Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why democracy is not THE answer

It is generally a truth that democracies don't wage war - this is one reason why the US and its allies have been promoting democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. Open transparent democracies do provide A check on government's abusing their authority and attacking their citizens and neighbours. However, many democracies are not open and transparent (South Africa is slipping down that path, Egypt isn't much of a democracy and neither is Russia), and it is A check not THE check. You see, it is fine if the majority want peace and to live in harmony with each other and their neighbours - but what if a democracy votes to destroy a neighbouring democracy? This is what the Ayn Rand Institute rightly points out in its latest Op-ed - because the US promotion of democracy is entirely consistent with Hizbullah being part of the Lebanese government, and with Hamas running the Palestinian Authority.
.
"The essence of democracy is unlimited majority rule. It is the notion that the government should not be constrained, as long as its behavior is sanctioned by majority vote. It is the notion that the very function of government is to implement the "will of the people." It is the notion espoused whenever we tell the Lebanese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians and the Afghanis that the legitimacy of a new government flows from its being democratically approved.
And it is the notion that was categorically repudiated by the founding of the United States."
.
Exactly. The US was founded on having a constitutionally limited democracy.
.
The op-ed continues:
.
"America's defining characteristic is freedom. Freedom exists when there are limitations on government, imposed by the principle of individual rights. America was established as a republic, under which the state is restricted to protecting our rights. This is not a system of "democracy." Thus, you are free to criticize your neighbors, your society, your government--no matter how many people wish to pass a law censoring you. You are free to own your property--no matter how large a mob wants to take it from you. The rights of the individual are inalienable. But if "popular will" were the standard, the individual would have no rights--only temporary privileges, granted or withdrawn according to the mass mood of the moment. The tyranny of the majority, as the Founders understood, is just as evil as the tyranny of an absolute monarch. Yes, we have the ability to vote, but that is not the yardstick by which freedom is measured. After all, even dictatorships hold official elections. It is only the existence of liberty that justifies, and gives meaning to, the ballot box. In a genuinely free country, voting pertains only to the means of safeguarding individual rights. There can be no moral "right" to vote to destroy rights."
.
Germans elected Hitler and his allies, and they then destroyed German democracy, freedom and went out to destroy millions of people.
.
Democracy is now being used against the US and the West, because it has handed to people on a plate, the tool to legitimise their murderous intent.
.
"But then, if a religious majority imposes its theology on Iraq, or if Palestinian suicide-bombers execute their popular mandate by blowing up Israeli schoolchildren, on what basis can we object, since democracy--"the will of the people"--is being faithfully served? As a spokesman for Hamas, following its electoral victory, correctly noted: "I thank the United States that they have given us this weapon of democracy. . . . It's not possible for the U.S. . . . to turn its back on an elected democracy."
.
So is it any wonder that some in the Muslim world believe the US is hypocritical. It has been pushing the wrong barrow. It is harder to promote individualism is a world dominated by nationalist, religiously inspired tribalists dedicated to bullying their way around the lives of others.
.
The point about democracy has been made by PC several times and myself. Democracy is not THE answer, at best it is one small component. Government is like an engine on a car, democracy is a steering wheel, but without individual rights - there are no brakes on it.

No comments: