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  1. #1
    Sniffles
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    Thumbs up On Democracy and the Party System

    Something to read as we head towards Election Day:


    The ChesterBelloc Mandate: Belloc Speaks - The Party System

    Belloc Speaks - The Party System


    It may, however, be worthwhile to define exactly what democracy is. Votes and elections and representative assemblies are not democracy; they are at best machinery for carrying out democracy. Democracy is government by the general will. Wherever, under whatever forms, such laws as the mass of the people desire are passed, and such laws as they dislike are rejected, there is democracy. Wherever, under whatever forms, the laws passed and rejected have no relation to the desires of the mass, there is no democracy. That is to say, there is no democracy in England today.

    Pure democracy is possible only in a small community. The only machinery which perfectly fulfils its idea is the meeting of the elders under the village tree to debate and decide their own concerns. The size of modern communities and the complexity of modern political and economic problems make such an arrangement impossible for us. But it is well to keep it in mind as a picture of real democracy.


    The idea of representation is to secure by an indirect method the same result as is secured directly in such communities. Since every man cannot, under modern conditions, vote on every question, it is thought that a number of men might combine to send a man to vote in their name. Men so selected may then meet and vote, and their decision, if they are faithful representatives of the people, may be taken as the decision of the people.

    Under no circumstances would such a system work perfectly. But that it may work tolerably, it is essential that the representatives should represent Either the representative must vote as his constituents would vote if consulted, or he must vote in the opposite sense. In the latter case, he is not a representative at all, but merely an oligarch; for it is surely ridiculous to say that a man represents Bethnal Green if he is in the habit of saying "Aye" when the people of Bethnal Green would say "No."

    If, on the other hand, he does vote as his constituents would vote, then he is merely the mouthpiece of his constituents and derives his authority from them. And this is the only democratic theory of representation.

    In order that the practice may correspond to it, even approximately, three things are necessary. First, there must be absolute freedom in the selection of representatives; secondly, the representatives must be strictly responsible to their constituents and to no one else; thirdly, the representatives must deliberate in perfect freedom, and especially must be absolutely independent of the Executive.

    In a true representative system the Executive would be responsible to the elected assembly and the elected assembly would be responsible to the people. From the people would come the impulse and the initiative. They would make certain demands; it would be the duty of their representatives to give expression to these demands, and of the Executive to carry them out.

    It must be obvious to everyone that these conditions do not prevail in England today. Instead of the Executive being controlled by the representative assembly, it controls it. Instead of the demands of the people being expressed for them by their representatives, the matters discussed by the representatives are settled not by the people, not even by themselves, but by the "Ministry" -- the very body which it is the business of the representative assembly to check and control.

  2. #2
    Sniffles
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    I have a copy of Hillaire Belloc's The Party System, which he wrote after serving one term as MP. Although written back in the early 1900's, it's still relevant today. My copy even has a foreward by Ron Paul, relating his experience in the recent elections to Belloc's observations.

  3. #3
    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    We're reading Federalist No. 10 (attributed to James Madison) in class. Seems relevant, also, right?

    Carry on.
    You can't spell "justice" without ISTJ.

  4. #4
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Under no circumstances would such a system work perfectly. But that it may work tolerably, it is essential that the representatives should represent Either the representative must vote as his constituents would vote if consulted, or he must vote in the opposite sense. In the latter case, he is not a representative at all, but merely an oligarch; for it is surely ridiculous to say that a man represents Bethnal Green if he is in the habit of saying "Aye" when the people of Bethnal Green would say "No."

    If, on the other hand, he does vote as his constituents would vote, then he is merely the mouthpiece of his constituents and derives his authority from them. And this is the only democratic theory of representation.

    In order that the practice may correspond to it, even approximately, three things are necessary. First, there must be absolute freedom in the selection of representatives; secondly, the representatives must be strictly responsible to their constituents and to no one else; thirdly, the representatives must deliberate in perfect freedom, and especially must be absolutely independent of the Executive.
    Seems like a pretty sound indictment of the parliamentary system to me, where politicians are more accountable to their party bosses (who in turn typically comprise the Executive office) than their own constituents. I would be curious to see in exactly what way Ron Paul thinks the book explains shortcoming in the United States (and which countries/systems he thinks do a better job), as our system is vastly different from that of the UK's. Also, its important to remember that a pure delegate model of representation is not necessarily a good thing. In practice, all representatives are some combination of "trustee" and "delegate," and so long as a representative is accountable to his constituents that aspect of the system is "democratic" in nature regardless.

  5. #5
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimarron View Post
    We're reading Federalist No. 10 (attributed to James Madison) in class.
    I would highly recommend that you read most of the Federalist Papers (John Jay's contributions kinda sucked) as well as the collected anti-Federalist writings. I did that for an essay in an American Literature class, and it changed my life. It really gives you an insight into the principles and ideas that the country is based on (the extent to which you find yourself in agreement with said principles and ideas may differ, of course).

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    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    I would highly recommend that you read most of the Federalist Papers (John Jay's contributions kinda sucked) as well as the collected anti-Federalist writings. I did that for an essay in an American Literature class, and it changed my life. It really gives you an insight into the principles and ideas that the country is based on (the extent to which you find yourself in agreement with said principles and ideas may differ, of course).
    Oh I know, and I intend to eventually. I have my own copy of the Federalist Papers, but I've barely read them because the material is so thick.

    Fed. No. 10 is specifically about political "factions" and how to balance them with "liberty".
    You can't spell "justice" without ISTJ.

  7. #7
    sophiloist Kaizer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    Seems like a pretty sound indictment of the parliamentary system to me, where politicians are more accountable to their party bosses (who in turn typically comprise the Executive office) than their own constituents.
    A "Prime Ministerial System" seems like a more appropriate terms for the parliamentary system where party bosses are based in leadership which seems to be outcome, historically, of a more dictatorial type of foundation. Just like the head of government is the 'Prime' minister, the party bosses force the party members to look more towards the top at the expense of the broad base that has the majority of populace that the very system is supposedly serving.

    Reality tends to dictate forms of democracy that serve to perpetuate and consolidate social structure through generations. The various forms of democracy have verified this over time and when the mean levels of satisfaction and happiness don't peak in countries where 'democracy' has 'flourished' the most over the longest period of time, then just as the various -isms (esp with religions) are pitted against each other to little avail except for consolidating positions, so does the promotion of a certain notion of governance does the same. Debate is a gift of parliamentary democracy.

    anyways, for now I just wanted to point this out as well as a slight tangent.
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