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Round 1. parrhesia V J0HNSmith: Special Interests

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posted on Sep, 2 2004 @ 06:00 AM
Debate 4

The topic for this debate is "Special interests are ruining democracy."

parrhesia will be arguing for this proposition and will open the debate.
J0HNSmith will argue against this proposition.

Each debater will have one opening statement each. This will be followed by 3 alternating replies each. There will then be one closing statement each and no rebuttal.

No post will be longer than 800 words and in the case of the closing statement no longer than 500 words. In the event of a debater posting more than the stated word limit then the excess words will be deleted by me from the bottom. Credits or references at the bottom do not count towards the word total.

Editing is Strictly forbidden. This means any editing, for any reason. Any edited posts will be completely deleted.

Excluding both the opening and closing statements only one image may be included in each post. No more than 5 references can be included at the bottom of each post. Opening and closing statements must not contain any images, and must have no more than 3 references.

Responses should be made within 24 hours, if people are late with their replies, they run the risk of forfeiting their reply and possibly the debate.

Judging will be done by an anonymous panel of 11 judges. After each debate is completed it will be locked and the judges will begin making their decision. Results will be posted by me as soon as a majority (6) is reached.

This debate is now open, good luck to both of you.

posted on Sep, 2 2004 @ 09:30 AM
Thank you, Kano! And good luck JOHNSmith!

In modern politics corporate funding and funding given by special-interest groups runs rampant. Some of this may be innocent, however, it becomes a problem when it appears that the money donated is not used for campaigning at all, but is used sort of as a bribe so the government will sway a certain way on a certain issue, thus taking away the voice of the people and subverting democracy in the process. And more often than not, this is likely to be the case, as in the political world there are very few innocents. This influence exerted by special-interest groups removes the voice of the people because the members of society no longer are the voice of the government, and the money given by these groups begins to form the voice thus taking away from the majority of society.

Democracy is defined as “a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them”, and using this definition, while taking into consideration the vast influence of special-interest groups, it becomes clear that democracy is not exactly able to flourish, and when special-interest groups and their influence on the modern politician becomes exceptionally widespread the voice of the voting public is stifled due to money that is changing hands in the name of “special interests”. Politicians are elected by the body of citizens, however when special-interest groups come into play, the people aren’t being represented properly, and the focus is not the good of the people, but the common good of the interest groups.

According to Philosopher John Ralston Saul, When government is run by “interests” and not citizens, the public good is swept aside in favour of who can direct the most pressure at politicians. And this is not facilitated by a choice, but rather by a general disenchantment with the system.”

In a democracy elected officials should be promoting policies that are reflective of the interest of the general public rather than special interests but this is not so, and in effect special interest groups are ruining democracy in two ways. The first being their influencing politicians who are meant to represent society at large, and secondly, because it causes apathy and disenchantment in the system, possibly resulting in people not exercising their right to vote because they believe that no matter how they vote or who their vote goes to, corporate money and the influence exerted by other special-interest groups via direct or indirect funding will influence politicians and they will not be represented.

Money and power always corrupt, no matter the political agenda, as we have seen demonstrated through recent history. When special-interest groups offer both money and power (via election), they effectively corrupt government, in this instance, democracy.

posted on Sep, 3 2004 @ 01:14 PM
Thank you Kano, good luck Parrhesia.

