Thursday, July 31, 2008

The government of majority

Wikipedia, in the Italian version, at the entry "partito politico" defines: "Un partito politico è un'associazione tra persone accomunate da una medesima finalità politica ovvero da una comune visione su questioni fondamentali dello gestione dello Stato e della società o anche solo su temi specifici e particolari" ("A political party is an association among people joined by an identical political aim, or even by a common vision on fundamental questions on the State and society managing or even only on definite and particular themes").
It is odd to notice that the English version, at the entry "political party" says something completely different: "A political party is a political organization that seeks to attain and maintain political power within government, usually by participating in electoral campaigns".


Italian constitution
Both of the two versions look enough correct to me, even if they start from two different points of view. The Italian version shows the need of citizens to participate to the government, through the vote. The English version is instead focused on the problem of control of power.

From Wikipedia definitions one could deduce that the task of a political party is to defend the interests of who votes for it.
It shouldn't work like that: a party's task, in my opinion, is to govern the Country.
And to govern, in a democracy (as the etymology of the word itself suggests: government of the people - the whole people, and not only the majority) means to work for everybody's interests, also of who didn't vote for it.

What's the need to vote for one party instead of another, if any winner would anyway do everybody's interest, then?
The answer is that it's not so obvious to decide which are the actions to do on a legislative/executive level to reach that goal. For example one typical interest of all the citizens is to increase the wealth of the State (and so, atleast on average, the wealth of the citizens). This is the goal of both Capitalism and Communism philosophies, but they want to obtain it in completely different ways.
The need to vote is to decide which way that goal should be obtained. Who votes shouldn't do it to promote its own interests, potentially opposite to other people's interests, but to contribute to the achivement of the whole community interests.

Then, there is the problem to define on one side the set of people that have the right of vote, and on another side the set of who is subject of the decisions of who wins the elections. Surprisingly the two sets are not the same.
For example it is obvious that underage people are subject to the laws although they don't have the right of vote. There's also an open discussion in Italy about the right of vote for the non-citizen immigrants, but it is unquestionable that the laws dictate also their rights/duties.
The distinction of the two sets is dangerous, because it shows that there is a set of people that decide how another set of people must behave, while those last people don't have any possibility to give their political point of view. In my examples it is not a problem for underage people because they are the children of who has the right of vote. But in the case of non-EU immigrants for example the thing is different. If the voters vote for their own interests and not for the common one, the immigrants are discriminated. Moreover there is the problem of the looser minorities. Since the majoritiy is the one who governs, in a democracy a vote aimed at the realization of the personal interests of the voters could discriminate not only the non-voters, but also the minoritarian groups of voters. Nazism warried to obtain the interests of who voted for it, also if this included also the extermination of the Jews.
Actually this cannot happen if there is a Constitution that prevent it, but this works only if also political power is submitted to Constitution. If instead the winner political party can change the Constitution, there is an obvious contraddiction.

The sense of this post is that, even if this looks to me obvious and necessary for a real Democracy, it seems that nor the elected people of the majority in Italian Parliament, nor their electors notice that those rules are not respected. And, by the way, not even in the minority.

And to pay the fee is the interest of the Country.

14 comments:

tychecat said...

I think both the definitions you quote leave out the basic purpose of a political party:
The party is at its most basic level simply a coalition of elected representatives who have grouped themselves together to make their legislative agendas more likely to prevail. This group may or may not share a common set of ideals and values but in almost every case the political party represents a compromise of ideals for the sake of political power.
The voters represented may follow their representative in party affiliation because they trust him or because they share his or the party's ideals (providing the party has any) Communist political leaders seemed to push their ideals in such a way as to override the basic ideals of those who supported them - even to the extent of restricting party membership to those they approved of - they had that in common with Fascists.
Modern democratic political parties tend to be pretty messy amalgamations of many different beliefs banded together by political expediency.

nikitabutterfly said...

Hey Dario!

It has been far, far to long my friend! Thank you so much for thinking about me, and sending that note. Im hoping it will inspire me to start blogging on xanga again! As you can see, Ive been grossly negligent! I will try to do better! In any case I will certainly drop by here more often!

While I dropped by I read your post and I have a question: Knowing the importance of the vote in a democracy...
a.) why do you think so many people dont vote and b.) What are some suggestions you have to encourage people to let their voices be heard?

Also, I think one of the beautiful things about democracies is that noone is a minority all the time. There is such diversity here, that while I may be in the minority in some areas, like religion, I am in the majority as far as race, being caucasian. I think that is one of the things that makes democracies so strong and maybe the only thing that unites my country, since as individuals we are very different in many ways.

Conversely, noone is always the majority either, which prevents an unhealthly level of accumulation of power in any one set of people.

Now, Im not saying that there is a perfect balance, there may be some groups that hold more or less power, for more or less time. Overall, however, power is pretty fluid in a democracy, which is important to a country's health, I think. Obviously the more people, and the more diverse people vote, the more balanced the system in the long run.

Well, take care, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

dario said...

