concentrated in the winning party that even the opposition helps the governing party.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:47 am 
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Sal, brother, I think you're contradicting yourself. In one breath, you say a democracy is a polity that's run by representatives (or through direct voting by the constituents, those are mostly theoretical). This is not an uncontroversial position: it's a *much* broader, more inclusive concept of democracy than what you often hear: though they rarely openly say it, many people seem to think anything that isn't a liberal, capitalist, multi-party republic with the traditional three powers explicitly separated is not a democracy. In this sense, I feel two distinct poles of tension are at play when trying to define" democracy". On the one hand, we don't want to be so narrow as to basically be saying "democracy is the exact form of government of the US and the rest of the rich capitalist NATO countries" because we want to be able to include, say, athens: we also would like to think that democracy is a general term for an umbrella of political systems, such that it might be concievably possible to find aliens and realize that, as it turns out, they also have a democracy (as opposed to more specific political traditions like "english common law", which a country might only have if they've inherited it from mother england). But people, especially people from imperialist countries, also want to say that the "bad guy's" political systems aren't democracies, because that's why they're the bad guys, right? because their systems are not democracies, and ours are, so we're better than them and we're justified in messing with them, imposing sanctions, destabilizing their governments, funding their dissidents, invading their countries and so on and so forth. And it seems to me there's these two local minima in that space: one, democracy is any system where the idea is having elected representatives, and the other is that democracy is only the very specific western european system of liberal, capitalist republics.

So you seem to take the first view, which I would tend to agree, but on the next breath, you state that China is not a democracy because (i think this is the reason, you offer no other) it lacks checks and balances. So which is it, democracies are polities run by elected representatives, or are they this more narrow thing? If the former, it seems to me that we'd have to acccept cuba, china, the former soviet union and other ML regimes as democracies, as long as the general population, or a significant enough subset thereof, selects representatives to serve as leaders.

soap wrote:
This would be the equivalent of Trump throwing ~200 extra electors, all GOPers, into the electoral college and saying its OK because hteyre previously serving govt officials.

Same goes for this. You can't simply call countries not-a-real-democracy when they do something you don't deem liberal or transparent enoguh. corruption and election fixing can be grounds for calling a system a bad democracy, but not not-a-democracy (unless we adopt the earlier definition of democracies are only multi party capitalist liberal republics with express separation of powers and pro-american regimes plus britain and other constitutional monarchies cause we like them)

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:20 am 
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Torco wrote:
Sal, brother, I think you're contradicting yourself.
on the next breath, you state that China is not a democracy because (i think this is the reason, you offer no other) it lacks checks and balances.




China is not a democracy because decisions are not made by the people at large or by their meaningfully elected representatives. Why not? Well just for starters...

- while elections do occur, they are structured in such a way as to automatically give pluralities total and never-challengeable dominance
- if that weren't enough, no opposition parties are permitted (a minority of seats are reserved for "allies" of the communist party, but opposition is not permitted)
- if that weren't enough, opposition parties would be unable to gain representation anyway because these elections are prevented from being meaningful by the restrictions on actual competition. No more than 1.1 candidates are permitted to stand for every 1 seat on average. This system allows occasional expressions of discontent with individuals, but does not allow any meaningful selective role for the people.
- if that weren't enough, the perpetual power of the communist party is written directly into the constitution
- if that weren't enough, the elected body then delegates almost all its power; it has never, ever, directly opposed the standing committee
- if that weren't enough, the elected body only sits for 2 weeks every year - even if it wanted to exercise power, it would be unable to do so for want of time!

As a result - and frankly any one of the above points should be enough to show this - Chinese political decisions cannot meaningfully be said to be made by representatives selected by the people through meaningful elections.

The problem is not that China lacks 'checks and balances'. On the contrary - it has lots of checks and balances. But it operates more as a mediaeval or classical republic than as a democracy.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:48 pm 
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I don't think plurality-wins-it-all means that there is no representation going on: one could say that it is a form of representation that we don't like (then again, which kind of representation is best is often debate, as in Chile's binomial system, for example, or other minority-wins systems which are embraced by people) representation-one-doesn't like is not not-representation.

If the problem here is that opposition positions are surpressed, we'd also have to call germany not-a-democracy (since it legally forbids a number of viewpoints). if the position is that for a democracy to be a democracy it needs to be multi-party, then I think my earlier point about how you're taking a narrower definition of democracy that you say you're taking stands.

