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But literally all historically successful democracies have limited what set of populace are the "people".

I am not US citizen however I know that when the US was created "the people" were pretty much in minority. It was also expected that "the people" will respect and defend their civic freedoms.

The Switzerland for example historically only allowed armed men to vote and even today if one rejects their military service they give up their voting right.

As noble as this popular democracy concept seems in theory in practice it means throwing pearls before the swine. In modern west 50% of people are just to willfully ignorant to understand what civic rights and duties mean.

I am not in favor of any kind of representative model I am also not in favor of direct democracy.

One mechanism would be imposing a citizens tax of 5% of income for those who want their civic rights. That should clear the field pretty fast.

Well, I decide that, to fully participate in a democracy, you have to write in correct English all the time, so hey, you're excluded already, dear JanezStupar. How does that feel? Sorry, no repeated tests, once you're out it's forever.

Let's say that tomorrow that 5% of income is what makes a difference between life or death from hunger; and at the same time, (rich) "people" are proposing a law that will literally kill whoever does not pay that 5%; do you pay and vote against the law, then die from hunger, or do you not pay and die from the hand of "the people"?

"In modern west" (as opposed to "in Soviet Russia"? lol), in some countries, less than 50% bother to vote in most elections, so the "to willfully ignorant" [sic] already don't take part; it's important they maintain their rights nevertheless. How many HN readers never bothered to deal with the US Congress before SOPA was proposed? Would have been right to deny them a voice?

By now I'm pretty sure you're either trolling or a dangerous elitist, "to willfully ignorant" to be trusted with any decision on political systems.


The only argument I am making is that Democracy means "rule by the people", where "the people" is an arbitrary bunch. And in no way has it always meant "everybody living on this land". This populist form of democracy is an invention of 19th century.

What I am arguing is that I have noticed in historic annals that democracies that have been virtuous and didn't implode after a generation all had built in safeguards from populism. And that citizenship was never viewed as an universal right, but always as privilege that one has to actively protect and exercise else it will be taken away.

Indeed many people do not vote, however when some drastic measures need to be taken, short term sacrifices for long term gain - these people will turn up and block any hope of change.

Also I would like to remind you, that popular democracy was viewed as an instrument of change, that mass participation in political process would enable society to evolve faster into better forms. What it has proven is that rule of the mob is the best "status quo" preserving device anybody ever imagined.

You chose to attack the proposed mechanism, but I merely used it as an example. Should you read this thread, you would notice that I proposed random draw as another alternative.

All I am arguing is that some very wise people eons ago noticed, that for prosperity to happen, you need an elite.

Thats what kept Roman republic strong for so long - the balance between elite and the mob. Once the mob managed to break all the "privileges" of the elite, Rome was effectively doomed.

I am not advocating policy here, I am discussing politics and history. No need to call me names and mock me.

Thank you.

Edit: Soviet Russia (or any communist country) was not a country ruled by an Elite. One does not become Elite by killing previous Elite and proclaiming himself one. Building Elite class takes generations. What happened in communist countries is what you get when you eradicate the Elite and let inmates run the asylum.

What? There is so much untruth in the part about Switzerland that I have to question your grasp on history and political science.

If one rejects the military service in Switzerland, he has an alternative, civil service. He also doesn't lose any voting rights. Certain communes and cantons even have given foreigners the right to vote and to be elected.

The historical situation in Switzerland can also not be reduced to "only allowed armed men to vote" since in its core, Switzerland was a confederacy. Certain cantons had strong aristocracies, others were de facto ruled by the church and so on.

I am no historian and no expert on Swiss government. And if I got these facts wrong I apologize. My source may be bad (honestly I don't remember where I picked it up) but I am not trying to deceive anyone.

But I believe that what I said if it doesn't hold true today it did so 50 years ago, before Swiss got voting rights to women.

And yes I forgot to mention that within Switzerland things are done very differently from place to place.

On the other hand, these signs of "progress" may be the first signs of decay of Swiss democracy. Please don't get offended I am just debating and viewing the world from an unpopular perspective. As usual only time will tell where the Swiss will go.

For one I hope that Switzerland endures for another thousand years.

Thank you for your input.

Switzerland in its current form is vastly different than Switzerland 800 years ago. Throughout its history, Switzerland was a loose conglomerate of individual sovereigns, its history is rife with religious and political struggle (Villmer wars, Appenzeller wars, Old Zurich war, Murder Night of Zurich, Fibourg-Bernese wars, an endless list, ). At various points theocratic Theocracies had emerged (Zwingly, Calvin), religious persecution was often rampant. After all, there is a reason the Anabaptists fled the Bernese Emmental and journeyed to America.

Peasant revolts were brutally smashed. Niklaus Leuenberger, a peasant leader, was beheaded with the sword, then quartered. His head was nailed to the Gallows, next to the Federal charter of Huttwil. His dismembered body was distributed on the four main roads of Bern. His brother in arms, Christian Schybi was tortured for "witchcraft" and beheaded.

In 1782, Anna Göldi, was beheaded as "Switzerland's last witch". She was a maid and her master, a judge and politician, wanted to get rid of her because he most likely had an affair with her.

So, I really think you should stop seeing old Switzerland as some kind of role model.

On another note, your "might is right" doctrine is shallow and repugnant.

Judging ancient events with modern standards I find devious in its own right.

Let me reiterate, I am not advocating any kind of policy. I am just trying to discuss history and politics. Since I like to take maximum out of a debate I approached this one from an unpopular viewpoint.

And the best you can do is list some anecdotes then call me shallow and repugnant.

The question of government is one of the hard questions. Where there are no easy answers, but a lot of hard ones. Today it seems that our populist democracies are leading us towards totalitarian government - a lot like what happened to Rome between Octavian an Caesar.

What I am trying to bring forward here is that successful republics have strived for maximal democracy, yet had to build in safeguards against populism and mob rule.

We can debate whether this was an important feature or not, but calling me names is not helping your point.

What are your examples of historically successful democracies?

Athens, Rome, Sparta, Switzerland, United States

Rome's been around a while and it has had several significantly different forms of government. Which period have you in mind?

Obviously the republic era, before Caesar.

The civic virtue within the republic of Rome was so great that to this day our institutions mirror those of their age. They were extremely democratic. But not in a modern sense.

Do note that all systems are bound to get corrupt, whither and die. But the best are extremely resistant to corruption. And strong anti populist safeguards are a property of all of them.

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