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Old May 3 2012, 09:39 PM   #1
datalogan
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Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

This question came up recently in another thread. I thought it was interesting enough to get its own thread.

The age of majority is very much a culturally-defined idea. It is not just a matter of getting through puberty or physically appearing like an adult. Although it does have a strong link to puberty and the associated physical development, it’s really the mental development that matters. And not just generic mental development, but probably specifically development of one’s mental picture of his/her place within the society and culture they live.

Actual process of turning from child into adult is gradual, physically and culturally. And there are many different aspects of it that could be controlled separately. Different developmental clues or ages could be used for each different aspect. I think this has become more and more recognized over time in the complexities of our laws. Common US examples: driving (with test), alcohol, gun license, ability to marry, own property, trade stock, etc. Jury duty, voting, being tried as an adult. I am only going to focus on one important step, separate from all other possible signs of the “adulthood”: the right to vote in a democratic society. (I am assuming that Federation societies are democratic, or at least a close approximation.)

I would think that mental (specifically social) maturity is what matters, not so much physical maturity. At least, no more than physical maturity may affect mental growth and maturity.

If you were going to test for “maturity” or “adulthood” as a precursor to gaining the right to vote, what would you test for if not the physical? My initial thoughts (ie: gut reaction) was that you couldn’t test too much for any particular knowledge, like the ability to read and write or even a particular knowledge of how the government works because even ignorant bums (and I use the term loosely, not to point out any particular group) should have the right to vote in a democracy. Then I thought, maybe some kind of IQ test, but again that doesn’t account for the ignorant bums.

There are actually some people that are mentally deficient enough that they should not be allowed to vote. I’m talking about people with medically declared mental deficiencies that require life-time assistance, like people in mental institutions (permanently at least, maybe not just temporary visitors), or people like my uncle, who suffered a head injury at the age of 9 and never developed beyond that point (although he lived to be 64).

But other than the actual medical cases, everyone else, no matter how ignorant or how low the IQ, should be allowed to vote once they grow out of their childhood dependency into adulthood. That’s the initial gut reaction anyway. You certainly don’t want to try and start secluding people on any basis, because there would be the urge by people in charge to corrupt the system to further weed out undesired people from the voting populace. It’s the slippery slope idea.

So we come back to the only real quality clearly linked to maturity and measurable enough to apply across the board equally: physical age. At some point in age we go through puberty and take on the physical characteristics of adulthood. The exact age differs depending on environmental and genetic factors. And at some point in age we have gained enough experience with the world to be considered “adults” by our cultural definitions. Again, the exact age differs. But it is the only good starting point for discussion, and each culture can define the appropriate age for them.

Of course, in the Federation, the link between age and puberty is more complex because there exist different species. And it’s possible that vastly different environmental factors could significantly change the onset of puberty, even for members of the same race. Say, for instance, that being raised on a low gravity environment (like the Moon) causes a measurable delay in puberty for the average human. That would have to be taken into account. But how do you deal with people coming and going, not living continuously in any one environment their entire lives (3 years on Earth, 6 years on the Moon, 2 years on a starship, 4 years in aquatic city miles deep in an ocean somewhere, etc, etc)?

Maybe if we could accurately measure when puberty happens, then base the voting age on that somehow? But that would probably be exceedingly hard to do. Even within a given species (like humans) there are lots of variability in signs of puberty. What would you use as a measurable indicator? Girls getting their period? Not all of them do. Boys getting facial hair? Not all of them do. There are medical conditions which may remove one or more signs of puberty without reducing the over-arching reality that the person is an adult now and not a child, at least in the important aspect of mental capacity for abstract and social thought. And what about the estimated 5-9% of the human race that do not fall into the strict categories of man or woman?

