DiscoverTED Radio HourDemocracy On Trial

Democracy On Trial

Update: 2016-11-041


Democracy is often hailed as the best form of government. But with a growing sense of distrust, should we rethink the whole system? This hour, TED speakers ask if democracy is truly our best option.

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support for this podcast in the following message come from concur a service where employees get simplified expense reports and business leaders get full visibility into their company spending habits expense travel invoice learn more at concurred dot com slash Radio Hour this the the is the Head Radio Hour each week the groundbreaking Head Todd Technology Design at Stanford Ted conferences around the world gift of the human had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise soap yet to pick the most natural way for humans to govern themselves but say the system that be were evolutionary designed to build what would you pick what a great question because I think many people's first instincts is to go to a variation of law the jungle and say that the most natural way for humans to govern themselves is force and violence and people to act in this completely self serving way and it's just a cut throat environment this is a clue he's a writer and a former advisor to President Bill Clinton and I'm sure there are of course that's always been a part of human experience can survive right you gotta survive but I think the reality is if you rewind to that fifteen thousand year time frame the humans who actually survived were those who didn't stop at the skills of self preservation and one on one competition but who actually were able to advance to so see ability those who figured out how we do stuff together the system Eric's talking about the system used in flea hundred and thirty at one hundred and ninety five countries in the world it's called democracy do you think democracy is the best system of government that the humans have come up with so far I do I don't even give it the Church Killian caviar have the worst except for everything else right now even when it is working well and even when it is healthy it is profoundly flawed I mean democracy as opposed to all talk or see the idea of all the people having a say rather than just a tiny number of people having a say to me that that is an un distilled unabashed you know an unqualified good compared to oligarchy or aristocracy or to talk or see or whatever but do all the people really have a say and compare your power as a consumer versus your power as a voter a constituent when you write a bad review on the Internet someone's probably going to respond to vote a letter to your elected representative just look around the world today does does anyone really care what we think and has a technology has so much more powerful in ways that democracy can't really keep up with well I think you're a democracy is on trial in a way that I don't think has been the case since the eve of the Second World War and then as now there was the sense that democracies decay in their decadent and and they don't work but here's the other thing guy that I think is super important to highlight in that example citizens are not consumers we are not just dissatisfied customers we have responsibility to be co authors and co creators the Is it time for a democracy reboot like a system update well Tanner show we're asking that very question putting democracy on trial look at when it works what doesn't and how it could be so much better The The The The Eric Lu he's the founder of a group called Citizen University which teaches the art of citizenship and as Eric explained the Ted stage the most important thing a citizen can do is vote iPod game is rigged my vote won't count choices are terrible outings for suckers perhaps you've thought some of these things even said If so you wouldn't be alone and you wouldn't be entirely wrong how in spite of all this I still believe voting matters because it is a self fulfilling act of belief it feeds the spirit of mutual interest that makes any society fry when we vote even if it isn't anger we are part of a collective creative leap of faith voting helps us generate the very power that we wish we had it's no accident that democracy and theater emerged around the same time in ancient Athens both of them yank the individual out of the enclosure of her private self both of them create Republic experiences of shared ritual both of them bring the imagination to life in ways that remind us that all of our bonds in the end our imagined and can be re imagined when he give you an answer this question Why bother that is maybe a little less spiritual and a bit more pointed why bother voting because there is no such thing as not voting not voting is voting for everything that you may detest and oppose not voting can be dressed up as an act of principled passive resistance but in fact not voting is actively handing power over to those whose interests are counter to roam those who would be very glad to take advantage of your absence not voting is for suckers the the the the you for this idea Eric that like democracies move too slowly nothing gets done we look at how fast entire cities are built in china guy you're absolutely right but here's the thing the reality is that the most basic level systems that are inclusive are more resilient systems that are exclusive and extra active are less resilient they are more brittle and so for a time systems that are autocratic extract of exclusive you know they can they can make the trains run on time for really long time they can create a sense of order and progress and they can as they have in China build great things in short amounts of time with a lot of purpose in speaking with with very little messiness but any day the week I will take a system like ours because of its resiliency and adaptability in the face of crisis and we the voters actually have to remember that time right now divided often very dark where across