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AuthorMusician
A common theme I've seen in online debates is that we in the US don't want to run our democracy/republic like some other world democracy/republic, most notably from my experience, Canada. Usually a number of wrong notions come up, and occasionally outright lies to push some sort of agenda, like for-profits running healthcare.

Well. Let's get our heads straight on this. We debaters in the US might know about our own form of government pretty darn well, but the vast majority of us don't know squat about other governments. That's because our schools don't teach very much about the history and politics of other countries as a rule, unless at the college level and for a world politics sort of degree.

However, we have members here from many different countries, and I bet they know a heckuva lot about their respective histories and governments.

So, let's get down to it with questions for debate:

What country do you live in? How did your democracy/republic get founded?

How does your democracy/republic differ from the US? How is it the same? Feel free to use historical/cultural references.

For US citizens, do you know anything about another country's history and government? How does it differ from the US? How is it the same? Historical/cultural references welcome.

Now here's the controversial question that the others lead up to:

How can the US government be improved in light of how other world democracies/republics do things? How could your government be improved in the same light?
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Ultimatejoe
Thank you for starting this discussion.

What country do you live in? How did your democracy/republic get founded?

Well, I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm Canadian. Canada has had what is probably a unique political evolution, which if you are feeling patient I will attempt to distill into something of a reasonable length.

Originally the territory identified as British North America was the former colony of France that stretched from the Maritimes to lake Huron. It was later divided into two mainland regions, Upper and Lower Canada, as well as a few Maritime Colonies. The Quebec Act of 1774 (which was a response both to the the unrest in the American Colonies and difficulties in managing Canada) had outlined a system whereby the French residents of Canada could continue to practice their "French" lifestyle. It was hoped that by allowing them to maintain their ties to traditional religion and other institutions loyalty could be assured while the population was slowly assimilated through immigration and exposure to British governance. Since assimilation was slow to happen the populations became gentrified, with "Lower Canada," stretching from the Ottawa River to the Atlantic along the St. Lawrence River, and "Upper Canada", encompassing the region west of the Ottawa River to Lake Huron.

Upper Canada was populated by a combination of immigrants from English colonies and the British Isles, as well as Loyalists that fled the 13 colonies during the American Revolution, former Slaves from the U.S., and a lot of Dutch/German immigrants as well.

Lower Canada was the remnants of France's colonial holdings in N. America (with Louisianna having been purchased by the United States from Britain.) It's population was still predominantly French Roman Catholic, and largely rural, while Upper Canada had become Urbanized to a degree, although the economy was still fueled by agriculture. Now Lower Canada was unique in the english speaking world at the time as it was still predominantly Roman Catholic.

By 1837 Rebellion and unrest had come to dominate the mood of the colonies, so Lord Durham was dispatched to the Colonies to figure out what was wrong, and how it could be fixed. He recognized that the two colonies were undergoing the same sort of sentiments that the American Colonies had gone through in the 1760's, and determined that by maximizing their political autonomy loyalty could be assured. He also felt that a joint legislative body (previous each colony had it's own legislature, although it was one with little independence) would help to bring the French inhabitants more in-line with British hopes.

This system turned out to be sucessful to a degree, but it didn't entirely placate the concerns of colonists. Seeing the growing military and industrial power that the U.S. weilded after the Civil War, the British leadership recognized that independent colonies that were free to develop could perhaps grow and prosper, and do more for British rule than a hinterland colony. Through the 1860's Colonial leaders negotiated with the British, and eventually "The Dominion of Canada" was created in 1867 by the "British North America Act." The founding principles were "Peace, Order and Good Government." The legislature was created with the ideal of "Responsible Government." The idea was that the "Executive" being the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, would be responsible to the Parliament, and that the Parliament would be responsible to the people.

Canada's political growth has been complicated since that date. Later the remaining 6 provinces (in addition to the four founding ones) and 3 territories would be added, in 1931 the Westminster Act would grant Canada it's own Foreign Policy, and in 1982 the Constitution was repatriated. There's a lot more, but I'll spare you.

How does your democracy/republic differ from the US? How is it the same? Feel free to use historical/cultural references.

Well for starters Canada is recognized as having been founded by three distinct nations, the English, French and First Nations (read Natives for you Americans) peoples. This diversity in origins results in what is arguably a more complicated political culture and history. In the 1960's and 70's Trudeau enshrined the principle of "Multiculturalism" into Canadian social consciousness, as opposed to the idea of a "Melting Pot" that you see more of in the States.

Procedure-wise; as I mentioned above our government is organized differently. Our executive are elected members of Parliament, with the Prime Minister being the head of the Party that controls the most seats in the legislature. The Cabinet are also elected officials, and are appointed by the Prime Minister. The Head of States is the Governor General, who is technically the representative of the Queen but in reality just a figurehead; a holdover from our colonial history.

Canada is divided into provinces; and the relationship with the Federal government is more clearly defined than in the U.S. The British North America Act and later the COnstitution Act established what specific powers, rights, obligations and responsibilities the Federal and Provincial governments have; although unlike in the U.S. they can be negotiated on.

How can the US government be improved in light of how other world democracies/republics do things? How could your government be improved in the same light?

In my perspective the electoral college system is a grossly inappropriate way to elect the head of Government. The President should either be elected by a popular vote, or a vote where states are all equally represented; since those are the only ways that political power are divided across the United States. Also, there is no history of Exceptionalism (the forebearer of Manifest Destiny) in Canada; and not a day goes by where I think that the U.S. and the world would be better off without it.

