Discussion:
Multi-system democracy
(too old to reply)
The Zygon
2018-03-10 03:24:57 UTC
Permalink
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.

I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Lynn McGuire
2018-03-10 03:31:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?

Lynn
The Zygon
2018-03-10 04:25:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Lynn
We don't know how long democracies can last because the world has not seen any before the last 100 years. America was a not a democracy before the 1960's. Athens was not a Democracy. No matter how democratic is among itself, the country they rule cannot be called a democracy, as the word is understood today.

The governments which have become democracies continue to exist, so we cannot know how long the would last.

But I was not suggesting it is particularly credible that the democratic governments we have now would exist in the far future. As in most of the stories there are new governments with completely different political groupings. That makes sense. I just wonder why they are so often not democracies.
Gary R. Schmidt
2018-03-10 09:00:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Lynn
We don't know how long democracies can last because the world has not seen any before the last 100 years.
France? I'm sure I remember something about elections in France a few
centuries ago...

Cheers,
Gary B-)
--
When men talk to their friends, they insult each other.
They don't really mean it.
When women talk to their friends, they compliment each other.
They don't mean it either.
J. Clarke
2018-03-10 12:06:21 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 10 Mar 2018 20:00:59 +1100, "Gary R. Schmidt"
Post by Gary R. Schmidt
Post by The Zygon
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Lynn
We don't know how long democracies can last because the world has not seen any before the last 100 years.
France? I'm sure I remember something about elections in France a few
centuries ago...
Might have been at some point, but it certainly wasn't a democracy in
1789. The US wasn't the only place that had a revolution around that
time, and in France it didn't go quite as well.
Kevrob
2018-03-10 16:27:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by J. Clarke
On Sat, 10 Mar 2018 20:00:59 +1100, "Gary R. Schmidt"
Post by Gary R. Schmidt
Post by The Zygon
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Lynn
We don't know how long democracies can last because the world has not seen any before the last 100 years.
France? I'm sure I remember something about elections in France a few
centuries ago...
Might have been at some point, but it certainly wasn't a democracy in
1789. The US wasn't the only place that had a revolution around that
time, and in France it didn't go quite as well.
The US were republics with democratic elements, and a limited franchise,
from 1776 on. The confederation was strengthened in 1789, in that
there was representation directly elected to serve in the national
capital (House of Representatives), in addition to deputies of the
state governments (Senators.) The latter have been directly elected
for over 100 years. This slid our "compound republic" a little further
down the continuum to "direct democracy" than it had been. Other
reforms introduced in the "progressive era" were the initiative* and
referendum,** in the various states, though not at the Federal level.

Interstellar federations where communications are no faster
than ship travel, and even FTL travel takes significant time,
lends itself to arrangements similar to far-flung colonies on
Earth prior to the telegraph and radio. Once you introduce
"subspace radio," an ansible or the like, and the center can give
the periphery orders in real-time, or a trans-galactic assembly
can convene in a virtual space, then less distributed arrangements
can make sense. We could have the latter now, but while business
makes frequent use of teleconferencing and online document sharing,
representative government sticks with in-person interaction,
for the most part.

If both transportation and communications are FTL, and trekking
to Altair VI and back is like flying from London to Wellington,
a unified or closely federated polity is possible.

What makes me wonder is; why be connected? For trade? What
would Sufficiently Advanced Humans trade for across interstellar
distances that would have to be physically moved? Encrypted
information that couldn't be entrusted to transmittable form?
Actual humans with unique skills or knowledge not committed
to some media? DNA in the form of sperm and eggs to increase
genetic diversity on colony worlds or habitats? This is why
we have had "thionite," "spice" and "dilithium crystals"
as goods that are in high demand but only available in some
particular environments.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initiative

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendum

Kevin R
Stephen Harker
2018-03-10 20:34:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gary R. Schmidt
Post by The Zygon
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Lynn
We don't know how long democracies can last because the world has not seen any before the last 100 years.
France? I'm sure I remember something about elections in France a few
centuries ago...
Elections don't make a democracy. Many ancient states had elections,
but mostly with a restricted franchise (very restricted usually: male
citizens with often a property qualification). This was common later in
history too. The most restricted I can think of is the Holy Roman
Empire of the German Nation with a varying number of electors (seven to
nine) at various times (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince-elector).
The restricted franchise was typically to sufficiently wealthy males.

