Difference between revisions of "Claim: The United States Is the Oldest Democracy"

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# The civilization that dates back furthest from those still in existence today.
 
# The civilization that dates back furthest from those still in existence today.
  
Obviously, the first possibility can't be true since democratic societies existed [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_democracy thousands of years ago]. And, whenever we talk about the lifespan of a nation, we have to determine what criteria should be used to decide when a nation was formed and fell. For example, France has existed as a nation in name for over 1,000 years, but it has seen such major governmental restructuring, that it can't be considered to have a single government all this time.
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Whenever we talk about the lifespan of a nation, we have to determine what criteria should be used to decide when a nation was formed or been replaced. For example, France has existed as a nation in name for over 1,000 years, but it has seen such major governmental restructuring, it can't be considered to have a single government in that time. This is also a matter of perspective for individual citizens. When we look at the history of the US, we see practically no change in governance for rich white men since the country's revolution, but the governance change for black people was more than enough to view the government as a new nation.
  
==Is the United States a Democracy?==
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==What Is a Democracy?==
The word "democracy" is also an ambiguous term. In its most basic definition, a [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy democracy] is any form of government that is ruled by its citizens rather than a limited political group or individual. However, there are several criteria used to measure a democracy, but there are no agreed upon values. For example:
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A [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy democracy] is any form of government that is ruled by its citizens rather than a limited group or individual, but citizen rule is not binary, but rather a spectrum of several metrics. Some of the metrics sociologists look at to measure democracy include:
  
* What percentage of the citizenry must be eligible to vote? If only rich white men can vote, is it a democracy?
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* What percentage of the citizenry must be eligible to vote? If only wealthy white men can vote, is it a democracy?
* How often does voting take place? If citizens only get to vote every 20 years, is it a democracy?
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* How often does the citizenry vote on governmental changes? If elections are only held once every 20 years, is it a democracy?
* How direct of access to government modification should the citizenry have? If your votes must pass through several layers of representatives, is it a democracy?
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* How direct of access to government modification should the citizenry have? If your votes can be modified from several layers of representatives, is it a democracy?
 
* How evenly are laws enforced among the citizenry? If the upper class is treated with far more leniency, is it a democracy?
 
* How evenly are laws enforced among the citizenry? If the upper class is treated with far more leniency, is it a democracy?
 
* What protections are in place to protect minorities? If the majority can eliminate the rights of the minorities, is it a democracy?
 
* What protections are in place to protect minorities? If the majority can eliminate the rights of the minorities, is it a democracy?
  
In the case of the United States, [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage universal suffrage] did not happen until 1965 (the 38th nation to do so), some elections only take place every 6 years, most elections go through at least one representative, the wealthy are generally less subject to justice than the poor, and for most of the early history, minorities were savagely abused.
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There are no agreed upon minimum values for these metrics to determine when a government is a democracy rather than an [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy oligarchy]. The simplicity of this claim could be likened to asking, "which is the first nation to have 'freedom?'"
  
==Best Case Scenario==
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==Solution==
In order for this claim to even hope to be accurate, it must be reworded to something along the lines of, "the US is the oldest extant representative democracy assuming a government that allows slavery and only lets a single race and sex vote is a democracy."
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Since "oldest" and "democracy" are both fuzzy terms, it would be better to work with more criteria that are more concrete.
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{| class="wikitable" |
 +
! Metric
 +
! First Ever Nation
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! First Extant Nation
 +
|-
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| [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy Direct Democracy]
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| Athens, c. 500 BCE
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| Switzerland, 1891
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|-
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| [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_democracy Representative Democracy]
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| Rome, c. 500 BC
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| England, 1689
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|-
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| [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage Universal Suffrage]
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| New Zealand, 1893
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| New Zealand, 1893
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|}
  
  
 
[[Category: Politics]]
 
[[Category: Politics]]

Revision as of 16:12, 20 September 2017

The claim the United States is the oldest democracy is usually made by US nationalists. The argument consists of two points, that the US is a democracy, and that it is the oldest of world democracies. Plolitifact accepts this argument (under specific definitions), but I disagree with both points of the argument.

The Oldest In What Way?

To say that something is the "oldest" of a category is an ambiguous term. For example, the "oldest" civilization could mean:

  1. The earliest civilization in history.
  2. The civilization that lasted for the longest length of time.
  3. The civilization that dates back furthest from those still in existence today.

Whenever we talk about the lifespan of a nation, we have to determine what criteria should be used to decide when a nation was formed or been replaced. For example, France has existed as a nation in name for over 1,000 years, but it has seen such major governmental restructuring, it can't be considered to have a single government in that time. This is also a matter of perspective for individual citizens. When we look at the history of the US, we see practically no change in governance for rich white men since the country's revolution, but the governance change for black people was more than enough to view the government as a new nation.

What Is a Democracy?

A democracy is any form of government that is ruled by its citizens rather than a limited group or individual, but citizen rule is not binary, but rather a spectrum of several metrics. Some of the metrics sociologists look at to measure democracy include:

  • What percentage of the citizenry must be eligible to vote? If only wealthy white men can vote, is it a democracy?
  • How often does the citizenry vote on governmental changes? If elections are only held once every 20 years, is it a democracy?
  • How direct of access to government modification should the citizenry have? If your votes can be modified from several layers of representatives, is it a democracy?
  • How evenly are laws enforced among the citizenry? If the upper class is treated with far more leniency, is it a democracy?
  • What protections are in place to protect minorities? If the majority can eliminate the rights of the minorities, is it a democracy?

There are no agreed upon minimum values for these metrics to determine when a government is a democracy rather than an oligarchy. The simplicity of this claim could be likened to asking, "which is the first nation to have 'freedom?'"

Solution

Since "oldest" and "democracy" are both fuzzy terms, it would be better to work with more criteria that are more concrete.

Metric First Ever Nation First Extant Nation
Direct Democracy Athens, c. 500 BCE Switzerland, 1891
Representative Democracy Rome, c. 500 BC England, 1689
Universal Suffrage New Zealand, 1893 New Zealand, 1893