Democratic centralism, an old marxist idea dating back to lenin, is a different way for the people to exert selection: through participation in local councils and membership inside the single party as opposed to through merely choosing from two or three names the citizens had no role in designating in the first place. again, if universal suffrage is the only democracy, we're operating with the narrow and not the broad definition of democracy. ditto multi-partisanship.

Marxist leninist "dictatorships of the proletariat" represent, at least in theory, a different method for democracy: instead of multiple parties almost no one is a part of nominating people and the demos selecting from the handful of options presented to them, the idea is that you have one party in which a great many people participate and within that party a number of candidates are put forward. I don't disagree that the party has the real power in china, but the party itself is, at least theoretically, itself a democratically representative institution. These objections all seem more of the "they have a different political system from us", which would only work under the "democracy is by definition *our* political system" position, which it, again, a narrower view than you explicitly espouse.

now, one might have objections to how much of this theory boils down to actually the people exerting actual power on governance, but that is a question we can also posit of western liberal capitalist multi-party democracies: and, judging by the low approval ratings of parliaments throughout the western world, its not obvious that the comparison goes "we're *real* democracies and they're *pretend* democracies".

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:58 pm 
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Like, those are all valid criticisms, but what leninists call burgeois democracy isn't without its criticisms either! one might say things like

> in burgeois democracies the choices are determined by a tiny minority of very rich and powerful people, so giving the voters a choice between one and the other is not *actually* the people making a choice at all.
> if that weren't enough, reelection rates are very high and approval is incredibly low for western legislatures, which wouldn't be the case if they were actually a system through which the people exerted their will.
> if that weren't enough, most capitalist democracies have their political campaigns funded by private money, which again gives all of the power to the great owner class, reducing the voters, again, to rubber-stamping variations on a consensus which has been decided for them beforehand.

but if we say that, then the only democracies end up being theoretical, ideal democracies we come up with in our heads, and the term becomes kind of useless.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:06 pm 
Smeric
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I think Sal is right in pointing out that there are subtleties to the concepts of democracy and authoritarianism.

I would add that I intended to talk about politics, but democracy and authoritarianism can be concepts applicable to other areas of life e.g. family and work. Democracy in work would be cooperative or associative structure, whereas companies are more authoritarian.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:50 pm 
Boardlord
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Torco wrote:
Democratic centralism, an old marxist idea dating back to lenin, is a different way for the people to exert selection: through participation in local councils and membership inside the single party [...]

Marxist leninist "dictatorships of the proletariat" represent, at least in theory, a different method for democracy: instead of multiple parties almost no one is a part of nominating people and the demos selecting from the handful of options presented to them, the idea is that you have one party in which a great many people participate and within that party a number of candidates are put forward. I don't disagree that the party has the real power in china, but the party itself is, at least theoretically, itself a democratically representative institution.


The bolded terms indicate, I think, that you can't make this argument with a straight face. You know perfectly well that in practice the 'elected' party organs have no power. It's not that "we don't like them", it's that they're a charade.

It's an interesting question why the charade is felt to be necessary. It seems like an admission of wrongdoing: the leaders know that they should be listening to the people, and pretend to do so rather than simply ruling by fiat. (But, well, the communists hardly invented such charades; the Roman Empire for centuries pretended to be a continuation of the republic, where the Senate happened to delegate all its powers to the emperor.)

You could argue that the CCP isn't a pure dictatorship— the General Secretary must, in some way, retain the confidence of the upper party echelons and the army. And historically there have been plenty of power struggles in the PRC. But we can say the same of about any government whatsoever.

As for "bourgeois democracy", we've had this discussion before. I certainly agree that money has way too much power in the US, and probably Europe. But honestly, you're still deluding yourself if you think The People are hot for communism, only they're somehow prevented by The Elite. Half the voters in the US and Britain not only vote right-wing but are furious that the government isn't far more right-wing. Thursday's election in Ontario isn't exactly a bright day for the Left either.

Also, FWIW, I fully understand how US foreign policy looks from Latin America. The US put far more right-wing dictatorships in power than it unseated left-wing ones. And even if it allowed democracies, it forced right-wing austerity programs on them. I can't blame you if you feel the US is hypocritical. Still, that really doesn't mean that "all countries with free elections are just as much of a charade as communist dictatorships."


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:48 pm 
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*sigh*
...and now I'm back again, responding when I don't have time to respond...
...I guess if nothing else this improves my speed-typing...

