Tag Archives: democracy

If Australia were more democratic, would its economic policy be better? | Instant News

The word “exile” has an interesting history.

It comes from the ancient Greek word “ostraca”, which refers to a shard of pottery or stone.

Ostraka was abundant in ancient Mediterranean communities, and people used them like scraps of paper.

They scratch small notes on it, or paint miniature scenes on it, or use them to keep notes of recipes and ingredients.

But in ancient Athens, during the early period of the city’s famous democracy, the ostraca was used for an additional purpose.

Institution of ‘excommunication’

Each year, Athenians are asked if they would like to hold a special vote to expel someone from the city-state (usually a member of the prominent elite).

If they vote ‘yes,’ the voting is held two months later.

During the vote, they will write the names of the people they wish to dispose of in the ostraca, and hand over the ostraca to the official.

Officials will count the names, and whoever receives the most votes will be dumped over the next 10 years.

It is exclusion, which comes from using the ostraca to expel the person.

“It’s a negative popularity contest,” historian James Sickinger, of Florida State University in the United States, told the Smithsonian Magazine last year.

“From the start, it appears to be used against individuals who may not be guilty of a criminal offense, so [a case] cannot be brought to court, but in other ways violate or violate community norms and threaten civil order. “

In today’s language, these ancient democratic practices can be described as part of a culture of annihilation.

But historians say it played an important role in reducing political tensions among the Athenians.

And the Athenians didn’t abuse it. Fewer than 20 exclusions are known to occur, and the targets are usually powerful individuals accused of corrupting civil society in some way, or planning to do so.

The ‘people’ are responsible for their policies

One of the joys of researching the history of a word is studying its native culture.

Another interesting element of Athenian democracy was the way policies were adopted by its citizens.

Member of ball (the leader of the city-state who is elected by lottery each year to serve a one-year term), will propose a policy.

But the policy can only be adopted if citizens vote in their favor.

Citizens who vote (the Assembly) Consists of every male citizen of a certain age (the people are slaves who hold the patriarchy, so that women cannot vote, and so are slaves).

The total population of the population voting sits somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000.

The civic assembly will meet three or four times a month to discuss the boule’s latest policy proposals, with about 6,000 residents attending each meeting.

The assembly is responsible for declaring war, and for electing military generals and judges, and it has the final say on laws, among many other things.

‘We are not a democracy’

Jeremy McInerney, Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said the Assembly voted on everything from raising taxes to building the Parthenon.

It made their political culture very different from today’s “representative” democracy.

“They don’t delegate to a group of representatives,” McInerney told the National Geographic TV mini-series “The Greeks” (2016).

“If you had a time machine and an Athenian fell into the US, the Athenians would say ‘yes, you’re not a democracy. You know, you yourself didn’t vote on the most recent tax hike or Obamacare or anything like that, that was decided for you, ‘”he said.

Archeology professor John R. Hale, of the University of Louisville, makes a similar statement in the same series.

“We can become a democracy but we really are not,” he said.

“We like to call ourselves that, [but] we are not a democracy. This is not power for the people, it is power for an elected group of leaders whom the people, yes, have chosen, but must then endure once they are in a destructive position in power. “

Mind experiment

As a thought experiment, think about modern Australian economic policy.

Australia’s economic policy setting is controlled by a small political and bureaucratic elite as well as ‘independent’ bodies such as the Reserve Bank.

Since the 1980s, their policy settings have been built around a specific world view.

This world view has, in general, focused on the “supply side” of the economy.

A budget surplus is seen as an inherently good thing.

It doesn’t prioritize the original “full job,” instead of setting an unemployment rate that depresses wage growth and calms workers.

It has yet to prioritize poverty eradication, even though it is within the government’s jurisdiction to lift hundreds of thousands of households out of poverty by increasing social security payments (as the federal government did over the past few months, during the pandemic, before sending the household back into poverty).

It received a large increase in wealth inequality, and the emergence of a phenomenon called “scarring” unemployment (which refers to the scars left on individuals and communities from long-term unemployment).

It keeps an eye on a situation where Australian house prices have become one of the most expensive in the world.

