Literally, by Greek definition democracy means "people power". To be fair, only the Greeks ever implemented a system of democracy that came right out of that definition. A system of direct democracy has never been seen in any liberal democracy of modern times. Which leads me on to my next pondering...
I normally do not like the notion that the Greek had it all figured out. Primus, because it was still only the nobility who had any real influence. Secundus, because "Greece", in the classical era, means "Athens". Take a look at Sparta, and you'll se a quite different picture. And I'm not even getting started on Platon; every fascist movement since Christianity is copied right out of 'The Republic'.
I don't think it did. I see it in (and bear with me here) a similar light to Communism - with regard to the fact it has been tried, but never implemented successfully.
The one major difference being that democracy will not be as rapid to degenerate, because it has built-in failsaves to limit the concentration of individual power. Communism lacks these, and hence goes to pot very swiftly. Capitalism, on the other hand, is designed to take advantage
of humanity's base emotions; lust, fear, greed and so on, and hence is less likely to destabilize. Wether it is just
is an entirely different discussion.
Care must be taken, however, to avoid mixing up the economic system with the mode of government. Communism, Nationalism, Patriotism, u.s.w. are not
ways of governing a country. Rather they are policies that can be implemented under different forms of government.
A form of government is a model that describes the relations of the three fundamental powers (Ruling, Executive, and Judging) to each other, the people and the burocracy.
But I am rambling... To get back to the topic at hand: Is Democracy dying? Did it ever exist?
To pose a qualified answer to those questions, we must first arrive at a definition of Democracy. Personally, I find Democracy to be a very relative issue. When the term was coined, it covered only the upper class. When it was taken up in the US, it originally covered only the WASPs. Today, it covers every H. S. Sapiens (or so we like to think).
In the end, I have arrived at the conclusion, that Democracy means that every human in the administrative unit in question is granted influence on the administrative process, namely in electing the ruling power (direct democracy is problematic for a lot of practical reasons).
The operative word in this regard is human
. The citizens of Athens defined a human as a citizen of Athens, the Founding Fathers defined a human as a WASP. Modern democrats define a human as a member of the species H. S. Sapiens.
What I am trying to say, is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the level of democracy in an administrative unit on any absolute scale, because the definition of democracy involves an inherently subjective parameter.
however talk about the degree to which the population of a country is able to influence the ruling and/or executive powers. This may provide a qualified answer to our original question, because we use the modern defintion of democracy.
When it comes to this parameter, the US has never impressed me. Why not? Well for one because it's impossible to get an american politician to tell the people what he wants to do
with the power that he wants to have
. It is common knowledge that concrete political initiatives in the election campaigns can only substract from ones chances, never add to them. Because you can't please everyone it's safer to shut up. That way you avoid offending anyone (other than those who use the inside of their head). Which of course means that the people cannot make an informed choice, which in turn means that their influence is largely superficial. So, in a sense, democracy isn't on the wane in the US, because, if you'll excuse my bluntness, it never really existed.
Apart from the lack of relevant information (undemocratic behavior on the part of the politicians/the press/both) being a problem, passivity on part of the citizens is a major problem. Inability or refusal to make a decision, even when all the neccesairy information is present, is the other major threat to Democracy. This threat is very fundamental, as it touches upon one of our greatest fears: The fear of solitude. With choice comes solitude. It is inescapable. The appeal of Fascist ideologies is that they remove the need to choose, and thus the nessecity of solitude, by removing the ability to think. The fundamental challenge of Democracy is therefore to motivate the people to not take the easy way out, and lay their thought, and thus their very humanity, at the feet of fascism.
Personally I fear that Democracy is loosing the battle. Never have I so hoped that I am wrong.