[extropy-chat] democracy

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Apr 26 09:19:32 UTC 2007

TheMan writes

> Democracy is an interesting topic. Many people seem to take it
> that we have democracy in the western societies. Do we really?

It's all relative. One might ask whether we have achieved Popperian
"openness" in our Western society.  It's all a matter of degree (Of
Course), and it's always relative.  We say that the Athenians
practiced a form of democracy;  and I think it's messing with the
meaning of words to deny it by pointing out the very real limitations
of their democracy.

> Severely mentally deranged people are not allowed to
> vote (or so we are made believe). Some people may
> think a given person is too deranged to be allowed to
> vote, whereas others may think the same person is
> mentally sane enough to be allowed to vote. Who is
> right about who is too deranged? The psychiatrists?

It doesn't really matter so long as the extreme cases are dealt
with in a somewhat reasonable way.  In the U.S.S.R. people
were deemed insane because they openly objected to the
policies of the Party. (Maybe you would have to be crazy
to do that at that time and place :-)   But what is crucial is
how they were treated. That's a far cry from how the
mentally infirm are treated in the West, even though, of
course, some injustices occur now and then.

> If a given 15 year old is brighter and more mature in
> every possibly relevant way,

And how do we measure that?

> why should the 50 year old be allowed to
> vote and not the 15 year old? These two kinds of
> people do probably exist. Isn't denying children the
> right to vote simply unjust age discrimination?

It's age discrimination, but it's hardly unjust.  A line
has to be drawn somewhere along the continuum.
Your purpose here seems to be to deconstruct 
everything from democracy to mental sickness to
maturity;  this manner of inquiry is much more suitable
for philosophy than for social policy or business 

> Categories like children and adults are just mental
> constructions, just like the dividing of people into
> dyslexic and normal, immature and mature, employed
> and unemployed etc.

Like I said, you seem to want to deconstruct all of our common
sense notions.  Can you really assert that there is a difference
between the soil that a tree grows in and the tree itself? Do 
you suppose that there is an ultra-precise boundary? Isn't 
matter continuous, with particles being only partial maxima
in the quantum fields?  So who says sub-atomic particles

I would recommend a course in philosophy at a nearby college
except that my friends who have taken such courses report
that it makes the situation worse instead of better.  One reported
that his introductory philosophy class took most of a semester
trying to say that when you remove one stone at a time from a
heap, at what point does the heap cease to exist?

> So how can anybody claim that we have democracy today? 
> Can democracy even be theoretically possible?

As I say, it's relative, and the boundaries are fuzzy. What do
you mean by "theoretically"?   Can you provide an *exact*
definition that does not require further clarification?  I'm saying
you have to stand back and start being sensible about categories.


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