The public has little control over the policy platform.

Votes for a single policy are rare

In our “representative” democracy, voters are rarely given the opportunity to vote on a single policy (the marriage equality vote in 2017 was a recent exception).

They never have the power to vote on every policy, individually, submitted to parliament.

On the other hand, our major political parties take a series of policies for elections, and if they win the election, they claim to have the “mandate” to implement each of their policies.

They also say they have a mandate to “rule”, meaning they are comfortable drafting new laws not considered in elections.

And there are no mechanisms for citizens to remove individual politicians from power (unless section 44 of the constitution is involved), besides waiting for the next election. Even so, if you are not a voting member of those politicians, you have absolutely no power over them.

This is far from being a genuine Democrat (from demo, “people,” and kratos, “power”).

What if things were different?

But what if Australians had the opportunity to vote on individual policy, like the Athenians?

What unemployment rate will we choose? Would we be happy with a five percent unemployment rate? Two percent? Less than two percent?

What if we could vote on the minimum wage rate, or who should be appointed to the Administrative Appeals Court?

Will we choose higher or lower corporate and personal income tax rates? What if we had the opportunity to choose the maximum number of residential properties a person could have?

Or what if we could vote on how much money to dedicate to saving the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmanian forests, and which organizations to trust with that money?

The possibilities are endless.

And when you think about it, you realize how little control Australian voters have over major policy settings.

What can voters actually vote for?

Over the past year, important debates have taken place about the suitability or otherwise of our economic institutions.

Is the Reserve Bank’s inflation targeting regime still fit for purpose?

Should we create a file economic stability board which has the power to stimulate or suppress demand by manipulating tax rates?

Should we introduce a universal basic income or a federally funded job guarantees?

It’s not like voters haven’t complained about some of these things for decades, or try to come up with alternative policy ideas of their own.

But more elite members been willing to accept new ideas recently, so that the public “debate” becomes lively and exciting.

Unfortunately, voters will not have the opportunity to vote on any substantive policy change, not at the individual policy level.

No, unless Australia becomes more democratic.


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Myanmar’s military executed 19 people as Australia joined calls to release political prisoners | Instant News

Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing a fellow military captain, said military-owned TV station Myawaddy, the first public sentence announced since the February 1 coup and the crackdown on protesters.

The report said the killings took place on March 27 in the Okkalapa North district of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Martial law has been imposed in the district, allowing military courts to hand down sentences.

The military ruler who overthrew the elected government said his campaign of protest against his rule was waning because people wanted peace and would hold elections in two years, the first time frame given for a return to democracy.

Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said.

At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled inside the pagoda, they said.

Myanmar Now News and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many injured.

Nearly 50 children have been killed since the February coup.(



Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a press conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was back to normal and that government ministries and banks would soon be fully operational.

More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country came to a standstill due to protests and widespread strikes against military rule.

“The reason for reducing the protests is because of the cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” said General Zaw Min Tun.

“We ask people to cooperate with the security forces and help them.”

He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen were also killed, he said.

An anti-coup protester shows a three-finger salute to the resistance on his hand painted red
Analysts warn that Myanmar may be on the brink of collapse.(



Foreign ambassadors called for the restoration of democracy

The Political Prisoners Assistance Association (AAPP) activist group said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, through Thursday evening (local time).

More than 2,800 people were detained, he said.

“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” said a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar about the protesters in a joint statement.

“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence must be stopped, all political prisoners must be released and democracy must be restored.”

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European countries.

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An Australian couple was released from house arrest in Myanmar.

“Advice from neighboring countries and big countries as well as powerful people in politics, we respect them,” said General Zaw Min Tun.

He also accused members of the National League for Democracy ousted by leader Aung San Suu Kyi of setting fire and said the protest campaign was financed by foreign money, but gave no details.

Suu Kyi and many of her fellow party members have been detained since the coup.

General Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognize the military government were “fake news”.

“We cooperate with foreign countries and cooperate with neighboring countries,” the spokesman said.

