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Democracy (a Political Issue)


In a democracy we have rule by the people. If we live in a true democracy, then everyone would have an equal say in government. Each and every one of us would be able to debate the issue, have our opinions heard and have our votes counted. I believe that most people would think that this is a good and admirable goal. However, it looks like our current democratic system is falling short.

First off, the more people who participate in a pure democracy, the less of a voice each person has. It is simple math. If you give each of 12 people 5 minutes to talk, then that would take an hour. If the number of people grows to 120, then you need 10 hours. If the number of people grows to 120 million, then you need 10 million hours.

Then, there is the time it takes to learn about and to analyze an issue, and then form an opinion about it. For a simple issue, this may only take an hour or so. However, a complex issue may take much longer. In fact, some issues may require someone to be an expert on some subject to be able to make an informed opinion. This may require years of education in subjects like law, medicine, finance, or engineering in order to become an expert with the needed background knowledge.


Given the size and complexity of our modern world, it would be impossible to have a pure democracy except in maybe some small local community. The answer has been to elect representatives who, in theory, will pass on the options of their constituents to the representatives of other constituents, and for all those representatives to debate the issues and to come up with workable solutions.

If a representative form of government works as it is intended to, we can still make our opinions known within our community and with our representatives, and our representatives will forward on our opinions. For the simpler issues, we could do our own research and analysis to form our opinions. For more complex issues, we may need to rely on our representatives or some experts to do the research and analysis, and to form an opinion. Then our representatives or the experts can explain and discuss with us their opinion, which we could then accept or reject.

However, for a representative form of government to work, our representatives must honestly represent all our interests. They must listen to our opinions, or learn about and analyze the issues, and then form opinions that promote all our best interests. They should not just use their own opinions or just the opinions of some minority of their constituents or the opinions of people who are not their constituents and who are not honest experts on the issues.

The problem is that our representatives are rarely elected by all of their constituents. Sometimes, they may need to be elected by a majority of the voters, but more often they only need a plurality of the voters (that is, more votes than the other candidates, but what could also be less than half). Therefore, our representatives only really need to listen to enough people to get elected. The challenge is how do we get our representatives to listen to all of their constituents. I will talk more about this and other issues with our representatives shortly.

Our Republic

In the United States, we live in a republic. In theory, a republic is a democracy that uses representatives to ensure that everyone has a voice in the government. However, it looks like our current republic is falling short of its democratic ideals.

Part of the problem comes from the quality of the people we elect to represent us. In a democracy, we need to elect people who will represent all of our interests and do what is best for all of us. However, that is not always what we are getting. Too often, we elect politicians who are doing anything, even lying to us and trying to manipulate us, to get elected or to gain power. What we really need are statesmen and stateswomen who will do everything they can for the common good of all the people they represent.

Another part of the problem is that some groups are gaining an oversized say in our current governments. On the one hand, the rich and the powerful have the money and power to buy or to control who is elected. On the other hand, we are seeing a troubling trend towards extremists and authoritarians gaining control.

One of the main reasons that the rich and the powerful, and the extremists are taking control of our governments is our current two party political system. The members of each of the two dominant political parties, like those of most political parties, are people who have more extreme views than most people, and generally want to impose their views on everyone. With the help of the money they get from the richer members of our society, the two dominant political parties have gained too much power over a majority of people who may not always share their views.

We need to find a way to ensure that everyone can be heard and can have their votes counted. In order to do that, we must reduce the influence of money and extremists, and to eliminate the other problems created by our two party political system. I will talk more about this in the upcoming section on Political Parties. In the mean time, there are a number of other things that are also threatening our democracy. I will talk about some of them later in this section, but first a short history of democracy.


In ancient times, people lived in small independent tribal groups. The group’s government might have consisted of a tribal leader, a group of elders or the entire tribe. If an entire tribe had a say, then it may have been one of our first democracies. Even if the tribal group was not really a democracy, most tribal members would still have had some say in how things were done, since they would have had direct access to those in power.

