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posted on 12 March 2016

The Road To Democracy

by Rudo de Ruijter

The word 'democracy' is derived from the Greek words 'demos' (= people) and 'cratein' ( = rule). Democracy would be the best possible form of governance. In a complete democracy all citizens have the right to speak. Anyone can call attention to problems.

Anyone can propose solutions. And all may express arguments in favor or against these solutions, so all interests in play can be discussed. This way decisions can be taken, based on all available knowledge and insight. Supplementary advantages are, that when people participate in the process, they know why the decisions are taken and will respect them more easily. Also, they acquire insight in other peoples' interests, which contributes to mutual comprehension and peaceful living together.

From the above we can already derive, that what is presented to us as democracy today, is still a few steps away from it. Real democracy, in which the citizens take the decisions themselves, doesn't exist yet in most of the world and there where it does exist more or less, it does at a small scale, like in a number of Swiss cantons.

Society and governance

Many characteristics of society and governance are still based on uses of thousands of years ago. Already in the oldest settled societies there was the principle of solidarity, followed by the right of property and the emergence of class-differentiation with the right of exploitation (both physically as through lending), and a centralized government, that based its authority on fear.

We find the first notion of democracy a thousand years later in the Greek history.

In the rest of Europe democracy would remain an unexisting concept for many centuries. Only rather recently, in the 18th / 19th century, when emperors, kings, dukes and other aristocratic rulers with their massive exploitation and repetitive wars had provoked popular risings, they accepted representatives of the people or were beheaded. A common characteristic for all European countries is, that they all call themselves democratic now.

When you notice, that in each country there continues to exist a relatively small minority of citizens with huge privileges, in wealth as well as in political influence, we can easily presume that the working of these 'democracies' is far from democratic. Often this is caused already at the basis, by the little democratic design of the government, imposed by the constitution. Most of the times, these constitutions have been written by a small number of people of the upper class and they statutorily limit the influence of the very large majority of citizens, of the ordinary people.

It is striking that in most countries the so-called representatives of the people have been divided into a First and a Second Chamber, of which only the Second Chamber is directly elected by the people. The First Chamber can reject the bills voted by the Second Chamber.

The story of mice electing cats

The story of Mouseland: mice electing cats [7]

Since the rise of political parties, from around 1870, the chambers are manned by representatives of political parties. With beautiful electoral promises these parties try to obtain as many votes as possible. Then, immediately after the elections, the chiefs of the parties meet in secret talks and try to obtain a majority of representatives by joining several parties together. The goal of this operation is to obtain absolute control and vote the laws they want, without having to worry about the arguments and insights of the other members of the chamber.

This coalition forming means, on one hand, that a few leaders of political parties try to reach a ruling accord through horse-trading and bargaining, where, on both sides, electoral promises are crossed out. As coalitions are artificial alliances, they are also fragile and not suited to deal with severe structural problems in society, like the banking system and the fast widening gap between rich and poor.

On the other hand it means, that once a majority coalition exists, the results of debates about bills are set in advance and, thus, that the debate loses its democratic function as instrument to gather all arguments in favor or against the proposals and to weigh all interests in play. It goes without saying that the absence of true debate seriously compromises the quality of legislation.

Coalitions also imply, that members of the majority are obliged to obey to the voting-orders of their chief. If they would not obey, the majority would be in danger. The result of this process is, that the leaders of the political parties take the decisions and thereafter no representative carefully studies the texts on which he has to vote anymore. That would be useless and a waste of time for him. With these majority coalitions, the parliament has become a corrupt and dangerous instrument for the democratic decision making process.

So it is not really surprising, these so-called representatives of the people have evolved into a caste aparte, functioning underneath a glass bell, often even protected with security gates against these strange, dangerous citizens.

In many European countries the constitution still dates from the time populations were preponderantly illiterate. We can be understanding somewhat of the opinion of the people in power at that time, that these illiterates had to be kept in ward and represented by people who could read and write. However, today, there is much more knowledge and insight outside the parliament than within.

Nowadays we have the technical means to organize true democracy at the scale of a whole country. With just a well structured internet platform, we will already be able to

  • point out problems;

  • make proposals for solutions and laws;

  • put forward arguments in favor or against these proposals.

And with a bit more organization we can also vote about these proposals.

So the central question is: are we still citizens who need to be represented, or is it time to introduce real democracy?


If you think it is time for democracy and if you have ideas about the making of such a site (its design, its rules, its programming, its financing) or if you happen to know about similar projects, or if you think you can be useful otherwise (for instance to help launch a similar initiative in your country), please react.

Rudo de Ruijter,

Independent researcher

Netherlands

courtfool@xs4all.nl

Sources and explanations:

[1] Clay tablets in Sumer: http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture2b.html

[2] Law of Hammurabi: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hamframe.asp ; http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ham/ham05.htm ; http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ham/ham06.htm ; http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ham/ham07.htm

[3] Today about 35% of all our expenses consist of interest. Helmut Creutz:

"All costs, that acumulate during production and intermediate price building, end up in the final prices. They have to be paid by the households, that, as last in the chain, cannot roll these costs to others, and they must bear them directly or indirectly in their expenses.

According to the mensual bulletin of the Bundesbank of September 2003 the total expenses of households in 2000 amounted to 1.201 billion euros, the interests on credit (the interests collected by the banks) were 370 billions. From these figures, representing per household 31,600 euros, respectively 9,740 euros, appears a part of interest in the expenses of 31 percent."

In 1950 this was only 7% and in 1975 this was 14%.

[4] Debt cancellations in Mesopothamia: http://www.globalresearch.ca/debt-cancellation-in-mesopotamia-and-egypt-from-3000-to-1000-bc/5303136

[5] Debt cancellations up to our time: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11383374/The-biggest-debt-write-offs-in-the-history-of-the-world.html

[6] Within a radius of 700 meter anyone could use a well. And when someone couldn't find water at a depth of 18 meter, he was allowed to use his neighbour's well. http://www.solon-line.de/solon-legislator-and-poet.htm

[7] The story of Mouseland: mice electing cats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdwySCMovHk (from 1'20'')

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