Dick:
Maybe my post was a little confused for who doesn't know what's going on in Italy nowadays...
There is a situation where half of the population believe that we live in a democratic liberism and we have a right party democratically elected to overcome our prevalently economic problems. The other half believe that there is a fascist regime where the new Mussolini is that idiot Berlusconi, who is driving the government to make laws in order to save his butt on some illegal Mafia things he made in the past, to grow his personal patrimony, to have more and more power in order to be able to do those illegal things again and again. Despite the wealth of Italian economy and despite the democracy.

In this situation (i belong on the second type of beliefs), the fact that Berlusconi and his party has the majority of votes doesn't matter anything at all. Because i make a point on why all those people wanted to vote for him.
There is a part of his electors that didn't (yet) understand that he is actually not doing the good for anybody else except him and his "picciotti" at the government. I think they are just ignorant people, but that's a fact of life, a big share of electors are just ignorants. But there's another part of his electors (and that, in my opinion, is a too big part) that did vote for him because they thought that they could better their personal situation (economical or other). Despite the good for the rest of the nation.
So, my point is that the vote is a good tool in democracy if its purpose is to find a way to do the good of the nation. If instead everybody just think on their full stomach and wallet, that, at most, does the good of the single citizens belonging to the winning majoirty.

I think that this happens also in America, in different ways. Politicians promise the personal interests of the voters, although it doesn't coincide to the global interest of the nation. That's why they obtain their votes, despite the electoral system is meant to obtain the interest of the nation and not the one of the citizens.

Anyway, the problem nowadays is that for example yes, i don't pay to the municipality the tax for owning the first house anymore (about 100euros a year). But my municipality doesn't have the money to pay the bus service anymore. Should i be happy, in your opinion, since i never had the need to catch the bus?

About Communist party, i think you are speaking about American Communist Party, which frankly i cannot spend a penny because i am ignorant in this matter. In Italy it is the opposite. Communist party (or -ies, cos there is more than one) are very rigid on their ideals and their ideals are very explicit, so that although there would be a lot of electors that vote for them, a lot of electors decide to vote for somebody else because those ideals are so strict that they won't ever be a majority. Pretty much what always happens in America with the supporters of Nader.
The ridiculous thing that happens in Italy nowadays is that about half of the population have left-ish ideals but there is not any party in the parliament that represent any leftish ideals, since the two main opposite sides is one at right (Berlusconi) and one that doesn't have any bone in his body (Veltroni), and just gave the Nation to the new Dictator.

Again when you say "modern democratic political parties" you are speaking of American situation.
So, let me try to analyze American situation from outside: There is Nader that is out of theme, as usual. There is the Republicans that make the interest of the big multinational companies but they attract the voters telling insignificant things like "we want to fight terrorism" or "we want every American to own a gun". Then there is the Democrats that make the interest of the big multinational compaines but they attract the voters telling insignificant things like "we want to retire our troups from Iraq" or "we want to find ecologic energy sources".
Mmmh... it doesn't seem to me that they are amalgamation of anything at all!!!

dario said...

NikitaButterfly:
I try to give an answer to your questions upon my beliefs.

- you ask why so many people don't vote

I look around and see that both in America and in Italy the answer to the question "why don't you go to vote?" is "i am not involved in Politics".
Which is an answer that doesn't have any meaning at all, if you think. Politics is the organization of society. And it's a genetic fact that the human being is a social animal. So, if you want to live in a community of people, i guess you mind what that community does. Also my dogs participate to the government of the pack ("the pack", at their eyes, is the two dogs, my wife and me). And they are dogs, hell!!! So, how can it be that a human being is not involved in the decisions of the community he lives in? How can it be that a human being, which is an intelligent social animal is "not involved in Politics"?
So, what i think is that the real meaning of "i am not involved in Politics" is that the political organization of the state does take decisions that are completely other than what the citizen wants.
Now i can also understand that it is too difficult for a normal uncultured person to understand if the war in the middle east, just to make an example, is worth to be fought or not (and by the way that's what i believe is the task of the mass-media... to inform and to teach normal uncultured people the political implication of the big themes... but this is another story). The point is that the gov't will decide not in base on what the citizens want (so, not in a democratic way), but in base of what the economical powers want. So, if i am a voter, why should i be involved in favouriting Exxon Mobil or Microsoft? I don't care about that. I am not involved. I am not involved in Politics, if the task of Politics is that.
If instead the tast was, for example to convert Nuclear Power to Solar Cells i would care! But for that it needs some party that proposes and shows how to do it. But that goes against the interests of the companies of Energy, which give money to those parties.

- you ask suggestion to the political parties to make so that people go to vote.

