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DEMOCRACY: Re; Democratic Process

Cameron Sawyer answers Christopher Jones: "Yes, government is about raw power and money. Yes, the world is an evil place. And government is inherently oppressive. But it is simply idiotic to go from there to the proposition that all forms of government are the same.
Democracy is not about implementing the "will of the people". The "will of the people" does not exist. Good public policy is usually an accident. The most important part of democracy is the empowerment of the broad mass of people to get rid of bad rulers. And it does work in many cases. For all its flaws, it's definitely the best system anyone has come up with.

The most important aspect of democracy, in my opinion, is its possibilities for limiting the power of rulers. And to this end, contrary to Ronald's opinion, I believe that a presidential system has great advantages over parliamentary. I am surprised that no one in this discussion has mentioned the principle of separation of powers, which is the real reason for our system.

Our system is designed so that the three branches of government will naturally hinder each other, making it hard to exercise power. This is a true stroke of genius which really works. In a parliamentary system, on the contrary, you have rule by parties, whose acts are much harder to control. A party gets power and basically does what it wants to until the next elections. In our system, the people have a chance every two years to change the balance of power in Congress, and the president can do very little without the support of Congress. It's not perfect, but it's a relatively good system. I am astonished to read that Ronald thinks that it "doesn't work". What doesn't work about it? Idiots are elected, and then get thrown out. It's very hard to abuse power for private gain, at least in the long term (we'll exclude Arkansas for the moment). It's hard for the government to do anything really oppressive. That's just the way it's supposed to be. It's far from perfect, but everything else is really much, much worse.

I am writing these lines from beautiful Tbilisi, Georgia, where democracy got off the rockiest of rocky starts, with an actual civil war after Soviet power ended here. Georgia has many aspects of a banana republic, with extreme cases of cronyism and official corruption. But there are going to be parliamentary elections in November, and the government is terrified. Every one I meet with here in the government is really nervous. This is eloquent proof of the efficacy of democracy, when even in those corners of the world where it works the worst, it has such an effect. Democracy, even in its worst implementations, does give the people some influence over government. Without democracy, the people are merely objects to be dealt with by those in power however they like".

The much vaunted separation of powers in the presidential system leads to a confrontation between the three, as now, and to an imperial presidency. It is the president who does pretty much what he wants. In the parliamentary system, a government does not do what it wants until the next election, as in the presidential system. If the government loses a vote of confidence, an election must be called. It has properly been said that the presidential system marks the hours of public opinion, the parliamentary system marks the minutes. Suppose a corporation were run like the US government with three separate, equal and often competing powers.

Ronald Hilton - 09.06.03