Friday, November 11, 2022

The Democracy Confusion

Some people claim that the rise of Ben Gvir and the chareidi parties threatens democracy. Others counter that this cannot possibly be the case, since they were democratically elected. A similar phenomenon occurs with people claiming that Trump threatens democracy, and others countering that if the majority votes him in, that is democracy. Who is correct?

With the political debates in Israel and the US, it appears that many people are misunderstanding the meaning of the term "democracy." In particular, they are confusing it with "majority rule." Majority rule is an aspect of democracy, but not the totality of it. 

Many people do not realize that the term "democracy" is used to include other things that are important to society. For example, there is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Majority rule would allow for the majority to ban certain viewpoints or religions; but in a democracy, such things are illegal and the majority cannot change this.

Another is the protection of minority rights. Majority rule alone would allow, say, for 70% of the population to vote to harm or expel or kill 30% of the population. But in a democracy, there are also laws protecting minority rights which prevent this from happening.

There are also other aspects of democracy which are not included in majority rule. These are equality of people, voting rights, freedom of assembly and association, and so on. 

Nobody is claiming that Bibi/ Ben Gvir/ UTJ didn't win via majority rule, nor that they should not be allowed to have done so. The claim is that their *policies* will harm *other aspects* of democracy.

Of course, there is no perfect, objective way to have the correct balance between majority rule and minority rights, and there are often complicating factors, and there will always be debate. But it's important to understand the nature of the concepts being discussed and argued about.

42 comments:

  1. Nobody is claiming that Bibi/ Ben Gvir/ UTJ didn't win via majority rule, nor that they should not be allowed to have done so. The claim is that their *policies* will harm *other aspects* of democracy.

    This has become a standard claim in democratic cointries. The opponents are demonized and their agendas are presented as a threat to democrracy. And it's often true because democracy is a fraudulent system that is used to achive political goals regardless of the principals of the democratic process.

    Throughout our history we have proven ourselves to be an ungovernable nation. This is unlikely to change. Our good fortune is that the neighboors are even worse.

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    1. What a gross and inaccurate comment.
      Compare the rate of divorce, as well as robbery and murder, in frum areas, to the rate of divorce, as well as robbery etc., in areas like Tel Aviv etc.
      Those who keep Torah - which is NOT democratic, and which DOES proudly espouse the idea of racism - in the sense that we ARE the chosen people...those people prove that the nation that clings to the mandates of Torah and its traditions, are the best of all...
      Stating that we are an "ungovernable nation" sounds like we are mob like...actually we are the am hanivchar. You dont like it? To bad.

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    2. On the national level, not on the level of a kehilla or an individual.

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  2. We wll know the answer if the next elections in 4 years time are postponed or cancelled.

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  3. Is this a blog about rationalist Judaism or blog about social issues by someone who is a rationalist? Just wondering.

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    1. The posts are not reflecting the description. The blog is a story of the evolution of RNS. It has interest to the fans of psycology and antropology.

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    2. It should be more like "Exploring various other notes (and sometimes, agav, the legacy of the rationalist Rishonim.)

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  4. Good points but easily abused and not easily measured. What is a fundamental right that the majority may not take away? A woman's right to her body, to allow all abortions? The Israeli Supreme Court has abused this in the past that certain things are fundamental, and not subject to democratic review by the elected Knesset.

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  5. Judaism does not exactly jibe with pure liberal Western democracy. Some would like to dump "uncomfortable" aspects of Judaism. Not very intellectually honest.

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  6. What you say is true, but also pointless. "Some people" always say stupid things. The claim that "[fill in name of current republican/likud party leader] is a threat to democracy!" has been a constant trope of the left ever since the 1960s. (Bush shred the constitution, Begin was a fascist, etc ad nausem.) Attempting to write an ostensibly reasonable post about such stupidity is merely an attempt to cloak said stupidity with legitimacy.

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  7. As an American Jew, living in Florida, my first reaction to reading statements of Ben Gvir was worrisome. The left-wing fascists in the "Democratic" party will take this a proof of the apartheid nature of Israel. Even though they support Iran, Cuba, Venezuela etc and don't make any protest about the condition of women in Iran, Afghanistan etc. the US media will take every statement of Ben Gvir and magnify them. Troublesome for maintaining US support levels for Israel.

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  8. This isn't particularly sophisticated discourse. The Americans and their puppet governments have simply redefined "democracy" as "liberalism". Has liberalism immiserated you? You must be a threat to democracy!

