Democracy v. Politics

Democracy is an ideal that everyone gets a voice in the decision. Politics is more negative and can be summed up as all the forces that lead to decision making that is not in line with the ideal.  Some of those forces are illegal, such as bribery, blackmail, or threat of violence. But there are also many forces that are written in the rules that turn democracy into politics.

Some of these have been necessary because of the size of our population. In the U.S. there are 300 million of us.  Even in 1789 when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, there were 3 million of us. But it was impractical for 3M people to meet and discuss the issues, so the founding fathers agreed to have 59 people represent the 3 million in the House of Representatives.  They also agreed that those people would be elected every 2 years. And they left it up to the state’s legislatures to decide how the districts would be drawn so that each elected representative represented about the same number of people.

These were very practical compromises to democracy due to the size of our population. But they are compromises that are inefficient.

1) They have no real way (especially at the time) of knowing or discussion the issues with the 30,000 people they represented. The representative is left with using his own judgement to decide the issues and even whether or not he is going to represent the majority or something else.

2) They get only one vote in congress, so they have no way of representing that 2/3rd’s of the people think one thing and 1/3’rd thinks something else.  This prevent’s the 1/3rd’s of many districts from adding up and being measured.

3) The elections only takes place every 2 years – but people may change their opinion any time.  States’ do allow recall elections, but those are a lot more time consuming and costly than just changing your mind.

4) Since districts are drawn by the state legislatures, the legislators in power tend to draw the districts in a way that helps them, or their political party stay in office.  (This is called gerrymandering).

5) Further, people don’t get to choose what district they are in when the lines get redrawn.

6) As time has gone by, our population has increased. At first, the number of representatives were increased, but as that got too large, the Constitution was amended so that the number of representatives would be fixed at 435 and the number of people that each represents would increase.   Now each representative votes for 700,000 people.

7) Since there are only 435 representatives, and they all meet in Washington DC most of the time, an organization (a business, a union, or a group of people with a special interest) with a desire to influence the laws in their favor needs only focus on the 435.

The ideal was a pure democracy, but it was not practical so we setup a “Representative Democracy” with all it’s impracticabilities.

If we were implementing our democracy now, would we decide to do it this way? Probably, we could come up with something more efficient now that we have the Internet.

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