Torco wrote:
I don't think plurality-wins-it-all means that there is no representation going on: one could say that it is a form of representation that we don't like (then again, which kind of representation is best is often debate, as in Chile's binomial system, for example, or other minority-wins systems which are embraced by people) representation-one-doesn't like is not not-representation.


I think you're dichotomising. Representation isn't a binary thing, determined by a simple criterion. It's a continuum. A system cannot be perfectly representative (Arrow's law, etc). But at the same time, a system cannot be perfectly unrepresentative, unless it's literally rule by absentee aliens (literally aliens). But a system can be more or less representative. And there is a point at which we have to say the level of representation is no longer meaningful in the democratic sense (though it might still be meaningful compared to, say, rule by aliens who do not understand the human need for oxygen).

In the case of the Chinese system, the system completely fails to ensure a meaningful level of representation. Why? Two big reasons. First, dissenting opinions are completely excluded - it presents uniformity where there is diversity, and hence fails an incredibly important test of representation. Second, it explicitly prevents change in representation - it presents stasis where there is change, and hence fails again. These two principles are vital to representation, because without them the 'representative' body cannot even have an approximation of the debates and disagreements in society as a whole. To put it mechanically: X does not meaningfully represent Y if huge features of Y are not present in X, and it certainly does not meaningfully represent Y if a change in Y does not produce a change in X.
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If the problem here is that opposition positions are surpressed, we'd also have to call germany not-a-democracy (since it legally forbids a number of viewpoints).

If you're talking about laws against public holocaust denial, that's got nothing to do with democracy, but with liberalism. It is indeed an authoritarian feature of Germany. But so long as people with those viewpoints can find representation in its decision-making fora (as they do, through the AfD), the system is democratic - and if they persuade enough people of their view (50%, or less with the help of compromises) they can remove those authoritarian laws.

If you're talking about the thresholds for parliamentary representation then yes, that is a less-than-perfectly-democratic feature. However, that rule excludes representation for political groups with under 5% of the vote (and even then there are backdoors with less than 5% if they have concentrated support in local areas). This is not really meaningfully comparable with a system filled with legal obstacles that each prohibit the representation of anywhere from 49% to 99% of the public. The German system is, like all democracies, an imperfect democracy; likewise, the Chinese system is not perfectly undemocratic. Nonetheless, anyone who isn't adopting a cool radical pose can distinguish these two radically different positions.

Nothing is perfect. You're like someone who argues that because no land is perfectly flat, but at the same time no land is infinitely high, there's no difference between a mountain and a molehill. And yet there is.
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if the position is that for a democracy to be a democracy it needs to be multi-party, then I think my earlier point about how you're taking a narrower definition of democracy that you say you're taking stands.

If the people cannot choose to change their leaders, then by definition their leaders are not meaningfully chosen by the people. Now, there's a difference between a one-party state (where there can only be one party) and a dominant-party state (where there happens to only be one major party): the difference is that the latter can become the former if the people so choose. [although of course in practice it's easy for a dominant-party state to evolve into a one-party state over time].
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Democratic centralism, an old marxist idea dating back to lenin, is a different way for the people to exert selection

First: that's not what democratic centralism is. You're thinking of Soviet democracy. Or more generally cellular democracy.
Second: this whole screed is just repeating what I originally said: China defines itself as 'democratic', but doesn't mean the same thing by the word as when we talk about democracy in general. Yes, China uses a different system. Note the word 'different'. China's constitution in its first article defines its system of government as "dictatorship". Yes, they call it "democratic dictatorship". But since that is a perfect oxymoron with the usual meaning of 'democracy' ('not a dictatorship') and 'dictator' ('not a democracy'), they're clearly not talking about the same thing.

The rest of this is just pure sophistry - playing with words.
Quote:
These objections all seem more of the "they have a different political system from us", which would only work under the "democracy is by definition *our* political system" position, which it, again, a narrower view than you explicitly espouse.

You're getting odious in your pointless aggression. I'm not your father - you don't have to rebel against me. I'm not trying to make you do homework or anything, so quit it with the "you're the real dictator!" bollocks.

