Local Government And Democracy

Everything is Meaningless [Chapter 1:3,8-11],” attributed to King Solomon, The Book of Ecclesiastes, circa 300 BC, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes%201:3,8-11;&version=31;.

The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued) [The Federalist No. 10],” by James Madison, New York Packet, 23 November 1787, http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm.

Environmental Influences on Democracy: Aridity, Warfare, and a Reversal of the Causal Arrow,” by Manus Midlarsky, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 39, No. 2. (Jun., 1995), pp. 224-262, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-0027%28199506%2939%3A2%3C224%3AEIODAW%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2 (from tdaxp).

Local Government and Democratic Political Development,” by Henry Teune, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 540, Local Governance around the World. (Jul., 1995), pp. 11-23, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-7162%28199507%29540%3C11%3ALGADPD%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V.

Democracy and openDemocracy,” by Isabel Hilton and Anthony Barnett, openDemocracy, 12 October 2005, http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-opening/barnett_hilton_2792.jsp.

Dangerously Naive,” by Mark Schulman, American Future, 18 October 2005, http://americanfuture.net/?p=637.

Agitating for a Hermetically Sealed “Democracy”,” by Mark Safranski, Zen Pundit, 18 October 2005, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/10/agitating-for-hermetically-sealed.html.

Debating our debate,” by Anthony Barnett, oD Today, 23 October 2005, http://opendemocracy.typepad.com/wsf/2005/10/debating_our_de.html.

What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.

Ecclesiastes 1:3,8-11

In spite of my occasionally griping about the leftist, closed-minded, economically dubious, and intellectually redundant nature of the University, sometimes it is useful for blogging. Consider the evolution of a debate on globalization and democracy. Hilton and Barnett of the Sorosistically named openDemocracy journal first attack the idea that globalization helps democracy:

The end of the cold war in 1989 opened the way for the extension of democratic government to many countries around the world. Now, terrorism, fundamentalism and the imposition of the neo-liberal form of globalisation threaten to halt and even reverse this process. Democracy is under attack from without, and, even more insidiously, from within.

The way in which globalisation has undermined peoples’ belief in democratic self-government is familiar. This is the age of democracy, yet the democratic claim of universal equality of worth is mocked by the intensification of global inequalities that marked the end of the 20th century.

The reach of multinational corporations; the influence of a few powerful states and of opaque international financial institutions; the weakness of the United Nations as a force for positive government; the remoteness of the governance of the European Union; the mendacity, cynicism and populism of the global media; the awesome threats of climate change – all combine to undermine the citizens’ faith in the efficacy of democratic government.

Globalisation as part of the everyday experience of life has been part of human history since the16th century, when the marketplace that was the Netherlands stretched to the Spice Islands of what we now call southeast Asia. Historically it has sharpened differences rather than creating homogeneity. The development of markets across the world and the separation of law from the state permitted hideous exploitation under colonial empires, but also laid the groundwork for independence and national democratic constitutions.

Sadly, Schulman has no true response to these claims. He accuses Barnett and Hilton of blaming America first. He does accuse them of selective reporting of evidence, and the best he throws is mentioning that the anti-War protests are put on by some bad people.

No mention is made of the anti-democratic organizers of these demonstrations: ANSWER and the British Socialist Workers Party. Nor is mention made of the absence of demonstrations against the tyrants of our day.

Barnett seems to grant Schulman’s concrete criticisms…

As for the leadership of the anti-war demonstrations, I agree.

…because they do not effect his major point: globalization is bad for democracy.

Mark from ZenPundit joins in by defending globalization’s effects on liberty, but let’s the claim that globalization attacks democracy go uncontested:

I have to add that there is a definite incongruity between advocating political freedom to make choices in terms of one’s government while wanting to preclude or restrict the economic freedom to make choices in every other area of one’s life – work, lifestyle, access to information, travel, religion and culture. Denying people the latter ultimately makes a mockery of the former; a farmer chained in perpetuity behind his water buffalo by the state casts a ballot only to decide which hand is going to hold the whip over his head.

” In the general course of human nature, A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. “

What’s interesting is that the original article makes two claims, globalization hurts democracy and lack of local power hurts democracy, that have been discussed for decades. On inequality and the origins of democracy, Manus Midlarsky writes:

Although the impact of land inequality on democracy was discovered independently, this relationship is consistent with that implied in Wittfogel’s work. He emphasized the contrast between early modern Europe and despotic hydraulic civilization. As Wittfogel (1957) put it,

In late feudal and postfeudal Europe the state recognized a system of inheritance for the landed nobles which favored one son at the expense of all others. And in the modern Western world the state by and large permitted the individual to dispose over his property at will. The hydraulic state gave no equivalent freedom of decision either to holders of mobile property or to the landowners. Its laws of inheritance insiseted upon a more or less equal division of the deceased estate, and thereby upon a periodic fragmentation of property. (pp 84-85).

Thus, as a result of continual subdivision, a basic land inequality was prevented from emerging in hydraulic society. A nobility with large holdings and, in consequence, an independent power base to challenge despotic authorities could not come into being, in contrast to the Northern European experience.

Midlarsky then goes on to cite some conflicting literature. To sum up, Barnett and Hilton are oversimplifying a complex subject.

Ditto for the words on local control and democracy. Barnett and Hilton essentially echo Teuene from 1995:

The linkage between local government and democracy is based on the proposition that political participation if meaningful insofar as it deals with the familiar, a tenet of the Federalist Papers. Another aspect of tis argument is that the incentives for participation are stronger locally than nationally in that visible consequence are more visible and immediate on the local level. There are two supporting propositions for this part of the argument: the larger the political unit, the longer it takes to form a democratic political coalitions; and the larger the unit, the greater the diversity of eeh groups and individuals required for compromise, the less likely decisive action will be taken at all, frustrating the collective aspirations of the many.”

