Friday, February 10, 2006

Democracy Isn't the Answer

By Cassandra D

Hamas anyone?

No, democracy is part of the answer to the world's ills, but not at all sufficient. Fareed Zakaria is exactly right that we must stop measuring our success with elections and instead focus on establishing legally guaranteed civil liberties within societies.

...for the last century in the West, democracy -- free and fair elections -- has gone hand in hand with constitutional liberalism -- the rule of law and basic human rights. But in the rest of the world, these two concepts are coming apart. Democracy without constitutional liberalism is producing centralized regimes, the erosion of liberty, ethnic competition, conflict, and war. The international community and the United States must end their obsession with balloting and promote the gradual liberalization of societies.

The article I cited above was published in 1997. Why hasn't our government gotten the message by now? Why not by a few years ago? Zakaria's point has been made several times over since then, and yet our government still says about Iraq: "See? They've had elections. We're winning!"

It's way past time that our policy makers stopped crowing that "Democracy is on the march," or that "Freedom is on the march."

We need to be able to proudly proclaim that "Civil liberties are on the march."

1 Comments:

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

... Which brings us back to the idea that culture matters, something George Will has loudly been proclaiming on the democracy debate for more than a year. I am not one who believes that certain peoples are not fit for democracy. However, I do believe that certain ossified cultures are not fit, and will have to see transformation, before democracy can flourish. As the recent violent events swirling around an editorial cartoon show, some cultures are simply more prone to encourage "Beyond Thunderdome" meltdowns than others.

The sooner we are willing to have an honest debate about the qualitative value of certain cultures over others, the sooner we may make progress on the front of ensuring civil liberties for all.

If you think I am heading into bigoted territory, then test my proposition with a simple thought experiment: Wouldn't you say that Nazi Germany's culture from the 1930s was inferior to American culture of the 1930s? I think most would answer in the affirmative -- which means we have established that some cultures are better for human beings than others.

 

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