Does Democracy Really Work

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I feel that democracy is like communism in that it's good on paper but it asks for too much out of people. Like in the US for instance a lot of people won't accept that they're wrong and ignore basic facts because they don't like them. I don't think democracy would work in that society, does anyone else feel the same way or am I just making a fool of myself by poorly explaining my point or both?

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Firstly, the USA is not a democracy, it is a Republic. (Though many Americans would disagree)

Secondly, any system of government has its strengths and flaws. A government by the people and for the people runs into the simple problem of that not everyone agrees on what's best for the country. On the other hand, where you have a form of authoritarian government, a single, corrupt ruler can lead an entire nation into ruin when his or her power is not kept in check. USA has its share of problems but I don't really think our government is one of them.

Leaders, on the other hand...

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I'd argue the United States of America is an Aristocratic Oligarchy masquerading as a Democratic Republic. That is to say, the bulk of political power is held by a small minority of financially wealthy elites who use undemocratic elections to give the elusion of ruling by consent of the masses and our nominal Head of State isn't a King, Emperor, etc. I call elections in the US undemocratic for a few reasons:

1. The electoral college. The president is elected by committee, not by the people. 4 times in US History, and twice in my lifetime, a president lost the popular vote, but won the election.

2. Gerrymandering. Many congressional districts have highly convoluted shapes that make no sense. This sometimes results in people from very different parts of a state having the same representative and neighbors having different representatives. Is generally done to ensure  whichever party drew the district map has such an overwhelming majority in a district that the opposition party has little chance of winning if they manage to field a candidate. Often leads to incumbents running unopposed.

3. Plurality voting. Simple majority is great when there's only two options, and while there is no perfect means of converting individual preferences among 3 or more options into a coherent societal preference(lookup Arrow's Impossibility Theorem for details), plurality voting is arguably the worst means of conducting a vote with 3 or more options. Plurality voting favors an equilibrium with 2 major parties, makes it almost impossible for a minor party to displace a major party, and is arguably the reason why the 2016 Presidential Election came down to two candidates that the majority of Americans hate yet they still got roughly a 50-50 split of the votes.

4. No None of the Above Option and eligible non-voters are ignored. Not only does winning only require getting the most votes, it only requires getting the largest chunk of those who actually voted. In other words, the majority of the population could hate your guts, but as long as your supporters all vote for you while your detractors have no viable means of voting against you, you still win. If every American who could've voted in the 2016 election but didn't was counted as a none of the above vote, the NOTA votes would be the plurality. Including those ineligible to vote, Trump won with only a fifth of the population voting for him, and even then, a significant portion of that fifth was just Anti-Hilary rather than ProTrump since voting Trump was the only viable way of voting against Hilary.

 

If elections were really democratic, being rich wouldn't give a candidate an unfair advantage, the voting system wouldn't bias major parties over minor parties, all elected positions would be elected directly by the people, and the people would have a means of saying "I hate all candiates" on their ballot with enough NOTA votes forcing a new election with a new set of candidates.

 

Anyways, true, direct democracy, in which individuals directly discuss issues and come to decisions that all find at least somewhat agreeable is pretty much infeasible except for small groups, and the larger a group becomes, the harder it becomes to reach agreements without conflict causing the group to schism. Also, contrary to popular belief, Democracy is not "Majority Rule" as majority rule leads almost invariably to Tyranny of the Majority and the minority being stripped of their voice. The goal of democracy isn't to bow to the desires of the greatest number, but for all to offer concessions and make compromises until consensus can be achieved. To some extent, this also requires that individuals be granted autonomy in matters that don't affect the group and that the group avoid anything that threatens this autonomy.

 

 

 

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A true democracy would be if MP's were "elected" by names picked out of a hat from among the general population, completely at random and given a 4 year mandate in government. Which is in fact a system used in Ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy. 

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Posted (edited)

I believe Democracy does work. It allows people to remove corrupt officials and policy when they are identified. Ideally, it allows people to run for office, regardless of social class. It allows minority groups--not just racial groups, but all sorts, even the "bad" ones--to gain political representation, which I am convinced is good even when it is the "bad" groups. And when established, Democratic elements are difficult to topple. 

The "difficult to topple" part is especially important in times of strife. Democracy has a tendency to veer either toward Oligarchy or strict Tyranny (fascism/communism), but assuming it can be maintained and allowed to work it's admittedly inefficient magic, most poor policy choices or ideological directions can be undone with time and with education.

EDIT: To be clear, when I say "Democracy," I am also referring to Constitutional Republics like the United States--which I believe in other words is a Constitutional, Representative Democracy.

Edited by Meowth

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14 hours ago, Meowth said:

I believe Democracy does work. It allows people to remove corrupt officials and policy when they are identified. Ideally, it allows people to run for office, regardless of social class. It allows minority groups--not just racial groups, but all sorts, even the "bad" ones--to gain political representation, which I am convinced is good even when it is the "bad" groups. And when established, Democratic elements are difficult to topple. 

The "difficult to topple" part is especially important in times of strife. Democracy has a tendency to veer either toward Oligarchy or strict Tyranny (fascism/communism), but assuming it can be maintained and allowed to work it's admittedly inefficient magic, most poor policy choices or ideological directions can be undone with time and with education.

EDIT: To be clear, when I say "Democracy," I am also referring to Constitutional Republics like the United States--which I believe in other words is a Constitutional, Representative Democracy.

That is an interesting point of view. What is your definition of tyranny? For me, the concept of the "City upon a Hill" and exceptionalism that comes from it is the very definition of that. And, as we can see after recent terror strikes, it does work indeed, regardless of who takes the office. Anyone who doesn't have nukes will be enslaved forced to submit, destroyed, or both.

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The major issues I see in practice are (from an American Perspective)

1: It can allow demagogues (Definition: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.) to get into office. I mean, look at our new president, Donald Trump. No political experience, Racist. But he had the charisma and TV knowhow to get the vote by treating it like reality TV.

2: There is a bit of the Ogliarchy thing in that only those with the funds to be able to campaign have any hope of getting in.

3: It doesn't count Non-Voters, with there being no real way to handle that right, and no one can be accountable for it (Voters saying that it's the non-voter's fault for not voting, whilst non voters saying that it's the voter's fault for voting them in.)

Despite this, I think that democracy works... MOST of the time, and is generally better for the individual than pretty much anything else.

Monarchies and Ogliarchies don't work because all the power is in the upper class, which screws the people.

Communism has been twisted and turned into a dictatorship system over time.

And I don't know what other major forms there are

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On 4/5/2017 at 9:18 AM, Jeffery Mewtamer said:

I'd argue the United States of America is an Aristocratic Oligarchy masquerading as a Democratic Republic. That is to say, the bulk of political power is held by a small minority of financially wealthy elites who use undemocratic elections to give the elusion of ruling by consent of the masses and our nominal Head of State isn't a King, Emperor, etc. I call elections in the US undemocratic for a few reasons:

1. The electoral college. The president is elected by committee, not by the people. 4 times in US History, and twice in my lifetime, a president lost the popular vote, but won the election.

2. Gerrymandering. Many congressional districts have highly convoluted shapes that make no sense. This sometimes results in people from very different parts of a state having the same representative and neighbors having different representatives. Is generally done to ensure  whichever party drew the district map has such an overwhelming majority in a district that the opposition party has little chance of winning if they manage to field a candidate. Often leads to incumbents running unopposed.

3. Plurality voting. Simple majority is great when there's only two options, and while there is no perfect means of converting individual preferences among 3 or more options into a coherent societal preference(lookup Arrow's Impossibility Theorem for details), plurality voting is arguably the worst means of conducting a vote with 3 or more options. Plurality voting favors an equilibrium with 2 major parties, makes it almost impossible for a minor party to displace a major party, and is arguably the reason why the 2016 Presidential Election came down to two candidates that the majority of Americans hate yet they still got roughly a 50-50 split of the votes.

4. No None of the Above Option and eligible non-voters are ignored. Not only does winning only require getting the most votes, it only requires getting the largest chunk of those who actually voted. In other words, the majority of the population could hate your guts, but as long as your supporters all vote for you while your detractors have no viable means of voting against you, you still win. If every American who could've voted in the 2016 election but didn't was counted as a none of the above vote, the NOTA votes would be the plurality. Including those ineligible to vote, Trump won with only a fifth of the population voting for him, and even then, a significant portion of that fifth was just Anti-Hilary rather than ProTrump since voting Trump was the only viable way of voting against Hilary.

 

If elections were really democratic, being rich wouldn't give a candidate an unfair advantage, the voting system wouldn't bias major parties over minor parties, all elected positions would be elected directly by the people, and the people would have a means of saying "I hate all candiates" on their ballot with enough NOTA votes forcing a new election with a new set of candidates.

 

Anyways, true, direct democracy, in which individuals directly discuss issues and come to decisions that all find at least somewhat agreeable is pretty much infeasible except for small groups, and the larger a group becomes, the harder it becomes to reach agreements without conflict causing the group to schism. Also, contrary to popular belief, Democracy is not "Majority Rule" as majority rule leads almost invariably to Tyranny of the Majority and the minority being stripped of their voice. The goal of democracy isn't to bow to the desires of the greatest number, but for all to offer concessions and make compromises until consensus can be achieved. To some extent, this also requires that individuals be granted autonomy in matters that don't affect the group and that the group avoid anything that threatens this autonomy.

 

 

 

I couldn't agree more. It's quite depressing when you think about it because you know that there is nothing you can do to stop the Aristocratic Oligarchy of our government because people are so uneducated and brainwashed to see you as a lunatic if you try to point it out. The best option is just to move away.

Thinking of it, a true Democracy is almost an Anarchy in the literal sense of the word. Everyone has the same voting power and the same amount of influence on group decisions. In a way, a Democracy is simply a slightly more organized version of an Anarchy.

Democracy--true Democracy--could work if people were educated and mature enough to come to a fair group compromise. Sadly, the real world is full of idiots and evil people who just want to put themselves in power and could care less about the expense of others and the group.

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15 hours ago, Lisk said:

That is an interesting point of view. What is your definition of tyranny? For me, the concept of the "City upon a Hill" and exceptionalism that comes from it is the very definition of that. And, as we can see after recent terror strikes, it does work indeed, regardless of who takes the office. Anyone who doesn't have nukes will be enslaved forced to submit, destroyed, or both.

 

I consider Tyranny to be Authoritarian government operating separate of its people's whims, or Authoritarian government using the majority to validate the slaughter of minority groups--I.E. WWII Germany and the modern day Philippines. Obviously, the lines are a bit vague, but I think that fits a word like Tyranny. 

As for city upon a hill and the resulting exceptionalism, I wonder if exceptionalism isn't something that can be guarded against. After all, the fact Y can result from X doesn't mean Y HAS to happen; and even if Y does have to happen, it doesn't mean the ends don't justify the means, or can't possibly justify them. The question comes down to whether it is worth self-exalting and struggling to meet the stringent requirements, thus taking the risk of leading society to elitism, which leads to many other dark paths. Is it worth adopting left policy at the risk of becoming socialist? Is it worth expanding government at the risk of losing control of it? Is it worth remaining completely still and risking revolution or stagnation?  Not a simple concern by any means.

To reply to your last part, that is primarily why I am in extreme support of globalization, yet I am also a moderate right-lib. Checks and balances generally work in government. Why not on the world stage?

 

6 hours ago, ~ArcticFoxxo~ said:

Democracy--true Democracy--could work if people were educated and mature enough to come to a fair group compromise. Sadly, the real world is full of idiots and evil people who just want to put themselves in power and could care less about the expense of others and the group.

I feel this could be said for any political system, though I do agree with what you said about Direct Democracy. I've heard it referred to "mob rule" many times, and it can be extremely dangerous for minority groups.

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4 hours ago, Meowth said:

As for city upon a hill and the resulting exceptionalism, I wonder if exceptionalism isn't something that can be guarded against. After all, the fact Y can result from X doesn't mean Y HAS to happen; and even if Y does have to happen, it doesn't mean the ends don't justify the means, or can't possibly justify them. The question comes down to whether it is worth self-exalting and struggling to meet the stringent requirements, thus taking the risk of leading society to elitism, which leads to many other dark paths. Is it worth adopting left policy at the risk of becoming socialist? Is it worth expanding government at the risk of losing control of it? Is it worth remaining completely still and risking revolution or stagnation?  Not a simple concern by any means.

