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The expansion of democratic rights has tracked the development of scientific understanding. The time line shows some of  the incremental steps in the evolution of democracy.

The first democracy in the Greek Republics coincided with the Greek Enlightenment. After the Roman Emperors, the European monarchs took over. In England there was an incremental transition to constitutional monarchy. The Renaissance started in the Florence Republic. Elsewhere, revolutions and invasions triggered changes in governance, mostly to Republics.  Some Democracies have converted to Authoritarian when the leaders have refused to depart, Hitler is the infamous example.  Full voting rights were painfully  slow to appear.



Leaders in human communities are either elected, inherited, or enforced. Based on today's hunter gatherer communities,  leaders of pre-historic tribes were likely chosen by senior respected families in the community.

After settled agriculture appeared around 10,000 years ago, the Pharoe god-kings ruled in Egypt. These were authoritarian rulers over a almost completely illiterate community. 

Invasions of neighboring communities have been a fact of life, and inevitably result in authoritarian rule of the invaded. Over 3000 years, Phaeronic Egypt experienced invasion by  a Western Asian people called the Hyksos, Assyrians , Persians, and Alexander the Great from Greece. The invaders inserted themselves as leaders, co-opted the local power structure and left the underlying community mostly untouched.

Authoritarian Monarchs or tribal leaders have ruled over most of  the world. 

Monarchies, with leadership passed on within a ruling family by rules of inheritance has been the most common power structure.  Monarchs controlled all the major European powers by the Middle Ages; England, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia etc. 

The first Republic Democracy

The first mass democratic experiment occurred in the Republic city states of ancient Greece. All males got to vote, no slaves and no women. This coincided with the "Greek Enlightenment" with an array of breakthroughs in scientific understanding of how the world works. Roman democracy followed the Greek, and then ended in 27AD with the election of the first Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. 

The Roman emperors were selected by a combination of the military and the Senate a group of wealthy landowners. The legitimacy of an emperor's rule depended on his control of the army and recognition by the Senate; an emperor would normally be proclaimed by his troops, or invested with imperial titles by the Senate, or both. 

After the fall of the Roman empire, from civil war and incursions by aggressive nomadic people, the European monarchies emerged and ruled through the Middle Ages. Many maintained domination, ruling as "absolute monarchs", such as France and Russia. 

The transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy

Other monarchs started to devolve power to their people to maintain power by consent from their people

In England for example, in 1215, the barons coerced the king into issuing Magna Carta  to guarantee the rights and liberties of the nobility. After King James ran away, the Bill of Rights 1689 affirmed parliamentary supremacy and declared that the English people held certain rights, including freedom from taxes imposed without parliamentary consent. During William IV's reign, the Reform Act 1832,  led to an expansion of the electoral franchise and the rise of the House of Commons as the most important branch of Parliament. By the time of Victoria, 1860's, the English royalty had a purely administrative role, with the real power in the prime minister as head of the legislature. It was not until the 1920's that women finally got the vote.

The return of Republics 

City states such as Venice and Florence in the 1400's were Republics The Signoria of Florence  ruled  between 1250 and 1532. Its nine members, the Priori, were chosen by random draw from the ranks of the guilds of the city: six of them from the major guilds, and two from the minor guilds. 

The republic of Venice was ruled by the doge, who was elected by members of the Great Council of Venice The ruling class was an oligarchy of merchants and aristocrats, supported by Venetian citizens.

The invasions of the New World by the European Monarch expanded authoritarian rule, and spread disease. Resistance resulted in the US Revolution. The US Republic formed in 1776, was the first with comprehensive political structure, and a powerful executive  president. The voters were still limited to white males. Women got to vote in 1920. African Americans were nominally included in 1880 after the Civil war, but real access only occurred in 1970. The world wide empires of the European powers were finally  dissolved after the end of World War 2. 

The European absolute monarchs were unable to resist people power forever. In 1789, the French Revolution formed the first French Republic  modelled after the US, which finally stabilized in the the third  Republic in 1870.