the left in the right there's a lot of talk of revolution and the need for revolution to disrupt everyday Democracy here's the thing every democracy already gives us a playbook for revolution in the twenty twelve presidential election young voters Latino voters Asian American voters low income voters all showed up less than fifty percent to twenty fourteen midterm elections turnout was thirty six percent which was a seventy year low in your average local election turnout hovers somewhere around twenty percent I invite you to imagine one hundred percent picture one hundred percent mobilize one hundred percent overnight we get revolution overnight the policy priorities of this country changed dramatically in every level of government becomes radically more responsive to all the people what would it take to mobilize one hundred percent imagine where this country would be if all the folks who in twenty ten created the Tea Party have decided that you know politics is too messy voting is too complicated there's no possibility of our votes adding up to anything been preemptively silence themselves they showed up in the course of showing up the changed American politics imagine if all of the followers of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders had decided not to end the political status quo and blow apart the frame of the previously possible in American politics they did that by voting them the the the in a democracy most of the time our elected leaders are not leaders they are exquisitely attuned followers and they will follow who they think is going to show up to vote I still sometimes wonder whether whether we especially in the United States whether we just assume that because we are the oldest constitutional democracy that you know that we're this automatic Beacon to the rest of the world America is a Beacon not because our electoral system is perfect and work so well that it should be emulated and not even because our constitutional system is perfect and is self perpetuating imperfection but we are a Beacon for very simple reason there is no place on earth no place on earth that is in the way the United States is number one dedicated to a proposition fueled by this idea that we have a creed that were supposed to live up to and conscious continuously of the ways in which we are failing to live up to that creed right that is an American idea but I think we are always at risk of blowing it we're always at risk of forgetting this and frankly I think people around the world to try with urgency to remind States hey don't forget this is a great thing and it's a necessary thing if our notions of global identity are ever to evolve or someone to laugh to think power resides only with corporations and some on the right to think power resides only with government each side blinded by their selective outrage as a result of all of this creeping feelings in public life we hear particular in America today have depressingly low levels of civic knowledge civic engagement participation awareness the whole business of politics has been effectively sub contracted out to Banda professionals money people outreach people message people research people the rest of us are meant to feel like temperatures in the sense of suckers we become de motivated to learn more about how things work would begin to opt out well this problem this challenge is the thing that we must now confront and I believe that when you have this kind of disengagement this willful ignorance becomes both a cause and consequence of this concentration of opportunity of wealth and clout that I was describing a moment ago is profound civic inequality this is why it is so important in our time right now to re imagine civics as the teaching of power perhaps it's never been more important anytime we in our lifetimes it is is you optimistic about the future of democracy like in fifty years having gone back and say I was just so silly that we are worried about democracy and if she was going fine no I'm not optimistic not pessimistic either I think this is actually one of these profound pivot points in a nation's history look wean United States are trying to do a pretty audacious thing hasn't yet been done by humans which is to create a mass multicultural democratic republic can write there been other societies that have tried one two or three of those things but nobody's ever gone for all four right so Athens was never mass scale Soviet Union was massive multi cultural and had the form of republic but it certainly wasn't democratic get but again to be Republican place were citizens actually see themselves as co authors and co creators and having co responsibility right that's hard it's so much easier to sit back and treat the whole thing as a TV show or reality TV show but a democracy where people own responsibility and again it's harder but that is to me that is the best social technology humans have yet come up with them the Wu Wu The The recluse he's the founder of Citizen University you can check out his two Great axe head showed a democracy on trial second that guy rise near listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the good thanks to two of our sponsors who help make this podcast 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NPR and I rise today democracy on trial idea is that when democracy works and how to improve it even if it'll never be perfect it's good to stifle it you never get that supply the horizon this is Janice for focus was on academic all my life teaching mathematical Economics and Political Economy I was Minister of Finance in Greece so actually call you Mr. Minister I insist the communists okay great and just a curiosity has there ever been a functioning democracy in your view that worked well no it hasn't hurt but that doesn't mean that democracy is not a powerful weapon against tyranny the the the strong democracy ISS is much better equipped to handle crisis than say a dictatorship is and a couple years ago he was at the center of a