Although this early tribal life was difficult, it was probably not very complex. There were probably only a few laws. Those laws would have helped to protect the tribal members from outside dangers and each other, and to define some of their duties and responsibilities within the tribe. Most of those laws were probably passed down from generation to generation and did not change much.

Most members of the tribe probably knew what they had to do and did it, so there would have been few decisions that the government would have really needed to make on a daily basis. When decisions were needed, they usually concerned simple local matters or disputes. Most people would have known or could easily have learned about the facts related to an issue, and probably could have easily come up with an informed opinion on the matter.

In these small tribal groups, survival actually depended on most people being informed and involved. Fortunately, in small tribal groups, this was easy to do. Everyone would have known everyone else and known about most, if not all, of the issues and could easily learn about the facts involved in the issues.

The first evidence of democracies in recorded history was in the Sumerian City States. Although they did not last long before becoming monarchies. Sometime before the sixth century BC, democracies were introduced in some Ancient Indian republics. Some of these democratic forms of government can still be found in some Indian villages today.

The first recorded existence of a true democracy was in the Ancient Greek city state of Athens in the fifth century BC. Although voting rights were limited to only certain male citizens. They did elect some government officials, but all decisions still had to be made by a majority of the voters. At one time or another, many other Greek cities had some form of a democratic government, but information is scarce on how they worked.

The founding of the Roman Republic is traditionally dated to 506 BC, This republic had some of the features of a representative government. The Roman Senate was an assembly of leading citizens, who elected a pair of consults to wield executed power for one year. After many years of conflict with the rest of the population, other citizens were given the right to elect their own representatives and to hold major offices in the state. This republic lasted until the establishment of the Roman Empire in 27 BC.

In the following centuries, many of the procedures and institutions that we now use in our democracies were created in non-democratic governments. Various assemblies of the people or their representatives were established. They would approve, or at least accept, new leaders, or consult on changes in the laws.

Then after centuries with the concentration of power in the hands of the church, humanist philosophers looked for secular principles on which society could be organized. (Note: Humanists believe in the prime importance of human rather than divine or supernatural matters.) They looked to the ancient Greek concept of democracy, and to a limited extent, they tried to implement it in practice.

Among other thing, the work of the humanist philosophers led to the Polish commonwealth, the Magna Carta, an elected parliament and Bill of Rights in England, the Pennsylvania commonwealth, and the American Revolution. These all led to our democracy here in the United States, and then to many other democracies.


Today, democracy has spread to many places around the world. These democracies have helped to make our world a much better place than it would have been without them. However, our world has gotten much more complicated and it has become much harder for people to be as well informed about the issues as they need to be in order to preserve our democracies. Not only are there more issues, but most issues are far more complex. Therefore, we need to know, to learn and to process many more facts and much more information in order to come up with informed opinions about these issues.

In addition, there are now more people trying to misinform us about many issues in order to manipulate us into having an opinion different than what we would have had with better information. Therefore, we need to be more aware of where our facts and information are coming from in order to determine what is true. See the previous section on Knowledge for more information on how to protect ourselves against misinformation and how to be better informed.

It is also harder to be involved in what is going on in our governments. First, we are all busy with our jobs, families, and the hobbies, technology and other things that now distract us. Then, there are now many more levels of government. For instance, we each may have a local town or city, county, state and federal government. Then, as we move up the list to larger governments, our voice becomes less and less as more people are being represented. In addition, our voices are often being drowned out by those people and special interest groups that are supported by all the money coming from rich donors.

We also now have hundreds or even thousands of bills introduced at the national, state and local levels every year. Various government agencies are also constantly issuing new regulations. Just to be able to read all these bills and regulations, someone might need to devote all their time and energy on a full time basis. This makes it very difficult for most people to keep up to date on what is happening.

Given the often complex and technical nature of these bills and regulations, someone would also need to have advanced degrees in law, politics, economics, medicine, engineering, science, and many other subjects to truly understand them all. Obviously, this would probably be too much for even the most intelligent and educated among us. Therefore, it is very unlikely that many, if any, of our representatives would be able to read and to understand, more than in a cursory way, everything in every bill that they vote on.