Democracy is a particular political system. It happens to be our system. It is by definition our system de re - it is by definition this system, which happens to be the system we have. China has a different system (in which decisions are not made by the people directly or through their meaningfully elected representatives). Democracy is not by definition our system de dicto - it is not simply whatever system we have. I don't appreciate you trying to con me into a de-re/de-dicto fallacy. It's like when someone tells you that "gullible" doesn't appear in the dictionary - the offense isn't so much the intent, as the implicit assumption that you're stupid enough to fall for it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:54 pm 
Sanno
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Torco wrote:
Like, those are all valid criticisms, but what leninists call burgeois democracy isn't without its criticisms either!

Not every conversation has to return to the same old anthem. Nobody is saying "bourgeois democracy cannot be criticised". We're having a discussion about definitions in political science, and you keep pretending it's the same as a discussion about why dude it's like all governments are the same they're always like harshing your buzz dude it's all the man.
Quote:
one might say things like

> in burgeois democracies the choices are determined by a tiny minority of very rich and powerful people, so giving the voters a choice between one and the other is not *actually* the people making a choice at all.

This is obviously untrue.
Quote:
> if that weren't enough, reelection rates are very high and approval is incredibly low for western legislatures, which wouldn't be the case if they were actually a system through which the people exerted their will.

That's obviously fallacious.
Quote:
> if that weren't enough, most capitalist democracies have their political campaigns funded by private money, which again gives all of the power to the great owner class, reducing the voters, again, to rubber-stamping variations on a consensus which has been decided for them beforehand.

Again, obviously not true.
Quote:
but if we say that, then the only democracies end up being theoretical, ideal democracies we come up with in our heads, and the term becomes kind of useless.

Yes. So why do you insist that all words are useless? The word is equally useless if you extend it to "all governments ever".

The word has a perfectly clear - if not, admittedly, for some people with serious mental disorders who are unable to deal with anything other than binary definitions - definition. No amount of "but America/the EU is bad!" is going to change that.


EDIT: to analogise my frustration: it's like we're having a conversation about linguistics and the differences in syntax between isolating and fusional languages, and you burst in "but it's not like the languages of bourgeois European nations are guiltless either! They were spoken by colonisers! So really there's no difference between isolating and fusional languages, they're all the same really."
"Democracy" is a form of political structure. It is not a term of moral approval. As I pointed out, many democracies have indeed been horrible. But that doesn't change their structural form. China does not have that structural form, and does not claim to.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:40 pm 
Smeric
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Again, democracy either means "a system of government organized around principles of representation", democracy-in-a-broad-sense, such that there could be democracies that are not exactly like those of the "first world" or it means "exactly the system of governments of the first world and only those", what i'm calling democracy-in-a-narrow-sense. I think we should keep to one or the other.

I can make the claims with a straights face, cause all i'm doing here is comparing like to like: if we're going to say that western capitalist liberal regimes are democratic because in theory they are ruled by people who are elected in such a way that they supposedly represent the "will of the people" (assuming it exists), then surely the fair comparison is also with the theory of other kinds of regimes which claim the title democracies, instead of a priori deciding that only our democracies are democracies.

Quote:
As for "bourgeois democracy", we've had this discussion before. I certainly agree that money has way too much power in the US, and probably Europe. But honestly, you're still deluding yourself if you think The People are hot for communism, only they're somehow prevented by The Elite. Half the voters in the US and Britain not only vote right-wing but are furious that the government isn't far more right-wing. Thursday's election in Ontario isn't exactly a bright day for the Left either.

Ah, yes, I remember, and you made the same mistake as you're making here: I don't think The People are hot for communism (though honestly they're not that hot for liberal republics either). I'm, trust me, totally aware of how incredibly bad the public perception of socialism is: hell, even in my country most people snarkily dismiss any idea that isn't totally aligned with "US and allies good, Soviet Union empire of evil", kinda like you good folks. I'm, instead, saying that what people call democracy-in-a-narrow-way is perhaps not a system that actually gives the population significant say in the political process: that is, that not because we call them democracies they are, in fact, especially demo kratic: a good reason to be suspicious of that is that a lot of countries have claimed to be democratic when, as you rightly point out, they are not.

