Win a copy of Five Lines of Code this week in the OO, Patterns, UML and Refactoring forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
programming forums Java Mobile Certification Databases Caching Books Engineering Micro Controllers OS Languages Paradigms IDEs Build Tools Frameworks Application Servers Open Source This Site Careers Other all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
Marshals:
  • Campbell Ritchie
  • Bear Bibeault
  • Ron McLeod
  • Jeanne Boyarsky
  • Paul Clapham
Sheriffs:
  • Tim Cooke
  • Liutauras Vilda
  • Junilu Lacar
Saloon Keepers:
  • Tim Moores
  • Stephan van Hulst
  • Tim Holloway
  • fred rosenberger
  • salvin francis
Bartenders:
  • Piet Souris
  • Frits Walraven
  • Carey Brown

Politically active

 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 95
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wonder how much politically active one should be in a democratic nation.
Does the ordinary citizen's role ends with casting the vote during election, and trust the politicians to steer the nation?
I personally keep track of the news, which finally infuences the vote.
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 282
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Active enough to take sensible decision when its time to vote..
 
(instanceof Sidekick)
Posts: 8791
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm thinking one of the senators from my state is reason enough to become much more active, i.e. volunteer for any campaign against him.
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 624
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Modern democratic systems are based on the idea of "Pluralism" where many different agencies and institutions are involved in decision making and the balance of power. This is not just the institutionalised balance between lower house, upper house and judiciary, but also involves various unions, pressure groups, cultural and religious groups and of course the media - all of whom play a part in influencing politicians choices and public opinion.

C.Wright Mills in his work studying US politics in the 1950s concluded that despite the widespread pluralist nature of politics (which ought to help the system to avoid any small groups having total control) - The distribution of wealth in the country was such that decision making power at the top of all the various branches of pluralist society was concentrated in a tiny group of a few wealthy families (at this time he was talking about Rothschilds, Kennedy's etc etc). His arguments went on to suggest that democracy was nothing more than a front to give this "Power Elite" legitamacy and maintain their status quo.

(Good description of power elite theory here: http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/APGOV_Power_Elite.htm )

If we are to believe what Wright-Mills was suggesting - then even being politcally active enough to vote is a pointless gesture, since you have a choice of 1 power elite member - or another power elite member!!!

How then can an individual excercise any political influence over these power elites? Can we reduce the power of media global near-monopolies like Murdoch? I dont know the answer!

Roger in his post said "I personally keep track of the news, which finally infuences the vote."

But who keeps track what is allowed to be broadcast on the news? Should Roger (to be a good citizen) actively seek out a range of alternative media so his opinions can be wider informed? Should he try and use the full power of the pluralist system by influnce decision making through union membership, community groups or perhaps even through directly contacting his elected representative? Would any of that make any difference against the enormous influence of the few with all the $$$?
[ August 07, 2005: Message edited by: Adrian Wallace ]
 
Roger Nelson
Ranch Hand
Posts: 95
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Originally posted by Adrian Wallace:
But who keeps track what is allowed to be broadcast on the news? ....



Suddenly I am getting the feeling that voting has just become a farce, which boosts our ego making us feel that we are selecting the right government, but in the end it does not serve the purpose.
Yes a democratic government gives the power to the people to replace corrupt or inefficient governments every five years. But in many countries democracy has ended up switching corrupt governments every 5 years, rather than working towards the welfare of the people.

No doubt democracy is the best system compared to other ones we have, but shouldn't it make the politicians more accountable and their work transparent? Having some certain impartial parameters to gauge their work.
Rather than just depending on the media which could ne manipulated.

Definitely such changes won't come from the politician's, it takes a revolution. :-)
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1241
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Given that, in theory, voters can influence the selection of the government, anyone who votes should probably be politically active by making sure they have a good idea what they are voting for. The main way they can do this is by watching the news and trying to keep informed, but unfortunately an awful lot (all?) of countries also have very biased media.

What's worrying is the number of people who get all of their information about the world from only one media source e.g. their favourite news paper or TV channel, giving the media behind these sources tremendous influence in who wins the election. Quite often people make their minds up about things without ever knowing much about them - they just do what Rupert Murdoch suggests.

