VOTE today! And is the Federation a democracy?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by jayrath, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Democracy may not be a sufficient condition for freedom, but it is a necessary condition for freedom.

    Depends on your definition of "democracy." I for one would contend that the ancient Greek system was just another form of oligarchy, and that there is no real democracy until you have universal adult suffrage. By that standard, there were no democracies until the 20th Century.

    There is nothing democratic about the Klingon system, and there's no evidence the Klingons have ever even claimed it to be democratic. A believer in Klingon feudalism would no doubt claim that democracy is illegitimate because political office should not be conferred upon a leader by his inferiors.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Universal adult suffrage is just oligarchy of another sort, since "universal" and "adult" are mutually exclusive terms here. The Greek had certain limitations on who can vote; we today have limitations of our own liking. If we want standards of democracy that would stand the test of time (something desirable in a discussion involving both history and pseudo-future), we probably have to consider absolutely universal vote where criminals, infants, lunatics and people-in-potentia have their say, too.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    Pretty definitive statement for a universe we haven't explored yet. There may be folks out there who have different concepts of what freedom is. It's not our job to go out and change them, just to attempt to bridge the gap.
     
  4. neozeks

    neozeks Captain Captain

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    If we were talking about something wildly biologically and culturally different like the Horta or some insectoid hive-mind species, sure, there could be room for debate. But the majority of Federation species are, with minor differences, very human-like. They're rational individual humanoid creatures with free will. Why shouldn't values that are universal to humans (well, unless you subscribe to moral relativism) be universal to them as well?
     
  5. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    What I described isn't even about values, per se. I described an inevitable, objective scenario -- that when not made accountable to the full society in the form of a democratic mandate, any ruling class will become corrupted by power and begin oppressing the masses, who will in turn become resentful. A lack of democracy will inevitably produce class conflict.
     
  6. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    But democracy is every bit as vulnerable to class conflict.
     
  7. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, any system that lacks genuine freedom for the masses will lead to class conflict. As I said before, democracy is a necessary condition for freedom, not a sufficient condition.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Free masses will tend to gyrate towards class identities or identities in general; humans just aren't interested in becoming a homogeneous whole, not beyond a comfortable community size of a couple of hundred people (perhaps to be multiplied somewhat through things like mass media and fast long-range communications and transportation, but still).

    Draconian rule sounds like the more probable way out of class conflict than freedom, then. At the very least a common foe to hate would unify a number of factions that otherwise would prefer to find and emphasize any "identifying" differences.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Awesonne

    Awesonne Ensign Red Shirt

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    What if the ruling class must preserve a facade of democracy? What if you have a corrupt oligarchy composed by people too smart to provoke the people by openingly oppressing it?
    This may well be the situation in several professed "democratic" countries, but current politics aside, in this situation you can well have neither democracy nor oppression: the oligarchy damages the economic and social systems, sure, but does not reach a "point of non-return" where the economy collapses or a revolution starts. In such a country, also, people know democracy is a lie but accept it because the actual situation makes it better than a revolution. We can then talk about a well-educated, maybe even science-oriented, etc. country without a democracy - only, with a weak concept of active participation in the "res publica".

    This said, rewatching TOS I feel like the self-improvement centered, value-oriented Federation just can't stand such a situation. Just imagine Kirk living under such a lie and not denouncing it, risking his life to make his galaxy better... and with him, many others, both in the Starfleet and outside it. If I'm interpreting well the psychology of a (human, at least) citizen of the Federation, few there would stand a government which is uncapable to deeply and truly reflect the values stated by the Constitution.
    But this point of view also leads to be extremely diplomatic towards planet who make a different choice, thus considering their situation case-to-case.

    I haven't watched DS9 though, I guess I'll get a better informed opinion by watching it.

    EDIT: completed the sentence "I feel like the self-improvement centered, value-oriented Federation" with "just can't stand such a situation."
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    No such thing. Any system of unaccountable, autocratic elites will eventually see that elite class revert to corruption, incompetence, and oppression. It is the nature of power that it corrupts and seeks to ever-expand, and it is the nature of unaccountable power to produce lesser and lesser competence. It may take more time or less, but eventually that "point of non-return" will always be reached.
     
  11. Awesonne

    Awesonne Ensign Red Shirt

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    Personally I think that in the worst case democracy is, paraphrasing Churchill, the best form of government that has been tried so far, and would strongly prefer it over current/described oligarchies. I have, however, some objections:

    1. I should have been much more clear; I'm not talking about a compact, uniform oligarchy. There is no "class war", all the de facto power, and let's say (to simplify for the love of brevity) that game theory makes unquestionably dominant the "live your rich life and watch" strategy.
    2. What if democracies are also a failure on the long run? We have no notion of a democracy standing up for more than about two centuries, and we can see the american system does have some cracks (it is not to me to judge how bad they are). In this case the "point of non-return" will eventually be reached by any government. [ of course citing the Federation would be pretty circular :) ]

    By the way keep in mind that I think, as expressed, that the Federation IS a democracy because of the way its citizen think, astonishingly and wonderfully coherent with the democratic point of view.
     
  12. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I don't see how we could say that, because there were no democracies before the mid-20th century. Every so-called "democracy" that existed before then was actually just another oligarchy that excluded people on the basis of race, sex, and/or religion. The United States, for instance, was not a democracy until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
     
  13. Awesonne

    Awesonne Ensign Red Shirt

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    Well, then a fortiori. We can't tell democracy will stand the trial of time by looking at history.
     
  14. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I have not argued in this thread that we know with any certainty that democracy will last -- only that there is no such thing as liberty without it.
     
  15. Awesonne

    Awesonne Ensign Red Shirt

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    I know, and lol, we actually agree, if I am not mistaken, that the Federation is a democracy. You have btw stated that other forms of government would eventually produce class conflict - then we got taken in the flow of discussion since I do not agree with some basic opinions you have about democracy.

    The reason for this apparent off-topic was: I can think of a non-democratic government without oppression, but I do believe Federation is a democracy due to the way we've seen its citizens relate to its values. That is, for me we can infer UFP is a democracy by looking at its citizens' psychology.
     

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