Now, to be clear in the face of the fact that it looks like i'm saying "soviet democracies are real democracies and burgeois democracies are fake ones, the people clamour for a dictatorship of the proletariat which their burgeois overlords are denying them with the support of liberals like you" (i'm not), let me clarify a bit my position here: The flaws in our system do not, I agree, entail that all of our regimes are fake democracies, or even less so that the regimes of our (former?) enemies are real democracies, but neither that or its opposite are the default position here: the position I find myself in is this

throughout the history of civilization, what you see is a ruling class and a ruled class: the ruling class rules within the boundaries of what the ruled class considers acceptable, and when outcomes for the ruled push against those boundaries too much, either because of corruption, economic trouble, or cultural change that makes those boundaries change against relatively unchanging outcomes, the ruled rebel and oust ruling class. This is prevented in healthy societies through various forms of communication between ruled and rulers, including cultural dialogue, political consensus to a greater or lesser degree manufactured by the rulers, and informal social pressure channeled through middle classes of bureaucrats and so on. Recently, some countries have adopted various formal, legalistic consultive mechanisms, but there's good reason to believe they ultimately boil down to the general population rubber-stamping (or sometimes refusing to do so) a consensus to which the ruling class, subject to the pressures above mentioned, had already reached.

Quote:
Also, FWIW, I fully understand how US foreign policy looks from Latin America. The US put far more right-wing dictatorships in power than it unseated left-wing ones. And even if it allowed democracies, it forced right-wing austerity programs on them. I can't blame you if you feel the US is hypocritical. Still, that really doesn't mean that "all countries with free elections are just as much of a charade as communist dictatorships."

Mighty generous of you, and I'm not sarcastic when I write this. I agree that the US's hypocrisy doesn't mean that all, any, or no regimes that call themselves democracies are or are not, in fact, democratic.

Sal wrote:
I think you're dichotomising. Representation isn't a binary thing, determined by a simple criterion.

agreed, but there's a valid question to be asked as to what things make and don't make a self-styled democracy representative.

Quote:
If the people cannot choose to change their leaders, then by definition their leaders are not meaningfully chosen by the people.

Agreed. And in the rules of the game they're playing the US can change, in a few years sack the current democrats in favour of the republicans (that is to say, change the people in one party for the people in another party). In a similar manner, however, the chinese people can, according to the rules of the game they're playing, sack one group of rulers and put another one: all they have to do is, for example, join the communist party and overwhelmingly elect maoists instead of the current xiaopingists. It's not clear that choosing between a few parties or choosing between a few factions within a party is all that different, unless we, again, include "many parties" in our definition of democracy.

Quote:
You're getting odious in your pointless aggression. I'm not your father - you don't have to rebel against me. I'm not trying to make you do homework or anything, so quit it with the "you're the real dictator!" bollocks.

Jesus! I've not been aggressive, man. I'm saying "you seem to me to be holding two contradictory beliefs", this isn't a personal attack, or a teenagerish act of rebellion, or an accusation of dictatorship, it just struck me as "wait, didn't sal say democracy was A? now he's talking as if democracy was B!". We all can makes mistakes, including me (I could be wrong that you're in contradiction). You can totally espouse either A or B, and I'm not even saying you're wrong if you're going to go with the democracy-in-the-narrow-sense definition! I'm just saying that if its one, it isn't the other.

Sal wrote:
Democracy is a particular political system. It happens to be our system

Right, and this clarifies it ! by this view, what democracy means is "the system of government that the western allies etcetera have". This is perfectly fine, indeed its probably the more correct one, as everyone uses the word democracy in that way: this is by contrast to the word democratic, which embodies not a particular system but a general principle: a regime is more democratic in the measure in which it is true of it that the population has actual influence on actual decisions, and this is I think a point of confusion because people act as if democracies are democracies because they're democratic in this broad sense of conforming to the value (or aiming to conform to the value of) democraticness.
Thing is, if that's what democracy means, if democracy is a particular system,then one consequence of that is that this
Quote:
Democracy is a way that governments are constituted. A democracy is a polity in which political decisions are meaningfully made either by the people at large

can't also be true. Also, the idea that we might find aliens whose government system is a democracy also can't be true, since they aren't *us*, and they didn't get it from us and so will probably, even if they embrace the value in general, will have settled on a lot of the details and particulars in different ways, which won't be the ways we did, thus their system won't be our system, hence not a democracy even though it might be, in fact, more democratic than our system. I'm not saying the soviets are those aliens who perfected glorious red democracy!

I can play by the definition on your latter post, that democracy is a particular system -ours- and that it is not a value: but the thing is, "we" very often act, chauvinistically so, using the narrow definition when we want to say what isn't a democracy (not-we) and using the broad one when we want to say why other people should subordinate to this "we", or when we explain why ou system is the correct one and that of the other is a bad one, and we switch back and forth depending on convenience. This is the only reason I bring up "but america is bad".