I think the only real fair way for the Federation to deal with this is to have a 2-tiered system:
(1)There would be an agreed upon age for each species upon which normal adulthood is assumed. Some people could be withheld from this automatic age of majority by professional medical diagnosis. This is much like most modern societies on Earth today, except that you would have to take into account different possible environments. And the age would have to be different for each race. (As an aside, this age would have to be measured from the being’s perspective. If they went forward or backward in time, or they spent any time at relativistic speeds, etc, then those things would have to be taken into account.) These normal ages would be defined by the people or the legislative bodies in a democratic way.
(2)There would be a method available for beings to gain their right to vote prior to this “normal” age to account for the unusual person/event.
(By the way, this is generally how I think current Earth cultures should deal with this problem even now; except for the points about different species.)

So again, I come back to: what do you test for, if you were going to? And for this, I have to remind myself that the age of majority is a culturally-defined construct. So the real question is, what does our culture expect of an adult in relationship to voting. (Remember, this question can be asked with different answers for different things, but I am only going to focus on voting.) I think, in general, adults are expected to contribute positively to society. (You can say this is especially true in the idealized Federation, where apparently everyone does that without even having money to motivate them.) And in order to positively contribute with your new power to vote I would think one would need (and be able to pass a test to prove) a basic understanding of how to vote, what it does, probably even an understanding of the basic structure of the government and it’s checks and balances, of which voting is a part. And most importantly, express an understanding that this voting right is your alone, not to be forced on you by others or shared with others. (The idea being to minimize the chance that somebody could “force” a bunch of young ignorant children into voting a certain way.)

Basically, I would think this “early voting power” test would be similar to citizen tests given to people trying to gain citizenship in a new country. Only, this voting test would be more focused just on the government construct and the act of voting itself. No need to have detailed history tests. Or recite the pledge of allegiance, etc.

Of course, this testing process would have to be available in many languages and methods to ensure that no particular language is required, not that ability to read and write. And any physical handicap would not prevent someone from passing.

I got to thinking further about this idea that the age of majority was a cultural-defined construct. What about those societies that have a vastly different idea of what the age of majority is? In human history at least, the age of majority has tended to be older and older as the average lifespan of the people in the society goes up. In less technologically-advanced cultures where the average life expectancy is lower, the age of majority tends to often be associated directly with puberty itself. Well, what about those segments of Federation society that have maintained a less-technologically-advanced existence and therefore have a vastly younger age of majority? Like the descendants of the Rubber Tree People that Chakotay meet on Earth in the VGR episode “Tattoo”.

But would such people even want to get involved with Federation politics? It doesn’t matter whether they do or not, really, they have the right and there needs to be an answer to how that would be addressed. Say a young 13-year-old human boy/man comes out from one of these sub-cultures and says “I’m an adult in my society, I know nothing about Federation politics, but I want the right to vote in Federation elections.” Who is the Federation to deny that kid the right to vote just because he’s not old enough by the pre-defined normal human standards in the Federation and he can’t pass the “early voting” test? Well, that answer is: they are the Federation, a totally different culture than the one he grew up in.

Because the age of majority is culturally defined, it can be different for different cultures and subcultures. You can see how there might be lots of different tiers of cultures in the Federation, each with their own different definitions of age of majority. Voting in Federation-level politics requires a certain age of majority (say 18), but local politics are very different and require a different age of majority (like 13 in the case of this young boy). I think it’s OK for this to be different. There are differences in how local politics work versus large-level Federation politics. It’s OK to recognize those differences. IDIC and all that. Plus, all that young boy would have to do to gain the right to vote in Federation elections would be to learn a little about the Federation government that he will be participating in. That’s not too much to ask for is it? I think it’s a good reason, as alluded to above, to have that second tier of gaining the right to vote in the Federation.