In many elections, propositions are also placed on the ballot where we can all vote directly for or against them. In many cases, these propositions are not worded clearly or deal with complex financial issues dealing with things such as bonds or levies. Although there are many people who will read and try to understand these propositions, most people will only hear about them via the sound bites that come from special interest groups.

These sound bites are generally designed to sway public opinion in their favor rather than inform. They will prey upon public fears or hopes by play up just the best or worst aspect of a proposition, or in some cases by purposely misrepresenting what the proposition will do. Often, it is the people on the side that spends the most money that gets their message out and sways the outcome of the vote.

As we can see, our world has become far too complex for most of us to get involved in our government in more than just a cursory way. Our only hope is that our representatives will be able to understand and to deal with these complexities and will make sure that our laws and regulations work to the benefit of all of us.

In addition, a lot of our representatives’ time is taken up with learning about and dealing with getting elected and reelected, which would include such things as campaigning, fundraising and schmoozing. This can leave them with a lot less time to do the actual work that they were elected to do, including talking to their constituents. Therefore, it is also difficult, if not impossible, for any one representative to know enough about all the legislative matters that he or she must deal with to do an effective job.

One of the reasons that our representatives and candidates for office spend so much time fundraising is that money can buy more ad time, which usually leads to more votes. Therefore, candidates will spend more time with their big donors, even ones who may not reside in their districts, than with their constituents. This can also lead to those big donors gaining undue influence over our representatives.

Another issue is that more and more of our representatives have extreme views that are not aligned with their constituents' views. The problem rests with our political parties, our primaries and our election rules, which often favor the more extreme candidates.


First, we want to prevent people who give big campaign donations, whether they are constituents or others, from gaining undue influence over our representatives. We want to give all voters and all candidates an equal opportunity to get to know each other. The way to do this is to have voters take back control of the campaign process. We would ban campaign donations and have the government pay for all campaigning equally. We would also give all candidates an equal opportunity to speak to and with the voters, and to debate the issues.

Then we need to ensure our representatives will actually represent all of their constituents. First, we need to let all voters choice the candidates via open primaries instead of letting the political parties choose them. We also want to require that our representatives win with a majority of the votes, which we can do using ranked choice voting.

Even if we can ensure a good clean election, we still need to ensure that our elected representatives will actually listen to and consider the opinions of all their constituents and that they will work in the best interest of their constituents. We would do this via the proper amount of oversight. First, we would require our representative to keep us informed about everything via a combination of posting to a web site and hosting numerous town hall style meetings. Then, we also want to be able to override our representatives' votes, and to recall those representatives who do not do their job.

Another thing that needs to be done is to expand the role of the professionals who can assist with the creation of the bills and regulations for which they have the appropriate knowledge (facts, information and skills). It is true that many of our representatives come from legal, medical, engineering and other professions, so they may have the needed understanding in their areas of expertise, but they are not experts in all areas. The best thing for our representatives to do is to solicit and to evaluate advice from the appropriate professionals, who should be independent and not part of some special interest group.

These professionals might work for the government on a full time or on a part time contract basis, but they would need to be free from partisan politics and conflicts of interest, and would need to be able to look objectively at all sides of a problem or issue. They should also be able to submit problems or proposed legislative solutions through our representatives for consideration.

If needed, a group of the appropriately skilled professionals could be formed to work on finding a solution to some issue. It would be the responsibility of this group to analyze the issue, come up with some solutions, provide a clear description of the issue and the possible solutions and consequences, and write or help write the needed bill or regulation. In some cases, this is already being done, but should be expanded. I have a number of ideas about how this could work, which I will address later.

Another thing that needs to be done is to reduce the number and complexity of our bills and regulations. To accomplish this, we need to create laws and regulations that keep things simple and flexible enough that they do not need to be repeatedly changed. For instance, streamlining our tax codes would go a long way towards this goal. Again, I have a number of ideas about what we can do, which I will address later, mainly in the section on Economics.