In Italy the system is a little different, but we are slowly becoming like America under that point of view.
Are you sure that democracy is really an attractive thing for who controls the power? I doubt.
I try this scenary: an American company needs petroleum, and it also needs that its aggressive competitors in China don't have any petroleum. A solution is that a war in the middle east is fought by America, so that America can control their oil, and give it all to the American company and nothing to Chinese one.
Actually it looks to me a bit immoral. And if i was an American elector i wouldn't vote for anybody that want to do such an immoral thing, if i had any chance. If i go to vote and if my vote is useful to change American politics, there is a risk that America stops to fight wars in order to control the distribution of sources. Which means that China will have access to those sources, which means that the American company will have less petroleum and will loose the game against the Chinese competitor. And the american company doesn't want it, isn't it? By the way it's also difficult to say that we do want it instead, but that's not even an option to us.
It's not an option because firstly we are convinced not to go to vote because "we are not involved in Politics", and that's a gift to the American company. And then we are convinced by the media that war is good (incidentally the media are controled by the same American company - or other with similar interests).
So, the ideal situation for them to control the world is that there is not a big lot of people that go to vote, and in the case they do they don't really understand what they are voting for. Which is right the opposite of democracy, in my opinion.
Fake democracy is, to who has the power, better than real democracy because the interests of the big companies that control politics and economy are completely different than the values of common electors, which include that unconvenient peculiarity that is Ethics, typical of human beings and not of multinational companies.
Moreover fake democracy is even better than dictature, because dictature is an imposition on people against their will. And that, sooner or later, will cause a revolution against the dictator.
Fake democracy has only that bothering disadvantage that when companies decide what they want, before doing it, they have to convince the electors. In this they have a special division: Politics.
So, to answer your question, what's my suggestion for convince people to vote? To be honest, and use political power to obtain what electors want. Uhm... they are not gonna agree!
Moreover there is anothet obstacle. In a system like yours in America (and Italian system is becoming like that), there can be only two parties. So, the two of them must include all the votes. Which means that the elector can actually choose only among those two. Actually that is a simplification, because there is also Nader and other minor ones, but at the end, any vote other than Reps and Dems is wasted. So, on one side none of the parties can represent minoritarian ideals (pacifism, communism, ecology....just to make examples), because if they did, they would loose those electors that focus on the opposite problems. On the other side an elector with minoritarian ideals if he wants to vote and to make that vote useful, has to vote for that party that does not represent his minoritarian ideals. And the conclusion of it is that although very wide, some ideals won't ever be in the agenda of anybody at the power. A democracy is "more a democracy" in my opinion, when it is able to give voices also to the minorities. Giving voice to majorities is too easy!

Nikitabutterfly said...

Dario,

Thank you for sharing your views so fully! I agree to what you said about why people dont vote. The question then remains, however, why? Why do people say "I am not involved in politics? I think that part of the reason is that for some of us, at least in America, politicsis kind of scary. People, for whatever reason, feel inadequate, and uninformed to make decisions that have such fundamental and broad outcomes on society. I agree with you that the mass media could be a good way to become informed,
empowered decision makers. As far as that goes, I would suggest, in the American context, breaking up the huge media conglomerates. There is somewhat of a monopoly of viewpoints going on here, everyone is giving the same message of fear and disempowerment. There is no attempt to give accurate, unbiased, and clear information, it is all about how to spin and manipulate us, in my opinion. Because we really dont have the information we need to be informed
we are not empowered to particiapte. Only those of us who are willing to put in the time and effort needed to sift through all the agendas feels good about it, the rest hold their breath and pray! But we do the best we can.

I have a question though: you say that "A democracy is 'more a democracy' in my opinion when it is able to give voices also to the minorities. Giving voice to majorities is too easy" In my opinion, a good democracy gives voice to everyone no questions asked, whether they are minority or no. Shouldnt that be the focus, rather than targeting one group, no matter which group it is? Another thought I had was that, as you said, human beings are social animals, and forming
groups is natural. So again, shouldnt the focus be making sure everyone is heard at an equal level, since those groups
change?

As far as your example of business goes: Yes, business (and money in general, in whatever form) does have power here, and I will bet elsewhere. There is a reason for that I would be happy to talk about, but isnt really relevant for this conversation. Yet with all the pushing and lobbying by businesses, the coast of Alaska,
to my knowledge, is still off limits to oil drilling. I think the big lesson here is that democracy is not a particularly
peaceful form of government. There will always be disagreements on how to do things. It is in those discussions, and creative destruction in some cases, that truth comes out and decisions are made. In a group of MIllions you simply cant please everyone. Yet I do believe that under it all, the decisions that are made are made with good intentions
using the knowledge that is available when the decisions are made. There are a few exceptions, where decisions were made despite what information indicated (Im thinking our involvement in Iraq) but there are other reasons we did that, whether I believe they are
valid and appropriate or not. 99% of the time, however, I truly believe that we and those we put in power are acting rationally and in our highest good overall.

Final thought: I think we can agree that a government, in whatever form it is expressed, is only as perfect as the people
who make it up. Considering that humanity, while beautiful in its imperfections, in my eyes, is imperfect, what can we really expect from government except to act in ways that enhance our goodness and complement our challenging traits. Personally, I think democracy does this better than any other form of government that we have tried so far. Do you think otherwise? This of course, doesnt mean that democracy cant and shouldnt be improved. I think in any discussion, however, we should take a balanced look, and honor the good, while discussing solutions to the challenges inherent in all things.

WOW, sorry that is so long! Take care, and have a great day!

tychecat said...