Here’s one more major challenge for Federation in relation to the age of majority and the right to vote: how do you handle mix-breed children. Every new hybrid child that is born is practically a new species entirely. There would be no pre-defined data to go one when you ask the question: “what’s the normal age for this child to go through puberty?” What age do you use as the default age of majority for such a being? You would assume a hybrid child would mature at least as fast as slowest-maturing parent, but even that may not be the case. Especially if a lot of genetic help was required along the way in order to have the child in the first place (like when humans and Vulcans produce offspring). At least initially, you would think the new hybrids would have to test into adulthood because there would be no predefined "automatic" age of majority.
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Old May 4 2012, 03:34 PM   #2
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

Do we even have any evidence that people vote for anything in the Federation? I seem to remember Jaresh Inyo from DS9 saying his people sent him but nothing to indicate it was by vote.
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Old May 4 2012, 03:50 PM   #3
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

We also earned that Jaresh-Inyo was "elected" for President, but we don't know by whom.

President: " I was content to simply represent my people on the Federation Council. When they asked me to submit my name for election, I almost said no."
and later

"Leyton: "Hardly a dictatorship, Ben."
Sisko: "Overthrowing a legitimately elected President...?"
So... We know the President is elected, and we know a Member of the UFP Council represents his people there. But we don't know if a Council Member gets elected, and we don't know if people are involved in the election of a President.

I'm not aware of any other issues or positions in the UFP being open to popular vote. However, voting was part of the process where Ambassadors (and possible other officials and reps) decided whether to accept Coridan's petition for UFP membership in "Journey to Babel". The vote was to be cast in a special emergency conference, which probably isn't the same thing as the UFP Council, and it appeared every member planet got one vote. This might be considered representative democracy at work, if only we had some evidence that the Ambassadors casting the planetary votes represented their people via a democratic election process. Just as with Council Members, though, evidence for such is lacking. And if anything, "Ambassador" sounds like somebody who is appointed rather than elected.

None of this is solid evidence for the lack of democratic mechanisms in the UFP, though. It is quite possible that democracy is being employed in legislation (probably in the representative form, given the existence of the Council and its Members) and in execution (since we know virtually nothing of the executive branch of the UFP, unless this in fact is the Council), and perhaps even in the judiciary process (where judges might be elected rather than appointed, and/or the process of judging actually conducted by popular vote).

It would be fun to speculate on the subjecting of legislative, judiciary executive powers to direct popular vote - certainly an option for a society with advanced means of communication and processing of information. But since Star Trek drama calls for officials of various sorts, it appears likelier that Trek democracy, if any indeed exists, is of the representative sort, and the President is an actual executive official with powers surrendered to him by the people.

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Old May 4 2012, 03:55 PM   #4
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

My point being, we've never seen a private citizen or member of Starfleet mention or carry out the action of actual voting.
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Old May 4 2012, 06:25 PM   #5
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

double post

Last edited by T'Girl; May 5 2012 at 09:48 AM.
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Old May 4 2012, 06:25 PM   #6
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

Timo wrote: View Post
We also earned that Jaresh-Inyo was "elected" for President, but we don't know by whom.

President: " I was content to simply represent my people on the Federation Council. When they asked me to submit my name for election, I almost said no."
It's not clear from that if "my people," and "they" are the same group of people. "They" could be the members of Jaresh-Inyo's political coalition in the council, and they and their allies on the council were the ones to 'elect' him to the position of council president.
decided whether to accept Coridan's petition for UFP membership in "Journey to Babel".
My impression has been that the ambassador/deligates were from the various planets governments, and were not federation council members. Sarek mentioned (iirc) his "government's instructions." Which would have been Vulcan's government.`

Vulcan's government might not be democratic itself, but will send people to a democratic body to express their wishes on interstellar matters.

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Old May 5 2012, 01:23 AM   #7
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

Timo wrote: View Post
We also earned that Jaresh-Inyo was "elected" for President, but we don't know by whom.

President: " I was content to simply represent my people on the Federation Council. When they asked me to submit my name for election, I almost said no."
and later

"Leyton: "Hardly a dictatorship, Ben."
Sisko: "Overthrowing a legitimately elected President...?"
So... We know the President is elected, and we know a Member of the UFP Council represents his people there. But we don't know if a Council Member gets elected, and we don't know if people are involved in the election of a President.