One of the biggest threats to our democracy today is all the misinformation and lies that are being spread. In order for our democracy to work, we need to have well informed citizens. When citizens are well informed, they will vote for those things that will make things better for them, and for the representatives who will do the same. When citizens are misinformed, they may vote for things that could make things worse, and for representatives who may work against their interests.

Unfortunately, there are just too many people who are greedy for money or power, and are willing to say and to do just about anything to get what they want. These people may spread misinformation or lies, may make threats, use logical fallacies, or say or do other things to manipulate us. I have already talked a lot about this problem and what to do about it in the previous section on Knowledge. I will talk some more about this in later sections.

Culture Wars

A culture war is a cultural conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. Culture wars are being used in politics today to try to divide us into different camps where one side tries to claim that its "culture" is better than all the others, and then try to force their "culture" on everyone else. These culture wars have become a particularly troubling form of misinformation that has become all too common in politics today.

First off, in a free society, we all have the right to live our lives as we choose, as long as we do not do any undue harm. We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..Forcing us to live our lives in some particular way would take away our rights and is therefore patently undemocratic. This all leads to the whole idea of even having a culture war as being immoral.

What is worse is the fact that many of our culture wars are based on misinformation and outright lies. Often one group will claim that another group is trying to impose their beliefs on them and therefore the first group needs to stop them by imposing their beliefs on them. There are many examples of the misinformation being used in these culture wars. The following are a couple examples of them.

Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory is an academic concept that comes out of legal analysis done in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in our legal systems and policies. You can only really find the teaching of Critical Race Theory as an optional class at some law schools. The idea is that if lawyers understand where these biases and prejudices exist in our legal system and policies, then they can help to eliminate them.

However, some people are now making misleading claims and even lying about what Critical Race Theory is, where it is taught and what its effects are. The fact is, it is not a theory that says all white people are racist, it is not taught in grade schools, and it does not lead children to think they are racist and then to them feeling guilty about it.

It seems like people making these false claims about Critical Race Theory have a couple of goals in mind. In one case, they can get people angry about the issue and therefore vote for the people who are railing against it. In the other case, they are actually passing laws to ban it in grade schools, even though it would never be taught there anyway, and in doing so they can ban the teaching of things like slavery and racism.


To be Woke is to be alert to injustice in society, especially racism, and racial prejudice and discrimination. The phrase "stay woke" emerged by the 1930s referring to an awareness of the social and political issues affecting African Americans. In the 2010s, woke came to encompass a broader awareness of social inequities such as sexism, and in ideas involving identity politics and social justice.

However, some people have started to use the term Woke in an ironic way as an insult against various progressive or leftist movements and ideologies perceived as overzealous, performative or insincere. It seems that these people are trying to co-opt and to redefine this term so that they can use it against the people who are trying to stop the injustices. They seem to want people to remain asleep, so that they can continue these injustices.

Conspiracy Theories

A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert, sinister and powerful group or organization is responsible for an event, situation or circumstance. These conspiracy theories usually originate with some anonymous source, without evidence and when other explanations are more probable.

A conspiracy theory is often politically motivated, like when some in one political party makes one up about members of another political party. However, sometimes they are simply motivated by greed, like when some people make up conspiracy theories about some vaccines, medicines or medical procedures in order to sell their alternative products.

The people who spread conspiracy theories will use many different forms of manipulation and many different logical fallacies. A conspiracy theory may be the first thing that people hear, it is repeated over and over again, and it is usually designed to evoke some strong emotions. In addition, the arguments for it include fallacies like Slippery Slope, Begging the Question, Post Hoc, Ad Hominem, False Dilemma, Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Ignorance, and Hasty Generalization.

Conspiracy theories are often reinforced with circular logic. That is, evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it are both interpreted by true believers as evidence for it. The true believers will also often claim that the people who try to dispel a conspiracy theory are part of the conspiracy and will then use that as further proof of the conspiracy.

In recent years, the spread of conspiracy theories has increased with the growth of mass media, the internet and social media. The damage they are doing to our society, to our world and to each of us has also grown. Conspiracy theories have inspired terrorist attacks, started wars, encouraged people to avoid vaccinations and other life saving medical treatments, been used by authoritarian governments to subjugate their subjects, have reduced trust in science, our government and our elections, and have done much more harm.

