SFDebate : Listen, Speak, Discuss, Understand


This House Believes the U.S. Government is NOT "of the people, by the people and for the people"

Rejected 17:11 (2 abstained)
Write up by Rob

Omar and Ryan gave speeches for the motion, arguing that the U.S. government is not representative of the people, is not really chosen by them, and does not generally act in their interests. The drew attention to jerrymandered elections that prevent the government being truly chosen by the people, corporate special interests and campaign finance issues that show the government does not act in the interests of the people, and the concentration of power in a few small groups of people.

James and Jon reframed the debate is being a question of whether the U.S. government is a liberal democracy. They came to the defense of the U.S. government, arguing that, although the U.S. government might not be a "perfect" democracy, it definitely came close enough to warrant the description. James wrote out five factors that should be met in order for a government to be called a democracy and argued that the U.S. government satisfied all of them.

The debate then opened up to the floor. Points made included:

Hannah annotated the five requirement James had written on his white board with examples of ways in which the U.S. government had failed to meet each requirement.

Allan - Does it matter whether the government is "of the people, by the people, or for the people"? Surely what matters is whether the people have rights?

Emily - We should take this quote in context - The Gettysburg address was about the need for national unity after the civil war.

Jessica - Education is very important. Can't have democracy unless the people are informed.

James - Is it efficient to have the people be educated with the knowledge needed to run a country? Wouldn't it be more efficient if people learned the things more important for their own lives and left running the country to a small group of people who specialized in that skill?

Rachel - The problem with education, and thus our democracy is media consolidation. A few small powerful companies control the information the people receive. We can't have democracy unless the people have access to unbiased information.

John - Gerrymandering doesn't work long term. There are too many changes in population, allegiances etc for it to have anything more than a small or temporary effect.

Carly - People in different groups don't vote with one voice. It really is one person one vote. Gerrymandering people is thus very difficult.

Jon - Formal education does not necessarily make one better equipped to decide what the country should do.

Ryan - Public education can be dangerous for democracy. If the government decides what is taught in schools then they give feed people their own view of the world.

David - The media don't give us the information we need to make an informed decision. Nobody ever talks about the policy differences between Clinton and Obama. They just talk about who is ahead, as if it is a sporting event.

Ashley - The fact that the U.S. does not have compulsory voting affects the way politics is played. People will only vote if they feel passionate about an issue, which means that the government feels the need to stoke up passions, rather than governing calmly and rationally.

Rosita - Compulsory voting is good. They have it in Australia. You have a moral responsibility to vote.

Jack - Apathy amongst the public shows that the government is doing well. If the government was doing badly then people would be keen to vote against it.

Candy - There are three branches of government, and the executive branch has been gaining increasing amounts of power, making the U.S. less democratic.

Rob - The government is not "by the people" but that is good. Having the unwashed masses run the country directly would not be effective. What matters is that we have government *selected* by the people. There is pressure for a government to do well because the people can kick it out if it does badly.

The debate then ended with closing speeches for and against the motion:

Omar - It all comes down to two questions. Do we chose our lawmakers? Whose interest do they act in?

James - If we look at recent history we can see that the will of the people always comes through, even if imperfectly. Look at the election results in 2006. The U.S. government is by no means a perfect democracy, but it undoubtedly is one.

Pleaase feel free to add your thoughts below....

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