Throwing an 800 lb Gauntlet

I'm interested in your thoughts on a controversial topic. If you are willing to expound, great. If possible, try to refrain from reading anyone else's comments (assuming there are any ;)), before you share your thoughts. In a couple of days, I'll weigh in but I don't want to pollute the discussion just yet. I welcome all insights even into the basic premise of the question itself. If you have friends that should weigh in on this invite them too. I'd like to have some fun with this one.

Here''s the pitch: Do the facts of human nature, with humans being the product of descent with modification, preclude the long term stability of democracy.


Stacy said...

I'm going to re-word it if i may ...
just for my own simplification...

Does human nature make democracy impossible?

(my son just said "yes" - there will always be groups that rise up and try and overtake etc...)

I say he's wrong.

Our system of gov't is such that we are in constant upheaval. (which is a good thing)

Harvey said...

If you believe, as I do, that most human behavior choices are based upon perceived good outcomes or avoidance or minimization of bad ones, "Human Nature" certainly does not preclude ongoing success of democratic forms of government.
Once one's socialization experiences have reached maturity, one usually comes to recognize that what is good or beneficial to one's social group is generally also good for most of the individuals involved. But, here's the rub! The larger and more complex the group, the more often perceived personal benefit may come into conflict with what is best for the whole. Hence, our need for laws and penalties for individuals whose behavior may be damaging to the group. Having said this, it seems obvious that if democratic forms of government like our present one strive to protect individual rights and freedoms and from arbitrary imposition of "majority" wishes upon individuals, this form of government will seem "best" to most of the group. When that form of government is chosen with equal input from all of its participants, it follows that most of the people will support it most of the time.

Harvey said...

As Winston Churchill observed: (I paraphrase)"Democracy is the worst from of government ever devised by Man,....except for all the others."

mac said...

It's not just Democracy.

Governments fail, all forms have.

Yeah, human nature may well play a role in this. I think it was just as much the cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union as any Democracy.

It's tough to govern.

I think a great deal of our problems arise out of our very freedoms. People abuse the systems we have in place.

I forget who said it, but I remember a quote an old friend used to say, "What makes a society great will eventually be its downfall". I think if this is true, we may be doomed.

Michael Lockridge said...

A social structure such as democracy requires enlightened self-interest on the part of participants in order to maintain stability. Always a precarious balance between security and freedom.

Prior to times of wealth and knowledge being broadly distributed power was retained by small numbers of people. As technology (including information technology) advanced it was necessary to give knowledge, wealth and power to more people in order to run the expanding economies.

Wealth and knowledge have become widely enough distributed in recent times to give birth to democratic social orders, and to liberate (in some places) various previously downtrodden groups of people.

Are these changes over time evidence of some outworking of general human evolution? Is there a real relationship between general evolution and social/economic evolution?

It may yet be too early to tell. We are again in an era of transition, with global interconnection allowing the flow of information at a previously unimaginable rate.

Information is not the same as knowledge, however. What will people do with this so much information? How will it shape democracy, for example?

On the one hand, it would be hard to control people who have so much information. That should make democratic structures stronger.

On the other hand, what do people seem to be doing with this vast flow of information and access to wealth? Too often personal peace and affluence brings about complacency and a peculiar form of blindness.

Democracy did not arise out of apathy and self-indulgence.

If nothing else, the future should be interesting.