A good start of this topic is recognizing that when people, money, special interests and politics are involved in any situation there will always be some degree of disenfranchised people, it is a fact of life that is inevitable in any form of government. On the other end of that double-edged sword special interests have positively contributed to democracy in such largely positive ways that can’t be rivaled by any other single source.
It is much easier to look at the negative aspects of this topic because “special interests” have become the new political buzz word demon addressing the disenfranchised without consideration for the overall common good they facilitate. Some of the most important struggles of our time like cancer research and AIDS research have special interest groups in the lead fighting for the life of the victims of these tragedies. Democracy and special interests go hand and hand for making advances in society that benefits all people in a positive manor.
Arguing that special interests are ruining democracy is the equivalent of treating the symptoms of a cold and not the cause it. If we take a closer look at who is making the decisions you will find it’s the politicians. The people we vote for and trust in have largely fallen down on the job and allowed corruption to form that doesn’t further the interests of people. We elect greedy men, wealthy men, and people who are completely out of touch with the reality of the struggle of most the people reading this today. They are the true demons that are thwarting democracy.
In the words of JFK “Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” That quote proves true on so many levels on this issue. We are told of the evils of special interests and form an opinion based on what we hear without investigating the facts for our selves. Taking a look at the cold hard facts on this issue will not only bring to light some bad examples of politicians abusing power to further the interests of at least one special interest group but it will also conclusively prove that with out the contribution of these groups that the struggle for life, freedom, the pursuit of individual and collective happiness would not be a reality in today’s Democracy.

posted on Sep, 4 2004 @ 10:28 AM
While I'll cede that the aims of special-interest groups can be far from
sinister and be beneficial, it is the way in which they go about seeking to
attain the aims(financially), and consequently, leaving the legislator
feeling more accountable to the special-interest groups that
give money and not the people who actually elected them.

The issue is NOT whether special-interest groups do good things for the
people, (they may, but it can be said to be a side-effect of the aim of
legislators pleasing the special-interest groups), but whether they are
assisting in the ruin of democracy.

Democracy is the opinion of the majority, as mentioned before, or the
election of an official to represent majority opinion. Special interest
groups, through pressure or money, can sway the elected official into
supporting or promoting something which those who elected him/her do not agree with. While in the instances of special-interest groups promoting such things as cancer research or AIDS research they are promoting the common good, that is not the issue here.

Using the American system of government and election as an example we see that when candidates are running for a spot in congress lobbyists and
special interest groups are a main source of funding for their campaign. As
a result of this, when drafting legislation to be put through congress once
elected, the official pays more mind to the special-interest group which
funded him, rather than the people who
elected him.

You are correct in your observations of modern day politicians, however, if
money provided by special-interest groups or lobbyists were to be eliminated or highly restricted then the politicians may just begin listening to the people again, thus strengthening democracy by allowing the majority of people who elected the officials in question to be truly represented by this individual who is put in a position of power by the public.

Following from the quote by Saul in my opening statement, the public good is swept aside because the decisions about legislation are not made with the public good in mind. They are made with the idea of the good of the
special-interest groups and potentially more money from them, in mind.

Take, for another example, modern day campaigning in the United States. It's been shown through research that 90% of the time the candidate who spends more money will win. Seeing as the vast majority of the money used to fund campaigns comes from special-interest groups and corporations, the elected candidate (who, keep in mind, is not elected by the majority of people, but members of the specific political party; Also keep in mind the USA has them lowest voter turnout in the world) will keep the aims and interests of said groups close in mind when drafting legislation. While the general public may benefit at times from legislation drafted with the interests of special-interest groups and their cash in mind, the fact that special-interest groups are the focus of this and not the general electorate is something to be concerned about. Democracy is being ruined because the voices of the people do not come before the cash of the special-interest groups.

The activities of special-interest groups hardly allow for democracy
to thrive.

posted on Sep, 4 2004 @ 01:06 PM
I fear my opponent has lost touch with the issue at hand. In the words of Abraham Lincoln a democracy "is for the people, by the people and of the people" Yet he professes in his last statement that “The issue is NOT whether special-interest groups do good things for the People.” On this issue the things that special interest groups do for the people is one of the main contributing factors to the greatness of our democracy. Given the USA as an example, where do you think all the advances in society, technology and overall funding for these things comes from? We are a great democracy because of the money from special interests groups, have you seen the deficit? Where do you think the money is coming from to support all the advances we have made? The contribution special interests have made to the people is greater than any one man could do alone.

My opponent would like you to think saving people from AIDS and Cancer is not an issue, yet if he had cancer and a special interest group bought a slew of lobbyists to reform the stem cell ban because they had a potential cure for cancer I have a feeling he would be cheering for the politicians who were swayed to change the stem cell ban. In any society you have to take the good with the bad, you have to do your best to do the right thing and in the case of corruption of special interest groups again I will say the advances in democracy, technology, and the overall good of humanity far out weigh a few corrupt politicians.