Like with all forms of misinformation and lies, the best way to combat conspiracy theories is through education. When people learn to recognize how others are trying to manipulate them, and how to get reliable information, then those people will be able to see these conspiracy theories for what they are, and therefore be more inclined to believe in the truth.

Parental Rights

Some people believe that schools are exposing children to harmful subjects or are indoctrinating children in some undesirable ideology. Therefore, they are trying to ban those books, courses, subjects and other things that they say are harmful or undesirable in our schools. They say that they are doing this in the name of Parental Rights. That is, they say that parents should have the right to decide what their children are taught in school, and they are implying that parents do not want these things in their schools.

However, not all parents agree these things are harmful or undesirable. In fact, some parents may believe that some or all these things are beneficial or desirable for the future of their children. Therefore, it seems that these people are not banning these things in support of Parental Rights but are doing so to impose their ideology on their and other people’s children.

Although parents should have some rights when it comes to what their children are taught in school, others also have a vested interest in what our children are taught and therefore should have a right to have a say in what is taught. These others who also have rights include, but are not limited to, the educators, the students, and our society.

Educators have studied education and are better qualified than most parents to know what students need to learn and how best to teach them. Students need to learn all the things that will give them the knowledge (facts, information and skills) so they have the best chance to succeed in their lives. Society needs citizens who are well informed so that they can best protect our democracy, and who have the knowledge (facts, information and skills) needed to help themselves and our civilization to prosper.

What we need is a balance between each person's rights. We do not want to be dictated to by whoever may have the loudest voice or biggest political backing. In an ideal world, we would be able to come up with a custom curriculum for each student that would be acceptable to everyone involved. However, we do not and may never live in an ideal world. Therefore, we will need to agree to compromise.

One idea would be to have educators come up with different versions of each class. Each version of a class would include or exclude certain things based on what different parents and their children would find necessary or objectional. That would mean that each version of a class might need a different textbook. Of course, each version of a class would still need to meet some minimum standard that works for the educators and society. Parents and their children could then customize their class schedules by selecting the version of each class that best aligns with what they want.

The above would make it more complicated and expensive for the school. In addition, it would only be manageable in those cases where there would be a limited number of versions of each class, and there would be enough students for each version of the class. Otherwise, this could get to be too expensive.

If parents truly believe that the public school does not offer the right versions of each class for their children, then those parents would have the right to look for a private school that does have the right versions of each class. However, the private school would need to meet the necessary minimum standards for the parents to be eligible for a voucher. Otherwise, the parents would need to pay all the costs for the private school.

Books should not be banned, but parents could be allowed to limit what their children would have access to. The idea would be to segregate the books that parents do not what their children to read in a limited access section. If no one objects to a given book, then that book would be available to everyone in a general access section.

Students who had no limits imposed on them could view books in both sections. To make it easier to find a limited access book, there could be a notice in the general access section stating the book could be found in the limited access section. If a student had limits placed on them, then they would need to ask a librarian to get a limited access book. If the book was not one that the student had been barred from, then the librarian could get it for the student.

The above would make it more complicated and expensive for the school. In addition, it would only be manageable if the number of limited access books remains relatively small. If the number of limited access books gets too large, it may make sense to split the limited access sections into different sections based on what makes the book objectionable. Then students could just be limited from accessing some of the limited access sections instead of all of them.

It is important to note that students may become curious when their peers are allowed to learn about more things than they can or are able to read books that they have been banned from reading. In some cases, this curiosity could lead these students to find a way to learn about these additional things, or to read the books they have been banned from reading.

Majority Rule

In our democratic society, most citizens of the appropriate age get to vote for their representatives and for or against various propositions. Whoever or whatever gets the most votes will win. This is called majority rule. In addition, our representatives propose and vote on bills. In this case, the outcome is determined by a majority of our representatives voting for or against the bill.