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  9. Soo when islamists and leftists run the country its Democracy, but when it's someone who supposedly is Right wing is in the government it's undemocratic

    Ssvi

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  10. Don't confuse democracy with having a constitution. In it's rawest form a democracy could have a situation where 70% of the electorate votes to expel 30%. Nothing would stop them from doing that. A constitution that sets limits on what the government in that democracy could do is what makes the difference.

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  11. "Many people do not realize that the term "democracy" is used to include other things that are important to society. For example, there is freedom of speech and freedom of religion."

    I am aware that people, even dictionary editors, feel free to make up their own meanings for words now for political reasons- Orwell got it- but no, no, no. Freedom of speech and religion are hallmarks of freedom, or liberty, or liberalism, or what-have-you. All good things, but *not* democracy.

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  12. A Sefer that most charedim today have not read was written by R Reuven Grozovaky ztl, called Baayos Hazman.
    He explained democracy more clearly then most. Democracy is an agreement to avoid internal wars. The agreement is that majority decides, yet the minority agree not to rebel every time they lose, provided that their minority rights are retained.

    This law to annul judicial review can actually break these conditions. It all depends on how it is done. If it is black and white needing minimal effort to break it, then it will be disastrous. Israel can end up on a very slippery slope to destroying democracy. The guardrails of simply passing laws removing voting rights from some citizens, or freedom to criticize, can move very quickly. But if this law is made in a more targeted way, for example retaining, basic rights, requiring very large majorities to overule (similar to US constitutional amendment process), and having subjecting the appointment of supreme court justices to knesset approval, them it can be a fair concept.

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  13. For those complaining that supreme court's powers of judulicial review are just a left wing power grab, they should pay attention to reality. Reality is that the court views themselves as the defenders of minority rights. Reality is that for the past 25 years, aside for a few short moments in between, Israel had had a right wing government. By definition, the court would be blocking right wing decisions. In this past government, the court blocked this outgoing government from changing the rules of free preschool that would've excluded kollel avreichim.
    In USA, the SCOTUS had had a RW told for the past very long time, and they've done plenty of blocking of lw laws (2 amendment right to bear arms, campaign finance laws).
    Clearly, all judges view things sunjectively. Nothing wrong with that. And the g t in power will always be hampered by the court.

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    1. Ben-Ari and Marzel cannot rin for the Knesset, but the Arab parties can. The courts are biased against the Jewish state, but it may be worse without them having this power because the system is hopelessly corrupt. It's hard to know.

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    2. This is a common argument that is lacking in reference.
      Supreme Court did not make up a law deciding that extremists cannot run for office. In the 1980s, likud party made that law, specifically to stop Meir Kahana from running. Supreme court specifically does not override that law. Rather they are explaining the law.
      To whom it applies and to whom it does not, is not whether the person is Arab or Jewish, rather there are details that makes the law take effect on certain people.
      So that law can be a bad law (I personally dislike the law), but don't blame the court for a law that the Parliament passed.

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  14. So when Biden says, results having gone at least better for him that some thought, "Democracy won," clearly implying that had it gone otherwise, democracy would have "lost," do you think that's proper?

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    1. Depends what he was referring to. The Trumpists are the most basic threat to democracy, since their approach to elections is that if they don't go the way you want, they should be overturned.

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    2. The democrats think that the results should be falsified to make election go their way.

      https://www.newsweek.com/list-dead-people-who-won-2022-midterm-elections-1758448

      Democracy is a fraud. People are manipulated to vote for candidates without knowing who they are or what they stand for. Politicians promise the world to get elected. Once elected they will push in whatever policies they can get away with without regard for the voters. Think of Yamina and Sharon. The system is hopeless. We are doomed.

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    3. Rabbi Dr. NS at Nov.13,22 at 1:26 PM. I remember the 2022 presidential election. I remember the film footage showing Democrats preventing legitimate Republicans representatives poll watchers from doing their job,preventing them from seeing what the vote processors were doing. I remember seeing a
      person involved in the recording procedures of the voting who stated that boxes of ballots were delivered after the polls were closed and most people had gone home.No Republican was their to check out the matter and legitimize these ballots. I remember hearing about electoral machines which automatically registered ballots for Biden and people on film stating as such. There were printed ballots with only Biden's name as candidate for presidency.There were also people who stated that ballots that were received with postmarks after the legal date. There were also other legal irregularities which should have cancelled the ballots but refused to do so. There were problems with mail in ballots. There were people who received 3 or more ballots. There were questions about these ballots how and from where they came from etc.. The courts ruled on procedure not on the illegality or fraud itself which the courts refused to deal with. Trump wanted investigation and therefore not to certify the elections that were key in determining the election.Pence didn't want investigation perhaps because he didn't want to upset the system. But what is important is that there is good reason to say the election was a fraud and /or illegal.I therefore feel your statement is way out of line. There should have been more investigation .The Courts jumped on technicalities to try to justify not dealing with the perversion of the election results. It seems that it was too much of a scandal for them.

