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Forms of Democracy

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Political Science
Graham White

Forms of Democracy Canada: An Actual Democracy  published in 1921 by Lord Bryce  positive assessment of Cdn democracy  from current perspective, many shortcomings in Cdn democracy Lessons  standards of democracy change  we shouldn‟t be complacent  positive change possible  can‟t evaluate democracy without a clear concept/definition of democracy WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? • no single, agreed definition • adjectival democracy • three models especially useful for analyzing Cdn democracy THREE MODELS OF DEMOCRACY 1) Representative Democracy (most Cdn concepts) 2) Direct/Plebiscitary Democracy 3) Deliberative Democracy ( ~~ Catt‟s “participatory democracy”) Differences/Similarities A) Differences • conceptions of society (collection of individual vs. collection of group afflation such as culture, language, class) • political philosophy (some people like to see a very strong involvement of the state, very active, prohibiting something, BUT some people just want to be left alone) • decision-making rules (clear cut differences: when it‟s time to make a decision how do you do it? Majority rules vs. more elaborate processes). • proper and possible public involvement in governing (do elective reps get all the power, or do elected individuals have some power and are controlled by citizens) B) Commonalities • rule by the people • probity (controlled/ no corruption) • equality (all people should be equal) • rule of law/due process (fundamental aspect of a democratic system, government officials can‟t override laws). REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY (dominant form in Cdn) • people elect representatives to govern • people delegate extensive powers to representatives • elections must be free and fair • mechanisms for accountability and transparency (free press/good information about gov., reps, etc) (essential) • balance between majority rule and minority rights • many variations possible + Congressional vs Parliamentary systems + First Past the Post vs PR DIRECT/PLEBISCITARY DEMOCRACY • rooted in populist suspicion of elites and „experts‟ (Rob Ford) • (“the common sense of the common people”) • the people should have direct control over elected representatives • (“delegates” not “representatives”) (Capital punishment – parliament thought it was important that the state should not be killing people, they went directly against the views of the people that elected them) • expression of public will be binding (“the debate is over”) • strongly individualistic and majoritarian view of society and politics (if majority want something then it should happen) • often black&white alternatives/zero-sum game (if you having opposing sides, one side loses the other wins) (Quebec sovereignty) • often anti-government (gov. is too big, too intrusive, too much money, restricts people‟s freedom- direct democracy measures need to be imposed) • real-life examples • plebiscites (not legally binding, seen as a mass public poll) (ex. Whether Quebec should become a separate country) and referenda (legally binding, if it passes the gov. has to do what the people voted for) (both have votes from the people on specific policy issues, does not occur very often) • recall (citizens are not happy with the actions of a elected representative, you can petition to recall them out of office and elect a new rep) • initiative (variation on plebiscites and referenda , oppo
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