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Sat, 15 Feb 2014
Is The USA The First Country To Have Democracy?
Despite what politicians or nationalistic citizens from the USA may think, the USA doesn't have too strong a claim at being the first nation to have Democracy. And we don't have half of the democracy and freedom that the Scandinavian countries have.
What Is Democracy?
The first question to ask is "What is democracy?", because depending on one's definition of it, any country can claim to be the world's oldest. Yes, even the USA.
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government where all qualified citizens have equal participation in their society through elected representatives or in direct participation. Most historians use universal suffrage as their basis for determining the world's oldest democracy. With this in mind, many popular frontrunners like Australia or the USA are out.
Though democracy comes from a Greek word, many do not consider them the oldest democratic nation as the ancient Greeks owned slaves. Though it can claim the title as having the world's oldest form of democracy, the nation with the longest standing democracy is still undetermined.
The strongest cries of the nay-sayers come from the fact that the USA and its history showed pretty poor treatment of women, Native Americans, and African-Americans. The USA only allowed women to vote in 1920, while Native Americans were only classified as genuine citizens in 1924.
Countries And Democracy
A popular candidate is Switzerland but women were only granted suffrage in 1971. Australia can be considered a relatively new democracy as well, as Aborigines were only given the vote in 1967. In Sweden the democracy process started in 1718 when their king Charles XII of Sweden died (Karl XII).
The Longest Standing Democracy
When it comes to the nation with the longest standing democracy however, New Zealand is the top choice. The country, a major non-NATO ally of the USA, gave women the vote from as early as 1893. Though doubters say that New Zealand's parliamentary constitutional monarchy should disqualify them from the discussion, they still have the vote if universal suffrage is the main deciding factor.
The Isle of Man has had women's suffrage since 1881, but a lot of people are undecided on whether to consider it a country. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has classified it as a country fairly recently though, so that should make it a strong contender in the race. It also boasts of having the oldest existing parliament in the whole world. It began in 979 AD and continues to this day.
Going even further from that, history states that the Faroe Islands possess the oldest parliament in the world since evidence points to them being colonised by the Vikings as early as 650 AD. However, their parliament was not continuous.
While the USA won their independence in 1781, the Republic of San Marino gained full freedom from all would-be conquerors in 1739. They may not have had universal suffrage as early as New Zealand, but if you define democracy simply as a government wherein their citizens vote for their political leaders, then the Republic of San Marino fulfills that requirement.
The World's Oldest Democracy? - No One Can Tell
Recent claims by the president of the USA that they are the world's oldest democracy have made quite a stir in the historian circles. With all the conflicting factors that need to be considered before deciding which country has had "true democracy" for the longest time, it might take years before a nation comes out on top. For now, the country to have the honor of that title will depend on your personal definition of what democracy truly is.
Top Ranked Countries - Quality of Democracy
115 countries have been evaluated using a scientifically valid and multidimensional approach that integrates political and non-political aspects of society, such as freedom, gender, economy, knowledge, health, and the environment.
In 2013, the Scandinavian model scored highest again. The 5 best countries to live in were Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Denmark. They have the highest quality of democracy.
If we look at Norway and Sweden, they have the best standard of living, good economy, very low poverty, 85 % of the people votes, full paid holidays 5-8 weeks / year, about 480 nearly full paid days to take care of their new born children, low crime rate (example: 15 murders in Sweden committed by youths, in USA 8,226 murders committed by youths / year), best equal status between men and women, their citizens live longer and healthier lives than we in the U.S., 100% clean water, about 95 % have access to Internet from home, about 4 times lower CO2 emission levels than USA per person. Poor or rich, everyone will get the same top quality health care, free schools (everyone can study at a University) and so fort.
Unfortunately we in the United States has a long way to reach the top countries.