By the early 1900's, the ambitions of the European monarchies in Austro-Hungary, Germany, Russia and the European democracies in France and England had resulted in a web of treaties designed for mutual control. A local freedom fighter in Serbia killed the Austro Hungarian Archduke and everything spiraled into World War 1. In the aftermath, Republics were formed in Germany, Austria, Hungary, CzechoslovakiaPoland and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. 

The rise of "popular" authoritarians 

In 1917, the Russian revolutionary civil war removed the Tsarist absolute monarchy and replaced them with a nominally elected leadership committed to imposing equality on their community. This quickly become a one party democracy, that was effectively authoritarian. Leadership was acquired through a power struggle based on who has the support of the military. Communism finally collapsed in the 1980's through a combination of economic failure and old and ineffective leadership.

Fascist authoritarian leaders can come to power through revolution or election. In 1935, Hitler came to power in an election, and promptly dissolved the German Weimar Republic. He then precipitated World War 2 by invading most of Europe, committed genocide,  and co-opted Japan. The whole world had to be mobilized in resistance.  

The Cold War era

Since World War 2, the warring empires have become the democratic West against authoritarian Russia in a nuclear  Cold War that cannot be fought. The Cold War sent several countries back to authoritarian. The fights were through proxies, and with unhappy parts of their empires. In general, the locals simply have more staying power than the invader as in  Vietnam and Iran  against USA or Afghanistan against pretty much everyone.


The fall of the Berlin wall, allowed democracy in Russia and many others. Putin came to power democratically in Russia and proceeded to undercut that democracy, now we have the resistance of Ukraine to Russian invasion. 

The attack of 9/11 was reminiscent of the start of WW1, a guerilla attack designed to trigger a response, that succeeded with the US invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, that ended with US withdrawal, leaving theocratic authoritarians in charge. In Iran, a theocratic revolution replaced a US backed dictator. 

The long term presence of foreign military in Germany, Japan, and South Korea are examples of the long term commitment that is required after successfully taking control. 

Democracy today 

The major democracies fall into 3 categories; constitutional monarchy, republics with powerful president and republics with ceremonial president. 

In a  constitutional monarchy, the real power resides with the prime minister who is head of the legislature, and the executive Civil Service managed by legislators. Examples include United Kingdom.

A republic with ceremonial president, is very similar with the president and monarch performing similar duties. Examples include Israel, Ireland. 

In a republic with executive president, the president controls the apparatus of government and wealds most of the power. The legislatures are responsible for developing legislation and oversight. Examples include USA.

It is becoming clear that the real danger is presented by power hungry theocrats, or by  sociopath's with populist / fascist instincts such as Hitler, Putin, Trump,  Kim Jung Il in N Korea.  The rise of the self identified "morally superior rich" has also bolstered fascist tendencies. 

After 2010, frustration with the status quo opened the door to a new generation of populist politicians in Italy, UK, US, Brazil, Turkey, Hungary. In the UK, Boris Johnson succeeded in using  Brexit as the path to power. This required  leaving a free market representing > 40% of exports and imports, and becoming some sort of world market player. Exit coincided with Covid. In 2023 it has not gone well and there is growing evidence of a fudge to avoid barriers at the borders, particularly in Ireland.  

In the US, Donald Trump rose to power on a mixture of slogans about Making America Great, white nationalism,  and returning to a Christian country. This appealed to the Christian Right and white working class voters. He lost his reelection in 2021 and tried to organize a coup. 

The internet has add a new source of mass miss-information and in combination with unethical right wing media outlets has provided a new megaphone allowed fact free politics in an industrial scale. 


Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to influence or persuade an audience to further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is being presented.[1] Propaganda can be found in news and journalism, government, advertising, entertainment, education, and activism[2] and is often associated with material which is prepared by governments as part of war effortspolitical campaignshealth campaignsrevolutionariesbig businessesultra-religious organizations, the media, and certain individuals such as soapboxers.

In the 20th century, the English term propaganda was often associated with a manipulative approach, but historically, propaganda has been a neutral descriptive term of any material that promotes certain opinions or ideologies.[1][3] Equivalent non-English terms have also largely retained the original neutral connotation.

War has been rife with propaganda to motivate your side, and deliberately mislead the opposition. Hitler and Goebbels are identified as the worst practitioners as they sold the proposition that the Jews were to blame for the Germans, and that expansion of Germany was the way forward. Putin has embarked on an intensive effort to justify his Ukraine invasion and hide the lack of progress from the Russian people. 

