I don't know how much flak I will take for this node, but I'm interested in finding out what other people think.

Note: I cannot think of a better system than the status quo.

Democracy in the context of a state, to my understanding, is having the people of the state electing representatives of their opinions to sit in assemblies where they can put forward those opinions.

This seems like a very good idea to me, except that it all seems to boil down to political parties, and what they think. In the British Parliament, the party leadership tells the Members Of Parliament (MPs) how to vote over most issues, and I believe this is wrong. They should vote however their constituents wish them to vote. That's the whole point.
Update: themusic: In an ideal world (!) having people vote for everything that politically concerns them seems like a good idea, but I already have thought what you do on the subject and ruled it out for similar reasons :)
At least you agree with the concept of representative democracy (as opposed to direct democracy, where there is no parliament).

In such a situation, political parties are essential. Obviously they're a necessary part of the mechanism of proportional representation. But even in other systems (like those of the USA and the UK), a broad power base must be formed for stable government. Most of the business of legislature is routine; the Government must be able to pass these motions through parliament efficiently. If each MP were a lone wolf, it would be almost impossible to arrange a coalition.

So while a two party system (as in the USA and, to a lesser extent, the UK) may be objectionable, the party system itself is not. Bear in mind that countries with many small parties (such as Italy and, unfortunately, Israel in recent years) suffer a great deal of political instability. It's just too hard to keep a coalition together without the common thread that a (large) party provides.

Partly to counter the trend expressed by gkAndy, many political parties today are searching for ways to become less ideologically homogeneous.

gkAndy says that he can't think of an alternative to today's system. However with modern technology there is no reason why the entire population of voting age couldn't be asked to cast a vote on each item of legislation. A series of ongoing referendums (referenda?), if you like. In fact this is the way that the Senate of ancient Rome worked: all citizens within the city boundaries were entitled to vote on proposed laws.

While this would do away with the problem of elected representatives voting on party lines, rather than according to the wishes of their electorate, it would open up a whole new can of worms. For a start, given the general level of voter apathy, it is unlikely that most people would bother to cast a vote for every item of legislation, especially as most of what goes through Parliaments the world over is mundane day-to-day stuff. This leaves our radical voting system open to abuse and misappropriation by pressure groups and extremist organisations.

Secondly, it still leaves the question of who decides what legislation will be voted upon to start with. Do we have an unelected élite considered responsible enough to draw up these laws on our behalf? Do we leave this down to a single individual, be that monarch, president, prime minister or whatever? Or do we rely on having a system of elected representatives ... in which case we're back to square one.

I suppose you're one of the people who think computers and ine internet will provide the way for constituents to voice their views continually--to continually give their representatives their marching orders.

One of the stated purposes of the Canadian Alliance party is to have their MP's take one referendum after another to discover what the view on the ground is.

Given the low interest in voting these days, even once every four years or so--in Canada the schedule is not like clockwork--I worry about the turnout for votes, how often?--every week, every day?

Parties once had a real purpose. Before the advent of modern communication, they brought the power of the state to those on the ground--lubricating the wheels of the bureaucracy that is not new. Then collect the power of the people together so that the political system would work in something approaching a meaningful way.

The Liberal Party of Canada has already reached the state ariels has described: less ideologically homogeneous. As the natural governing party it has long been so wide politically it encompasses so much, its only purpose is to win elections.

Telling the public what polls tell it to say during elections, it governs the way its business and wealthy masters tell it to between elections. Or at least as much as it can get away with.

I could be wrong, but isn't this the state the Democrats and Republicans are in the United States?

Isn't the problem that parties do not represent any views of constituents? In fact, there is hardly anything left of what political parties were. Now it's just the Leader, and his advisers, and during elections, the election machine as well.

If there were parties that actually represented the views of citizens, rather than just the oligarchy of business and wealth, maybe something better would happen.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against business and wealth have their own parties, but they should not have the only parties.

How about the Businesspeoples' Party for Total World Domination, and the Party for the Wealthy to Keep Their Money.

Then the rest of us would be able to make parties we might actually be able to control. That might actually advocate policies benefiting most of us, and not the few that have captured virtually all parties, so-called.

Whywait?: What about proportional representation?

I attempted to provide my guidance to the NDP. My life-changing experiences there are why I now provide my guidance to everything.

Without direct democracy every citizen will never have the chance to have all of their opinions heard or convictions counted. Representative democracy, the party system, is here to stay. Face it. How will we get rid of it? A vote in the House of Commons, ha ha ha? Each constituency in Canada is too large and diverse for M.P.s to represent all people at all times; damn. Proportional representation is a white elephant: it's not a new idea, but it will never catch on, because those in power have everything to lose. You're right: internet voting is not a good idea. Making constituencies smaller is not the correct answer either. Neither is chucking the entire system. What would we have then? What are the alternatives?

Academics are advocating (surprise surprise) a switch to consociationalism, where benign elites (such as academics, for example) rule by virtue of knowledge, qualifications, and merit - supposedly. I don't believe democracy is that dead yet; although the ruling elite in Canada is waaaay out of touch with the values of our largely middle-class population, I do not want to believe the entire political system is irretrievably fubared, for my only resort would be Marxist smash the state idiocy. (For more information on how elites and proles diverge in their views on what is important to Canada as a nation, check out the surveys on the EKOS Research Associates website, http://www.ekos.com, or read "From Reaganomics to Humanomics: Re-thinking Government as if People Mattered", by Frank Graves (of EKOS), in the 1999 edition of How Ottawa Spends, edited by Leslie A. Pal.)

There are small parties out there that you might be able to gain control over: the Rhino Party, the Natural Law party (if you can yogic fly, that is, and are stupendous enough to unseat Doug Henning); the Green Party, or the Rainbow Coalition. These parties never win elections, but you could still be a big fish in one of those little ponds. Or, alternatively, you could be really ambitious and reach for the top. Why not be the next Stockwell Day - leader of The Canadian Alliance, ie. the Party for the Wealthy to Keep Their Money. The Conservatives (a.k.a. The Businesspeoples' Party for Total World Domination) seem to be floundering - perhaps they need your guidance, themusic. The Liberals (a.k.a. For God's Sake Keep to the Status Quo) will eventually need a new leader once demigogue Chretien dies (please let it be soon), but don't bother with the NDP (We're Pinkos and we're Proud, Exhaust Every Resource) (PAWPER), - they'll never win anyway.

The upshot of that last paragraph is that political parties are led by real people. Votes are swung and party philosophies are distorted by real people. That could be you. You could be a hero. Now all you need is a law degree, a house in Rosedale, Rockcliffe, or Westmount and several million dollars. None are impossible to attain. Mulroney did it. Chretien did it. I'm almost an eighth of the way there myself.

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