I'm not aware of any other issues or positions in the UFP being open to popular vote. However, voting was part of the process where Ambassadors (and possible other officials and reps) decided whether to accept Coridan's petition for UFP membership in "Journey to Babel". The vote was to be cast in a special emergency conference, which probably isn't the same thing as the UFP Council, and it appeared every member planet got one vote. This might be considered representative democracy at work, if only we had some evidence that the Ambassadors casting the planetary votes represented their people via a democratic election process. Just as with Council Members, though, evidence for such is lacking. And if anything, "Ambassador" sounds like somebody who is appointed rather than elected.

None of this is solid evidence for the lack of democratic mechanisms in the UFP, though. It is quite possible that democracy is being employed in legislation (probably in the representative form, given the existence of the Council and its Members) and in execution (since we know virtually nothing of the executive branch of the UFP, unless this in fact is the Council), and perhaps even in the judiciary process (where judges might be elected rather than appointed, and/or the process of judging actually conducted by popular vote).

It would be fun to speculate on the subjecting of legislative, judiciary executive powers to direct popular vote - certainly an option for a society with advanced means of communication and processing of information. But since Star Trek drama calls for officials of various sorts, it appears likelier that Trek democracy, if any indeed exists, is of the representative sort, and the President is an actual executive official with powers surrendered to him by the people.

Timo Saloniemi
Well we know very little about how the Federation Council works. Only what can be inferred from the vague referrences in episodes.

We don't know for definate even how the United Earth Government works, from what can be inferred from ENT is that it appears to be a Parliamentary based, but is that with an elected head of State (President) with a Prime Minister being the Head of Government.


1.>For all we know the Federation President isn't elected by popular vote but by the council members themselves.

2.>Each member planet maybe able to choose how it's selects it's council member, Whether that be by popular vote or by vote of the elected government of each world.

3.>It is possible in the 22nd-23rd century era, that the Ambassadors fufilled the role of Council member. Or the ones that we saw in TOS such as Ambassador Sarek did double duty both as Council Member for the Vulcan People as well as Ambassador to Earth. Moving into the 24th century era with the larger Federation some changes were made to how the Council operates.

It is just as likely that the position as Federation President doesn't come with any special privelages i.e a power of veto. So any vote comes down to the simple 50%+1 rule.
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Old May 5 2012, 02:03 AM   #8
robau
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

MacLeod wrote: View Post
1.>For all we know the Federation President isn't elected by popular vote but by the council members themselves.
I would definitely bet on this. The acts of voting and campaigning and all the oversight involved just seem way too chaotic for the Utopia. Not to mention it seems logistically impractical even with their technology. It also seems to me that such things like demanding to have a vote in whatever would look really petty to them in the future.
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Old May 5 2012, 12:34 PM   #9
Timo
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

On the other hand, it might be trivially simple for the technologically savvy Federation to arrange a popular vote on every issue, from the formulation of points of law to their interpretation in court to the scheduling of public transportation to the color of the sky today. Governments might have been abandoned as an outdated concept, the profession of politician regarded as not only petty but downright criminal.

In practice, that would mean people would be voting about 100% of their waking hours, of course. But a bit of technology would certainly make that possible, just like it makes it possible for me to spend 100% of my waking hours arguing Star Trek if I wish. And the technology collecting and analyzing the votes could and should also be rigged to pass statistical judgement on which votes from which voters are admissible, eliminating the problem of age of majority: a young kid's votes would count on certain issues for which he or she had demonstrated sufficient maturity, while a virile man of sixty-four would be banned from voting on issues where he had been declared immature. It would all come down to merciless number-crunching and iteration of voter satisfaction through repeated revoting, leaving little room for counterarguments in the banning process.

Yet in Star Trek, the point stands that we have never seen anybody vote on anything, and have only heard of Ambassadors (or their planets, depending on the interpretation) ever passing a vote of any sort. Yet Kirk considers "us" a democracy...

Kor, Commandant of Organia: "You of the Federation, you are much like us."
Kirk: "We're nothing like you. We're a democratic body- "
Is he perhaps saying that Starfleet is a democratic body, which is why the UFP (despite not being a particularly democratic head for the body) is better than the Klingon Empire?