But the end justifies the means only when the said end is achieved. That's the problem that led to the Cold War, where we had two sides that competed for the right to call themselves the Earth United. However, things didn't go that smooth, and, as  Jeffery Mewtamer said on multiple occasions, we're bound to compete until some kind of a world-wide crisis strikes.

4 hours ago, Meowth said:

To reply to your last part, that is primarily why I am in extreme support of globalization, yet I am also a moderate right-lib. Checks and balances generally work in government. Why not on the world stage?

The Dragon and the Bear will always oppose that, because there were no real negotiations. The West proclaimed itself as the victor of the Cold War 1 through Fukuyama's "End of History", but instead of capitalizing on that success, it decided to put it on its banner. And to do everything that is possible to boost the cancerous growth of "democracy" as it sees it. There's nothing wrong with that mentality. After all, might makes right. But the world is not yet prepared to accept the President of Earth. It refuses to accept the UN, which is currently even more pathetic than the League of Nations.

Therefore, as I said, we will need something bigger than anything that we currently have to make us unite. There was that european guy who tried to unite the Europe back in the 30s-40s of the last century. It didn't go that well.

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If skills such as those of Conflict resolution, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and rationality were taught in every classroom the world over from a young age, humanity might achieve the closest thing possible to Utopia within a lifetime. Sadly, those who control public education often fear making the next generation too smart and allowing them to see through the deceptions that keep them in power, and even when those in power aren't trying to cripple public education on purpose, they often cripple it through incompetence, and those that have the means to provide a quality private or home education to their children are often already part of the elite. Thankfully, the Internet is a great equalizer of sorts in this regard as more and more, the total sum of human knowledge is becoming something that, instead of being parceled out in expensive bundles by those who can afford to own and operate a printing press, is freely distributed for anyone with internet access, and we've reached the point where someone living in the developed world can own a decent computer, pay for a decent internet connection, and pay for the electricity to run said computer for less money than it takes to put food in their stomach, and that's not getting into things like low-end tablets and smartphones and fast food restaurants that offer free wi-fi and charging ports for paying customers.

 

Also, for what it's worth, I think democracy(as a decision making scheme) and communism(as an economic scheme) would marry quite nicely, but they have many of the same problems of scale that make them impractical to maintain beyond individual communities. Then again, most schemes for how to structure a state have major flaws in their pure form, hence why most relatively stable societies have some kind of blending.

 

Take representative democracy for example. Regardless of the details, this is a blending of oligarchy and democracy, that in theory, prevents the oligarchy from becoming tyrannical by being held accountable to the people while eliminating the chaos that would result from trying to involve every individual directly in the decision making process. In it's idealized form, each member of the oligarchy would be an equal within the oligarchy, represent the interests of an equal share of the people at large, and democratic processes would be used both by the oligarchy in making their decisions and by each section of the people at large in choosing their representative. On paper, this is roughly how the house of representatives works with the addition of committees to work out details that would bog down meetings of the whole assembly. In practice, we have gerrymandering standing in the way of representatives being selected democratically, we have party leadership serving as a filter on who can run under the big banners, and while the Internet makes reach a wide audience easier than any previous point in history, focusing on your own district often requires more old fashioned means, and thanks to Gerrymandering, hitting every population center in your district might mean a tour that spans hundreds of miles and dozens of local papers, not to mention confusion in towns that are split between districts. Granted, even without these issues, you'd probably want to bring in some kind of meritocracy for filtering possible representatives, as while an honest and likeable idiot who will always vote in favor of policies his constituents agree with might be preferable to an out of touch local rich man who promises the moon, never delivers, but stays in office because no one can successfully run against him, but someone who is well-educated, makes realistic promises, knows how to negotiate on his people's behalf and is willing to make unpopular choices whose benefits will be apparent after the fact is better than either the aristocrat or the lovable idiot.

 

Personally, I'm in favor of the following solution to gerrymandering:

Have a non-partisan/multi-partisan team of programmers write a program that:

takes the following inputs:

A list of counties along with their populations and their adjacency matrix.

A list of municipalities along with tier population, adjacent matrix, and which counties each is in.

Outputs a district map based on the following rules:

Every district is a number of adjacent counties.