ASSK supporters line up in Yangon
Anti-coup protesters walk through a market with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.(



Pressure is growing on the UN Security Council to act

The ousted Myanmar politician urged the UN Security Council to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay whatever it costs to regain their rights and freedoms,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted politicians.

He urged council members to apply direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar is on the brink of state failure, state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior Myanmar adviser at the International Crisis Group, said at an informal UN meeting, the first public discussion on Myanmar by a council member.

The UN’s special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, wanted to visit the country but said she had been rejected by the generals.

He said on Friday he had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand.

“I’m sorry the Tatmadaw answered me yesterday because they weren’t ready to accept me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military.

“I am ready for dialogue. Violence has never resulted in a sustainable, peaceful solution.”

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What’s happening in Myanmar?



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Opinion: Expanding Germany’s mission in Afghanistan was a mistake. | Opinion | DW | Instant News

Looking back at Western military intervention in Afghanistan, two things come to mind – overconfidence and no shortage of illusions. This is especially true for Germany and its military, the Bundeswehr.

The Afghanistan mission, now nearly 20 years old, was launched in reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, which Washington immediately blamed. rule the Taliban in Afghanistan. Germany, eager to support the US and prove its loyalty to a military alliance, quickly rose. Former Defense Minister Peter Struck of the center-left SPD confirmed the move by saying German security “must also be maintained in Hindu Kush.”

Failure to secure democracy

The German people, and parliament, need very good reasons to accept the idea of ​​sending troops to conflict areas far from home. As a result, there has been a lot of talk about turning the country into a stable democracy.

Christoph Hasselbach

The mission’s first objective has been accomplished: Afghanistan is no longer a military threat to both the US and its allies. However, the second goal – bringing stability and democracy to a war-torn country – is as difficult as it was two decades ago.

Eva Högl, Germany’s parliamentary commissioner for the military, has acknowledged that the country’s lofty goals are not being achieved. And Fritz Felgentreu, the SPD defense expert in parliament, has agreed that “Afghanistan is not yet a democracy.” Responding to a report by a Bundeswehr officer criticizing the mission, he said it was “not a new finding that human rights abuses and corruption are widespread in Afghanistan, including on the part of the government.”

US wants out

For the pragmatic American, defeating a military threat is enough to justify completing a mission and bringing troops home. Former President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal hinges on peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. But he doesn’t seem too concerned about the fact that the Taliban is getting stronger, and what that means for future peace and stability in the region – a views shared in part by his successor, Joe Biden.

Germany, aiming to defend its principles, now saw itself in a dilemma. It is feared that if foreign troops leave the country, the government in Kabul, which controls only a small part of Afghanistan, will soon collapse. It will destroy all files progress made to date in the areas of schools and women’s rights.

“We do not want to risk the Taliban returning to violence and trying to gain power by military means by withdrawing from Afghanistan too early,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier this week.

Will 30 years make a difference?

If the goal is to prevent this decline, and if after nearly 20 years Afghanistan is nowhere near stabilizing, How long will the Bundeswehr stay in Afghanistan? Thirty years? Fifty years? And what, if anything, will change?

To date, 59 German soldiers have been killed in the mission, which cost German taxpayers up to € 16 billion ($ 18.9 billion) in 2018 – and that only counts purely military spending.

The Bundeswehr no longer defends German interests in Afghanistan, if that is the case. And the goal of turning Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy has always been an illusion. Therefore, there is no justification for continuing the mission.

Is there still solidarity in the military alliance?

If America finally pulls out of Afghanistan, decisions will still be made for Germany. Germany and other US allies rely so heavily on US troops that they would not, and could not, continue their mission without them.

The question now is whether there will be any solidarity left in the military alliance, if Biden agrees to maintain at least some presence in Afghanistan to keep the pressure on. Taliban at the negotiating table.

But that’s still not enough reason to justify an extension of Germany’s mandate. Speaking recently with German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Eva Högl said that the previous mandate “was pretty much given through parliament from one year to the next.” Unfortunately, that seems to be what happened again.

This article has been translated from German.


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Brazil Project Celebrates Space for Democracy | Instant News

Brazil Project Celebrates Space for Democracy