This is relevant, because the whole reason we might be concerned with people supporting democracy is because we mean democracy-the-value: there's no point in protecting our system for the sake of it merely being our system.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 6:19 pm 
Smeric
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When Sal said "our system", I think he meant that most Western countries happen to be democracies rather than that democracy is defined in relation to Western countries.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:23 pm 
Smeric
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Democracy good. Authoritarianism bad. (Sorry, I'm just posting something so the ZBB doesn't keep pretending I didn't see the previous post).


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:50 pm 
Avisaru
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Have you tried using the "Mark topics read" link at the top right-hand side of the forum?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:05 pm 
Smeric
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Yup!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:48 am 
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Torco wrote:
You can't simply call countries not-a-real-democracy when they do something you don't deem liberal or transparent enoguh. corruption and election fixing can be grounds for calling a system a bad democracy, but not not-a-democracy (unless we adopt the earlier definition of democracies are only multi party capitalist liberal republics with express separation of powers and pro-american regimes plus britain and other constitutional monarchies cause we like them)

Election-fixing isn't democratic for the same reason that an AI that reprograms itself to hallucinate that it's gotten the maximum possible score in Tetris isn't playing Tetris. This is basic cybernetic stuff.

All democracies have this problem to some extent, of course; at certain levels, it's not even seen as a problem. On the one hand, everyone knows that The People are pretty dumb; on the other hand, elites know that The People won't always agree with them, and can just redefine democracy so that it's undemocratic for them not to get their way.

Torco wrote:
Like, those are all valid criticisms, but what leninists call burgeois democracy isn't without its criticisms either! one might say things like

> in burgeois democracies the choices are determined by a tiny minority of very rich and powerful people, so giving the voters a choice between one and the other is not *actually* the people making a choice at all.
> if that weren't enough, reelection rates are very high and approval is incredibly low for western legislatures, which wouldn't be the case if they were actually a system through which the people exerted their will.
> if that weren't enough, most capitalist democracies have their political campaigns funded by private money, which again gives all of the power to the great owner class, reducing the voters, again, to rubber-stamping variations on a consensus which has been decided for them beforehand.

but if we say that, then the only democracies end up being theoretical, ideal democracies we come up with in our heads, and the term becomes kind of useless.

If you ask people their approval of the legislature in general, it'll be pretty low. If you ask people their approval of their representatives in the legislature, it'll be higher.

I don't think re-election rates being high is very meaningful here, for a few reasons:

1. People who are up for re-election have already managed to get elected once, so we should expect them to be better at winning elections than their challengers -- and they have more experience than those challengers, and the ability to establish local reputations... which may be less about their stances on various policy questions and more about how much pork they can bring home.
2. Politicians know they'll have to run for re-election if they want to keep their position, and will act accordingly.
3. Since everyone knows re-election rates are high, serious candidates are likely to wait until an incumbent dies or resigns, unless said incumbent is unusually weak.

Torco wrote:
throughout the history of civilization, what you see is a ruling class and a ruled class: the ruling class rules within the boundaries of what the ruled class considers acceptable, and when outcomes for the ruled push against those boundaries too much, either because of corruption, economic trouble, or cultural change that makes those boundaries change against relatively unchanging outcomes, the ruled rebel and oust ruling class. This is prevented in healthy societies through various forms of communication between ruled and rulers, including cultural dialogue, political consensus to a greater or lesser degree manufactured by the rulers, and informal social pressure channeled through middle classes of bureaucrats and so on. Recently, some countries have adopted various formal, legalistic consultive mechanisms, but there's good reason to believe they ultimately boil down to the general population rubber-stamping (or sometimes refusing to do so) a consensus to which the ruling class, subject to the pressures above mentioned, had already reached.

Maybe that's usually true throughout the history of civilization, but recently the ruling class has learned that it can simply dissolve the people and elect another.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:27 pm 
Smeric
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Quote:
Maybe that's usually true throughout the history of civilization, but recently the ruling class has learned that it can simply dissolve the people and elect another.

looks confused

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:32 am 
Sanno
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Torco wrote:
Quote:
Maybe that's usually true throughout the history of civilization, but recently the ruling class has learned that it can simply dissolve the people and elect another.

looks confused

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

I'm not sure though why Nortaneous thinks that the ruling class has now found a way to do the latter...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:28 pm 
Smeric
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maybe immigration?

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