Hi Dario,
Actually, I wasn't confining my comments to American politics - I was actually thinking more of European politics and political parties.
The Communist Party I was thinking of was the CPUSSR which was the originator of your CP as well as most of the others around the world. When they had the power, they kept very tight control on all the others through the COMINTERN and its successors.
When I was a teen-ager I spent a long slow voyage from the US to Italy arguing communist theory with a committed, card-carrying member of the CPUSA. It was certainly an interesting trip. Later, as a teacher I was required to study and teach about "The evils of Communism" I spent the allotted time teaching my Modern European History classes Russian History and the rise of Marxism.
I've had a good many discussions with some quite famous Social Historians who got in trouble during the US McCarthy/ witch-hunt era.
I think you are right about Berlusconi. I tend to think Italians don't take politics seriously enough - they represent some of the major problems of a multi-party system. The theory behind democracy is, in part, that the uninformed and stupid voters tend to cancel each other out. This seldom happens - the candidate who can appeal to the most basic instincts of the voters usually wins - in the US as well as every other democracy; which is the worst of all possible forms of governments - unless you consider all the alternatives ;-)

dario said...

Uhm, Dick... what does it mean "originator"? PCI (the italian CP) had common origins with Fascism, but it looks to me kind of opposite philosophies.
The principles of both CPUSSR and PCI are rooted in Marxism, but anybody that know atleast something about the one and the other could see the obvious differences between the two.
Yes in USSR communism leaded to totalitarism, but that has nothing to do with Marxism, and above all it doesn't have anything to do with PCI.
I think the loss of Fascism with WWII helped a lot Italian people to be careful against totalitarisms, although nowadays, after more than 60 years they look forgetful of their history.

I disagree with your theory that the votes of the stupids cancel each other. Instead i believe that the stupids are the ones on which the candidates trust for their elections. It appear clearly in America where it looks like the political problem of the two parties are of no interest while comfidence to a leader is high or low upon if he is black, woman, how many children he kisses, or if he makes oral sex in his office.
For example it was easy to me (that i am not involved in American politics) to see that Obama is clearly NOT against war, but a lot of Americans will vote for him because they believe he is.
On the opposite side i also see that McCain is not intentioned to retire troups from middle east, while also Clinton was not. So, my point is that when there is no political ideas that make the difference, the votes are based on stupid subjects, which can be well understood by the majority of stupid electors.

Anyway, i don't believe in that theory of the stupids also for another reason. Traditionally, in Italy, the general ideas of the right wing, accepted also by the right wing electors, is authoritariansm. Who has the power has to decide what the Nation has to do. Everybody stays in his place and do not disturb who is paternally taking care of them. Berlusconi is the epitom of this idea: "you just trust in me and let me work. You'll see i will solve your problems".
The looser strategy of the left had always been that the citizen should be involved because there is no authority that can absolutely say what is good and what is evil.
While right say "give me your vote and i will work for you", left used to say "let's work together by mean of the vote". This last approach demand some political culture to the voters. And infact right wins because "stupid" electors find too difficult to assume "such a commitment".
No, i don't agree with you. Idiots and few dishonest cultured people vote for the right, honest cultured people and a few dishonests vote for the left. That's why right wins.

I think in america it is a kind of different. Because there is no real distinction between Reps and Dems. In the next election i have no doubt, because Obama is largely more fascinating than the opponent. Did you see McCain?

I don't want to be a conspirancy hunter, but doesn't it look just like an agreement between the companies that support the two electoral campaign? Okay... i let Obama win, but in change...........

dario said...

Nikitabutterfly: in that "so fully" expression i read some disappointment for my long comments.... Ehehe... i am sorry, i know i have that peculiarity, but i cannot stop, when i start! :-)

Thanks for your comment full of thoughs... i try to reply point by point.

THAT, in my opinion is the reason. People feel inadequate, or better uninformed to go to vote. So, the two possible solutions to that self-judgement are:
1) do not go to vote
2) get informed.
To me it is very clear that the first option is much more comfortable for the average citizen, don't you think?

Ahah... i just remember a terrible discussion between me and another participant to Socrates Cafe... what's her name?... I was speaking about American democracy. And, since she was a supporter of Republicans she told me that technically USA is a "republic" and not a "democracy"!!!

I would add something, in the case of America.
That American people would never admit that their "holy" democracy is not so much democratic. If i was an American elector it would be difficult for me to decide to vote for who. I am against war, so i would like to vote for somebody that uses more diplomacy to solve the problems, and, most of all, i would never agree to fight a war for economical reasons. By the way i also think that most of American electors would eventually agree with me about this subject. Nevertheless there is noone, except Nader, that already lost before the elections, that really has a pacifist attitude. If i was an American elector, i think i would vote for Nader although he will never win, or for the Democrats, although they don't represent my ideals. And those "although" are the death of democracy, in my opinion.
But Americans are still proud of their illusion to be able to change the course of History by mean of their democratic vote.
Politics in America is completely controled by the multinational companies, but still the average American is proud of his political power to decide what? between Republicans and Democrats!?!?!?!

About the voice of the minorities... yes i agree, a real democracy should give voice to everybody, although we both don't really live in a good democracy, then. Everybody is free to say whateve he wants, both in America and in Italy. But that opinion, once said, flows away with the wind, unless there is a political representant in the political organs.
For example in Italy there is a lot of people that would like to close all the American NATO military bases in Italian soil. Those people are allowed to shout loud their voice, but now the Parliament approved the enlargement of the one next to Verona, although several demonstrations are going on in that area every day. Nevertheless those people that demonstrate went to vote those deputies and senators in the Parliament!
No, what i wanted to say is that "a democracy is more a democracy" if everybody's opinion can be represented in the political organs of the State.
This is actually impossible in Italy and even worse in America, because everybody has different opinions, and in America there are also several different cultures. But, on the big themes, like for example the presence of American soldiers in our soil for Italy, or like the wars in the middle east for America, there should be a voice that amplifies the citizens' voices when those decision are made. If not, what's then the political role of the citizens? Or, in other words, where is Democracy hidden?

