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When Democracy Goes Bad  
User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 1032 times:

Why do some people think that the President's belief in the power of democracy is naive? It's not mere polemic from which this belief comes. I think that nothing more than a good dose of reality will show that the road to democracy is necessarily littered with pitfalls and barriers.

We need not look to the Middle East for examples of where democratic action risks anarchy. "Democracy" was not as highly prized form of government even in the Americas as we would like to pretend that it is. Here in America, our Founding Fathers feared that an excess of democracy was the same as mob rule.

Today, there is news that a piece of our very own Western hemisphere has fallen prey to an excess of democracy, meaning, in this context, an inability to deal with the consequences of democratic change:

(Excerpt)

Quote:
As Port-au-Prince descended into chaos, [newly elected Haitian President Rene] Preval returned to the capital for the first time since Tuesday's election. He was the clear winner with about 90 percent of the votes counted, but supporters claimed electoral officials were tampering with results to prevent him from getting the majority he needs to avoid a runoff.

Barricades made of old tires were ablaze across the capital, sending plumes of acrid black smoke into the sky. Protesters let only journalists and Red Cross vehicles pass.

"If they don't give us the final results, we're going to burn this country down!" a protester screamed.

Source:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/haiti_ele...;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--

Democracy cannot thrive, or even survive, unless the foundations for it have first been laid. This is why democracy seems to take such a difficult course in some countries, and more so than in others: For how can you lay that foundation when the modern means to do so can only be laid by democratic consensus to begin with?

It is a political question of the chicken or the egg. Except that in some cases, neither can or will exist.

[Edited 2006-02-14 00:21:50]

5 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineJpetekYXMD80 From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 4355 posts, RR: 27
Reply 1, posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 1027 times:

Haiti is not a democracy for their inability to uphold the democratic principles such as succession of power.

To be a true democracy, there are 3 vital componeents.
1. Competitive elections
2. Broad adult suffrage
3. Protection of minority rights and respect for civil liberties

You are correct that the founding fathers were wary of a true democracy, and they instituted safeguards such as the electoral college. It could be argued that the U.S. didn't become a 'true' democracy until the repealment of the Jim Crow laws.



The Best Care in the Air, 1984-2009
User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 1017 times:

Quoting JpetekYXMD80 (Reply 1):
To be a true democracy, there are 3 vital componeents.
1. Competitive elections
2. Broad adult suffrage
3. Protection of minority rights and respect for civil liberties

Good points. I would also argue that a fourth requirement is essential: A well-informed and rational citizenry. However much minority rights are protected, a majority that rushes headlong where angels fear to tread will not last very long, it seems to me.

By "rational" I refer to the model of enlightened self-interest to which I believe our own governance appeals.


User currently offline11Bravo From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1716 posts, RR: 10
Reply 3, posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 989 times:

Quoting AerospaceFan (Thread starter):
Why do some people think that the President's belief in the power of democracy is naive? It's not mere polemic from which this belief comes. I think that nothing more than a good dose of reality will show that the road to democracy is necessarily littered with pitfalls and barriers.

I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that truly free representative government, I hesitate to call it democracy, is predicated on an acceptance that it is the state, in the form of citizen participation and constitutional law, that is the ultimate authority of power and policy.

It seems clear that the people in the Middle East are not yet ready to subordinate their religion, and in many cases their tribal identity, to secular and constitutional rule of law. Without that acceptance you cannot have the building blocks of free representative government or a free society; freedom of expression, freedom of dissent, and protection of minority rights.

Until such time as there is a realization that religious doctrine must be a personal philosophy rather than a basis for governmental structure, the Middle East will not embrace what we think of as “democracy and freedom”. That is the fatal flaw in Bush’s belief in the power of democracy.



WhaleJets Rule!
User currently offlineAerospaceFan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 978 times:

Quoting 11Bravo (Reply 3):
Until such time as there is a realization that religious doctrine must be a personal philosophy rather than a basis for governmental structure, the Middle East will not embrace what we think of as “democracy and freedom”. That is the fatal flaw in Bush’s belief in the power of democracy.

Sadly, your reasoning seems impeccable.

I think that the President has his heart in the right place. He wants the Middle East to be "conquered" by nothing more than democracy, much as democracy made Germany and Japan its own. He is genuine in his belief that the Middle East can benefit from what has helped America succeed so well in a mere two and a half centuries -- constitutional, representative democracy.

But no constitution is worth the paper it's written on if the ideas it reduces to paper aren't already well-respected, or even well-established. Before our own Constitution was written, we had the Articles of Confederation, which were but a first draft that, even in our relatively favorable position as heirs of the Enlightenment, faltered and ground to a halt. If even a nascent country such as ours, helmed by men of learning and good will, and already aiming toward a genteel life of refinement, was unable to avoid error, then what hopes are there for lands in which the predicates for democracy simply do not exist?

Germany and Japan both had traditions of scholarship and social cohesion. In Germany, those in power in the 1950's found their intellectual foundations in a tradition of reason, in Protestant values, and in Goethe and Beethoven. But more importantly, beyond the sphere of intellectual elites, there was a nation that saw inspiration and legitimacy in responsible permutations of traditional, deferential German values, or, rather, its combination with the enlightened values of the West forced upon them by defeat during war. With these, Germany could effectively function and build upon a common foundation in the form of a democratic consensus of core values the vast majority found acceptable. In Japan, a similar respect for authority and social cohesion meant that disorder and personal desires were stoically subsumed to fealty to the building of the state, in lieu of, and as a sublimination of, outright submission to its Emperor. Such values were imposed through benevolent dictatorship, under an occupational force from the West remarkably sanguine about democratic values -- and in its case, justifiably so.

There are plenty of other countries, however, in which the foundations for democracy not only did not exist; but there existed not even the building blocks from which it could be formed.

To some extent, democracy can be imposed, and it was imposed, in countries, such as Germany and Japan, where foundational values supporting it were at best frail, and at worst destroyed, albeit not irreparably. But imposition can only go so far; when the people themselves cannot see any way to build a common consensus, there can be no democracy.

Thus, we will fail to build democracy in the Middle East unless the people there themselves understand the need to set aside competing values and ideologies. If they cannot, then the best we can hope for is an uneasy truce, followed by periods of war, until someone, somewhere, and enough of them, learns that to build is more valuable than to destroy, despite being a thousand times more difficult.

[Edited 2006-02-14 01:53:15]

User currently offlineBN747 From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 5477 posts, RR: 51
Reply 5, posted (8 years 2 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 960 times:

Quoting JpetekYXMD80 (Reply 1):
You are correct that the founding fathers were wary of a true democracy, and they instituted safeguards such as the electoral college. It could be argued that the U.S. didn't become a 'true' democracy until the repealment of the Jim Crow laws.

Well said JpetekYSXMD80!


BN747



"Home of the Brave, made by the Slaves..Land of the Free, if you look like me.." T. Jefferson
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