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Old May 5 2012, 04:41 PM   #10
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

We know for a fact that the Federation is a democratic body from Kirk's line establishing such in "Errand of Mercy." We know the Federation President is elected from "Paradise Lost." There is also a Federation Supreme Court, established in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume?," and a presidential Cabinet, established in "Extreme Measures." This much is known canonically.

Timo wrote:
However, voting was part of the process where Ambassadors (and possible other officials and reps) decided whether to accept Coridan's petition for UFP membership in "Journey to Babel". The vote was to be cast in a special emergency conference, which probably isn't the same thing as the UFP Council, and it appeared every member planet got one vote. This might be considered representative democracy at work, if only we had some evidence that the Ambassadors casting the planetary votes represented their people via a democratic election process.
To be fair, "Journey to Babel" estbalishes that the admissions process for Coridan was an extraordinary situation for the Federation, with the Member worlds at each other's throats, to the point where violence seemed likely to break out. I'd say that that represents a clear constitutional crisis, and shouldn't be taken to represent what normal Federation processes look like.

MacLeod wrote: View Post
Well we know very little about how the Federation Council works. Only what can be inferred from the vague referrences in episodes.
For whatever it's worth, the novels Articles of the Federation and A Time for War, A Time for Peace have done a lot to establish how the Federation government works.

Each Federation Member state has a single Federation Councillor to represent them on the Council. That Federation Councillor is appointed in whatever manner the Member state choses; the Federation Councillor from Betazed is popularly elected, for instance, while the Federation Councillor from Andor is appointed as part of the Presider's cabinet on the basis of which party wins a majority of seats in the Parliament Andoria, and the Federation Councillor from Bajor is appointed by the First Minister with the ratification of the Chamber of Ministers.

Federation Member states still retain limited capacity to conduct direct bilateral relations with one-another, and with foreign states, under Federation government supervision. As a result, each Member state retains an embassy on Earth, and a mostly-ceremonial Ambassador to the Federation as well. The Ambassadors seem to be almost completely powerless; presumably, they're appointed by the Member state government and answerable only to it, and function merely to facilitate relations between the Federation government and Member government, in contrast to a Councillor, who is an employee of the Federation government even as they represent a Member. Think of it as the difference between a U.S. Senator and the governors' delegations that some states send to D.C. to represent their economic interests in Washington.

The Federation President is directly elected by universal adult suffrage. Petitions for candidacy are submitted to the full Federation Council, which then votes to confirm that a given potential candidate fulfills the legal requirements for the Presidency, granting them official candidate status. The process of counting all of the votes for the Federation President takes around one week, and is conducted by two independent auditing firms as well as the Federation government itself, to ensure accuracy.

In the event of a Federation President's sudden vacancy from office, the Council appoints one of their own as Federation President Pro Tempore, who governs for one standard month while a new election is called.

The Federation Council is divided up into numerous committees, referred to as sub-councils. Each sub-council has authority over bills dealing with a given area. The Federation President appoints each member of the sub-councils, with the ratification of the full Council. The Federation President is expected to preside over all meetings of the full Council, and has the option to preside over all sessions of the sub-councils. The President works very closely with the sub-councils when formulating policy, particularly the Federation Security Council (which has jurisdiction over areas related to national security). In addition, departments of the Federation government are funded directly by their respective sub-councils, to whom they answer in addition to the President. Bills that are passed by a sub-council are then passed by the full Council, and then are either signed or vetoed by the President. If vetoed, the bill goes back to the full Council for a potential override vote.

The Federation Judiciary Council is depicted as the highest judicial body in the Federation. This may be interpreted as contradicting the line establishing the Supreme Court in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume?". However, one might interpret the "Dr. Bashir" line as referring to the Judiciary Council; certainly the Law Lords in Britain, until recently, were something similar.

