Jun 7, 2004

The Democratic States of America

I thought that today I would be discussing connection between United States and evolution of democracy – unfotunately, that didn't happen, but I did give this matter some thought yesterday and it seems too interesting to let it slide. Fortunately, I still can write about my thoughts here - nothing lost, nothing gained, right?

First, let's consider the logic of cause and consequence. Since the concept of democracy (which could be traced as far as Pericles in ancient Greece) predates US by oh, some 2k years, it would be right to say that in the match between the USA and the democracy, it is the democracy that scored first goal – or speaking more formally, it influenced US first.

How? I won't go as far as saying that without the idea of democray US would have not formed. It has been proven by history without doubt that colonies tend to declare independence, sooner or later – but most of the time, they have became a monarchy (before XX century) or an authoritarian state (lately). Why the US become a democracy is a very interesting question, and I wont go into the details here (those details could form a dissertation thesis by themselves!), sufficient to say that it looked like the best way to preserve AND INCREASE the influence of important status-groups that supported the revolution (urban status groups as defined by Max Weber, mostly). The influence of idealists and religion (Christianity notion of equality) should not be underestimated, either.

Then the tables are turned, and it is the US that begins to influence democracy. Consider such 'milestones' (as defined by John Markoff):
– creation of political parties (first ever known political party activists can be traced to New York in 1820s – before that time it was considered that a 'true democrat' should not pledge alegiance to any group, by rather to the whole nation)
- expansion of the voting census – first, to all citizens (elimination of wealth requirement) in the US contitution, then to women (Utah and Wyoming were first in 1870s, although the first nation to grant all women the right to vote was Australia few years later)

It is interesting to stop here and consider why the democracy in US was not overthrown but on the contrary it grew, since it will shed light on one of the reasons for its (or should I say 'their) expansion in the last century. US was lucky. It is almost as simple as that. No agressive enemies on its borders and a continent rich in natural resources ripe for conquest. Coupled with religion that supported economic growth and didn't oppose technological progress (see my article on Max Weber work on Prothestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for more info), it lead to US becoming a superpower we all know and love (or at least cant deny its existence) today.

The status of superpower surely helped the first wave of democracy in Europe – after IWW, where many countries were able to chose a new political system, surely democracy's image was helped a lot by the fact that the most powerful country on Earth, victor in the World War (the War to end all wars, heh...) was a democracy. It is prudent to note here that later, during the Cold War, US acted in support of democracy as often as against it – realpolitik and self-interest made it often wise to support authoritarian regimes that would be indebted to US and oppose the commies rather then to support democracies, which were more likely to suddenly change sides (after an election) or care about their own interest (I recommend history of India-US relations for an interesting study of that).

Finally, today US is a leader in (among many other diffrent things) electronic voting, which coupled with the Internet may lead (IMHO) to another democracy milestone, and creation of e-democracy.

There are thousands of interessting aspects in the area of evolution of politial systems, when one stops to think about it.

Well, I am off to finishing an article about evolution of communication - very relevant as well, but I'll leave this for some other entry...


The Corporation
Should be interesting. I wrote about it two weeks ago, check the archives if you dont remember - short story, it is a documentary about the concept of the corporation.

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