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    4. The Trumpists? Come on. The Democrats have not accepted an election defeat since 1992. This isn't exactly a secret. Biden's *own words that I quoted* are that democracy is only good if his side wins. His side, not any other- not "Trumpists" or anyone else.

      It's not exactly as if "Trumpists" have a monopoly on rioting and the like, you know.

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    5. Come on. You are being very disingenuous with your usage of the term "accepting a defeat." Nobody before Trump insisted that there was actual widespread fraud and the results were not valid.

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    6. "I believe he knows he's an illegitimate president," Clinton told CBS in 2019. "He knows. He knows that there were a bunch of different reasons why the election turned out the way it did...I don't know if we'll ever know everything that happened, but clearly we know a lot and are learning more every day- history will probably sort it all out," Clinton added.

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    7. To compare those words by Clinton to Trump is utter stupidity. Surely you can't think that there is even the slightest serious comparison.

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    8. In addition to my question above, I would also like to know how you plan to explain away Gore v. Bush in 2000. Will it be by the same unexplained assertion you made to Nachum and then again to MK above that Trump's challenge is "different" than Biden's or Clinton's? Or perhaps by some similar artifice?

      Here's a different suggestion: You changed your blog from a reason-based, Torah based one into just another charedi-bashing one a long time ago. Not a wise move in my opinion, but your call. But for heavens sake, stay our of US politics. You're making an ass out of yourself.

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    9. Yakov -
      the article you linked does not in any way prove, or even hint, that democracy is a fraud or that Democrats falsified results to make any election go their way.
      Voting for a dead politician is a way of saying you want your party to keep the seat and have them nominate someone else. One of the examples of a dead politician who kept his seat, a Republican from Wyoming named Roy Edwards, is cited in the article as well. It isn't a one party thing and it isn't hard to understand.
      Anyone who isn't aware that their candidate is dead has no excuse in the internet age.

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    10. Did Gore lead a nationwide movement to reject the court decision? Did he declare BEFORE the election that the only way he could possibly lose was if the election was rigged?

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    11. But according to a humorous sign hanging somewhere in Israel, "טראמפ הוא משוגע אבל הוא שלנו" !!

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    12. The point of my comment was to confirm, as you just did, that my first comment (I posted two, see first line) was actually censored, and did not merely fall through the cracks. I was suspicious when I did not see it the first time, so I posted it again, along with the weak innocuous one shown. Just as I suspected. For shame.

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  15. A democracy is majority rule. You are confusing a democracy with a republic.
    https://www.diffen.com/difference/Democracy_vs_Republic

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  16. Am I to understand correctly that my comment has been memory-holed without so much as a notice or explanation?

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    1. Comments haven't worked for me lately. Let's see about this one.

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    2. Shimshon, I was unsuccessfully trying to submit comments, receiving "error" messages. When I saw you were having problems too I thought maybe because they are too lengthy. So I broke them up into smaller pieces and they got through just now BH. (in the Nov 9 "Model" post)

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    3. Thank you anon. I've gotten error messages before. In this case, I received the usual confirmation.

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    4. "Am I to understand correctly that my comment has been memory-holed without so much as a notice or explanation?" Yes. Not sure why you think I owe you one.

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    5. Because you have before. Because it's really not clear why it was done. Because you don't apply your rules consistently, and in the case of comments by "Anonymous" literally never. Because in other sites that exercise moderation and enforce rules, they are done consistently and warnings are given.

      What is my offense in this case? Quoting a NYT article (sometimes it's an acceptable news source to you) and making a statement (backed by many sources allegedly credible to you) about government engaging in multiple conspiracies to infiltrate and influence their direction as an argument against your claim of "Trumpists" in general being a singular menace to decent society?

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  17. The issue of freedom of religion is not democracy per se, but liberalism, classical not leftist. Being illiberal is problematic, but is not an absence of democracy.

    However, there is one key difference between majority rule and democracy. In democracy, whoever competes best in the marketplace of ideas over the upcoming election cycle will rule in the following term. However, majority rule allows rigging the rules of that competition so that today's rulers can be entrenched for many election cycles even if they cannot compete in a fair marketplace. In that criterion of democracy, Ben Gvir and Smotrich are not threats, however Trump and his acolytes are.

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