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Of, By, and For
by Jan Sand
2007-02-14 08:42:24
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Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the phrase that democracy must be government of, by and for the people. Winston Churchill noted that democracy is the worst form of government except for those others that have been tried from time to time.

So evidently, at its present capabilities, humanity is stuck with a miserable government system as its best bet. But as bad as it is, there must be definitive minimum qualities for such a system to provide for reasonable utility.

All forms of human social organization are composed of subgroups based on how they fulfill a particular niche in the dynamics of the total group. The basic unit of humanity is the individual human being, which comes in several flavors. Essentially there is the male and the female that in turn divides into accepted age groups, each with their obligations and privileges. The molecule, so to speak, of social organization is the family and each family has its own traditions, regulations, and resources and must be equipped to distribute the necessities of existence to its members. But families, as such, are not considered political units. The effective political input from the people to political power is from the individual.

So the crux of the source of democratic political power rests with how the individual votes and how that vote is tallied.

Although I believe much of what I say applies to any democratic system, I am most familiar with the United States and I use that system for my analysis.

From its inception, the USA restricted the right to vote. The original requirements were for citizenship and for a modicum of property. Women were not accepted as qualified and blacks were even questionable as being human, so American democracy was quite limited from the beginning. As the nation expanded political manipulations of many sorts herded voters one way or another and the addition of women to the voting public enlarged the numbers of voters but did not seem to move political influence in a new direction. The Civil War granted blacks citizenship, but huge numbers of black people were intimidated by local legal processes to cancel their rights through systems, which could only be compared to the brutal Apartheid program in South Africa.

Although current situation is officially fairer, several methods have been employed to sway votes in one direction or another and there is no doubt that money has such a strong influence on voting that it is tempting to see the system more as a plutocracy than a democracy.

The founders of the US government were not stupid and were well aware of the dangers of corruption so they devised a system if dividing the government into three sections: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Their hopes were that any transgression of any one section of the basic principles of the government would be corrected by actions of the other two. This has worked to a good extent for many years but the capture of all three governmental elements during the Bush administration has severely damaged this arrangement. It remains to be seen if this damage is permanent.

If the government is to be properly controlled by the people, the people must be well educated in the intricacies of the system and how it might be perverted. And also, they must be informed as to the state of the nation and given sensible policy choices as to how to maintain the nation in good order.

The current situation is not good. The general education system is underfinanced and in very sad condition so the understanding of the machineries of government is minimal.

Beyond that the wealthy part of the community has gained control of almost all the major means of informing the public and information about political contenders is highly distorted towards the benefits for the wealthy. To an extent the Internet has countered this distortion but in no wise is the public as well informed as it should be.

In addition the executive, in the person of President Bush, has made it a policy to classify much information and keep it secret from the public who needs to be informed. It has also severely distorts scientific information (over the protests of the bulk of respected scientists) about basic considerations that should influence environmental legislation.

The founders of American democracy tried their best to establish a system so that the three divisions of government could distrust each other to the benefit of the governmental processes as a whole. If an executive (such as the current one) requests the public to rely on trust for his decisions, they had one strong answer.

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