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GentleDiplomat's avatar

I'm having trouble understanding Carl Becker's "Ideal Democracy," can someone help, please ?

Asked by GentleDiplomat (76 points ) November 28th, 2011

I have an essay to write on Becker’s idea on “Ideal Democracy.” The thesis is :Becker describes what he believes are conditions necessary for a democracy to survive and flourish. Discuss those conditions, and whether you think the American democracy is meeting those conditions.

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9 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

…the American democracy is meeting those conditions.

I stopped reading right there. The United States is not a democracy. It is a federal constitutional republic. There is a huge difference. The US has democratic principles, but there is no ”the American democracy.”

Your homework’s premise is skewed. Point that out to your teacher/professor.

6rant6's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Spoiler alert.

“I stopped reading right there.”

You already read the whole thing.

roundsquare's avatar

This might be helpful (though I doubt it has the detail you need).

As @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard mentioned, you could point out the difference between a democracy and a republic. If you want to see one justification for designing the system as a republic and not a democracy, checkout out Federalist Paper No. 10.

Another way to approach this (which I think is a little less theoretical) is to discuss the role that special interests and lobbyists play. Many would argue that, to a large degree, because of them the government does not act for the people (or, as the hip kids say, for the 99%).

TexasDude's avatar

@6rant6 lol I totally missed that.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, @6rant6 and @roundsquare. I believe the OP’s assignment is to write an essay on Carl Becker’s idea of an “Ideal Democracy,” not to write an essay on ya’ll’s take on American history, your political opinions, your definitions of democracy and republic, your views on what the intentions of the founders were and the Federalist Papers, etc. The OP asked for help with that, specifically.

TexasDude's avatar

@lillycoyote that’s all well and good, but the second part of the prompt the OP provided that he/she has to write on mentions “the American democracy” which is not a matter of opinion, it is simply a factual inaccuracy.

The_Idler's avatar

It’s like asking for an essay about the wine of Antarctica. Where do you begin?

the100thmonkey's avatar

@The_Idler – Why, at the Antarctican vineyards, of course! :/

wundayatta's avatar

A democratic government has always meant one in which the citizens, or a sufficient number of them to represent more or less effectively the common will, freely act from time to time, and according to established forms, to appoint or recall the magistrates and to enact or revoke the laws by which the community is governed. This I take to be the meaning which history has impressed upon the term democracy as a form of government. An Excerpt from Democracy.

I’ve only read three paragraphs from this essay, but perhaps this is key. If he really means this, then despite @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard‘s objections, America is a democracy. We may be a federal constitutional republic, but one could easily support the argument that such a republic meets Becker’s criteria for a democracy.

What I would do is describe Becker’s criteria for a democracy. Then I would describe the form that America’s government takes. Then I would, point by point (at least five points), show how the American form of government meets those criteria.

The key to this is skimming through Becker’s work and identifying those criteria. There may be headings that indicate the criteria, but if not, you need to learn to skim to identify those things he thinks a democracy must have.

You also need to do some research about American democracy. You should do a quick search on the internet and find several sources that describe and critique the American form of government. Look for ideas such as the ones folks above have mentioned, as well as the discussion of people who are strong supporters of our form of government. Outline the government, and mention a few arguments of supporters and critiquers.

Finally, analyze. Say what the supporters and critiquers would say about whether the US form of government meets Becker’s criteria and then conclude with your own opinion.

Voila! Essay done. Shouldn’t take you more that two to three hours if you’re in college. High school—double that. Crack the whip on yourself and you’ll be done before you know it.

But don’t feel you need to read the whole thing. From what I can see, Becker is a dense writer and he takes a while to get to the point. You have to learn to skim through the maunderings and alight at the key points, as I did, when I pulled out the quote above. If you can learn this skill, you can produce good work very quickly. I pulled a B+ average at a very good college without working nearly as hard as my compadres. I had to be quick. I never did anything until the last second.

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