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ELEC - Kemenosh 1 Mak Kemenosh Justin Bolker PSCI 110 Final...

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Mak Kemenosh Justin Bolker PSCI 110 Final Paper 1 May 2008 The Democratic Superiority of Parliaments and Proportional Representation 1
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The debate over what truly constitutes an ideal form of democratic government has persisted since the inception of Athenian direct democracy and Roman Republicanism. In the early 21 st century, nation states and political scientists continue to maintain diverging views as to what integral values and techniques should be institutionalized to make government and society as democratic as possible. In their article, “What Democracy Is… And Is Not”, Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl nicely summarize these opposing views nicely. They write, “The liberal conception of democracy advocates circumscribing the public realm as narrowly as possible, while the socialist or social-democratic approach would extend that realm through regulation, subsidization, and, in some cases, collective ownership of property. Neither is intrinsically more democratic than the other- just differently democratic”. The research of many prominent political scientists however, including Arend Lijphart, discounts Schmitter and Karl’s assessment that various systems are “differently democratic”. The Greek word for democracy, “ demoskratia” , translates literally to rule or power of the common people. In a modern 2
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political context, then, a democracy is a system where power belongs to the people. Liberal democracies (those most common form), which place a high emphasis on individual rights and freedoms, allow people to exercise power in three main ways: participation, liberty, and competition (O’Neil 135). These three indicators are crucial in determining the degree to which a system is democratic. As democracy has become the most disseminated form of government, a few executive-legislative and electoral systems have become most prevalent: presidential or parliamentary executive-legislative structures and plurality or proportional representation electoral systems. Additionally, territorial rule is practiced in two distinct forms; federal states or unitary states. The precise combination of government structure, electoral system, and territorial rule that creates an idyllic democracy is still unknown. In all likelihood, no utopian democratic formula exists. Government by nature is imperfect in form, and even the experts are undecided on whether federal or unitary states are more democratic. However, there is clear evidence, which indicates that a parliamentary legislative branch with a proportional 3
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representation electoral system is the most conducive at allowing the vast majority of citizens to exercise political power. The ability of parliamentary-PR systems to accurately reflect diversity in representative assemblies, accommodate ethnic differences, create fundamentally sound policy and generate strong voter turnout make it by all measuring standards the most democratic government system currently in existence.
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