One side of this issues that is very import and largely ignored is that the “special interest groups are not thieves in the night. They are not evil creatures that plot out how to rape pillage and plunder the rights of the people. They are people just like you and me. They think feel and breath just like the rest of us and are not impervious to the human condition. They obvious have a lot more money and money is a lot of the time the grease on the wheels of demcrocrey. They are fallible to make the same mistakes and are held at a higher accountability to humanity because they are subject to the court of public opinion. I believe that once you have a few billion dollars and money isn’t a consideration that realizing your ideas and contributing to the planet becomes a reality. You can do things like help rebuild Afghanistan and contribute to solving some of the problems of humanity.

For you and I having any effect on the current system of democracy would seem to be an impossible dream. The system is so big, the amount of money changing hands is phenomenal and on top of that you still have a day job to attend 9-5 to keep a roof over your head and food on your table. The amount of options we have are quite limited in that respect, but I believe they go something like this.

1. Start your own company and work day and night for years and years to form your own special interest group.

2. Come up with ideas and write every congressman, senator, and local representative and see who listens.

3. Start a petition and work day and night to get signatures, it’s hard work but with enough signatures your idea will have a bit more clout in the political process.

4. Propose an issue on the ballet by getting enough signatures. This is a huge project so be prepared to take a few days off work and you will definitely need a few friends to help out.

So as you can see we are not totally powerless but to be effective in our current system of democracy would be a job in its self, but more than possible to do. One man can compare with the political side of special interests to a degree.

To ask if special interest groups are ruining democracy is better phrased “if there weren’t any special interest groups could we afford democracy?”

posted on Sep, 6 2004 @ 07:50 AM
parrhesia has taken too long to reply, and forfeits her response, the floor passes to J0HNSmith.

posted on Sep, 7 2004 @ 09:04 AM
I do not understand why my opponent hasn't answered but to keep the debate on fair terms I will yield the floor to her. I hope everything is okay and nothing serious has kept her from participating.

posted on Sep, 7 2004 @ 05:49 PM
Thank you, J0HNsmith, but it really wasn't necessary for you to forfeit your reply

Could you please provide a clear definition of democracy for me? The one that you’ve been going by hasn't been clarified, and it seems as though you're running by a dynamic meaning that's not clearly defined, but changes depending on the point you’re making.

You said, "To ask if special interest groups are ruining democracy is better phrased “if there weren’t any special interest groups could we afford democracy?”"

For democracy to be successful it's not necessary for private money (via special-interest groups and corporate sponsors) to exchange hands. Many pieces of legislation dealing with special-interest groups and the influence of their money have to do with public funding of campaigns so that the candidate running for election does not have to take money from these groups and in the end feel accountable to the groups rather than the majority of citizens.

Going further, you've confirmed what I've been saying all along. You said yourself that the special-interest groups are the influence in democracy and not the overall people. You said, “We are a great democracy because of the money from special interests groups." You've confirmed the proposition that special-interest groups are ruining democracy for me. You yourself admit that the money from these groups is what is driving politics and not the accountability to the majority of voting citizens. The money from special-interest groups stifles the population; it takes away the voice of the people so they can’t make the country and the democracy “for the people, by the people and of the people.” (Thanks for the quote).

I did indeed say that "The issue is NOT whether special-interest groups do good things for the People", and that is what I'm still saying. Special-interest groups may do good things for the people, some things they do may make the country great, but their actions don't make it a great democracy. A great democracy would be where the people are represented, where the politicians are accountable to the people and not the groups that fund them. A small percentage of the population being heard (the special-interest groups) hardly equate to the publics voices being heard.

Helping people who have AIDS and cancer is obviously an issue, but it's not the issue at hand that we are supposed to be discussing. Special-interest groups pressing for legislation to help people fighting these sicknesses does not even come close to addressing whether special-interest groups are ruining democracy. It seems to me what you've been trying to argue is that special-interest groups help certain people who are affected by certain things; are you telling me that's what democracy is? Is a democracy made up of small, isolated groups of people pushing for legislation that will benefit them and inadvertently trickle down to the rest of society?
Is democracy seeing peopled helped when they are sick, or is it the people of a nation having a voice?! Special-interest groups who are stifling the voice of the common citizen are not making democracy possible; they’re ruining it!


posted on Sep, 8 2004 @ 12:41 PM
Special interest groups are an interracial part of Democracy, that is a point of fact. There isn’t a working democratic government on the planet that does not have funding from them. They are an influence in democracy no matter where you go, in some cases they do push for issues that are not in the best interest for the people. As I have pointed out though they have also pushed for issues that have a great benefit to people, society, and humanity. To lump all special interest groups into the category of “entity that runes democracy” is like tossing out the baby with the bath water.

I would argue that if we measured on a world scale what a great democracy is the US would come out as the greatest most powerful one on the planet. Effective democracy has shown that special interest groups do play an interracial part. You can’t blame special interest groups for the lack of morality of politicians. If there is an issue that is not good for the people than the politicians should say NO! Yes I understand there is some political, financial and feelings of obligation on behalf of the politicians to the groups that help put them into office. They have a job to do for the people and those obligations can and should be easily for filled with a thank you card and a basket of fruit. Determining what is good for the people is a large task in its self, there are so many people pushing and pulling in so many directions that when a well organized group comes to you and shows you a way to help improve the life of a majority of the people you represent would it be a bad idea to take it? Let’s say the issue is building a microchip factory, but the land the special interest group wants to use is not commercially zoned. If you approve the rezoning of the land it will disrupt the bird population, and displace some homeless people who squat on the land. Would the job growth opportunities and all the benefits not out weigh the birds and homeless people? The tax revenue alone would cover the cost of a homeless shelter and a bird sanctuary. Is this really the evil that is ruining democracy or is the grease on the wheels that make it work effectively?

In response to my opponent casting aside the cancer and AIDS issues as having nothing to do with special interests and democracy I can say there is a very clear connection between the two. Yes it is a very specific area of special interest but it does not have just a small trickle down effect. Let’s start at the top of this issue and work down the chain. A politician has the opportunity to approve some law or help to change a policy that will enable cancer research to be more prosperous. This is good for the people as far as jobs in every area from ordering equipment to the actual people doing the research. If this legislation enables the finding of a cure for cancer the politician will have done a great service to the people he is representing, with a LOT of help from special interest money and ideas.

The people have a vote, I have pointed out some of the ways even an individual can change policy or run for office. The great thing is if you want more money for your campaign you can side with some of the ideas of special interest groups that you feel will benefit the people you represent. You don’t have to but it is an option. When I was younger I worked for a clean water activist group. We would canvas day and night door to door for donations to hire a lobbyist to help fight for cleaner water standards. To me there are some things worth applying political pressure for that help all people. Without special interest groups I fear that change in government would be an almost futile task.

The people of the nations of democracy are not voiceless, with every letter, every vote, and every realized dream they are heard louder and louder. It is the responsibility of the politician to hear that voice and decide if it is coherent with the issues that any particular special interest group is presenting. It is not the job of special interests to hear that voice; it is the job of politicians.

posted on Sep, 9 2004 @ 08:43 AM
You’ve failed to provide myself, as well as the judges, with the definition of democracy which you have been working with during the course of this debate. Had you provided it, it would have aided in my understanding of your argument, which is still lacking.

J0HNsmith, the fact that they are vastly present across the planet does not make them an integral (I’m assuming you didn’t mean interracial) part of democracy, nor does it mean they are good for democracy! As I’ve stated before, it’s not necessary for campaigns to be funded solely (if at all) by special-interest groups. All that this funding does is buy legislation and leaves the politician feeling accountable to the group. Legislation aimed at campaign reform calls for public funding, thus leaving the politician not being swayed by whatever issue, and accountable to the voting public.

Is democracy where politicians are bought by special-interest groups and corporations? Is democracy being strengthened when money can buy legislation?
I’ll provide two more definitions of democracy to illustrate what democracy is, and what we as society are striving for.

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.

By the very definition of democracy, special-interest groups do nothing to help democracy flourish.

In the case of special-interest groups having such a hold on modern politicians, government is not really by the people. They may elect representatives, but when money changes hands are they really being represented? Are special-interest groups considered the “common-people’? I beg to differ. You yourself mentioned the vast resources of money they have. Special-interest groups sound more like the rich and powerful elite, to me, especially when you also consider corporations as a factor here.

I won’t be wasting any more time addressing irrelevant issues such as your explanation of trickle-down economics, and how they serve the population or don’t, when in the end, people getting jobs and making money is NOT democracy, no matter how much you want it to be. My point has been clear throughout this debate, and I will reiterate one last time. Special-interest groups are not helping democracy thrive, but are assisting in its ruin regardless of their good intentions. (Keep in mind, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.)

posted on Sep, 11 2004 @ 02:56 AM
I would like to thank Kano, the judges and parrhesia for all taking the time out to participate in the debate.

I will make my closing statement short, I think I have illustrated my point clearly. We as the people seek adequate representation in a political climate that sometimes seems overwhelmingly not interested in our individual needs. The benefit special interest groups have brought to the people outweigh anything a single politician could do for the people because of lack of money and resources.

People can exercise their rights at any point they feel it is necessary to do so. You have shown that special interest groups indeed have a lot more money and resources than the average man but you have not shown that these groups have muted the voices of the people. The common people are the primary source of political power, we all have a vote and the power to run for office if we choose to. If we eliminate the "rich, powerful and elite" to make everyone "even" than it sounds more like communism than democracy.

posted on Sep, 12 2004 @ 09:37 PM
Sorry for the delay, I snuck away for the weekend. The vast army of robotic judges has been set to work. Results in a day or so.

posted on Sep, 16 2004 @ 01:12 AM
Results, results, results.

The winner of this debate by a margin of 6-2, is parrhesia, thankyou to J0HNSmith and best of luck in future debates. I would also like to commend J0HNSmith for taking the noble step of passing on his response after his adversary was out of town for the weekend. I always like good sportsmanship.

Judges Comments:

parrhesia won by a clear mile, it really come across that JS didn't believe what he was debating and at times it was kind of confusing what he was saying. Kudos should go to JS though for setting aside his response in the wake of parrhesia's absence, that was very noble.

I really enjoyed reading this debate - both parrhesia and JOHNSmith are to be commended for their efforts.

This was a difficult judging at first, then JOHNSmith gave what appeared to be contradictory statements to the benefit of parrhesia.

JOHNSmith gave a strong closing statement but it was not enough to overcome parrhesias argument. Perhaps JOHNSmith should not have forfeited after parrhesia.

parrhesia wins.

Comments- John performed well for the first few posts, when I came upon Par's forfiet I figured she was going to go downhill but it was the other way around. John skirted around a few points. His lose came for Parrhesia's qoute

"You’ve failed to provide myself, as well as the judges, with the definition of democracy which you have been working with during the course of this debate. Had you provided it, it would have aided in my understanding of your argument, which is still lacking. "

A good debate. I placed my vote with parrhesia because I felt that she made a better argument and did a better job of convincing me of her side.

parrhesia seemed to be on top of the subject and handled herself well in this debate. My vote goes to parrhesia.

Parrhesia showed that there is some abuse of this system. Johnsmith on the other hand provided the better arguement that the voice of the people isn't muted by SI groups. Winner JOHNsmith.

It was a good debate, but I felt that JohnSmith failed to focus on his argument. Parrhesia was correct that the harm or benefit of special interest groups in of themselves is irrelevant. It's their impact that detracts the whole of democracy, which she supported well. John Smith didn't quite grasp that point and slowly dug himself in the mud. I found this admission from Mr. Smith most painful, "They obvious[ly] have a lot more money and money is a lot of the time the grease on the wheels of demcrocrey."

But all in all, decent debate. I hope to see Smith around next time.

Good luck parrhesia in round 2.

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