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mattbrowne's avatar

How would you describe the history of democracy?

Asked by mattbrowne (31449 points ) February 25th, 2012

It all began around 500 BCE. What happened next? What are important dates in history in your opinion that allowed democracy to become a success model?

Do you agree with this Democracy Index, published in December 2010 with the palest blue countries getting a score above 9 out of 10, while the black countries score below 3?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Democracy_Index_2010.png

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18 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

True democracy is nothing more than mob rule. And nothing is scarier to me than a whipped-up mob led by a charismatic leader. (Viz: Hitler, Stalin, etc.)

I’m much more comfortable with a republic – a representative democracy where to citizens elect wise representatives to act on their behalf. In this way, the mob’s craziness is often tempered by the representatives.

As for the map you referred to: it’s simplistic. There are many nuances and gradients of democracy around the world, and they change literally from month to month. So it’s a nice snapshot, but it’s pretty basic in what it depicts.

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – True democracy is nothing more than mob rule? Please elaborate.

bkcunningham's avatar

@mattbrowne, America’s Founding Fathers understood that a pure democracy would have a bad end. That is why America is a republic form of government. Some Founders, like Benjamin Rush, called a pure democracy a “mobocracy.” Pure democracies operate by direct majority vote by the people, whereas a republic operates by a elected representatives by the general population. A republic is rule by law and principals that don’t change by the whim and emotions of the majority or the “mob.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@bkcunningham – Now I get it. My question isn’t about “pure democracy”. It’s about democracy in a general sense, and this of course includes republics.

There are many different opinions about the events that let to breakthroughs. Some people argue it’s 1689, other people give different dates. So I’m just curious what Jellies think about this matter.

bkcunningham's avatar

I looked for the source of your Wiki link. The color on my computer is really bad. I think it has something to do with a color driver. I was afraid to go by the map itself because of the color issues on my laptop. Anyway, here is what I found. I’m just now reading through it and it is very interesting: http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/DEMOCRACY_INDEX_2007_v3.pdf

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, Wikipedia also gives the Economist as it’s source. Sorry, to hear about your color problem. I’m sure some of the geeks here on Fluther can help you :-)

bkcunningham's avatar

My son-in-law is a Geek, with a capital G, and is coming the first week of March from Maryland to sunny Florida. He is going to download a new driver for me or at least tell me what the problem may be.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Dialectical, cyclical

bkcunningham's avatar

To me, the basic concept of democracy is that we are all born with inalienable rights and liberties and that concept must be honored by those whom are in power over our lives in societies. At times in history when people have found these liberties and rights restricted; an awakening in their sense or their beings or their human spirits has sparked them to fight against the oppression of their instinctive freedoms. Right or wrong in your eyes or mine; I think that is what has happened. These times can be marked by wars. The various Roman battles and wars, The Crusades, French and Indian War…to name a few maybe less obvious off the top of my head.

HungryGuy's avatar

@elbanditoroso – Actually, I believe Hitler’s Germany was a republic. Just sayin’.

whitenoise's avatar

Den Haag op 26 juli 1581 the ‘acte van verlatinge’.

The Dutch declaration of independence, which later formed one of the core inspirations for the American declaration.

flutherother's avatar

Democracy isn’t a wonderful new invention, I’m sure it existed in the Stone Age and long before that. It is the tyranny of dictators that is comparatively recent and much of history is about the struggle of ordinary people against oppression. As the power of rulers increased so did their distance from the people and tyranny arose. Democracy restores the balance between the government and the people giving us status of citizens rather than subjects or serfs. It is the legal system that give us this status, and our right to vote.

jenesiaspas's avatar

F*****ked UP !!!!

mattbrowne's avatar

@HungryGuy – I looked up the definition

“A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people.”

After Hitler took control on January 30, 1933 the conditions for a republic were no longer met. There were no more free elections. All parties except the NSDAP were declared illegal and had to be dissolved.

Hitler’s Nazi Germany was not a republic.

HungryGuy's avatar

@mattbrowne – I see. Thanks for the clarification. Still, the fact that Germany was a republic prior to Hitler didn’t stop Hitler from coming to power. So the point I tried to make in my reply to @elbanditoroso is still valid: a republic is no guarantee that mob mentality won’t put a madman in power.

flutherother's avatar

Being a democracy is no guarantee that a country will continue to be a democracy. It requires eternal vigilance and a deep rooted respect for democratic institutions. Democracy is most under threat when a country is under strain as Germany was after the First World War when its economy collapsed and there was hyperinflation. People turned to extreme political parties for a solution.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@HungryGuy – that is correct, a republic does not guarantee safety from the mob, but it is more secure than a mob itself. No disagreement on that. The converse is true as well – mob rule does not automatically lead to oppression, but it raises the possibility.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, a republic is no guarantee that a madman gets into power. Yes, being a democracy is no guarantee that a country will continue to be a democracy. I think the European Union makes it less likely, though. A good recent example is Hungary. A right-wing party got more than 67% of the vote and thought it could change laws as it pleases. Didn’t work because the EU intervened. And Hungary wants to remain a member of the EU.

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