討論逐字稿: Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?

From the discussion: Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?

—Okay, before we start the discussion, I have a question. What actually does a ‘uniform society’ mean, does it mean everyone has the same purpose, same values, or the same opinion?
—This is a good question!
—I ask this because I can’t figure out the relation between 'uniform society' and 'functional democracy'.

—Do you remember how we got to this conclusion when we were talking about it?
—We were talking about Denmark, and Denmark is supposed, in our conception, it’s supposed to be a more uniform, homogenous society.
—So what kind of 'homogenous'?
—Okay, I’ll list the concepts. Same race, same socioeconomic class?
—Which means the gap is very small?
—Same historical background
—I think it means a large middle class, but also maybe the economic gap is small
—So few very rich and very poor
—So if there is a large group of poor people, can you say it’s a uniform society?
—This is also my question, it depends on the definition of uniform, you know? I was thinking about this definition, is it a specialized term?
—Hahaha no we just tried for a word to catch our feelings
—Okay but my difficulty is the relationship between the two terms.

—Lets approach it from another angle, which is 'multiculturalism'.
—In the history of the US, we had the idea of the ‘melting pot’ 大熔爐 it was all, give up your culture, become ‘American’ and I’ve been thinking about this, you know, like, why?
Because there are implications now which are bad, which is to say white people feel they don’t have any culture, so they cling to 'whiteness' which increases racism and is part of the 'whitelash' that trump harnessed to get elected
—So the US is no longer trying to be a melting pot
—But why does melting pot equal no culture?
—It’s because we had to become Americans! Which, although is kind of derivative British culture—
—Now I’m not sure, but I think, the uniformity of culture is the rationality behind the melting pot, so that democracy could happen.
—So you’re suggesting that because the US is all sorts of different people, so they needed a uniform society to support democracy
—Yeah, but this is just a theory, trying to understand this melting pot thing

—Okay, but my angle is, that since the US has many different people, there are different cultures, different lifestyles, so we need a system to help society work. And that kind of system may be democracy. So this angle may be that diverse society needs a democracy.
—I definitely agree with you. I don’t think the melting pot was a good idea.
—It seems though, if the society is too heterogeneous, it’s hard to obtain agreement on how to make things happen.
—Indonesia is a good example of this, of a lot of different cultures trying to make a nation together.

—So here's the angle I've been pondering for awhile, especially since our UBI discussion: If people are economically comfortable, will they be more okay with people who were different than them?
—Of course!
—Really though?
—But all these people who voted for trump were people who want the immigrants gone, who want competition for the jobs gone, so if they had their jobs, they wouldn’t react so strongly.
—If everyone feels they have a future, they’re not going to fight about scraps.
—To achieve democracy, probably the one factor is the economic stability for individuals.
—So maybe this is one crucial reason, but maybe it’s not the only reason.
—Probably you have to have it though? Or the other reasons don’t matter?
—It’s not about economic stability, it’s about economic distribution. The rich/poor gap is not that big. If most people are poor, then maybe it’s okay.
—Well..
—But if people are more economically similar—
—So it turns back to an original question I was thinking about a couple of weeks before. Where does democracy come from? It comes from the French revolution, the middle and lower classes want to be against the ruling classes, and then the democracy spread into America, for against British ruling class. So actually the democracy it comes from against a specific, a special group of people who control the power, no matter political power, or economic power.
—So you’re saying democracy doesn’t work without an opposition?
—So I’ve been thinking what makes a democratic society difficult now is that, because now the group of people are minorities...nowadays perhaps because of media, the sophistication of society, the needs or background of people have become more and more different. So it’s hard to, it’s like there are ten groups of people that are going to fight, to claim their own rights or power, but now because there are 10 kinds of needs, so it’s very hard to deal.
—Hard to reach an agreement, right?
—But before, I don’t know if it’s an illusion or what, but in France there were only three classes, ruling, middle and lower classes, so it was very easy to start the democracy. But maybe it wasn’t that simple at the time.
—But basically you’re arguing that people need to be uniform in order to work together.

—But what if the main thing about Denmark is that nobody is particularly rich or particularly poor, so that they can say they have similar values?
—So we talked about UBI before, universal basic income, it’s the idea that no matter what, everyone receives a base living stipend. Silicon valley is super interested in this.
—Why?
—It seems counter-intuitive, right?
—Yeah!
—Here’s the thing, if robots replace workers, everyone is going to be mad at silicon valley—
—So they need UBI
—So they need UBI!!

—But here’s the thing though: would having a UBI guarantee democracy?
—You mean the people can join the process of democracy because they don’t have to worry about the economic life, so democracy is more workable?
—But it’s similar than that, now everyone’s the same, everyone gets the same thing
—I don’t’ think UBI can guarantee democracy, but it can guarantee a stable society.
Because it guarantees, basically, capital flow. Poor people are more good for an economy because they spend everything they own. And rich people take money out of circulation and store it, which is bad for an economy. So a UBI in a way potentially guarantees a stable economy.
—Do you think UBI is a good idea?
—I don’t know.
—Because Switzerland had a referendum about UBI, where everyone would get the equivalent of 80,000NTD a month.
—Wow I could use that—
—And the news was 80% opposed! So I wonder if UBI is an idea where most people can accept that? Because there must be some disadvantage? Like people will not want to work, and the efficiency of society will become very bad.
—Ohhh, there’s a lot of branches in what you just said, let’s list it:
Can people accept UBI?
Will people not want to work?
Will the economy be inefficient?
Will the economy collapse?
Will the government collapse?
Will rich run away with their money to some other place?
Is UBI good or bad for democracy?

—But then there’s another set of issues:
Is work necessary for moral uprightness? Meaning, do you need to work to be considered a good human being?
And then there’s another issue, there’s game we played a long time ago, where basically we asked, if I gave you 100,000nt, but for you to receive it, I have to give your worst enemy 1,000,000, would you accept the 100,000nt? And lots of people said no.
—Oh, yeah. 'No'.
—Me, I’m on the fence, I really want that 100,000.
—And you?
—Errrr, no
—So Angela your answer is yes.
—Well I don’t know!!
—But so that’s the issue, what’s the name of this issue?
— "If I can’t have it you can’t either”
—No...
—Or:“I don’t want you to have it so I don’t want it”
—Yeah.
—So the first issue is you have to have good, paid labor to be a 'successful human being’ or otherwise you’re not a real person. This is definitely is an American idea.
—Is it the same in Taiwan? If somebody didn’t work but just lived on other people? Nobody would respect them.
—Yes, nobody would respect.
—I think in every society this exists, but it’s about the extent, but: if you were living in a society where success is defined by different angles, then receiving a lot of money wouldn’t be that important a measure. But receiving a lot of money is so important in America, so the definition of success in the US is very narrow
—Yes yes yes
—Probably because Americans are less cultured
—Yes, you can say that...
—You can say American society is too young, so when they became immigrants there, so they forgot their past, so they have to turn to making money, to be successful. It’s a more simple definition.

—Okay but I have two questions. One is, can we accept that a person doesn’t work if they don’t need the money, if they have enough?
—So they’re not dependent on other people?
—No they might depend on their parents, but can we accept them?
—And the second question is, regarding Susan’s opinion. What is the definition of work, does it mean earning a lot of money? Or helping other people but not making myself rich? What is the definition of work?
—The baseline is: financially independent. If someone depends on other people, they’re not a successful adult. This gets tricky when you talk about disabled people, but we're talking about the majority of the fully-functional population. So not being a burden is the issue.
But for other people, the issue is 'laziness'. If you can play video games all day, without being a burden on others, would you be pissed off at them?
—If they’re a friend of mine, I’d be upset. But if he were an average person, I don’t think I have the right to tell him.
—But what do you want to tell them?
—I want them to do something meaningful! You can do something good for poor people, or do something good for society?
—Okay, what if they’re making art all day, instead of playing video games, does that make it better?
—Yes!
—Why?
—Hahaha, I see your point. I guess we think art is more high-class than video games —But is it true?
—Okay, but I think this is a human being’s nature. I think actually human being want to achieve something, so if you are achieving something, rather than...because playing games, if you are playing games but achieving something, like practicing to join a competition, then it’s achieving and something meaningful, there’s a purpose
—So the base line here is purpose, meaning, achievement. Not necessarily tied to money.

—So here’s the thing in places where they try out the UBI, nearly 90 percent keep working. The only ones who stop working, are the people taking care of small children, or who want to concentrate on studying, so that they can do an interesting job. But it took financial pressure off everybody, and happiness increased.
—Okay, so I agree with the logic, but where is the source of the funding??
—Spoken like a true accountant!
—So if people aren’t all working, how does the government get the money to distribute to everyone?
—So here’s the theory: if people have money, they have to buy things, that means things are being made to buy, that means people are making money from selling the things, and so the taxes from this bring the revenue to the government, which then redistributes the revenue.
—So a successful UBI depends on the capitalists agreeing to be taxed, and not escaping the taxes. So they have to agree that it’s in their interest. Which is not always easy.

—But let’s got back to Susan’s question
—What was that?
—The question was, having economic parity, does that actually lead us to democracy, or is there something more needed?
—And it’s back to Steven’s question, which is what makes a society uniform?
—My current thought is like, if everyone has basic economic ability, it improves the chances for democracy, because people have more energy to join the process, they’re not working so hard for their money. So it improves the chances for democracy.
—I think I agree with you. It creates the base conditions for stability. But it doesn’t guarantee it.
—Yes, it’s one of the factors, not the only factor
—So what are the other factors?

—I feel like another important factor is trust.
—Yes! I think so.
—Let’s say, like these days, every political party in Taiwan, no matter what kind of policy or proposal, they're always...because the opposing parties do not trust each other at all, so none of the dialog can be continued, so there wont’ be any agreement reached.
—Okay but do you thin…
—Because we are talking about functional democracy, what does ‘functional democracy’ mean? Does it not mean handling different ideas and coming up with a solution that while not perfect is an optimal choice for the situation? So trust becomes important, you need to dialog, and during these courses of settlement, some peoples’ interests may be compromised—
—So they have to trust that they’ll be taken care of later, at another time.
—Yes, so trust is very important in democracy, but do you think it’s possible to depend on trust to have it? Because I don’t think in the real world trust exists. When people have to fight for their benefit—
—I disagree because we trust people all the time. We trust that the thing we bought will be delivered, we trust that the bus driver will take us to the right place.
—We trust that everyone will show up tonight.
—We trust that the buildings won’t fall down.
—But that’s a question of the law, the delivery, he has to deliver!
—But so then you trust the law then!
—Yes, you have to trust the system of law will back you up!
—You have to trust the system!
—You have to have a basic trust in the system to have democracy.
—So trust the system and trust people are the same?
—Not exactly the same.
—But trusting the system is even more important for democracy than trusting people. Because people change—
—But the system needs to stay stable—
—Not that it will—
—But it needs to, for us to trust it, so that democracy can go on.

—So we have 'economic stability', and we have 'trust in the system'.
—But what creates trust in the system? We hit one there, the system is stable—
—Oh! The system is fair! We only have trust if we’re treated fairly. Which is why white Americans trust police but black Americans don’t, because black Americans are treated badly and unfairly by police.
—So that’s why! What comes up to your mind, why the uniform society, why 'uniform' because if people are similar to you, you trust them more easily. Do you trust people who are similar to you?
—Okay yes, if society is uniform, they have the same values, they believe the same thing. If that’s the case, do we actually need democracy? We don’t have to fight about anything, we don’t need to dialog.
—So democracy = fighting to you?
—I think democracy is a kind of mechanism to solve different opinions, if we have the same opinion then we don’t need that mechanism.
—I think you’re extreme-ing the issue too much. Because nobody’s ever perfectly uniform, if you have 10 people in a room, you’re gonna have 10 different ways to solve a problem, if you have 10 dancers in a room, they’re maybe more likely to come to agreement, than if it’s two dancers, an accountant, a salesperson, a stay-at-home-father, a professional gunman, and four animal rights activists, you know what I mean?
—Because if we don’t use democracy, then how do we administrate society? Basically the question is—
—Follow someone’s rules. Like an expert?
—Well how do we choose the expert?
—Well, they have the power to force us, but we don’t want a society like that
—But in your mind, is there any story of successful democracy?
—hahahaha, there's that quote, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
—Well but do you know any successful policy?
—Well, how about Taipei? Everyone has flush toilets, the streets are not full of garbage and shit, they're paved and smooth and marked to make traffic organised, we can call a hotline to say something’s wrong and it’ll get fixed, sometimes within a day, children can go to school, there’s ample health resources, parks, public transportation, libraries, internet is easy to get, electricity is cheap, restaurants are everywhere and regulated enough so the food won’t kill you—
—It only costs 50 dollars to go to the zoo.
—It only costs 50 dollars to go to the zoo! More importantly, you have redress when there's problems, you can talk about problems without fear of reprisals, you can trust the rule of law to be consistent, mostly! Yeah, there’s problems for sure, but it’s decent! Like, compare it to the Philippines, or Mainland China, or even the US! Where you have no health care, and the bridges are falling apart, and there’s no good public transportation, etc.
—Yeah, it can be improved, but in my limited knowledge and experience, I think Taiwan is one of the more functional democracies in the world right now.

—But the problem, let’s think in another angle. Why do the needs of the people cannot be reflected in the government, in the US—
—Or even in Taiwan, gay marriage for instance—
—That is a really good question.
—For gay marriage, my observation is, two kinds of people oppose, one kind is selfish Christians.
—Thank you for saying so!
—No matter how much education, they just oppose because their religion. And the second is the people who don’t have the ability to tell what is the truth. For example, the Christian will tell the people who are not well educated that because of this law people can get married with animals or mountains, or fathers can get married with daughters and those people believe them because they don’t have the ability to tell what is the truth.
—That’s a key point, knowing how to tell what is the truth.
—Yes! The number of people who are without critical thinking facilities, this is a big problem.
—So! Another thing we need, is basic knowledge about the world, and critical thinking facilities.

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