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A discussion on democracy

Democracy May 15th 2021

Introduction Pondering over the definition of democracy faces the thoughtful mind with a dilemma. The word itself has a ring to it but the classic definitions are all full of holes and empty rhetoric.

The Original Greek democracy was a gathering of male citizens (women were excluded) who debated issues and decided upon action by a vote. It sounds very noble until you realise that these citizens had the time for all this debate because an army of slaves did all the things that needed doing to make time for these men to debate the issues of their day. The slaves, of course, had no say whatsoever in the events that ruled their lives. Even those citizens entitled to take part in the debates tired of the endless talking and slaves carrying ropes covered in red paint had to be used to identify and fine citizens who did not attend the debates, hence the origin of the term to be “roped in”.

The Roman Republic had a senate whose male only members consisted of Patricians (representatives of wealthy and noble families) and Plebeians (representatives of the ordinary people). The factions of this senate rarely agreed with each other and the history of the Roman Republic is one of strife and conflict and civil war as each faction clamoured for power. Again the main everyday work of the Republic was carried out by slaves who had zero say in anything.

The Roman Empire created a model more akin to today’s ideas of democracy. At the top sat the emperor, he relied on the support of the army to hold his position. The senate continued to debate issues but to disagree with the Emperor would often lead to fatal consequences. After a few generations of this type of government the senate became merely a rubber stamp for the decisions of the Emperor. The ordinary citizens had little or no influence on the decisions that shaped their lives.

The following centuries saw many struggles for supremacy, Kings, Warrior leaders, The Christian Church, Islam, and just about every other power group fought for supremacy. Europe and the middle east became embroiled in endless wars, pogroms, and upheaval to decide who or what occupied the seat of power. Divisions within the Christian and Moslem power groups created internal strife as rival sects fought to enforce their dogma and world view upon humanity. Over the centuries one overriding thought seems to have gained widespread support. Decision making should not be the sole prerogative of a single person. Many wars were fought over this one topic from the 12th century onwards. The argument was not one of democracy but of limited power sharing, the argument put simply stated that ‘my group should have rights and should be allowed to advise the ruler and the ruler should be obliged to take our advice.’ Magna-Carta in its original form is a wonderful example of this argument. The concepts of parliaments and national councils emerged and gained both credence and power. However it should be noted that these institutions represented the noble, religious, and land owning classes only. The common man had no place in their decision making. The Roman Catholic Church in an effort to consolidate its power over Europe came up with the Divine Right of Kings and as such stated that Kings were appointed by God to rule and were subordinate to Gods representative on Earth – the Pope. This attempt to control Europe led to 100 years or war between Papist and anti-papist states.

Looking at all the above we might be inclined to believe that democracy is actually an impossibility to achieve in the real world. On the other hand we might incline to trying to re-define the meaning of the word into a single substantive statement. Later in this essay an attempt will be made to do just that. The Pitfalls of Democracy.

Democracy demands wisdom, fairness, morality (with a small m) and open mindedness from its practitioners. It rejects the ideas of racism or bigotry. It demands that practitioners not only decide what is right today but plan to protect those rights far into the future. Within the limits of human knowledge it professes to strive to improve the lot of mankind. Of course the reality is far different from the ideals, ‘democratic’ governments wage wars to secure raw materials or impose their will on other nations. There is little sign of wisdom or tolerance in those who execute their citizens for reasons of dogma. There is little sign of morality in genocide, a crime committed by almost every advanced nation at some time in its not too distant past. There is little sign of striving to improve the lot of mankind with resources devoted to killing rather than benefiting them.

But even given the chance to exercise some small part of the decision making process seems like too much bother to a fair number of people in these more enlightened times. Brenda from Bristol was disgusted at the idea of having to vote twice in a year at parliamentary elections. It is plain to see that many people are disinterested in the process of democracy and are happy despite all their grumbling and pub talk to leave the decision making to someone else.