crisis it was in Greece the country was basically bankrupt and Janice had to negotiate hand debts to the European Union people ask me what was the worst part of the negotiations with a wisp of the decisions that the window negotiations the I was negotiating for the right to negotiate the ice like the Greek people had very little say in what actually happened to his country which ultimately was forced to accept huge austerity plan and the outcome made a lot of people in Greece and in Europe the view like democracy wasn't exactly living up to its promise liberal democracy is the child if you want all for the mug of coffee and later on the feathers papers the whole point was to have legitimacy of an early Arctic structure made it was to keep the riff raff to keep the hope a lawyer out of power but to consult with them and have theirs and that is speaking to how often to Congress in a parliament in order to create checks and balances but he was never about him pouting them with their right to govern so the problem is that I never had democracy for quite awhile if ever the Star Gazette in an authentic democracy the power has to sit with the D Most people today in most Western democracies as power is tied to money the onus on the Ted stage in the West we mistakenly believe that capitalism begets inevitably democracy doesn't allow me to point out and interesting products that these threatening our economy as we speak I call it between peaks five at one peak is the mountain of debts that this has been casting a long shadow over the United States Europe the whole world but few people the sun its twin mountain of either cash belonging to reach save us and the corporations to thirty five to invest that into the productive activities that can generate thing comes from which you can extinguish the mountain of debts the result is stagnant wages and consequently low aggregate demand which in a never ending cycle reinforces the pessimism of investors this is my quarter with its gross wakefulness the more capitalism succeeds in making that the most out of democracy that they are the waste of humanity is wealth so essentially you're saying is that the notion of power residing in the people in a democracy is a smokescreen and that a capitalist system ultimately means that power will in the hands of corporations but he just stated is that the end isn't it so is that anyone who disagrees the A D of the people power because that's what democracy means the most ease the people it is regime of the people by the people for the people this is a wonderful splendid a notion to some of the spies who was coming to strike before but it's not a reality I like these that he's a huge tension between capitalism and democracy in this is where the put upon I was making my third doctor democracy and capitalism are not compatible in their view they are a dealer from combat to believe that is baked into capitalism think about him but the size the papa saw the United States but there was as well professors like to compare and contrast two different kinds of voting systems one is the one person one vote that you have in general elections like the one in November now for the Prez the United States but there's another voting Americans will the market when you go to supermarket to a store and you purchase an iPhone nor a bottle of fizzy water you're voting for it except that you don't have one vote you have as many votes as you have money if you go to a shareholders meeting for any corporation you find that these voting except that it's not one person one vote so in capitalism the whole point about profit maximize Asians will about monopoly power these requests for monopoly which is exactly the opposite of what democracy is all about have you wondered why politicians are not what the use of a snob because there's been a generator of other because one can be in government today unveiled in power because power has migrated from the Politico economic sphere which is separate earlier this year while I was representing Greece the newly elected governments in the Euro Group as its finance minister I was told in no uncertain terms that our nation's democratic process our elections could not be allowed to interfere with economic policies that were being human that the grease that moment I felt that that would be no great the vindication of some accounts of them friends of mine kept telling me that democracy would be bounds if it ever threatened to change anything in our democracy is today this separation of economics from the political sphere the moment they stop that happening Dave rise to an inexorable epic struggle between the two with economics via colonize in the political sphere to such an extent that it is undermining itself causing economic crisis the the it seems like when you talk about that capitalism undermining itself I wonder whether the very same market forces that that produce the inequality you you talk about but also in theory produce the kind of democracy that you're looking for that is always make my mindset my way of thinking about history history as far as I'm concerned he is what happens when two forces clash one is technological innovation which console to destabilize is the existing order and the second force is the social relations of production and the power relations for the action and that is out of this clash between the power relations generates history but of course I didn't invent this historical theory this is Karl Marx but think about it capitalism burst upon the scene historically unbeaten century England so we must never imagined that capitalism is a natural system of doing things it is just one phase of human development IDE will certainly pass my grade why is what happens at the company's app is undermining itself magnificently with that acknowledges which is that it is producing now a multitude of machines capable of becoming their slaves but are the same time capable of and saving us what we do with these magnificent acknowledge and don't get