While it would be great if loads of people were politically active and interested in the issues, the politicians have pulled off something of a coup - organised boredom. They have managed a kind of political camouflage by blending into each other until its almost impossible to tell politicians and their policies apart. They then start using long words and phrases that the less intelligent and/or patient members of society (i.e. the majority) can't understand or can't be bothered to listen to. So many people have been put off politics by this tactic that voter turnout is extremely low. The politicians have managed to get society into a ridiculous situation where its common, and unremarkable, to hear people say "I'm not going to vote because it doesn't make a difference - they're all the same". Given that incumbents always have an advantage, this boredom allows large numbers of them to remain in power for a long time by simply remaining unknown and boring.

How many people have voted for an MP, congress member, senator etc without knowing the first thing about them and their political beliefs? Most I'd bet.
[ August 08, 2005: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 783
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I feel that everyone who votes should be at least active enough to understand the ideals of the person (or party line) they are voting for.

If you feel like you vote may not be making much of a difference... you may be correct at the national level. Lets face it, when electing congressmen/congresswomen or even the president, we end up choosing from a limited list of people who were placed there by political conventions. This can be a good thing, because it allows us to know generally where a candidate stands based on their political alignment. Political parties also bring more negotiation power to the table when debating bills. Unfortunately, it can leave the voter feeling disenfranchised because they cannot see any immediate change as a result of their vote.

However, change doesn't have to start at the national level. In fact, most change starts in local communities, which in turn influence the politics of the state, which in turn influences the politics of the nation. If you want to feel like you make a difference, get involved in your local municipalities or city governments. You might be amazed as how much say you DO have in things like local taxes, budget concerns, license approval, etc. Representatives from the state government are also much more likely to listen to city governments than individual people when considering policy, and congressmen/congresswomen are much more likely to listen to state governments than individual voters as well.
 
mister krabs
Posts: 13974
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Let's think about the logic here... Person 1 spends many hours studying the candidates and their positions on the issues. She goes into the voting booth fully prepared and votes. Her candidate loses by 250,000 votes. Person 2 spends his time with family and friends, avoids worrying about politics which is out of his control anyway, and has a good time. He knows nothing about the candidates or the issues. On election day he asks person 1 who looks good and votes for the candidate that loses by 250,000 votes. Which of our voters was smarter?

I have voted in every election for almost 30 years. If I had stayed home the outcomes of every election would have been exactly the same.
 
Paul Bourdeaux
Ranch Hand
Posts: 783
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have voted in every election for almost 30 years. If I had stayed home the outcomes of every election would have been exactly the same.

At least you voted. This, in my mind, at least gives you the right to complain if you are unhappy with government policies.

But this is again looking at the top level of government only. Can you say for sure that you never voted in an election for city alderman, or county commissioner that was won or lost by only one vote? How about by less than 100 votes? Is that a small enough margin to feel like your vote made a difference? The real impact of democracy tends to be felt on a much smaller scale.

Where I live, during the last few elections some of the county and city officials were elected by very small margins. I was rather happy with the way the elections turned out. Some of the candidates I voted for pushed for a .05% increase in city sales tax to fund road repair. I now live off from a smooth, pothole free residential road with enough shoulder room for my children to safely ride their bikes/tricycles. Ahhh, democracy in action...
 
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Posts: 13974
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Originally posted by Paul Bourdeaux:
But this is again looking at the top level of government only. Can you say for sure that you never voted in an election for city alderman, or county commissioner that was won or lost by only one vote? How about by less than 100 votes?



No election that I have participated in was decided by less than 100 votes. The closest that I recall was a school budget vote that was decided by 800 votes.
 
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1241
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Person 2 spends his time with family and friends, avoids worrying about politics which is out of his control anyway, and has a good time.



While this may be good for person 2, its not so good for everyone else if they happen to end up with a not so good leader. Its worrying quite how many people will do just that though - vote while not knowing much about the issues.

What's more worrying is the incredibly bizarre idea that some clever politicians have invented - "political loyalty". Weird though it may sound, its not unusual to hear people say "I've voted for party X all my life, and will continue to do so until I die". The stupidity of this is outstanding - these people have decided that no matter what their party of choice says in its manifesto, they will still vote for them.