The greatest pitfall of all is that democracy can be easily suborned by feeding on popularity and propaganda. Governments can manipulate the news that is fed to the populace and thus claim the legitimacy of their deeds when the populace seems to back the actions of the government regardless of the fact that the reasoning is built upon fiction. The so called weapons of mass destruction propaganda is a classic example of the manipulation of democracy to legitimise an action based upon outright lies.

The last and final nail in the coffin is that democracy as practised in the so called democratic nations is not actually democracy at all.

The Mother of Parliaments

The United Kingdom claims that its governmental system is the root of modern democracy. So let us start by examining that system.

The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy. The head of state is a hereditary King or Queen. Regardless of their ability or intelligence or their personal commitment to the people or country they rule, The current head of state is actually of German Origin, and her late husband was of Russian/ Greek/ German origin. In theory the Monarch must agree to sign off any act of parliament into law. What is seldom mentioned is that the Monarch can prevent a bill ever being presented to parliament. In the county of Lancashire (A royal duchy) any one who dies without leaving a will forfeits all their property to the Monarch. In the county of Cornwall and much of Devon and Somerset most of the land is owned by the Prince of Wales (the eldest son of the reigning monarch) People who live on this land pay exorbitant land rents to him and can do nothing to modernise or otherwise alter their property without his permission even though their proposed activity is within the law.

The Government is made up of members of the largest majority party in the House of commons. The people have no direct say on who is the prime minister or any other minister of state.

Parliament is made up of two houses, the Commons and the Lords. Only members of the Commons are elected by the populace. Members of the lords are either appointed by the government, have hereditary titles or are senior bishops of the Church of England. The elected members of the Commons and the members of the Lords swear allegiance to the monarch when they take their seat in parliament they do not have to swear allegiance to the country or its people. Political parties issue manifestos before an election on which voters can decide which party better serves their interests, however there is no duty in law or in practise that ensures that the party in power actually carries out its manifesto promises. In fact it is increasingly common that they do not.

There is one more organ of Government in the UK which is rarely mentioned, the Privy Council. This organisation is unelected, has around 800 members and can make laws without reference to parliament and meets in secret. Hardly a democratic process.

The organs of the state, Police, armed forces, Civil Service all swear allegiance to the Monarch not the people.

Local government of cities, towns and even village parishes swear allegiance to the Monarch, not the people.

This entire system has throughout the 20th and 21st centuries seen a steady erosion of the rights and privileges of the ordinary citizen. Of course in the UK they are not citizens but subjects of the Monarch. The common law that protected the people has been superseded by statute law. The situation is fast approaching when people either must do something or are forbidden to do something with little choice in between and ruinous fines or imprisonment for failure to comply.

The element of all this that is used to justify the term democratic is that every few years the populace get to vote for members of the house of commons. After which they are totally ignored until the next election.

What is the result of all this

• Lower living standards • Lower health standards • Extended Hospital and medical service waiting times. • Low provision of police, Fire service and ambulance service for ordinary people • Highest overall tax rates in the western world via direct and indirect taxation • Increased Crime and disorder • Lowest Old age pensions in the developed world • Declining economy • massive gulf between rich and poor • Loss of culture and values • Multiculturalism promotes strife and antagonism between opposing cultures. Are these things meant to be the results of Democracy?

If this is the mother of parliaments and the foundation stone of western democracy then it is little wonder that the west is in such a mess.

A re-definition of Democracy

The process starts with questions;

• Should the people participate in defining and imposing a set of rules that determine how they are governed and the rules that are imposed by this on those who govern them?

• Should the people have the right to vote on any issue that would materially change the rules as set out above?

• What would be the punishment for any politician or ruler who transgressed against those rules?

That is a good start but begs the question as to how detailed these rules should be. But surely there also has to be a clear statement of the rights and freedoms of the citizen as well as the penalties for abusing those rights and freedoms. Let me amplify that;

Free speech is a wonderful thing but not if it is used to peddle hatred, misinformation and twisted facts. In short there has to be a freedom to take the consequences of such action,

Newspapers and news media should be able to report fearlessly and without penalty UNLESS they attempt to peddle misinformation, propaganda, or outright lies. They exist as a source of accurate information about daily events. They are not there to sell political or other viewpoints at odds with truth and honesty.

