A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What are we talking about?

Recently my colleague wrote a piece wherein she said “Canada is a Plutocracy” and this whole blog is about “Democracy” but what exactly do we mean by these descriptions. It may be useful to review some of the definitions of words we associate with various form of government

Democracy - a political system in which the supreme power is held completely by the citizens who can elect people to represent them under a free electoral system. ...
But wait, its not that simple; the Australian site of the Victorian (that’s the District of Victoria, not old fashioned!) Parliament gives these additional definitions in their report on Electronic Democracy:-

Deliberative Democracy

A form of representative democracy which involves groups of citizens who discuss and decide policy issues. The nature of deliberative democracy is similar to representative democracy, but differs in the mechanism by which decision makers are selected. Like direct democracy, this form of decision making can be used in conjunction with the representative form, such as the use of citizen juries to resolve specific policy issues.

Direct Democracy
A form of democratic government whereby citizens have the right to participate in decision making through referenda on legislative initiatives. Direct democracy can exist in parallel to representative democracy, for example, where ballot initiatives allow citizens to vote on legislative initiatives, or replace representative democracy. In practice, direct democracy is limited by the complexity of modern policy making and the capacity for citizens to deliberate issues in a timely and expedient manner.

Representative Democracy
A form of democratic government whereby citizens’ interests are represented by elected officials in open elections. Representatives act in the interests of their electors, either by martialling together electors’ views, or through personal initiative and independence between elections.

Westminster System of Parliamentary Democracy
Inherited from the United Kingdom. The Westminster system focuses on control of government created by majority control of the Lower House of the Parliament, with Ministers selected from Members of Parliament to take responsibility for the executive arm of government (bureaucratic government departments and agencies). Ministers collectively form the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, Premier (in the case of the Provinces), and are responsible for their actions to the Parliament and serve with the Parliament’s confidence.

Democratic Republic
A form of government where ultimate political power is theoretically vested in the people but in which popular control is exercised only intermittently and indirectly through the popular election of government officials or delegates to a legislative assembly instead of directly through the people.

And even this one which is perhaps what we should be trying to move towards:-

Electronic Democracy
The direct and indirect use of electronic technologies (information and communications technologies) to participate in the democratic process. Direct forms of electronic democracy include electronic and online voting, participation in consultation, and interactions between elected representatives and constituents. Indirect forms of electronic democracy include such things as the production and consumption of politically relevant information and community capacity building to utilise information and communications technologies.

Then there are other words you need to know when discussing our system of government:-

Plutocracy - A system of government whereby wealth and the benefits that wealth accrues lead to a concentration of power in the hands of those with disproportionate access to financial resources.

Oligarchy - Rule over the many by a few. While one could read this to mean any type of governmental system because there are always a few in power leading or speaking on behalf of the many, the term "oligarchy" is more in reference to the type of system where a small group with the same principles (mostly due to greed) band together to assure their agenda or will is accomplished. In essence, it is a government on behalf of this small group and not for the people. The people of this government serve the will of the leaders to their end.

Perhaps those two should be combined to give:-

Plutocratic Oligarchy – Rule by a small group of wealthy individuals who serve their own needs rather than that of the people over whom they rule.

Finally there is this one of which we must be very aware and guard against moving towards:-

Dictatorship - Government by a single person or group of people who are in no way held responsible to the general population. Their discretion in using the powers and resources of the state is unrestrained by any fixed legal or constitutional rules.

Which one do you think describes our current situation, which one do the majority of Canadians believe we are operating under and which one do you believe we should be striving to move towards? Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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