I think that the problem is actually the electoral system. I mean that it is difficult that there is a big change in American (or Italian) politics if there's no big sponsors (like multinational companies in USA or like USA itself in Italy) behind.
Just like yes, you are free to vote for Nader, for example, but that's not really an amplifier of your voice. Because Nader supporters will vote for Democrats in big part, and anyway, even if all of them will vote for him, he will be out of the game. And i am speaking of Nader which has some power in the media. What about American communism, for example?
That's pretty much what is happening in Italy in this period. They changed the electoral system so that the little parties cannot have a seat in the Parliament. That could work if there were alliance among different parties. But when both PdL (right) and PD (left) decided to sweep out the small parties, by mean of refusing alliances, what happened is that in the last elections i could choose among PdL, PD or anything else that didn't have enough votes to gain a seat in the Parliament. Which is everything but democratic.

I agree with you that even in a better democracy you cannot please everybody.
I would be content if the politics goes in a direction to do what is good for everybody, although not everybody would agree with it.
If going to vote one chooses the best that gives him personal interest, that cannot work, because at most politics will try to do his personal interest. An example? Ok.
I don't like to pay taxes, because i don't like to give my money to somebody else. Who likes it?
But my taxes are also used to finance the hospitals, which are used to cure everybody needs to, for free.
Actually that's obvious that i don't like to pay taxes for that reason, because, thanks god, i and my family are healty. But there is a lot of people that is not that fortunate!
I could also say that if the healty system was not free, i could pay for the cures of my illnesses only when i am ill, saving money when i am not. That can work for people that make good money, and not for poor ones. So, since i make good money, i could be happy to vote for a party that proposes not to pay taxes for free health system. If i vote for such a party i am voting for my personal interest, and not for the interest of the Nation, which is made also of poor people. If the majority is rich enough for that, the majority will vote for that party with that program, and the poor people cannot be cured when they are sick. And that, to me, is not fair. So much unfair that i will not vote for that party. So, i vote for the good of the Nation, and not for my personal interest. But how many people do the same? Not a big lot, i sadly think.
Which means that, although honest, a party will win if it has in the program to feed the personal interest of the majority of people, and not to do the good of the whole nation.

The Big Mistake of modern democracies, in my opinion, is that the sum of the personal interests of the citizens does not make the common interests of the Nation.

Capitalism, for example has the same problem. Yes, it allows everybody to try improve his finance and become rich, but it is obvious that the system cannot allow that everybody succeeds in that. If i become rich you become poor, if you become rich i become poor. I like this system only when makes me rich (and you poor), but i would prefer another system in which we both would be half rich (and half poor).

I think it is also a semantic linguistical problem (which, incidentally, happens both in Italian and in English).
To answer your question, you say "enhance our goodness". My problem is that possessive adjective "our". What do you mean, to make my good, your good, his good, her good.... or to make the good for me, you, him and her? It is a different approach which leads to different results, because if the resources allow to make three fourth of "the good", in the first interpretation it will be realized the good of me, the good of you, the good of him, and not the good of hers. In the second interpretation it will be realized three fourth of the good of all of us.
The last interpretation is more acceptable to me, but what will be more acceptable to the majority? the realization of their whole good or three fourth of it?

I know, this comment is too long and confused... and maybe in a not enough clear English... i hope you won't have too much problem in reading it

tychecat said...

Hey Dario,
There is no doubt that you know the history of the CPI better than I do, but there is apparently no doubt that that the Italian communists were funded and controlled by the Soviets, apparently getting more funds from moscow than any other communist party during the period after 1944. Togliatti certainly toed the official Soviet party line as did his party until the 1990's. Since that time they seem to be more focused on Italian national interests as I understand things.
Supposing the CPI was to become the party controlling Italian politics and the government, how do you think they would change things now that they are free from Russian influences?

Nikitabutterfly said...

Dario :-)
First off, when I say that I appreciate you expressing yourself fully I really
do mean it. :-) Dont read anything into, and just take it at face value.
Someone willing to be vulnerable and expressive is a rare friend indeed, so please
put your mind at ease about that.

LOL I dont know about in Italy, but in America there are one or two other options
to voting, depending on how you wish to look at it. One, is that you vote uninformed.
Two is that you vote misinformed. These options are much more scary to me than even
not voting, but I think that most people choose not to mess with it like you said.

LOL Wikpedia defines democracy as a system of government by which
political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercised directly by
citizens. We still vote, we are still a democracy!! :-P Ultimately our mistakes
and triumphs lie with us. I agree that we have made some tough decisions, have
faced challenges, and dont always respect our democracy, but I honestly believe
we are a full democracy. We are a federal democracy, which from my understanding,
means that there is a level of government (the state) between an individual American
and his or her natnl govt leaders, but we vote for both. I dont think of it as "holy" because I
think it takes a lot of work and constant check and balance to keep it healthy.
That is what I think we take for granted sometimes. It wasnt handed down by God
or something, it was created by us. It is a living, breathing, entity and must
be taken care of.

