Thursday, November 28, 2019

On Dahl Essays - Democracy, Direct Democracy, Government

Introduction Democracy is a word commonly used in the justification for the United States of America interceding in international disputes for the sake of a certain country?s people. To bring democracy, it seems, is to bring freedom and virtuous enlightenment upon a country that is deemed tyrannical or opposing of the people within it. However, one must be aware of what exactly democracy is and why it a valued system over other governmental systems that have been in place for hundreds of years such as the Communist Party in China. To know what democracy is, it helps to understand it through educated individuals along with their body of work in such matters as important as the word democracy. On Democracy Robert A Dahl?s book, On Democracy, does exactly that. Indeed, Dahl discusses democracy in clear, simple terms, covering basic themes, issues, and questions of the governmental system as practiced, and not by forcing the reader to memorize and understand complex theories along with statistical variables. The theory Dahl covers is at its most basic, and is focused on democracy, not as a merely ?American? institution, nor is it limited to the United States as context. Instead, he covers the basics of what constitutes a democracy in general, which he often illustrates with group/organization examples or examples from other nations. He comes up with the following criteria for the opportunities democracy can provide: ?Effective participation, Equality in voting, Gaining enlightened understanding, Exercising final control over the agenda and Inclusion of citizens? (Dahl, 1998). Interestingly, Dahl?s style in the book often explains democracy, not in the terms of a single large national representative government but by instead using descriptions of how a small group of people or an organization might arrange itself to accommodate the equality and consensus of all of its members. Indeed, Dahl uses an extremely basic method to come to his main criteria for true democracy, namely ?political equality (Dahl, 1998).? He writes: ?To be democratic the government of a state must satisfy a standard. Let me put it this way: Full inclusion. The citizen body in a democratically governed state must include all persons subject to the laws of that state except transients and person[s] proved to be incapable of caring for them? (Dahl, 1998). Although Dahl does simplify his description of democracy, this does not prevent him from illuminating some of its practical difficulties. For example, he acknowledges the fact that, although all individuals hold an equal vote, a small group of ?elites? may control the agenda. Karl Marx in Section I of his Communist Manifesto described these elites as the bourgeoisie in writing on their part as Capitalists ?in one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it (bourgeoisie) has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation (Marx, 1848). If this is the case, democracy is flawed, saying, if some members are given greater opportunities than others for expressing their views, their policies are more likely to prevail? (Dahl, 1998). Further, he acknowledges that this, especially due to financial factors, can result in the formation of organized groups that, in effect, appropriate a great portion of the public ?voice? and use it to further their own inte rests and agendas. It is from this idea that Dahl?s most interesting argument in relationship to the United States springs, that this control of the agenda, through a greater ?voice? cripples democracy. Further, he raises the issue of the role of non-homogenous groups of people (either a growing, or an original factor in many countries, including the United States), and the relationship of race/ethnicity/minority status to ?voice? and achieving adequate representation in that voice. Dahl also touches on the other term one might compare to the word ?democracy?, and that is Market Capitalism. Interestingly, he asserts that many of the problems associated with imperfect democracy are a direct result of this economic model. For, whereas most individuals consider democracy to require, and be bolstered by, market capitalism, aspects of its system can directly conflict with its principles. Also, this fact contributes to the very issues of ?voice? he discusses as an impediment to true representation in writing: ?Democracy and market-capitalism are locked in a persistent conflict in which each modifies and limits the other?Because market capitalism inevitable

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