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Democracy gap

  1. Feb 18, 2008 #1
    What democracies existed between those of ancient Greece and the United States?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2008 #2
    ...the US is a democracy?
     
  4. Feb 18, 2008 #3
    Man do I have a fabulous link for you! Check out Democracy in Ancient India by by Steve Muhlberger of Nipissing University. It's also very interesting to Google the Indian names for the organizations he claims were similar to modern corporations.
     
  5. Feb 18, 2008 #4
    England certainly had a democracy starting around the signing of the magna carta, france favored democracy as well. Why do you ask?
     
  6. Feb 19, 2008 #5

    russ_watters

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    How much democracy did England really have? Didn't the king have most of the power?
     
  7. Feb 19, 2008 #6

    Art

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    Not since the Bill of Rights 1689 which established parliament's superiority. This formed the basis of the US Bill of Rights including interestingly the right to bear arms.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  8. Feb 19, 2008 #7

    mgb_phys

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    Actually the king lost most of his powers along with his head in 1649 - the bill of rights was the deal under which they were prepared to have a new king. the Netherlands also had an effectively elected king at this time, one of whom became the next king of Britain.

    This didn't mean universal voting, really they just decided which millionaires with business connections and good hair got to run for office.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  9. Feb 19, 2008 #8
    There's also speculation that the constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Gayanashagowa, provided some inspiration for the US Constitution.

    The Edicts of Ashoka, an ancient Indian king (in India) in the 3rd century BCE, are kind of interesting to read. They even establish some animal rights, which isn't surprising for a Buddhist-Hindu country, of course.

    The Charter of Medina by Muhammad (yes, that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam) actually wasn't too shabby in establishing popular rights, certainly by the standards of the 7th century when Europe was in the Dark Ages and there was literally a nobility of bureaucrats in the Byzantine Empire.

    Come to think of it, the Roman Republic pretty much qualifies as a democracy by modern standards. Though of course the democratic notions of popular rule were extended strictly to Roman citizens, but that's better than the Magna Carta which only achieved rights for nobles.

    The Japanese city of Sakai was autonomous and ruled by its merchant classes during the 1500's rather than by Japanese nobility. Though it was still subordinate to the national government of the Emperor and Shogun. A similar state of affairs existed in some Hanseatic League cities.

    The constitution and democracy articles at Wikipedia are interesting on this topic.
     
  10. Feb 19, 2008 #9

    mgb_phys

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    While foreigners were subject to the 'military powers', hmmm
     
  11. Feb 19, 2008 #10
    The English Bill of Rights, wow, I knew nothing about this. I was thinking more along the lines that around the magna carta, the king had established several offices which would today become the few major offices of parliament, and he also establish a tribunal system which later formed the basis of english law. It would seem that lawyers and judgers and law clerks developed out of the democratic appeal to the king by barrons to have him settle disputes amongst themselves, usually land disputes (now torts).
    The French may have a similar institutions of courts and lawyers, their system diffinitely runs on the basis that the consititution is the law, where as here in the US the constitution is the only written and official law, yet this is never actually stated anywhere within the constitution which serves as a guidline.
     
  12. Feb 19, 2008 #11
    No, not just foreigners. Not all residents and ‘subjects’, as it were, of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire were automatically citizens. The Roman citizens were basically an upper class, though not a noble class, within the lands that Rome controlled. You didn't have to be ethnically Latin either, for example one of the reasons that Rome was able to build up such large and disciplined armies was that after a certain period of service an Illyrian peasant or a tribal Germanic could gain Roman citizenship, like the French Foreign Legion today. The whole state of affairs is sort of like the British Commonwealth, where you can be a subject of the Queen but not necessarily a British citizen.

    But good allusion to Guantanamo anyways.
     
  13. Feb 20, 2008 #12

    russ_watters

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    Clearly it is not the same as it works now though - when did the office of the Prime minister rise above the king? When did the Parliament really become an elected legislature?

    The fact that the most powerful office was still held by a traditional king instead of an elected official is a pretty critical difference between then and a modern democracy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2008
  14. Feb 20, 2008 #13

    mgb_phys

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    From 1600 parliament became more powerful, remember it was the only way to raise money - the king/goverment had no money and couldn't raise taxes.
    The civil way 1649 replaced the king with an eleced president / military dictator but didn't work out. The new king pretty much had to live with a permanent powerful parliament. The Georges in the mid 1700s tried to claw back some power but not very successfully.

    I would say the 1834 Great Reform act effectively made the monarch a fugurehead to put on stamps. Of course there is a lot of power in being a figurehead. A prime minister would have to be pretty sure of their popularity before forcing the queen to abdicate. It's rather like the USA - religion is officially separate from politics, but try being presiddent if you insulted Jesus.
     
  15. Feb 20, 2008 #14
    What do you make of the House of Lords? It seems somewhat outdated - hereditary peers, official clergymen, judicial functions... A kind of King's Court.
    I understand it is in the process of being reformed.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2008
  16. Feb 20, 2008 #15

    mgb_phys

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    I actually think it's a good idea to have a second house where the members are not solely focussed on their profile in tomorrows newspapers.

    It currently consists of hereditary peers and appointments - usually retired politicians, union leaders, business men, academics. Since appointment is for life and each new goverment gets to appoint a certain number each year it's politics generally balances out.
    Rather like the presidential veto the House of Lords can reject new laws but the House of Commons can overrule the rejection. But, like the presidential veto, appearances count for a lot - a goverment has to be sure of it's popularity when trying to force through a new law against a House of Lords rejection.
    When the last Conservaative (=republican) goverment was trying to get a new tax through it rounded up a lot of elderly heriditary peers from nursing homes, many were take in to vote in ambulances, rather than risk a rejection and have to use a veto.


    The latest reform was a bit of farce (who would have guessed !) consisting of removing the heriditary peers and stuffing the place with your own supporters and a few media figures.

    The problem is how to pick a second house.
    1, Make it electable - then how is it different from the lower house?
    2, Goverment appointed - then it is just a rubber stamp
    3, Heriditary - then it has no credibility.

    Like most things in British goverment it works through subtle influences, custom and appearance rather than rigid rules - most of the time that works.
     
  17. Feb 20, 2008 #16

    EnumaElish

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    I used to be confused about the distinction between a republic and a democracy.

    A king and a parliamentary democracy are not mutually exclusive.

    Or, there can be a president (i.e. a republic) but no electoral democracy (e.g., there is a coup, the revolutionary council appoints a president; the parliament and elections are suspended until further notice).
     
  18. Feb 21, 2008 #17
    I would agree.

    Do you think it will remain so for long?
     
  19. Feb 21, 2008 #18

    turbo

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    It is likely that the most democratic societies in North America were those of some of the Native American tribes. The current government of the the US is not a democracy by a long shot. It is a representational republic in which influence has been co-opted to a large extent by monied interests working in concert with the two major parties. Sometimes, elections feel like the "choice" between Time and Newsweek, or Pepsi and Coke.
     
  20. Feb 21, 2008 #19

    chemisttree

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    Or habanero and hydrazine...
     
  21. Feb 21, 2008 #20

    turbo

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    Eek! Hydrazine is poisonous and an irritant. Habaneros aren't poison. :bugeye:
     
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