So it's a bit of a hybrid of the Presidential and Parliamentary systems. There's much less separation of powers than in the U.S. system.

We don't know for definate even how the United Earth Government works, from what can be inferred from ENT is that it appears to be a Parliamentary based, but is that with an elected head of State (President) with a Prime Minister being the Head of Government.
That's exactly what the novels have established. The United Earth Prime Minister is established to still exist as of 2375, and in the ENT novels, we learn that United Earth is governed by a Parliament, with a President as a mostly-ceremonial head of government and real power lying with the Prime Minister.


robau wrote: View Post
I would definitely bet on this. The acts of voting and campaigning and all the oversight involved just seem way too chaotic for the Utopia.
You have a strange idea of "utopia," if you can't even vote for your own leaders. Sounds very dystopian to me.

Of course, we should let go of the idea of the Federation as utopia. The Federation is not a utopia, it's just more progressive than what exists today.

Not to mention it seems logistically impractical even with their technology.
You don't think that a culture that can travel faster than the speed of light has figured out how to count?

It also seems to me that such things like demanding to have a vote in whatever would look really petty to them in the future.
Oh, yes, all those petty, petty people, like Alice Paul and Martin Luther King. So petty, this desire to have a voice in the government that has power over you.

I'm sorry, but that idea is just naked autocracy.
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Old May 5 2012, 04:47 PM   #11
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

Just because Kirk called it democracy doesn't necessarily mean he's referring to American democracy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
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Old May 5 2012, 04:51 PM   #12
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

BillJ wrote: View Post
Just because Kirk called it democracy doesn't necessarily mean he's referring to American democracy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
I think we can safely rule out the idea that the Federation just calls itself a democrac for propaganda purposes the way the Soviet Union did, or the way states like the Syrian Arab Republic or Democratic People's Republic of Korea currently do.
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Old May 5 2012, 05:01 PM   #13
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

Sci wrote: View Post
BillJ wrote: View Post
Just because Kirk called it democracy doesn't necessarily mean he's referring to American democracy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
I think we can safely rule out the idea that the Federation just calls itself a democrac for propaganda purposes the way the Soviet Union did, or the way states like the Syrian Arab Republic or Democratic People's Republic of Korea currently do.
Why?

You say it with iron clad certainty when nothing in the actual shows warrants it.
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Old May 5 2012, 06:14 PM   #14
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

BillJ wrote: View Post
Just because Kirk called it democracy doesn't necessarily mean he's referring to American democracy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
Council democracy is not a bad idea per se, after all they shortly had it in France. I think that worker participation in the work place is very important if you wanna have true democracy but on the political level I am a big friend of centralization. It is just not possible to use this spontaneously creative, direct democratic council idea on population levels of millions in the case of nation states, billions in the case of world states and trillions in the case of the Federation council.
So while the Federation has probably little to do with American style capitalist democracy which is not a system that is stable in the long-run due to the conflict between capitalism and democracy it also has most likely little to do with council democracy due to the large population of the Federation.
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Old May 5 2012, 07:01 PM   #15
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Re: Age of Majority / Voting Age in the Federation

horatio83 wrote: View Post
BillJ wrote: View Post
Just because Kirk called it democracy doesn't necessarily mean he's referring to American democracy...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
Council democracy is not a bad idea per se, after all they shortly had it in France. I think that worker participation in the work place is very important if you wanna have true democracy but on the political level I am a big friend of centralization. It is just not possible to use this spontaneously creative, direct democratic council idea on population levels of millions in the case of nation states, billions in the case of world states and trillions in the case of the Federation council.
So while the Federation has probably little to do with American style capitalist democracy which is not a system that is stable in the long-run due to the conflict between capitalism and democracy it also has most likely little to do with council democracy due to the large population of the Federation.
Democracy may have a far different meaning in the 23rd century. It really is a meaningless word to the viewer without knowing nuts and bolts of how it works in an interstellar alliance.

If I'm not misremembering, a world has to be unified to join the Federation. Nothing about how it is unified.
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