Degrees of democracy

Not cycling, but still important.
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JohnToo
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Degrees of democracy

Post by JohnToo » 1 week ago

The EU elects MEPs by proportional representation. But MEPs have deliberately limited power, shared with the Council (degree of democracy dependent on political systems in different member states) and the Commission (ultimately democratically accountable, but only through several removes from actual voters, so the degree of actual democratic involvement in the Commission feels very limited).

(I have argued before that our desire to oppose Brexit has led us to feel we have to oppose every criticism of the EU lest we give credence to the Brexiters, and therefore led us to deny the obvious fact that the EU is only partially and opaquely democratic.)

The UK gives more power to its parliament, which is directly elected, but not through proportional representation (and we are reducing the power of parliament in favour of the power of judges, as argued in this year's Reith Lectures). The Executive is ultimately dependent on the (partially) democratically elected parliament, but beyond that, is only tenuously democratic, as we are seeing with the selection of our new prime minister at the moment.

The USA also doesn't have PR for congress, and the Executive (President) is in theory elected indirectly by an electoral college, but in practice, two out of the three branches of government are directly elected, along with great swathes of everyone from judges to assistant dog catchers. The practical functioning of democracy is severely curtailed by money, but then, so it is in the UK.

Is there any objective way of rating how democratic a country is?

(I could almost certainly find an answer, or more probably multiple answers, on google but hey, it's Friday evening, it's more fun to ask here...)
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Iris
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Re: Degrees of democracy

Post by Iris » 1 week ago

"I want someone else to Google it for me."

How about this?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index
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JohnToo
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Re: Degrees of democracy

Post by JohnToo » 1 week ago

Iris wrote:
1 week ago
"I want someone else to Google it for me."

How about this?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index
Small sigh from someone who does actually know how to use Google and who already spends too much of their life on Wikipedia😀.

When Joan's valiant efforts to establish this site as a sustainable online presence finally fail through lack of discussions and content generated by the rest of us, at least I can tell myself, I tried.
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Joan
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Re: Degrees of democracy

Post by Joan » 1 week ago

I haven't replied, because I haven't finished my homework yet (listened to the first Reith lecture yesterday).

I immediately thought of the 3 political systems I have some knowledge of - Australia, UK and the USA (I watch The Trump Show like it's reality TV, which it is, except it's also reality), and immediately thought Australia would be the most democratic. The US system is becoming very undemocratic, I'm thinking of the senate and the rampant gerrymanering. It's shocking to me that the UK is 14th, seeing we have an unelected upper house. I'm not sanguine about the lack of a written constitution, we rely heavily on Government obeying norms. I wonder what could happen if we got our own Trump? (and no, Boris is not Trump in that way).

So what does Australia do right? The lower house is much like the Commons, with a single representative elected. There is preferential voting, so you don't have to vote tactically. And as here, the MPs choose a PM, who forms a Government. I think it's still the MPs who actually chose, not the party, so those picking the PM are actually elected. I know that's how it used to be here, and I think it's better.

The senate, that fills the role of the house of Lords, is proportional; each state is a constituency and selects 12 senators, so they pretty much represent the proportion of support for each party. But the problem is 12 per state, which means each Tasmanian senator speaks for roughly 40,000 voters, while the NSW senators it's 600,000.

And that's where in the most perfect democracy falls down. Back in the oughts, the Government introduced internet censorship laws that practically no one wanted. It's only proponent in parliament was a senator for Tasmanian. But the Government wanted to sell Telstra (˜= BT) and needed his vote. So if first-past-the-post can lead to tyranny by the majority, then proportional can lead to tyranny by the minority.

It's a nice day out there, so wrapping this up, but I might come back later to explain why compulsory voting is good for democracy.
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Joan
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Re: Degrees of democracy

Post by Joan » 1 week ago

P.S. First Reith lecture: I loved the Imran Khan comedy duo!
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