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Democracy discussion enlivens audience
Presentation third of Great Decisions
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Forsyth County News

What’s next

This year’s Great Decisions lecture series is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights at the Cumming library branch, 585 Dahlonega Road. The remaining topics include:

• Feb. 16:



• Feb. 23:



• March 1:



• March 8:



• March 15:



Energy geopolitics with Anna Rulska, assistant professor of political science
State of the oceans with Nancy Dalman, chair of the biology department
Mexico with Tamara Spike, associate professor of history
Indonesia with J.T. Kwon, assistant professor of political science
Exit from Afghanistan and Iraq with Chris Jespersen, dean of the arts and letters school

A presentation on the global future of democracy opened up a broad audience discussion during a Thursday night Great Decisions lecture.

Jonathan Miner, associate professor of political science at North Georgia College & State University, posed several questions to the group of about 75 in the Cumming branch of the Forsyth County Public Library.

Many of his queries — including "Is democracy the best form of governance?" or "Are representative democracies more peaceful?" — didn’t have any single correct response.

Clay Seabolt, an North Georgia alumnus who attended the lecture, the third in this winter’s series, said he was interested to hear others’ thoughts.

"I’m impressed with the level of knowledge of the audience," said Seabolt, adding that he also enjoyed the pace and depth of the lecture on such a wide topic.

A retired lieutenant colonel, Seabolt said he also wanted to attend the lecture since he had personal experience with Americans promoting democracy.

The group began by discussing what defines a democracy, or a representative democracy in the case of the U.S.

Miner defined it as "a pluralist, competitive, representative political system with guarantees of civil and political rights for all."

He presented a chart from the Freedom House Organization, which showed that the number of free nations has been on the rise.

"Representative democracies are still increasing, but at a smaller rate," Miner said.

The group appeared to agree that pluralist countries are generally more peaceful within a nation, but relations with other states can be more complex.

Miner discussed the "hard and soft" methods that nations use to promote democracy.

"Hard power generally consists of using military force or using economics in a forceful way to perhaps pressure a country into changing its policies," he said. "Whereas soft power is more of the spread of information, economic incentives or trade agreements and cooperation [The U.S.] will almost always use both."

Several audience members collectively said the impact of technology and media on political systems and the spread of democracy is "huge."

While discussing effects of media bias, the group concluded that members of a democracy must take it upon themselves to ultimately seek out information and develop ideas through critical thinking.

"The comment over here is that pluralist democracy is very difficult, very complicated, and it takes a lot of effort," Miner said.

The eight-week lecture series continues at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with "Exit from Afghanistan and Iraq" with Chris Jespersen, dean of the arts and letters school.