No county or municipality is split unless their population is too great to constitute a single district.

If a county must be split, try to split between municipalities.

If a municipality is to be split and crosses a county line, try splitting at the county line. If within a single county, try spliting long either a natural feature of the city or a major thoroughfare.

 

As for the meritocratic aspect of electing representatives, I'm personally in favor of replacing the current age requirements to hold federal office with degree requirements(Bachelor's for the house, Masters for the Senate, Doctorate for the Cabinet) and to ensure a diverse cross-section of professional knowledge among our nation's leadership, make business and law degrees not count towards the requirement(as far as I'm concerned, we have too many lawyers and business people in government as it is, and even if Congress contained the 500 smartest lawyers in the country, that's still a very narrow band of knowledge with which to tackle all our problems). And for those wondering, the reason I don't suggest pure meritocracy is that those who seek power in such a system tend to be those who think they know better and completely ignore the opinions of others.

 

Of course, any kind of reform that might make our government more democratic or improve the quality of the people we get to pick from on election day has to be implemented by those who benefit from the current system, and people seldom do things that hurt their own position even when it benefits society at large.

 

 

 

 

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Let me start this off with the statement that might does NOT make right. It can't.

If might is the same as Nietzschean 'power'--I.E. a vague conglomeration of all sorts of influence, everything from ideological to physical; I.E. where the pen can't be mightier than the sword because they are both one and the same--then how is it possible for there to be any wrong? 'Might makes right' directly translates to 'What is, is right, because it is; therefore, what is not, is wrong, because it is not.' If nothing is wrong, then how is there morality? Can there be light without dark? Can there be up without down? Can there be right without wrong?

On 4/8/2017 at 8:47 AM, Lisk said:

But the end justifies the means only when the said end is achieved. That's the problem that led to the Cold War, where we had two sides that competed for the right to call themselves the Earth United. However, things didn't go that smooth, and, as  Jeffery Mewtamer said on multiple occasions, we're bound to compete until some kind of a world-wide crisis strikes.

The Dragon and the Bear will always oppose that, because there were no real negotiations. The West proclaimed itself as the victor of the Cold War 1 through Fukuyama's "End of History", but instead of capitalizing on that success, it decided to put it on its banner. And to do everything that is possible to boost the cancerous growth of "democracy" as it sees it. There's nothing wrong with that mentality. After all, might makes right. But the world is not yet prepared to accept the President of Earth. It refuses to accept the UN, which is currently even more pathetic than the League of Nations.

Therefore, as I said, we will need something bigger than anything that we currently have to make us unite. There was that european guy who tried to unite the Europe back in the 30s-40s of the last century. It didn't go that well.

An important consideration is not whether or not exceptionalism is perfect, or for that matter, even functionally 'good,' but rather the alternatives and how they stand. As I said before, exceptionalism is only justifiable when one(individual or collective) is willing to put in the work to be exceptional, or at least attempt it. Otherwise it is either prejudice, insecurity, or both, masquerading under a different name. The Cold War can't be reduced to mere 'exceptionalism' or 'the ends justify the means.' To the people involved, it was a matter of not being oppressed by the mighty. It was SURVIVAL.

For starters, I'm not sure what you mean in the first part of your second paragraph. As far as Democracy is concerned, I REALLY don't think it is cancerous. I would argue it is pretty ideal when compared to virtually every alternative, and it is something a lot of people would love to have, but just can't, because it is apparently incredibly difficult to set-up/maintain. If this is referencing United States intervention, that is WAY more complicated then instilling Democracy, which is probably more of a front to gain support. Even if it is the honest truth, the goal itself is noble, just virtually impossible to make happen--something Americans are reminded of frequently.

And to be clear, I support globalization, NOT globalism. The things I like about globalization are essentially the things that keep corrupt globalism in check. I'm not interested in a 'President of Earth.'

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On 4/7/2017 at 9:08 PM, ~ArcticFoxxo~ said:

Democracy--true Democracy--could work if people were educated and mature enough to come to a fair group compromise.

This does not AT ALL describe the United States which is why I think it wouldn't work in the U.S.

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While I think it can be said the Framers of the Constitution ultimately sided more on the side of Federalism than Nationalism, I'd argue the Federal Government has become progressively more nationalistic over time. For those unfamiliar with the distinction, a simplified version:

Under pure federalism, the parts are mostly autonomous and the federal government deals primarily with issues that pertain to the whole, negotiating with foreign bodies, and resolving conflicts between parts.

Under pure Nationalism, the parts are subservient to the whole, the National government makes all decisions, and the parts serve mainly as a means of breaking terroritory into manageable regions.

 

Most modern tiered governments(which is pretty much everything that isn't a microstate) is some blend of Federalism and Nationalism with few being purely one or the other.

 

Best I can tell, the states enjoyed much greater autonomy when the Constitution was first ratified back in the 1790s, and the Federal Government encroaching on state rights was the main reason behind the formation of the Confederacy, and this encroachment has continued ever since. Personally, I favor a return to greater federalism on the grounds that the US is far too large and diverse, both geographically and culturally, for one-size-fits-all style solutions forced down from the top to work, and I suspect some of the larger, more populace states would do well to become more federalist in their interaction with local governments.

 

Also, I'm not sure the fact the US is a republic really matters all that much. The US is a republic while the UK isn't a republic, but despite that distinction, our political systems arguably have more in common than they have in difference. On the other hand, both US and China are republics, yet they arguably have more in difference than they have in common politically. All else equal, whether your head of state is an elected official who holds a title like President or Governor or an inherited position that holds a title like King or Emperor doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

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On 4/11/2017 at 6:32 PM, Sono Raitā said:

This does not AT ALL describe the United States which is why I think it wouldn't work in the U.S.

Sadly, our government thinks putting MORE money into the "Defense" budget and taking said money from educating our population is a good idea.

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13 hours ago, ~ArcticFoxxo~ said:

Sadly, our government thinks putting MORE money into the "Defense" budget and taking said money from educating our population is a good idea.

Well probably because they're paranoid about... our government has been paranoid about any 'terrorist' act ever since 9/11 (Yes I am saying that 16-17 years later it still affects thinking) and with ISIS in the middle east they think that we need to be prepared for war.

Granted I don't think it's right, or right to take it from education but they at least have a reason.

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6 hours ago, Curiousanon said:

Well probably because they're paranoid about... our government has been paranoid about any 'terrorist' act ever since 9/11 (Yes I am saying that 16-17 years later it still affects thinking) and with ISIS in the middle east they think that we need to be prepared for war.

Granted I don't think it's right, or right to take it from education but they at least have a reason.

Our government spends more money on our military than the next six COMBINED. I don't think they're paranoid that a few radical Muslims will hurt them.

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On 4/11/2017 at 6:58 PM, OmoCommando said:

I, once again, assert that the United States is NOT a democracy, but a constitutional federal republic. Perhaps the reason you believe that democracy fails in the US is because it is not a direct democracy, but follows a form.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

Are you talking to me? Because at no point after you said that I said that the US is a democracy

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1 hour ago, Sono Raitā said:

Are you talking to me? Because at no point after you said that I said that the US is a democracy

The context of your statement in relation to the post you were quoting led me to believe you were implying that the USA failed to uphold the ideals of democracy. If I am in error, I apologize.

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3 hours ago, OmoCommando said:

The context of your statement in relation to the post you were quoting led me to believe you were implying that the USA failed to uphold the ideals of democracy. If I am in error, I apologize.

I'm sorry for my message being unclear, what I was saying is that being mature and educated does not describe he US.

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But the US Federal Government's policy of "Let's scapegoat foreigners for all of the US's problems and invest billions upon billions of money we nickel-and-dimed from the middle class on pointless wars that benefit no one except weapons manufacturers instead of actually addressing our problems" has been around since long before 9/11. Hell, scapegoating Muslims wasn't unheard of prior to 9/11, though it was usually "communists" taking the blame between the end of WWII and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. If I'm not mistaken, there hasn't been a president since FDR who managed to go an entire term without the US being involved with an arm conflict somewhere in the world, and Americans have been protesting to little result almost as long.

 

Sadly, there are enough people who buy the anti-Foreigner propaganda to keep politicians who'd rather throw away taxpayer money and American lives on war than do anything about our Nation's genuine problems in power and our undemocratic elections mean a real anti-war candidate has less than a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

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