When our laws are passed by the majority, it is more likely that the majority of the population will be happier with the results than if we were ruled by some totalitarian government that might pass laws that only a minority of the population agrees with. Even so, many of our laws are passed without a majority of us approving of them, and there are also a number of problems with majority rule itself.

First off, our representatives may not always vote the way the majority of us would have wanted. Instead, they may base their vote on what they want, on what their political party wants, or on what some special interest group or big campaign donor wants. There have been many attempts to try to fix this problem. There has been campaign reform, special interest group regulation, and ethics improvement, but the underlying issues have not been addressed.

To ensure that our representatives truly represent us, we will need to make some significant changes in the electoral process and the way we pass our laws. I have a few ideas about what we can do, which I have already talked a bit about and will talk more about later.

On the other hand, the majority may not always want what is best for them. Some people may have been manipulated through some means into wanting something that is not best for them. Other people can then fall into the trap of a Bandwagon Fallacy. They may believe that they should want something because a lot of other people want it. Therefore, we all need to do our best to ensure we are well informed about the issues so that we can make good decisions about what we want.

Then, even when we do have majority rule, we can still leave the minority out of the political process and unhappy about the way things are going. We can see this most clearly when we are in the minority. One place for the majority of Americans to see this is in how they would be treated as citizens of some other countries. For instance, in many countries where they are in the minority, Christians suffer persecution and lack many rights given to the country’s other citizens.

We can also see many good examples of this in our own country. Take any issue where the population is fairly evenly divided between strongly opposing ideas about what should be done. For instance, take gun control. Any time there is any legislation passed that toughens or weakens gun control laws, those people on one side of the issue or the other will be unhappy.

It would be nice if every piece of legislation that we passed could make everyone happy, but it would seem unlikely that we could make everyone happy every time. On the other hand, there is a way to make the vast majority of people happy, or at least okay, with how things work. The way to do this is to allow people to have the most freedom possible when it comes to deciding how they live their own lives.

The limit on how much freedom we have should be set just before the point where our actions would do undue harm to other people, to other living things, or to our environment. Things that would not do undue harm to others should be legal. Things that would always do undue harm to others should be illegal. Those things that could go either way, depending on the circumstances, should be regulated so that the undue harmful aspects are controlled or eliminated. We need to make it clear that someone doing something that others may not like or approve of is not in and of itself causing anyone undue harm, and if no undue harm would be done, then it should be legal.

Let’s start with a fairly simple example dealing with free speech. For instance, many people, including me, do not like it when people use vulgar or obscene language. Although we may cringe or get angry when we hear it, by itself, it does not cause us any undue harm unless we let it, so we should not make it illegal. Of course, no one should be forced to listen to it, so we should always have the right to avoid it by blocking it when we can, keeping those who use it out of our homes, and by patronizing businesses that keep it out.

What if someone verbally threatens to harm someone, his or her family, friends or belongings, or any other person or thing? In this case, it would be reasonable to expect that someone making a treat might carry through with that treat, and therefore a threat would cause someone to be worried or stressed out by it. Since a threat would cause someone psychological harm, then this form of speech should be illegal. That is, anyone making a threat should be arrested and held accountable in a similar fashion as if they had tried to carry out their threat.

As a further example, let’s look at gambling. Many people find it fun to place an occasional wager. Even if some people think it is bad or sinful to gamble, that should not be enough to make it illegal. On the other hand, there are a few bad things that can come from gambling, but they can be controlled. For instance, we would not want someone to gamble away his or her rent money. This could get his or her family thrown out on the street, would deprive the landlord of his or her income, and place a burden on society when we try to help the family. Therefore, controls would need to be put in place to limit a person’s gambling to the discretionary funds that his or her family has approved of for the purpose of gambling.

In order to protect everyone’s rights, including anyone who is in the minority on some issue, we need to make changes that prevent the majority from unduly imposing or forcing their beliefs on everyone. The best way to handle this is to change our constitution so that this principle is clearly spelled out, and so that our courts could then ensure that it is upheld. I have a few ideas about what we can do, which I will address when I talk about each appropriate issue.

Next Section

Government - How to make our Government work better.

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Thursday, June 08, 2023
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