me wrong I'm completely gung ho about acknowledging that it is a great This weapon against misery but what we do with this technology we've been in politics and he better be democratic politics of the terms of future what an ideal democracy look like one day you had a hand in creating one that you at least could influence what with that democracy be like to imagine a world in which our political rights and economic rights when sink they're not in sync in the moment imagine that you worked in a corporation where the only people had their rights to be shareholders of the corporation is those who worked and in it but you know the kind of model that I'm describing to you is not just find the sky it exists I know companies in the United States the top and the rights for profit sharing this is a market system with I am describing by the way except that the rules of that and the whole point about democracy is that we have a capacity to control our lives on the basis of one person one vote if corporate power can shape our lives can destroy lives often the case of a small minority can make us supremely rich but the corporate power is not subject to democratic and balances then faithfully what I'm proposing a surge of democracy either we're going to mock her thighs as a side is and see realize our civilization or our society is again to come tumbling down what are you optimistic about when it comes to democracy anything optimistic that the ideal of democracy is consistent with the other side of humans and that these will always resonate with them democracy is the kind of regime that people who don't think they have all the answers favor those who believe that they know them best and they know everything was gone like the idea of democracy because it's a constraint for those of us who believe that none of us have the asses and the only way of finding the answers to the interesting questions about social life is to get together we appreciate the possibility that democracy gives us the US Firefox is an economist and former Greek finance minister you can see his entire talk that come to think that the natural system for organization and for governance is democracy I'll even home with her husband had ten year old child democracy is not natural I think you want to have things your weight that is really what we want as individuals is democracy natural no it's definitely a learning process this is a huge lie she was born in India I left him there when I was four and moved to believe sia came to the US for the same reasons many other immigrants do education better economic opportunities but what surprised her was how this celebrated democracy she'd heard about her whole life seemed so out of touch with the lives of the people living in it most people feel so disconnected from the institution of government we feel so disconnected from people who are making decisions about what is going to happen in our lives and that our leaders are making no effort to me that connection a case that this is a common criticism of American politics today that this divide between government and citizens is getting wider and side argues that the group most left out of the conversation in democracies immigrants access to the same platforms do they have a microphone that speaks as loudly and I don't think that's the case and I use as what's going to make our democracy stronger is listening to more immigrant voices here she is on the Ted stage we actually have the power to change the outcome of elections to introduce new issues into the policy debate and to change the face of the pale Male stay leadership that we have in our country today American leadership does not look like America's residents there over five hundred thousand local and state offices in America fewer than two percent of those offices are held by Asian Americans or Latinos the two largest immigrant groups in our country in the most untapped resource in American democracy is the vantage point that immigrants bring we have fought to be here we have come for economic and educational opportunity we have com for political and religious freedom site of the whiny American democracy doesn't offer immigrants enough opportunity to participate so a few years ago she started an organization that trains immigrants to run for public office they teach people how to fundraise network all in hopes of getting more diverse candidates elected local and state levels and eventually into Congress it's not always easy but you can do it and I want to tell you an example of one of the people we trained who just won a Democratic primary in Arizona and I know this is a very specific American example but she came to the United States and was undocumented had no papers had no legal status which cover she came from Mexico and then as a high school student she got there benefited from the nineteen eighty six Immigration Reform and Control Act the railings Reagan's idea and now she took one of our training this year last year's version of our trainings and we convinced her that she could run for office and she decided to run in Arizona and so in January she will be a state legislator and she's one of several examples of people who arrived in United States from Mexico and elsewhere without any papers without any legal said quote The Legal exactly and I think this idea of the kind of representation that is reflective of the population is beyond just immigrant rights why we want to see women disabled folks veterans transgender people when their voices are at the table then their issues are being covered the E the E The emigrants votes voices and vantage points are what we all need to work to include in American democracy it's not just MY where it's also yours and it's not going to be easy we never know what putting a new factor into any equation will do and it's a little scary you're scared that I may take away your place at the table I'm scared I'm never going to get place at the table
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