Democracy and Parliamentarism. Two regimes with different principles and philosophies.
By Demosthenes Kyriazis
The philosophy of Democracy
The regime of Democracy is based upon the principle that all citizens are by their very nature and from God equal.
In mathematics, this equality has a meaning when it compares two similar physical magnitudes, such as for example: the height, or the weight, or the spiritual power (IQ), or the muscle power of the people.
In nature however, this equality does not apply; men are not equal in their physical magnitudes. There is therefore the question: what kind of regime is the Democracy that is based on an equality of citizens, which does not exist in nature? May Democracy be incompatible with the natural laws and therefore a utopian regime?
The answer to this question is that the Equality in Democracy does not apply to all physical quantities of human beings, but only to the physical capacity of every human being to take decisions with the force of logic [i] and not with the incentives and instincts. This physical size is described in Theology by the doctrine: "man is created similar to God’s image and hypostasis”, while the philosophers and the humanitarians describe it with the abstract nouns: Freedom and Personal Power. People in Democracy are equal only in terms of Freedom and Personal Power.
However, in a group of people, in a society is vital that there are rules restricting the absolute freedom, so that:
(1) The freedom of one person does not restrict the freedom of others, and
(2) The freedom, the personal power and the possibilities/opportunities for all citizens be ensured to the same extent.
This ensuring constitutes the duty of the State [II]
From the above can be concluded that the coexistence between individual Freedom and the State’s duty is a problem with objectives in inverse proportion, because the State is obliged to restrict the absolute personal freedom in order to ensure equal personal freedom to all citizens.
Ancient Greeks have solved this difficult problem by creating the regime of Democracy, in which citizens had a dual status; they were both Masters and “Slaves”, Ruling and Ruled.
A regime with the above basic characteristic is the true Democracy, the Direct Democracy as it is called today.
In a Direct Democracy, the State is a specified entity and can be defined by the mathematical formula: State= Citizens
The problems of Direct Democracy.
In the Direct Democracy the power is exercised by the citizens’ Set, which means that the major decisions relating to the members of society should be taken by the totality of citizens. But this requirement presents very big functional and economic difficulties with the result the Direct Democracy would to be, in practice, an unworkable regime due to the very low speed of decision making and to the very large direct and indirect cost of them.
These important problems have been overcome by the Democracy of the ancient Greek spirit as follows:
1. The Major decisions, that induce and restrict the plethora of minor decisions, were taken from the citizens’ Set; from Ecclesia o Demos (Εκκλησία του Δήμου)
2. The plethora of minor decisions - induced and limited by the major ones – are made by the leaders, chosen by drawing lots and in very few cases by election. In the last case, the citizens elect the best leaders (αρίστους άρχοντες) and the final election is made by drawing lots among the best leaders. This method was used only for the selection of military leaders.
3. The major decisions were taken by referendum and by application of the principle of majority. The principle of majority gave accessibility to collective decisions, which would be practically impossible with the principle of unanimity.
4. In the context of these principles, the Set of Citizens got in practice a role similar to that of King (iii), while the Leaders got the role of the servant, who performs the major decisions of the King /Citizen.
Until the end of the 20th century, the communication of people for consultation and decision making it required their physical presence in the same place and at the same time; it required their presence at Pnyka in the same day and hour. This requirement it limited the operation of true democracy only in small States/ Cities of ancient Greece. In States with many citizens, the operation of Direct Democracy was practically impossible. Today, however, when "the whole world becomes a village" thanks to the possibilities offered from the digital technology, the Direct Democracy can operate in all countries regardless of their area and population.
It is clear that in the Direct Democracy the validity and application the following two principles were guaranteed by institutional rules and not from the good will of the leaders.
(1) The Citizens are the Bosses who take the major decisions, while the Leaders are the servants of the Citizens.
(2) The political decisions have the greatest possible acceptance by the public, because they constitute decisions of the totality of citizens.