Freedom of assembly is a long cherished right and should be protected, but it should not protect those who use it to promote violence or hatred or vandalism.

Freedom of worship should be an inalienable right but carry penalties if it seeks to promote division, bigotry or condemnation of those with different views.

In short all freedoms should be supported along with the freedom to take the consequences of your actions, Without that proviso freedom become tyranny.

This leads to a governmental system where ordinary people are free to go about their daily business without having to debate every single issue but provides an umbrella that returns decision making to them if the rules are broken. It ensures greater harmony within society as the rules become the single culture of a multi national state. It defines how a government may raise taxes and prevents the abuse of continually created new rules that bleed citizens of their income by petty fines for inconsequential acts applied arbitrarily outside of the rule of law. It also becomes evident that what is important is not who governs you, but how you are governed.

Therefore we may choose to define modern democracy as the government of the people under laws and regulations approved of and controlled by the people with the single aim of providing a stable environment where the people can thrive.

Submitted: June 13, 2021

© Copyright 2022 JDB401. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


moa rider

Democracy fails when those elected have a hidden agenda, or 'your person' is forced to follow the party line. But what happens, as in the US when followers of the losing party decide not to accept their loss? And now we have an unelected body, the UN, with huge power and flexing their muscles to make widespread changes. Usianguke

Mon, June 14th, 2021 4:47am


I agree with your first comment, hidden agendas seem to be the common mode of politics these days. But I fall back in the comment I have already made in the essay. It is more important to control HOW you are governed than WHO governs you. That way hidden agendas become a thing of the past because they break the rules of good governance decided by the people themselves. It is us, the people, who have allowed democracy to be quietly killed off. tribal politics and gullibility when faced with government propaganda coupled to apathy have let the werd democracy to be trampled in the dust.

Sun, June 13th, 2021 10:26pm

olive tree

I agree with many of your assertions.

However, I don't think there ever existed a true democracy, since ancient times, communal times, romantic images of sheep and grass.

The founding fathers certainly had noble convictions, and good intentions, at least at face value, and the doctrine of the constitution was sound for the most part, given the times, but unfortunately they hadn't read Animal Farm.

Pretty mentally incapacitated so I'll revisit this hopefully with better insight and less arrogance.


Tue, October 19th, 2021 3:36am


Thank you for your thoughtful comment,

I suspect that our view of democracy is unsupported by reality. I doubt there never has been nor ever will be true democracy. We can only strive to get closer to the idea of it. That means we have to keep an open mind and avoid letting our tribal instincts getting in the way of objectivity.

Very best wishes to you

Tue, October 19th, 2021 6:46am

En Raiter

This was a very informative essay. Thank you for putting it together.
Democracy strikes me a lot like nature in its indifference, but I dislike it for the same reason Socrates did. He believed voting was a skill that we couldn't trust the "all" with the responsibility of cultivating.

We do see that clearer than ever now to be the case. Do you think still that democracy is the best course of government?

Well written, I enjoyed it.

Mon, February 28th, 2022 12:42am


Thanks, I really appreciate your comment.

having people involved in decision making and able to have there views heard and considered is a good thing as long as it is ALL the people, but in the end someone has to make a decision. The problem with democracy as practised now, along with party politics is that the information on which the citizen bases their decision to vote this way or that way is often tainted with propaganda and lies and after the decision to vote is made the winner just ignores the people, As far as I can judge westren democracy has led to abuse, racism, increased poverty and a host of other ills. No system of government is perfect but some in other parts of the world are trying to get there. But of this I am sure voting every few years for more of the same is not democracy.

Sun, February 27th, 2022 8:22pm


Scary isn’t it. we the people, for the people; Great concept. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked out for the people. Really loved this. I found it very informative and so true.

Sat, September 17th, 2022 4:50pm


Thanks for your comment. Yes the truth is that the governmental systems of so-called democracy were cleverly designed to ensure that there was no real democracy at all.

Sat, September 17th, 2022 12:23pm

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