That being said, the decision is hard sometimes, and sometimes other interests
work to manipulate us towards thier own end. Thats why democracy is important, I
think. Because it checks and balances those powers that seek to manuipulate us. Yet I guess I differ from you in that I think overall we do make decisions with the greater good at heart.

Ha ha ha, I just thought of something... Im not sure if you are serious or being funny,
but Im pretty sure it was me that told you something like the the US is a specific type of
democracy called a republic... but I didnt say that because I am of the republican party,
is that what you think? I was thinking about this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic
What I meant is that we in the US are not a direct democracy, there is a middle man.

As for the health system, I think it is in everyone's best interest to pay for health insurance.
It is cheaper that way. Also, it would be pretty hard if the government or the grocery store had
to shut down because people got sick and couldnt afford to get themselves better. There is a lot
more to say about that, but since the subject was government I wasnt sure if you wanted to talk about
it here.

I know there is so much more to say, but I think I will leave this here for now.. Take care and have a great day!

tychecat said...

Dario:
Considering the resurgance of Russian power and aggression, how do you think the world-wide movement toward more international cooperation will faire?
What do you think the Italian, the European, and the American responses to recent acts should be?

dario said...

Nikita: Sorry if i answer only now, but i was so busy with my holidays! :-)

:-) I know you're sincere about my expressing myself, but i also know that my comments are always too long and not concise at all.

I think that most of people in westernian countries (USA and Italy included) are stupid. And so, most of electors are not good electors (if we define a "good elector" one that is well informed). I agree with you that it is kind of scary. But the solution is not them not to vote. Instead it should be them to get well informed. Or not?

Frankly I, that always define myself as a democratic monkey, leftish, and "communist" (although this last concept should be better specified, being that people usually tend to understand something different from what it means), well i think that there could be much better form of government than democracy.
Dictature, for example is a wonderful form of government. It ensures stability. And stability usually ensures economical advantages. Of course i think that a good government is the one that gives the most possible freedom and well being to everybody in the nation. And there is an easy way for a dictature to realize such a goal. That the dictator was a good guy. If the dictator is a good guy and he works for the good of the nation, there are much more probabilities that he can make the actual good of the nation better than a democracy, because he has much more power to do what he wants (that, for sure, is the good of the nation). In a democracy instead we keep arguing each other about what is the good of the nation, and that, in the best case, slows down the process of acheivement of the good of the nation.
The problem of dictature, of course, is that if we find out that the dictator is not actually a good guy, it needs a revolution to take him out of his office.
Moreover there is the problem to find out what is the good of the nation. I mean, yes, as i defined in my post, the good of the nation is the good of all the citizens, but the way to reach that good is potentially different belonging to any citizen. So, why should it be the dictator's idea of good of the nation the one to be realized?
Last but not least, a democracy ensures the citizen to have an active part in the destiny of the nation, which i guess is a good thing, while dictature doesn't. I mean, i always see Politics as a kind of art. I have neverending discussions with my friends about politics. I wouldn't have any discussion if there was nothing to decide about, like in a good dictature.
That's actually the reason i prefer democracy to any other form of government, including "good" dictatures.
And that's the reason because it's not a good solution not to go to vote.

The problem, i think, is that when democracy is controled by economical power, as it happens in the USA, and by mean of USA also in Italy, it is an advantage for those who control politics for the people to be uninformed, because stupid people can easily be convinced by mean of dumb commercial, just like they convince stupid people to buy a detergent instead of another. In that way companies can control the votes of those stupids.

Technically USA is a democracy. Now i speak about USA (and not Italy) because although Italy has, in my opinion, huge democracy problems, but they are very different from the ones USA has.
Although it is technically a democracy, one has to admit that there are different levels of democracy, unfortunately. I try to explain better.
Democracy literally means "the government of the people", which, as Wikipedia says, means that the souvreignty is retained by the people and exercised by citizens (i have problems in agreeing about that "directly", in that definition...).
So, a state where the leader is voted by the cirizens and where the people "owns" the public things, is a democracy. Mmmmh... i am thinking to USA. Yes, it works like that. USA is a democracy.
I am thinking also to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He was elected by public elections, and formally the nation was owned by the people. So it was a democracy. Same thing for Italian fascist dictature or German nazism.
All democracies? Uhm....
Lets' overcome the formal definitions. I believe that a democracy is good not just because people vote, but because (by mean of the vote), citizens can actually decide what are the political action that their government has to take in order to obtain the good of the whole nation.
Well... i gave a personal definition, but i guess you agree in thinking that democracy is a good form of government because of this.
Under this point of view German nazism was not a democracy, although Hitler went to the power by mean of a democratic election. Same thing for Italian fascism, and Saddam's Iraq.
And what about USA?
Really you think that to fight the war in the middle east is a thing that is good for the Nation, atleast upon the point of view of the majority of American electors?
I could say yes, if there was an alternative. But what was the alternative? To vote for Kerry? Wouldn't he go to war? Or about Nader? did he really have a chance to win?
No, the thing is that the economical power that control American politics already knew before the election that the war would have been fought.
And now? Voting for Obama means stopping to fight? Do the citizens really have an idea about it? Do they think they can decide?
I heard, months ago, a program at the radio where an expert forecasted that, if Obama won the primary against Clinton, the new government would move the war in east europe from the middle east. And actually it looks like that they are alredy doing it. It looks that the big companies already know that McCain is gonna loose.
So, it's hard to me to find out where is the power of decision of american citizens, although formally, USA is for sure a democracy.