The crazy thing is that this is very common. People get into the habit of voting for one particular party, and continue to do so without any real idea of the policies of that party. What's more, they are proud of it! Its a coup of spectacular brilliance by the politicians. They've managed to undermine democracy while still maintaining the perceived legitimacy it brings.
[ August 09, 2005: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
 
author and jackaroo
Posts: 12199
280
Mac IntelliJ IDE Firefox Browser Oracle C++ Java
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
No election that I have participated in was decided by less than 100 votes. The closest that I recall was a school budget vote that was decided by 800 votes.



Many Australian elections at a per-seat level are decided by 1% of the vote. We even had a case in the last federal (Australia wide) election of a seat being decided by 0.1%, or 108 votes. I guess the level we are talking about is the same as America's House of Representatives. So we can make a difference regarding who gets into power.
 
Paul Bourdeaux
Ranch Hand
Posts: 783
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The stupidity of this is outstanding - these people have decided that no matter what their party of choice says in its manifesto, they will still vote for them.

Agreed. It is one thing to say that you support a political party's current policies, and therefore vote for the candidates that that party endorses. It is quite another, however, to vote blindly based on what the party politics may have been five, ten, or fifteen years ago. People need to keep in mind that a manifesto can, and often does, change.

It also surprises me that people in the US tend to think that no matter where they are, a democrat is a democrat and a republican is a republican (and the independents, like me, are just nuts). I know many west coast republicans that are more liberal than east coast democrats!
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1408
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
IMO, voting is not self-government. No matter how well-informed you are, you still cannot be aware of more than a tiny fraction of the choices made by your leaders and representatives. You still get to elect only a handful of office-holders, each from a very short list of candidates -- and then when they get into office they do whatever they do.

The essence of freedom and self-government is when the decentralization of power reaches down to the level of the individual family. Self-government is when most needs are satisfied by a combination of individual efforts and voluntary private associations (e.g. families, church congregations, neighborhoods, business partnerships). The role of government is to create an environment where this kind of private cooperation can take place. It does this via national defense, enforcement of contracts, the criminal justice system, etc.
 
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1241
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
IMO, voting is not self-government.


Voting could be self-government in some rare cases were there are direct democracies doing referanda on a lot of issues. This is not necessarily a good thing though, especially when you consider that most the voting population probably doesn't understand what they are voting on!


The essence of freedom and self-government is when the decentralization of power reaches down to the level of the individual family. Self-government is when most needs are satisfied by a combination of individual efforts and voluntary private associations (e.g. families, church congregations, neighborhoods, business partnerships). The role of government is to create an environment where this kind of private cooperation can take place. It does this via national defense, enforcement of contracts, the criminal justice system, etc.



Aha! A libertarian! I absolutely agree with the sentiment that power should often be devolved as far down as possible, but there are areas other than you listed where it is very important that the government (either locally or nationally) plays a large scale role.

In areas of health care it is important that the government provides a safety mechanism ensuring that people without the financial ability to care for themselves can receive treatment they need. Similarly the government should help as many people as possible become educated. Neither of these would be suggested from a purely capitalist view point, but both are important.

Another issue where libertarianism can sometimes falter is when market forces aren't working at their best. According to the theories of market forces, if markets are left to their own devices we should end up with a lovely society where almost everyone gets better off. Unfortunately free markets are incredibly rare and entities like monopolies and oligopolies pop up all over the place. In these cases it takes an entity as powerful as a government to step in and regulate the markets to rectify the situation.

Finally there are some public services which often can't be left to the public sector in the long run. One example is the postal service. In the UK a partial privatisation of the postal service lead to them wanting to close post offices in many rural areas, leaving many villages without important facilities. Another similar situation was with the privatisation of the railways - one particular rail company did so badly that the government had to step in and take over (and made large improvements). If the government had stuck to laissez faire tactics and not done so, I'd probably still be waiting on the platform for this morning's train

Like in all things in life, the size of the public sector can be too big and too small, and getting a balance is important.

Sorry for the (somewhat off topic) ramble!
 
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic