Why USA is not a democracy
A hyper-short history of democracy
In the ancient Greece, the people worked out a fairly genius system of
governing a country, in a system which later has been dubbed a "direct
democracy". In this system, people living in a polis (city-state)
would gather every now and again to decide on important matters. A democracy
is per definition a country or a state governed by the people (demos=people,
This system has become adopted into the system that most European countries
use nowadays - the parliamentarian system. This system pretty much eliminates
the possibility of having your say directly, but by voting on people who have
roughly the same opinions as you have, you can control what happens in a country.
"Democracy" in Norway
I will in this part shortly discuss how the democracy in Norway works. This
because the Norwegian political system is the one I am most familiar with.
In Norway, one has roughly 20 parties, spread more or less evenly all over
the right/left spectre of politics. Recently, there was an election; here
are the results:
(from left to right on the polical scale)
SV: approx 12 %
AP: approx 24 %
V: approx 4 %
KrF: approx 12 %
SP: approx 6 %
H: approx 21 %
FrP: approx 14 %
The top two parties can be seen as left-oriented parties. The bottom two are
This list demonstrates two things: For one thing, it shows fairly
well the diversity in current Norwegian politics. This diversity is not
always a good thing, but at least it does introduce discussions from both
sides, which is healthy for the democratic process.
A few notes on the left-right scale
Secondly, it illustrates the left/right red/blue scale. On the far left you'd
find Communism. On the far right side you'd find Fascism (and arguably Nazism,
but that's a different discussion altogether).
Traditionally, the right-side parties welcome privatizing of industries and
services, while the left-side parties are more concerned about controlling
the services more, to make sure that everybody gets what they need.
"Democracy" in the USA
In America, there are two political parties worth mentioning - the democrats
and the republicans. On the scale mentioned earlier, both these two parties
end up on the right side of the scale - without being absolutely sure, they
would probably end up each one one side of the "H" above.
This brings us to a few of the problems in the USA today. Most Europeans,
even the ones inclined to vote right, would agree that the choice between
"pretty far right" or "right" isn't really much of a democratic
choice - because the more socialistic / neutral views are by and large ignored.
This promotes a very polarized, rigid political system of black-and-white,
without any gradations in between. In this case, the choice will always be
Republican or Democrat - there is nothing in between, and there seems to
be nothing to the left or right of these parties. At least not worth mentioning.
Far more serious than the fact that there are only two parties, though, is
how the different parties are chosen. In America, elections look more like television
entertainment than a choosing of how a country is to be run the next years.
Like quite a lot of other things in America, appearances are far more important
Take president Clinton, for example. General opinion is that he has done
a marvelous job at his years of being a president, until the entire Lewinsky
case blew up. Sure, it might be a bad thing that he committed adultery, and
it was far worse that he lied about it in his trials. But none of these two
things are very important to Clinton's ability of running a country.
I did a highly unofficial survey among approx. 50 American youth in high
school (this was in 1998, and the people in question were about 16-17 years
old), asking them what the difference between the republican party and the
democratic party was. Only 10 or so were able to give an answer at all, and
only 3 or 4 were able to give an answer that actually made any sense.
The other question I asked them, was what Communism and Socialism was, and
if they could mention ONE single thing that was good about either of the two.
The replies were nonexistent.
The complete and utter ignorance of the young members of American society
is worrying, to say the least. This also raises the question of where the Americansdo
get their information from, on which they base their choices. The answer
to this, sadly, appears to be the television.
The problem with television information on political issues is that this kind
of information often only handles a few different topics. This leads to a highly
populist discussion. The characteristics of a populist discussion are partly
that they are quite shallow, and don't touch the big issues in society. In addition
to this, the populist topics often exclude more leftist parties from joining
Besides, in USA campaigns tend to be heavily financed by lobby organizations
and large corporations, like the NRA, Shell etc. This is a vicious circle indeed:
- A party needs some corporations to be able to get to power at all
- A large corporation is not going to fund a party that does not act in
their own interest
- A non-right party is not likely to support large corporations, and will
not receive any funds from these
Sadly, the conclusion of these three points is that only parties oriented
to the political right will have any power in the USA. This means that the
large corporations will get even better soil for growth, allowing them to
pour even more money into the political system.
All these mentioned points are arguments for USA not being a democracy, i.e
a country ran by the people. USA is run by a small elitist group of multi-billion
corporations, and democracy has been made impossible by the system.
When the planes crashed into the WTC on sept 11th, it wasn't democracy
that was attacked, because USA doesn't have such a thing. Capitalism might
have been attacked - but I suppose we just don't know the difference anymore.
Election turnout in the USA at the last election: 36.4 %
Election turnout in Norway at the last election: 75.1 %
Can a country where most people don't even bother to vote be called a democracy?
I rest my case
After having gotten used to E2, the way it works etc - I have decided to
write a reply to The Custodian's WU. First however, I suggest you have a look
at my node about Domination Techniques
WU parts by The Custodian is italicized
Okay, SharQ. You're new here, and thus get leeway, to the point where I
won't just smack this writeup off the system. :-)
This is a reference to TC's power here on E2. TC is a content
editor. Already in his first line, he makes sure to point out that he is a
very nice guy, in the fact that he does not abuse his power by nuking my writeup
(Even though this can be forgiven because he added a :) on the end.)
Countries have their own political spectra.
This is, of course, true. However, there is an "universal" political
spectrum, that ranges from far left to far right. The fact that the USA has
nothing on the left side of the spectrum is a strong argument to the fact that
the American democracy is lacking in diversity
Nader's party, which in the minds of many gave the election to Bush and
company, isn't worth mentioning?
I agree that they should have been mentioned. However, they have no political
power as such.
assertions of mass support doesn't cut it. I'm not saying you're wrong,
but show me numbers.
There are no numbers on this, as you are aware of. So I'll have to pull that
statement. However, I have yet to meet anyone who does not agree that variety
in politics is a positive thing.
"Nothing to the left or right of these parties" worth mentioning...um,
again, Nader? Anderson? Perot? While never themselves holding office,
Where are they now? Does anybody listen to them? The problem with the system
is that if you don't win the election, you are nothing. I was merely
noting that in many other countries, parties that do not win the elections
still have a say in politics.
Oh, boy. Here we go with knee-jerk European liberal condemnation of the
Please see my node about domination techniques, the point about decreditizing
discussions and ridiculing. This comment has absolutely nothing to do with the
discussion we are trying to hold here.
The massive coverage of elections in America, while skewed in terms of
emphasis, is all about who's going to lead the country. Tell any candidate who's
had their past investigated within an inch of his/her life what you just said
and listen to the laughter.
Which was exactly my point. Who cares what the past of a politician is? The
point isn't how christian you are, and how many good deeds you have done
in the past, but how well you are able to run a country. Hitler (although
he was an ass) had a spotless personal life - and he was not very fit to run
a country. Winston Churchill was infamous for heavy alcohol use, and his many
girlfriends, but he is known for being one of the reasons why the second world
war didn't include a German invasion of Great Britain.
Unfortunate, but not nearly as damaging as you seem to think. Some candidates'
pasts don't get enough coverage, it seems to me.
Although you do have a point here, I have to admit I disagree.
none of those you spoke with is of legal voting age.
True - but it does show that young people in the US have little or no working
knowledge of democracy, or indeed politics as a whole - in contrast with
the same age groups in the other two countries I have experience from (Norway
I somehow don't think that a lack of intimate knowledge about Socialism
and Communism will affect the impact their future votes will have,
I wasn't talking about an intimate knowledge. I was talking about any
knowledge whatsoever. Besides - both socialism and communism are important
theories as background knowledge for voters. I do realize this is my personal
opinions, and will as such be disputed, but I do still think I have an important
First of all, I'd say you were being an unabashed elitist; however,
Please see my node about domination techniques, the point about decreditizing
discussions and ridiculing
Populist, I would remind you, involves 'of the people.'
Indeed - but populist also means that the politics follow the current opinions,
rather than sticking to an ideology. There is no consistency, which was the
point I was trying to make (granted, it was very poorly formulated, for which
Oh, sure, we don't talk about foreign policy and global economics much...because
we don't have to. Some incredibly pathetic percentage of the U.S. economy is
actually based on international trade;
That, of course, is absolutely true. But what the USA fails to recognize, is
that of most countries outside the USA, international trade with
the USA are substantial parts of a country's economy. This means that even though
foreign policy and economics have little or no impact on the US, it is worrying
that some people don't realize the impact that US policies have on the rest
of the world.
Wrong. Parties need money to be able to get to power. This may or may not
I am sorry, but this is unrealistic. Money comes from corporations, companies,
large organizations etc, who all have their own agenda. This is bound to influence
Don't even bring up the September 11th incident. Frankly, it has dick to
do with what you're saying, and dragging it in just to emphasize a point is
not only cowardly, stupid and annoying, but would probably get you smacked if
you'd brought it up in this argument to my face. The people that died in that
incident have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with this discussion.
Please see my node about domination techniques, the points about decreditizing
discussions, threats of physical violence and ridiculing.
The whole reason I wrote this node is that I was annoyed with the fact that
it was repeatedly stated that the terrorist attacks were an attack on democracy,
while (as the title of this node suggests) USA is not a democracy.
As for your last paragraph - big whoop, Norway has a bigger eligible voter
turnout. Ooh. I'm jealous. While it is sad that more Americans don't vote, the
fact remains that it is their right not to vote. If, in fact, you argue so strongly
that they are never offered a real choice, and that the media and discussion
in the country is too populist, then where do you get off with this one?
Please see my node about domination techniques, the point about ridiculing.
A society where people don't practice their right to vote has a problem. When
only a third of the people who can vote actually bother to vote, you
have a serious problem, because the whole democratic process is built on the
fact that people have to get up and vote.
Please note that I am very happy that The Custodian came with criticism on
my writeup - I have learnt a lot from it, and I feel that I understand a little
more about the American way of thinking, no matter how far fetched it seems
to me as a european.
As for the earlier comments (not from TC) that a Republic is not a democracy
- This is just straightup wrong. A democracy is not the same as a direct democracy.
If it was, then there is not one single democracy in this world.
The modern definition of a democracy means that a country is run by people
who are chosen (this is where the democracy part comes in) by the people
- nothing more nothing less. My arguments on why the USA is not a democracy,
then, point out facts and ideas of why USA does not fit the commonly accepted
idea of a democracy.