No, i was not being funny. I really was arguing, years ago, to Building A Mystery, a character of Socrates Cafe.
Discussing about democracy she just ended up saying that i shouldn't speak like that about American Democracy, because USA is not a democracy, but a Republic.
I found that irritating, but also very funny.

About Health Insurance.
It is for sure cheaper for the middle citizen to pay for a good health insurance instead of paying everybody for a public health, because it would be more efficient.
But the advantage of public health is that it is paied by mean of taxes. And taxes, in all the democracies i know, are somehow proportional to the income. Or, in other words, who is rich has to pay more, who is poor less. Independently by the fact that he will eventually need to use the health care and how.
If there is a non-mandatory health insurance what happens is that if one needs cares, maybe he cannot have because he cannot afford an health insurance.
By the way i was not defending public health care, i was just defending the system based on taxes.
I don't like to pay, anyway, because if i don't pay i am more rich, and i like to be rich. But the tax system is the way the citizens contribute to obtain equality among theirselves, upon their possibilities.
Education is the same. I don't see why who is poor must be also ignorant because he cannot afford school, or atleast not a good school. If the education system was all paid with taxes, school would be available for poors too, although they pay much less than riches.

nikitabutterfly said...

Hi!! I hope you had a good holidays!

Ill get right to it! :-)

I think individually we are very intelligent, and most of the time we act that way, even in groups. There are times, however, when we get caught up in groupspeak and act without thinking critically. This seems to happen more in politics than at other times in my opinion, but that may be a misperception. I definitely do agree, however, that the solution is to inform people.

A couple of things come to my mind in your discussion of dictatures. I know you ultimately decide that democracy is better (at least that is what it sounds like you decide, if I misspeak please tell me) so they may be irrelevant, but I think they are worth bringing up. The first is that power corrupts. I challenge you to name one benevolent dictator because I cant think of one!! It also occurs to me that in my opinion, two heads are better than one. Having the perspective of other people ensures that all sides of an issue are heard, so a better decision can be made. Those are the reasons I perceive dictatorships to be the worst form of government. In my opinion one person simply doesn’t (and cant) have the perspective necessary to make globally good decisions, and Im not sure there is any man that has the willpower to want to.

Two things on your discussion of the US democracy and German Nazi/Iraqi governments. First, about the war. In all honesty, yes, I think it is what the majority of the American people wanted when it started. **Let me clarify here, that I was not part of that majority, yet I do believe it existed.** In the case of that election, I voted for Kerry, not necessarily because he would have kept us out of war, but because I think he might have done it differently (in my eyes, more effectively). I think the majority of us wanted to punish Osama Bin Laden. I think fewer of us wanted us to invade Iraq, when Laden was in Afghanistan. I know that may be hard to believe, but I think it is true. Yet I believe that it is this difference that matters, not only the decision whether or not to go to war, but how we do it and on what terms. As far as Iraq and Germany go, sure, Hussain and Hitler were elected democratically, but when they usurped the power of the people who elected them the democracy was forfeit. They ended their terms in as a dictatorship in my opinion.

HA HA HA Funny!! I think I have probably told you that too…. That’s why I wasn’t sure.

It looks like I think of wealth differently than you. I don’t mind paying taxes. Overall I feel I am more wealthy because I receive the services I pay for (use of roads, schools, etc) at a lower cost than I would pay by myself. I believe that wealth includes more than cash money. I include the price of the services in the estimation of my wealth.

Well, that should keep us disussing!! Take care and have a good night!

dario said...

Nikita, :-) i answer in the natural order of my confuse thought:

Wealth: i pretty much agree with you. But i am not really counting the prices of services i am paying for.
Ha! there was a funny discussion with a friend of mine who was sick and tired to pay too much taxes, so he suggested not to pay them at all and everybody pay for what they needed. If you think of roads, for example, it is obvious you cannot do it. You cannot just build a road for the path you need to run and destroy it when you finished using it. It could be more efficient if you make an agreement with everybody that need to use that road and you collect money among them to build it. Or, in other words, you make an agreement with the society in which you live. That is called State, and the collection of money is called Taxes.
In a system of solidarity, which is a lux that a democracy can usually afford, the rich ones pay more taxes than the poor one. So, if one doesn't have any income at all, for example, can use the services as the rich ones. That's the way it usually is, and that's the way it works over here, in Italy, for example. I can quote the case of my sister in Law (american citizen), that when she came to visit she just needed to go to the hospital and she was cared in a professional way without paying a penny. She could also afford to pay a visit, but i can imagine that there are a lot of people that cannot, and, in my opinion, in a civil society, who cannot pay has the right to be cared as everybody else.

