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Election season in the US is always interesting. Passions run high and people are quick to proclaim their positions on government and politics. Unfortunately, as many will likely agree, election season also gives voice to many who should probably remain silent.
Recently I was taken to task on Facebook and lectured on the concept of governance and democracy by a particularly obtuse and offensive individual. When I attempted to explain that democracy should NOT be considered a strictly binary proposition and that the US was indeed a democracy, his attacks became personal and I was accused of (among other things) “verbal masturbation”. According to this master of the English language: “Most folks like me would call your ideas verbal masturbation. They sound good from the outside but are really kinda stupid”…he actually wrote: “Kinda”…somehow this person drew a line between my comments on democracy and his belief that the federal government would force parents to stand by while their 12 year old daughters got abortions without consent. I am at a loss as to the logic… But…I digress. Back to democracy!
To understand governance and democracy it is important to understand the concepts. One great resource is the Polity IV project. Democracy, while seemingly simple, can be a quite difficult concept to explain especially when considering the many different governments in the World. The Polity project attempts to quantify and qualify governance and code them based upon their level of autocracy to democracy.
First…let’s understand democracy. Wikipedia states that Democracy:
“… is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”
At its core, democracy is principle of government by the people. So why the confusion and what is the relevance of the Polity IV study? Good questions! Read the rest of this entry