Here, the refutation is more than two hundred years old

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

So to correct Mr. Schulman, Barnett and Hilton aren’t anti-American: only anti-Federalist. (Of course, those arguments have been made before, too).

As some man of old said, there is nothing new under the Sun. Or something like that.

4 thoughts on “Local Government And Democracy”

  1. Great post. I agree that I didn't respond to Hilton's & Barnett's claims about globalization, but that wasn't the intent of my post. My intent was to position them in the ideological spectrum and then to show, by their attitude toward terrorism, that they typify people who occupy that position.

  2. I apologize but to me this debate between Globalization and Democracy is just plain silly. Of course Globalization is not a destroyer of Democracy, Globalization needs Democracy, Democracy does not need Globalization. I am sure we in America could survive without $3.00 refrigerators, but we could not survive without Democracy. We simply want $3.00 refrigerators and, it would seem, are willing to sell our country for such beads and trinkets.
    When Globalization enters a country like China its intent is for the Democratization of that nation. In simple terms the people of China need to be free to produce, buy and consume things. If they are not free to do this Globalization will not work.
    Unless I am really off base, which is probably a more accurate scenario, the people of China are now only free to produce. This causes great discontentment among the people of China against their bosses. If left to fester, the people will explode against their globalization bosses. At that time either China will have a large enough army to suppress this uprising or the people will be successful in their efforts to push Globalization and the need for Democracy out of China. This will create a scenario in which it will be hard for the USA to defend. Do we fight for Globalization and against the people of China, or against Globalization and for the people of China? Of course North Korea is against Globalization, their only strength is to always be seen on the side of the people. However, North Korea would like nothing better than for Globalization to continue in China as is. The protestors are North Koreans!!? Man we need to destroy any protestors against Globalization!!!
    While I love Mr. Hitchens, historians should remember he was the one who basically brought Kissinger Inc. to their knees. While we may forget his determination and bravo, our enemies probably remember. His patriotism, he should be an American soon, is unquestioned as are many protestors in the past and present. Isn’t 4GW lovely?

  3. Larry,

    I agree that globalization needs democracy. Democracy is a decentralized system of allocating political power that optimizes for both ideology and wealth. Going strongly against either of these forces leads a government to trouble, but by having a way to appease the currents of sentimentality and money at the same time brings stability.

    Of course, some lands can at least temporarily benefit from undemocratic governments (witness the rise of Singapore compared to the current paralysis in France and Germany), but the best long-term solution for global connectivity and growth is pretty democratic.

    Note though that when America has most cut herself off from world trade (Henry Clay's American System and the protectionist reigns of Hoover and Roosevelt) say radical, authoritarian governments.

    While Chinese culture is culturally very savings-oriented, the Chinese rich and middle class have access to the standard goods of consumerism. Or are you refering to something different with “the people of China are now only free to produce”?

    I can't imagine the North Korean government is that popular with North Koreans. Not when a leading cause of death in the army is starvation. Pyongyang's only strength is the sword, not the people's support.

    I'm not sure what you mean by “North Korea would like nothing better than for Globalization to continue in China as is”?

    Thank you again for the comment!


  4. I am sorry I didn’t make myself clear. I was speaking in terms of 4GW. The Korean government will always have to align themselves with the people instead of corporations because that is all they have. They are Korean Inc., so it would be hard for them to embrace another form of corporation. I know this sounds crazy and can’t be true but I think that is what 4GW is about. If what you say is true, the Korean people and army are starving to death, they why is Kim still in power? There must be some other reality we are facing here. One possibility is the philosophy of the benevolent leader. In a 4GW way, Kim would be the benevolent leader out to unite a people. If the South started to believe they were under a threat, maybe they would begin to believe this themselves. In that case, the friction between Japan and Korea would not be taken lightly. In this alternative reality the empty cities of North Korea are not for North Koreans but for Koreans.
    I am happy to hear that the wealthy and middle class in China have access to and are free to chose their lifestyles. As long as there is a large and vibrant middle class there is really nothing to worry about in China. The people I was referring to are the disenfranchised in China. The workers who are slaves or treated like slaves. If these don’t exist then I suppose Korea would have to make them up. These would be the people Korea would align with if they existed.
    I was looking on the CIA Factbook and found that the number of people living in poverty in China is 10%. If we compare this with USA’s 12% living in poverty and 45 million without health care, just how many disenfranchised people are we talking about? I suppose not many, just a couple along the coastal region I suppose.
    Once again I am appeased, thanks. It must have just been my sentimentality brought on by my lack of money.

  5. “that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it.”

    Yes! The size of the American republic has really protected it against the dangers of “faction” (i.e., partisan political groupings).

    Um, wait a minute…

  6. Dr. Nexon,

    My impression is that “factions” and “political parties” are seperate things. Indeed, the existence of American-style political parties demonstrate the taming of factions.

    Factions are much closer to special-interest cliques. The Business Roundtable, PNAC, ANSWER, the DLC, The American Beef Council, etc would all be example of factions. Because of the size and diversity of the United States, as well as its federal system and balance of powers, the only way for a faction to achieve anything is to ally with other factions. This diminishes its power because, while it is able to effect chance if it acts harmoniously with other powers, it is unable to form a tyranny: the faction's partners have a veto over its actions.

    Of course, our modern political parties were not forseen by the Founding Fathers. That a coalition of factions only needs to seize the governing party, as opposed to the Senate and House in a panapoly of local elections, makes America more faction-friendly that it would have been. Still, the strength of factions in parties is a sympton of success, not failure.

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