Here’s a quick guide to the American political system in time for the upcoming elections, just in case you took a snooze in political science class.
Why do we have government?
Great political philosopher John Locke in his masterpiece essays titled “Second Treatise of Government,” describes humans as being in, “a state of perfect freedom . . . of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.” Essentially outlying his belief that humans in their most animalistic form are free and made equal in nature.
To explain why humans would leave their perfect state of nature in order to form a society he goes on to explain, “the enjoyment of property in this state is very unsafe . . . this makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however, free, is full of fears and continual dangers . . . he seeks out and is willing to join in society with others, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates.” Locke describes how humans actions aren’t always of the best intent and in order for one to protect themselves from others they join into unions.
In large part a philosophical question – there are pros and cons to any type of government one can study. In particular the pro of democracy is you come to a conclusion in which the majority of people would conclude that to be correct. The con however is that often a majority rule becomes mob-rule, people are often times too easy to get riled up and make hasty decisions.
Is the United States a democracy – are the decisions made by the citizens?
Short answer? NO. Presidential elections go through the electoral college, and while it’s rare in history that they ever go against the majority vote (2000 election) – they technically have the power to override the majority choice. Judges are appointed by already elected government officials.
The only say we’re really allowed is we vote in members of congress, whom we select to make decisions for us. The House of Representatives is the most democratic system of government we have: it is based on population size and directly elected by the people. However the Senate, although directly elected, hold a majority of the power in Congress. Everything the House passes, the Senate then has to pass. And this is not quite as democratic, each state simply gets to delegate as opposed to it representing the population size. Pure democracy is majority rule meaning that the population size would count.
It doesn’t seem to be the very pure version of democracy that we Americans seem to believe our country to be, as far as I’m concerned.
What’s the difference between a successful democracy (America), vs. the ones in Afghanistan, Sudan, Uganda, and other failed democracies of the world?
Good losers. We have a political system in which when the party in control loses, they accept and step down. As opposed to holding power through force or through legal issues. And a system in which, theoretically, the populace respects a law even if it does not agree or vote for such law.
What is a Democratic Socialist?
By definition, democratic socialism is an ideology in which a democratic political system coincides a socialist economic system.
Put simply: the ideology seeks to take the capitalist business-first mentality that our social institutions hold out of the picture. For example, when you go to the doctor it’s about making money for them – after all they’re a business. They operate as a business would: doctors have overhead, they have families and they have competition for customers. Socialism aims to take that economic process and make it owned by the citizens, so that it benefits the citizens the most.
Things like social security are a socialist system which has relatively succeeded and become rather popular in the United States, although it needs to be reworked as the population dynamics change. But that’s an entirely other FAQ column to be written (ask your grandparents and then ask your econ teacher and you’ll get some interesting conflicts in opinions).
Here is a thought provoking, although somewhat random, quote from an unknown source, “If you’re not liberal when you’re young – it means you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you’re old – it means you have no brain.”