Advertising has always inherently manipulative, there have been a few attempts to ban claims. Medical claims are limited, tobacco is banned, for a while the BBC banned condom adverts. 

Religions are fundamentally  populist institutions that rely on getting donations from supporters.  In the US this has led to non-denominational churches with no editorial controls, selling unique brands of religion. 

Politics has always been about blaming someone for problems and selling a solution. Truth in advertising has rarely been a requirement. 

A robust free media has been regarded as the best protection against propaganda, as was seen in the Vietnam War where media coverage was the factor in the loss of public support. ​ Mainstream media has changed, in the US the "fairness doctrine",  U.S. communications policy (1949–87) formulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required licensed radio and television broadcasters to present fair and balanced coverage of controversial issues of interest to their communities, including by granting equal airtime to opposing candidates for public office.

In 1987 the FCC formally repealed the fairness doctrine but maintained both the editorial and personal-attack provisions, which remained in effect until 2000. In addition, until they were finally repealed by the commission in 2011, more than 80 media rules maintained language that implemented the doctrine. As a result, certain TV news shows became dedicated outlets for a particular political viewpoint. The right argued that most media had a left bias and therefore it was OK to offer and offsetting right bias.


In 2023, the danger has become clear. Fox News had cultivated a large loyal audience of Trump supporters.  In order to keep their audience Fox News supported Trumps claim that the 2020 election was fraud, even though they knew that it was not. Numerous presenters and their owner Robert Murdoch left a detailed email trail showing that they knew the claims were false, while expressing support on TV, solely to maintain ratings. It is to be hoped that knowingly broadcasting lies for ratings should result in damaging losses in court. 

In the early days of the internet, it was widely believed that world wide access to open information would be a new tool against propaganda.

The idea was that prioritizing material based on your previous selections was democracy in action. Your "clicks" represented a vote of interest.  No one foresaw that the absence of any  editorial control on content meant that malign actors could place false information  "click bait" and false clicks using robots, so that a persons feed would be filled with supposedly popular  false information that reinforced their biases.  The result has been that parts of social media has become a vehicle for hate and misinformation.  Some social media companies have attempted to add "moderators" to try and remove the worst content, but the volume makes it challenging. Other companies just do not care. 

Elon Musk bought an overvalued  Twitter and dismantled content moderation to boost users as a "free speech absolutist". He then appears to be deliberately posting outrageous tweets as click bait to add customers. 


The best hope is that enough companies and users will see the Fox and Twitter fiascos as a reason to return to fact checked reality. 

Democracy and sustainability

The challenge now is to transform our energy infrastructure with huge costs and disruption over a 50+ year commitment, in democratic countries when there are elections every few years. The  inherent messiness of democracy means that the drive to sustainability will inevitably be slower than people would like. 

Socialism and Capitalism 

In their extremes, there is authoritarian  Communism and Fascism. Within a democratic framework, Capitalism is usually understood as private ownership for private gain, Socialism as public ownership for public gain.

The earliest authoritarian royals had dominant private ownership and control. Over time time democracy has taken over from the monarchs. The central idea of democracy is government "by and for the people" - essentially a socialist philosophy. US constitution had individual freedom and rights at its core - "all men are created equal, ........ with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In practice, modern democracies have varying degrees of private versus public ownership. The US which likes to think of itself as a bastion of private ownership, has in reality an extensive network of public management of markets, medicine, and natural resources brought about mostly to fix past excesses. 

There is continued tension between private gain and public action for social benefit. Equal opportunity competition as implemented by the NBA and NFL, involves nominally equal funding of each team through the salary cap. Affirmative action gives the worst teams the  first picks of the best new players in the draft. Payroll guarantees have the employees being paid a predetermined percentage of REVENUES.  




Universe                        1year

Earth                              3mo

Life                                 2.5mo

Dino's lasted                4 days

Oil created                    5 days 

To evolve from apes   7 hrs 

Homo Sapiens so far 10mins

Human history            30secs

1000 years                      3secs

I year                                3msec

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