Most importantly, Canada has no legacy of military transformations, at home or abroad. While we have gone to war, and in some cases done more than our fair share of the heavy lifting; it is not a defining characteristic. A think a willingness to engage in NON-Military policy abroad would benefit the U.S.
Amlord

Moved to International Debate
moif
What country do you live in?

Denmark.


How did your democracy/republic get founded?

Well... Denmark became a democracy in 1849 when the commoners decided enough was enough and told the king they wanted representation. At first he refused, but (as the story goes) the Queen then refused to sleep with him, so he changed his mind. blush.gif


How does your democracy/republic differ from the US?

Denmark uses the proportional representation system of government which means all our governments are coalition governments. I don't actually know when the last single party government held power.. if indeed there has ever been such an entity.

Danish governments are therefore forced to compromise between multiple political agendas in order to make laws. This means we do a lot of talking before we get anything done, so we wouldn't be very good at fighting a war, but we're briliant at making complex tax driven systems. Taxation in Denmark is astronoical, but as with all adversity this has been overcome by the human spirit (a bit like when the Germans blitzed London) and the Danes have become so accostomed to the tax system that most of us hardly notice it.

Some of the advantages we have are 5 weeks paid vacation per year (there is now talk of extending this to six weeks but I doubt this will happen) 52 weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers.

Some of the disadvantages are, very high prices, a lot of political nepotism, an impossibility in applying blame (its always due to the other members of the coalition) and being the last place on Earth to see all the latest films (except for Novaya Zemlya perhaps) ...though I don't suppose this is really the politicans fault. hmmm.gif


How is it the same? Feel free to use historical/cultural references.

It isn't. Politically speaking, Denmark is about as far as its possible to get from the USA whilst still being a western style democracy.


How can the US government be improved in light of how other world democracies/republics do things? How could your government be improved in the same light?

innocent.gif zipped.gif devil.gif

Stop being so tight fisted. My biggst criticism of the USA is how every one seems to be totally paranoid about paying for stuff. Everything has to be cheap to the point of the ridiculous and no one seems to want to pay for anything.
Ptarmigan
What country do you live in?

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


How did your democracy/republic get founded?

It didn't, it evolved over centuries from a feudal monarchy system. The first limits to the absolute power of the Monarch were written in 1215 with the Magna Carta. The right of the Monarch to govern without the consent of Parliament was removed by a civil war in 1642. Power gradually moved from the Monarch to the nobility and to commoners. Over the centuries the system has evolved from one where the Monarch had virtually absolute power to one where the Monarch is a ceremonial figurehead and government is conducted by a parliament elected by the common vote. The history of democracy in the UK would take a very long time to fully go explain..

How does your democracy/republic differ from the US?

The UK is a parliamentary democracy with a 'first past the post' system. The parliament consists of two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons is composed of elected MPs (Member of Parliament) - each MP is elected for a particular constituency. It makes up new laws, which are then passed to the House of Lords, which may reject them or pass them (The Lords cannot themselves propose laws). Once passed by the Lords, the Monarch signs the bill into law.

It is different from the US in that the Head of State (a ceremonial role) is the Monarch (unelected) and the Head of Government (the executive) is the Prime Minister. The Prime Ministers must be an elected MP, chosen by the other MPs for the role.

As we have evolved a party system this usually means that members of a particular party select a candidate and if that party gets the majority of seats, then that candidate becomes PM. However, parties themselves are not essential to the system.

It is similar to the US in having a bicameral legislative body with the Commons and Lords similar to the Representatives and Senate. However so far we do not elect the House of Lords, it being composed of a motley crew of bishops, nobility (although they've mostly been kicked out) and other unelected high and mighty figures. It is under reform - (generally people want either both Houses to be elected or something approaching a unicameral system - so that if the Lords remain unelected then they should lose all their power to reject parliamentary bills). In extraordinary circumstances, the House of Commons can overrule the House of Lords, so granting final say to the elected House.

Theoretically the Monarch has the power to dissolve parliament, declare war or veto laws. However customarily the Monarch never exercises this right - so democract in Britain is not legally enshrined in a constitution as in the US, but is a tradition. Parliament can also enact any law it likes - so the principle of unconstitutional law does not exist (although joining the EU has complicated matters).

Thats probably the biggest difference - that there is no constitution in the UK and democracy is not enshrined in law, but is a tradition that still works, so we keep it. The assumption is that if democracy is challenged by either the Monarch or Parliament, the populace will simply revolt. In many ways it is simple pragmatism - we are democratic because it's better than any other form of government.

How can the US government be improved in light of how other world democracies/republics do things? How could your government be improved in the same light?


The Prime Minister is far more constrained by Parliament than the President is by Congress. The ultimate power in the UK lies with Parliament, whereas the ultimate power in the US lies with the President. Although this doesn't always make much difference - the current UK Labour government is in power because of Tony Blair, so generally all the Labour MPs support him regardless. However I do think that there are not enough checks on the power of the US president and that more power should lie with Congress.

The biggest problem with the UK is that there is very little seperation between the judiciary, legislature and executive - and that the supreme court in the UK is technically the House of Lords. Although it hasn't created any problems so far, it does suggest that political considerations could affect the decisions of judges, which would be a big problem. The UK could do with looking at the US system of having seperation between the three.
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