Democracy, War, Peace Lecture #4
Democracy and its Institutions:
+ Democracy: a method for choosing leaders. Universal franchise, secret ballot, and
Should not be confused with ‘eternal bliss’. It does not create a utopia of sorts.
Entails basic rights and freedoms as shown in Constant’s reading. But in no way does it
have to contain equal distribution of wealth etc. It CAN have it but it does not HAVE to
-Emerges out of different pre-democratic societies: Dictatorships, Tribal, etc. ANY society
can spawn a democracy, but it takes a wealthy nation to KEEP one. Poor nations can very
well create a democratic society but it is very difficult to keep it. (Of every democratic
nation with a GDP over $6000, only one has reverted to something other than democracy,
-There are different ways of organising a democratic society:
Example: Canada and U.S have two major parties, while in Europe there are many
parties with similar amounts of influence.
+What is an Institution?
The rules of the game: How we vote, how laws are passed, how long representatives
-The rules can be changed in order to keep up with changes in society.
+Parliamentary vs. Presidential Systems
-Constitutions: lay out the big macro rules of the game. Britain vs. The US
-Ancient vs. Modern Constitutionalism
Ancient: The way politics are actually practiced and performed day to day so it works
well. Britain conforms with this model, (there is no written constitution in G.B)
Modern: A specific document written at a specific time by people who decided how
the country should be run from then on. (Such as the US)
Britain has a very stable democracy, institutions have been around for centuries. Russia on
the other hand changes institutions very frequently, (especially in the last 20 years)
-Historically in Britain, there are acts that are so important that they take on
constitutional characteristics, such as the document refining the relationship between the
Monarchy and Parliament, Magna Carta (13th century, still around!), etc.
-Custom: 5 years serving terms for representatives, but it is not written down
anywhere! It is just adhered to because it is deemed important.
-Important interpretations of the law: Similar to precedent in Canada, important
rulings are followed time after time.
-What keeps British democracy going without a written constitution? Common law.
Common law is a series of evolving judicial precedents that is interpreted by judges.
Example: In Row v. Wade, in the U.S abortion was made legal because ruling against
it went against the American constitution regarding privacy even though it was not thought
applicable at the time. This is the same in most commonwealth countries and Great
Institutions are the product of evolution, such is Great Britain.
-Constitution is a written document, lays down the basic rules of the game and has been
followed for 200 years. There have been amendments over the years but it is very difficult to
change the constitution.
-Enumerated rights: Right to free speech, right to bear arms, due process etc.
-Rules of the game are clearly articulated in the Constitution.
Completely a product of human design, written by a group of guys in Philadelphia
rather than through hundreds of years of evolution like in Britain.
Design of Government
US- president and cabinet, (cabinet does not have to be an elected representative).
GB- prime minister and cabinet, (elected representatives).
It does not create a utopia of sorts. Entails basic rights and freedoms as shown in constant"s reading. But in no way does it have to contain equal distribution of wealth etc. Emerges out of different pre-democratic societies: dictatorships, tribal, etc. Any society can spawn a democracy, but it takes a wealthy nation to keep one. Poor nations can very well create a democratic society but it is very difficult to keep it. (of every democratic nation with a gdp over , only one has reverted to something other than democracy, There are different ways of organising a democratic society: Example: canada and u. s have two major parties, while in europe there are many parties with similar amounts of influence. The rules of the game: how we vote, how laws are passed, how long representatives serve, etc. The rules can be changed in order to keep up with changes in society.