Parliaments are one form of modern representative body with a more
complicated history. Others are a senate, synod or congress each with a
complicated history and influencing each other. Modern forms are mostly
comprised of representatives elected moderately democratically, but
historically they were not.

Iceland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Althing) which has been mentioned
elsewhere and the Isle of Man (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tynwald)
are two with some claims to first and first continuous Parliament.

In Britain the Parliament had elected members, with restricted
franchise. The famous rotten boroughs demanding money for votes and
pocket boroughs with no longer existing towns with a single nominal
owner of the land concerned appointing his representative
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotten_and_pocket_boroughs).

Historically the idea of democracy was despised, but gradually gained
strength with a gradual reduction in restrictions through the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries.

Many and, probably, all of these have been used as backgrounds for
science fiction settings. For many of the possibly democratic settings
it is hard to get enough information to decide how the system actually
works. Robert Heinlein's _Double Star_ is one in which the system is
described in fair detail.
--
Stephen Harker ***@netspace.net.au
http://sjharker.customer.netspace.net.au/
J. Clarke
2018-03-10 04:29:30 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 9 Mar 2018 21:31:53 -0600, Lynn McGuire
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
The Roman Republic is generally considered to have existed from 509 BC
to 27 BC.
Post by Lynn McGuire
Lynn
Lawrence Watt-Evans
2018-03-10 04:40:11 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 9 Mar 2018 21:31:53 -0600, Lynn McGuire
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Iceland.
--
My webpage is at http://www.watt-evans.com
My latest novel is Stone Unturned: A Legend of Ethshar.
See http://www.ethshar.com/StoneUnturned.shtml
Sjouke Burry
2018-03-10 16:25:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by J. Clarke
On Fri, 9 Mar 2018 21:31:53 -0600, Lynn McGuire
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Iceland.
Frozen democracies do not count.........
Lawrence Watt-Evans
2018-03-10 17:21:07 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 10 Mar 2018 17:25:16 +0100, Sjouke Burry
Post by Sjouke Burry
Post by J. Clarke
On Fri, 9 Mar 2018 21:31:53 -0600, Lynn McGuire
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Iceland.
Frozen democracies do not count.........
Why not?
--
My webpage is at http://www.watt-evans.com
My latest novel is Stone Unturned: A Legend of Ethshar.
See http://www.ethshar.com/StoneUnturned.shtml
David Johnston
2018-03-10 17:34:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans
On Sat, 10 Mar 2018 17:25:16 +0100, Sjouke Burry
Post by Sjouke Burry
Post by J. Clarke
On Fri, 9 Mar 2018 21:31:53 -0600, Lynn McGuire
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
Iceland.
Frozen democracies do not count.........
Why not?
Things keep better in the freezer.
Quadibloc
2018-03-10 16:43:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Iceland.
That is the potential counterexample that first occurred to me as well.

John Savard
Cryptoengineer
2018-03-10 05:03:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lynn McGuire
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple
solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always
an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens
even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is
today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an
effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems
to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point.
If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as
easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't
they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Have any Republics (the USA since 1789) or Democracies (Greece many
years ago) lasted 300 years or more ?
The English Parliment has been in place since 1640, iirc. That 350+
years. As time passed, power has gradually shifted from the King to
elected representatives.

pt
David Johnston
2018-03-10 04:51:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
I've seen plenty of space "Federations" and "Republics" which are no
more autocratic than the United States and sometimes less.
The Zygon
2018-03-10 05:57:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Johnston
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
I've seen plenty of space "Federations" and "Republics" which are no
more autocratic than the United States and sometimes less.
I have seen some too.