Dictature: I don't think that the problem is that (political) power corrupts. If it was like that the only solution would be to abolish power, but in that way a state could not be driven. Saying that power corrupts authorize who detain power to be corrupted. Ghandi had power but he was not corrupted.
Instead i think that usually (not always, but usually!!!), in a dictature, where the power is absolute, it is more easy to obtain the privilege to control the power (the dictator) with violence. And who uses violence to obtain the power usually is not somebody that wants the good of the nation.
There are exceptions, however. I make an easy list. Fidel Castro (discutable some ways the human right not respected in Cuban prisons, but upon other subject much better than other democracies i know). Muammar Gheddafi (he obtained the power also with violence, but then he changed style and transformed Lybia giving wealth to the citizens also by transforming big desert areas in cultivable fields). Mikail Gorbachov (he did have absolute power, but he transformed USSR in a democracy - or atleast he tried to)... There are other examples of good dictators, but that's enough, for now.
Anyway, i didn't want to make specific examples. What i wanted to say is only that "democracy" is far from being a perfect way to drive a State. Although i believe it is better than other system for citizens to control if something is not working good.
Anyway there are degenerations of democracy. One is usually called "dictature of majority". Democracy is good, in my opinion, because it tends to realize the good for everybody. If it works for the good of only majority, despite the good of minorities it happens that it is very similar to a dictature, from the point of view of the minorities. But another degeneration of democracy (interesting because it is, in my opinion, the problem of USA and Itay), is that people are misinformed or uninformed (as you say). If somebody wants the absolute political power of a state, he can use violence. Or, instead, he can convince people that he/she wants to do the good of the nation. This second case is much payful because, as it often History taught, who has power by mean of violence is going to be deposed by mean of violence by the people, or by other States that demand the privilege to be the moral drivers of the world just like USA is behaving.
That wouldn't be a bad thing because what we really want is somebody that do the good of the nation. But the thing is that it's not said that who declares to be wanting to do the good of the nation actually wants to do the good of the nation. He can follow his dirty interests convincing the electors that he wants to do the good of the nation. That's why economical power own the main media. In italy it is very clear. Berlusconi owns more than 50 percent of national TV network and a big part of national newspapers. There is a lot of people that consider Berlusconi a good guy because they are convinced by TV and papers. An example? ICI was a tax for owners of buildings that was collected by municipalities and was used to finance local services like public transportations, mantainance of local roads.... Now Berlusconi decided to abolish that tax, and everybody was happy because he made a big propaganda on his TV's and anyway was a tax that the citizens don't have to pay anymore (atleast not on the first house where families live). The result is that the little municipalities don't have money anymore to finance those services (i can already see the effects of this by the abolishment of the bus line from my little village up in the mountain down to the big town). Obviously Berlusconi's TVs didn't mention that.
So, what i want to say is that electors are stupid not because they are not intelligent, but they are lazy to get informed, so they just sit on the couch in front of the TV watching the stupid TV programs and turing off their brains, just the right moment in which who controls the political power, which happens it is also who controls the TV networks, they make their propaganda.
So, what's the difference between a dictature and a democracy? That in the democracy they vote, while in a dictature they don't. Which is just a useless detail if the vote is controled by propaganda.

If the question is "do you prefer dictature or democracy?" my answer is then that i prefer the good of the nation. I also believe that the best good can be reached by mean of democracy, but that's not the actual case of USA nor Italy.

About wars: Roosvelt was convinced to participate to WWII by the attack to Pearl Harbor. Or, better, he was convinced by the public opinion that believed that USA couldn't tolerate a big attack like that without an adequate answer.
It's out of doubts, and i believe that it was easily forecastable, that US winning WWII would have been a big improvement for economical power in USA in that period (infact it was!).
If the Japaneses didn't attack Pearl Harbor USA wouldn't have participated to WWII and the alliance Rome-Berlin-Tokyo would have won the war. Europe would have been Nazist and USA wouldn't ever have been a big economical power like this.
That's why there are theories that intepret the lack of protection of Pearl Harbor by Roosvelt as a pression made by the economical power on him in order to cause a disaster that could have convinced the public opinion to justify the participation of USA in WWII. In other words Roosvelt just accepted to close his eyes at the news of an imminent attack to Pearl Harbor, and instead to favorite it, because his friend the owner of the big companies wanted an excuse to enter WWII.
I kind of believe to those theories because i think that politics was already a dirty business in those times, but also if we don't believe in them, they show clearly that in the History it is the economical power that drive the politics. Not the vote of the electors. Similar evaluations can be done for 9/11 attack. Was it wanted by CIA or Bush? Never mind, it was good enough to justify the attack in the Middle East. If it was not wanted by them, it's just a stroke of luck for the American economy.

You have reason about the difference you make between USA democracy and Nazism. But what i wanted to point out is that the point is that nor in one nor in the other the real good of the nation (and not majority, i mean the whole nation) is not acheived. Now you have to vote. It looks like you have to choose between McCain which wants to expand the war in the Middle East and Obama, which wants to expand the war in east Europe to control Russia. I know you are against war. So, who are you voting for?
If i was american i would vote for Nader. But Nader is never going to win the elections. So, isn't it intrinsecal to the American system the fact that one can choose but he MUST choose for somebody who wants to expand war?