The above principles are compatible to the axiom that the acceptance of the decisions has greater value than their rationalism [iv]. This means that a decision of high acceptance and moderate rationalism is better than a decision of great rationalism but of low or negative acceptance. The victories of the Greeks in Persian wars and the Greek saga of 1940, are examples of decisions with small rationalism (high risk), but with broad acceptance.
In current "Democracies" the acceptance of decisions is not the main goal of the regime, nor of the policy of those exercising the power. The acceptance of the decisions is the goal and the task of their “Communication Policy”. At the current "Democracies" the value lies not in WHAT we say, but in HOW we say it; lies in Communication Policy and not in Policy.
The philosophy of parliamentarism.
This regime, which was born in England, is based on the principle that the State is a divine /spiritual entity and not the totality of citizens as in ancient Greek Democracy, where the State can be specified with the mathematical formula : State=Citizens.
This divine entity of the State was called “Leviathan” by the English philosopher Thomas Hobs (1588- 1673). Therefore the State in Anglo-Saxon parliamentarianism can be specified with the mathematical formula: State = Leviathan.
The status of Leviathan (or the representatives of the Leviathan), over the times existed to the Kings, to the noblemen with inherited right of representation (House of Lords) and to the elected representatives of the citizens (House of Commons or Lower House).
At the beginning the majority of powers /competences were exercised by the King, later by the House of Lords and last by the House of Commons. The aim of this development is the approach to the principles of Democracy. But the approach has a logical contradictory, because the regime is based on the axiom "State ≠ Citizens", and tries to operate in accordance with the axiom, "State =citizens".
In the reality, has the regime logic contradiction or its logic is clear but accompanied by the well-known traditional English politeness and diplomacy?
In the current Parliamentary regimes the power is exercised from representatives elected by the citizens. But some "representatives" are chosen in accordance with the institutional rules that are decided by the leaders and not by the citizens themselves. Such “representatives” of the citizens are the members of the House of Lords in England and of the ... Deputies of State, defined by the political parties.
Top modern ... democratic institutional rule is this of electing the representatives from a list. In this institution the citizens vote to decide the ... number of representatives of each party, but the names of the representatives are decided by the political parties.
From the foregoing, it is clear that there is a significant difference between Democracy and Parliamentarism. In Democracy the citizens exercise the power, while in Parliamentarism the power is exercised by the representatives; the elected and unelected/ arbitrary ones [v]. The view therefore that the Parliamentarism and Democracy are approximately the same regimes, is incompatible to both: the logical and the historical truth.
In this respect, the famous scholar Cornilios Kastoriadis has written; [vi]:
"The ancients did not know the hypocritical and misleading concept of people’s representation, as they do not know it the great philosophers too, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For the ancients Greeks, there wasn’t such an issue. The reason is obvious. From the moment when, irrevocably and for a certain period of time (e.g. five years), one gives the power to some other people, he has lost his own political power. Rousseau wrote about the Englishmen (because then only England had parliament): The Englishmen think they are free one day in five years. At this point Rousseau was generous, because in reality Englishmen not even for one day in five years were free. What one thinks, the options that he makes on the election day, they have already been laid down (and even more so nowadays) from the previous five years, from the election law, from the existing parties, the candidates etc.»
[i] In nature, all beings take decisions with the power of instincts and incentives. Only man, who can take decisions in accordance with the power of logic, is an exemption. Therefore, the effort to be forced men for taking political decisions with the power of incentives and of instincts is equivalent with downgrading men to the category of illogical beings.
[ii] State (Κράτος) in Greek means Force, Power, Dominion.
[iii] Kings, dictators and generally those in power, take the major decisions, while the abundance of minor decisions are taken from their official lackeys.
[iv] There is a strong correlation between rationality and acceptance. In theory a decision of great rationality should also have great acceptance. But this is not valid when we refer to the rationality of the rulers/ messiahs; the genuine and imitation ones.
[v] Arbitrary (αυθαίρετος) in ancient Greek means self-selected, namely non-elected
[vi] "The ancient Greek Democracy and its importance for us today". Cornelios Kastoriadis, edition Hypsilon.