Tag Archives: democracy

Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democracy

First, major props to Trans Pacific Radio, whose coverage of the 2009 Japanese Lower House Election was fantastic. It was insightful, in-depth, timely, and far better than anything else available in the English language. Great job!

The loss of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the Social Democrats is all over the internet. Catholicgauze, Curzon, Younghusband, and The Economist all have interesting thoughts.

It will be interesting ot see if the Social Democrats can govern, or if they will collapse back into a marginal opposition party. Taiwan and Japan appear to be examples of how one-party rule and democracy can occur at the same time.

China, of course, is watching.

“… the people choose freedom.”

Catholicgauze, who has been working 16-18 hour days keeping serving our country in Iraq, blogging, and completing a thesis, has an impressive primer on the January 2009 Iraq elections.

Flag of Iraq 2008

From the piece:

The Sunni Arabs are divided between the urban, party-in-power Iraqi Islamic Party, the rural tribal-based MSI, and a whole lot of little parties that revolve around small but powerful cliques. There are rumors and allegations going back and forth of corruption, lies, and ties to the old regime. Rightly or wrongly everyone is accused of being too friendly too the Coalition, too friendly government in Baghdad, a former member of Al Qaeda or another insurgency group, or having the backing of Baath Party members in exile in Syria. Some probably are.

Read the whole thing.

Oriental Democracy

The removal of Thailand’s Prime Minister and arrest of Taiwan’s former President should give pause to those who insist on democracy as a near- or medium- way forward for the new core economies of the far east.

Building democracy is an important goal, and China is making significant achievemetns to that end. A stable economy is built on a stable middle class integrated into the world. Democracy as a political system makes sense if an even worse system must be avoided, or if democracy can allow the people to fire ineffective rulers without disrupting the system,.

The unfortunate news from Taiwan, and not Thailand, shows the potentially destabilizing effects of free elections. If China can continue to strengthen its economy and ‘build democracy’ without elections, then China is doing her share to contributing to the world and helping construct a peaceful future.

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.

Democracy Now!

Al Sadr warns Bush on poll interference,” Gulf Daily News, http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=101899&Sn=WORL&IssueID=27301, 15 January 2005.

Muqtada al-Sadr continues his cries for democracy in Iraq:

BAGHDAD: Radical Iraqi leader Moqtada Al Sadr yesterday urged US President George W Bush and Iraq’s neighbours not to interfere with the January 30 general elections.

“This affair is none of your business,” the young Shi’ite leader said, addressing Bush in a Friday sermon read by one of his representatives at a mosque in his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City.

“I call on all neighboring and non-neighboring countries, occupiers and non-occupiers, not to meddle in the country’s internal affairs, including the elections,” he said.

The obvious subtext is tht he wants other nations not to interfere in Iraq’s elections. Syria and Saudi oil millionaires are already interfering by supporting the terrorists. Some in Washington want to interfere by giving the Sunnis more seats than the actually win, in an attempt to buy-off the murderers. (Or more politely, “co-opt” them.)

Iraq’s future is Shia-Kurdish. A free election will reflect that. Long live the free Iraq!