Let’s Talk is a blog dedicated to sharing ideas and discussing them online. I will suggest a topic, propose a question or two about the topic, and then contribute to the discussion of the topic in the discussion section.
Let’s talk about our understanding of democracy. The question stems from my reading of the question that Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt pose at the beginning of recent their book,
How Democracies Die. They ask, “Is our democracy in danger?” This is a juicy question yet answering it can lead to riveting discussions even among those with similar views about what we mean by democracy. Yet, there are widely different views on this matter.
How do we know when we see a democracy? What does democracy feel like? What are the processes that promote or detract from democratic actions?
To begin the discussion: Is it enough to say that there is a democracy when there are electoral choices that permit a peaceful leadership succession in a country or are there other necessary ingredients for this to be true? This question stems from C. Wright Mills, long-ago, insightful suggestion that a person’s private life relates to their perception of public, national interests. In this sense, a person’s ability to choose among an array of possibilities, the best person to lead a country, which is in large part dependent on their knowledge of the differences between the possible choices, is the most determining factor.
What are your views?