Are you suggesting that my impression that they are most often autocracies is based on the sample I happen to have read? I am disputing this. This is quite possible. I would just like to understand if that is what you are saying.
David Johnston
2018-03-10 06:57:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
Post by David Johnston
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
I've seen plenty of space "Federations" and "Republics" which are no
more autocratic than the United States and sometimes less.
I have seen some too.
Are you suggesting that my impression that they are most often autocracies is based on the sample I happen to have read? I am not disputing this. This is quite possible. I would just like to understand if that is what you are saying.
"Almost all" isn't the same thing as "most often" for a start.
Interstellar autocracies are common of course because the author is
doing yet another case of cribbing from Earth history to get
inspiration, or because they need an opponent for their interstellar
democracy or they need something for their space rebels to y'know, rebel
against.
Robert Carnegie
2018-03-10 10:17:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
Post by David Johnston
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
I've seen plenty of space "Federations" and "Republics" which are no
more autocratic than the United States and sometimes less.
I have seen some too.
Are you suggesting that my impression that they are most often autocracies is based on the sample I happen to have read? I am disputing this. This is quite possible. I would just like to understand if that is what you are saying.
We need some sort of catalogue, and a count.

Amongst other types of government found in space are
"company town" and military dictatorship - that tends to
have a single dictator and maybe it's called something else
when it's a committee. One general may be President in
vestiges of a previous republican establishment but this
may not be significant. Oh, and there's theocracy -
but if it's science fiction then hat usually means religion
in charge, but not gods themselves making decisions and
giving orders.

If the authority is democratic then its decisions and
deliberations need to be shown and explained, and the
author may not want to bother with that.

Even in a centralised tyranny, there probably will be
an authority at star-system level or below, if only
a mid-ranking aristocrat or a space colonel or
branch manager. There even may be a local tolerated -
but isolated - democracy, possibly with the tyranny
on the point of crushing it after all.

Lando Calrissian's Cloud City is a commercial site
until the Imperial forces arrive.

Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" novels have democratic
star-system government and a federal senate of worlds
back home, faced with their own frustrated military
taking over - if the fleet actually gets home from
the other side of the star-map. On the other hand,
the starship captains vote in tele-conference on
fleet actions - until the hero points out that this
isn't terribly efficient. A few of the ships are
from separate and allied space-nations, which is
either to provide plot complication or to represent
something about U.S. politics, or both - I'm elsewhere
in the world and I can only identify the plot complication
dimension - the allied ships brought a politician.
Butch Malahide
2018-03-10 09:47:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Zygon
I have noticed that almost all human governments which span multiple solar systems are autocratic to some degree. There is almost always an Emperor or someone who is effectively an emperor. This happens even when the position is largely ceremonial as most royalty is today. There seems to be an assumption that Democracy would not be an effective form of government for a multi-system society. This seems to be so when the society has FTL both in travel and communications.
I have never understood why there is so much agreement on that point. If people can communicate with, and especially travel to and fro as easily as we now do between Washington and Los Angeles, why shouldn't they be able to build a functioning democracy?
Even if a galactic democracy would be feasible, it's hard to see what the point
would be. It's not clear what advantages there are to being ruled by a trillion rulers, rather than being ruled by one. Well, one can hope that the swarm will rule less efficiently, as the members will often be at cross purposes.
Quadibloc
2018-03-10 20:44:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Butch Malahide
Even if a galactic democracy would be feasible, it's hard to see what the point
would be. It's not clear what advantages there are to being ruled by a trillion
rulers, rather than being ruled by one. Well, one can hope that the swarm will
rule less efficiently, as the members will often be at cross purposes.
While it is easy to contradict you by pointing out that a single ruler will
often be a cruel tyrant, while democracies are more easy-going, there is still a
valid point in what you say.

There are those who might say, what do <insert group here> (i.e. Canada's Inuit)
have to complain about, as they're living in a free, democratic country with
equal rights.

To take Canada's Inuit as an example, though, they don't live in a country where
*they are the majority*, thus, unlike even French, Inuktitut does not have the
status of an "official language" in Canada, even though non-immigrant native
speakers of that language live here. Because they didn't choose to come to
Canada as immigrants, there is no basis to assign to them an obligation to learn
a new language.

So, yes, democratic self-rule for a group is preferable to democratic rule in a
setting where one is vastly outnumbered by outsiders.

John Savard

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