March 8, 2005

ONLY PICK THE RIPE ONES:

Arabs on path to savor fruits of democracy (JOHN O'SULLIVAN, March 8, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

A stable democracy is, indeed, hard to establish. Once established, however . . .

Democracies don't reinforce failure. Extremists may well be elected once by voters in the grip of strong popular passions (as Hamas candidates will probably be elected in large numbers to the Palestinian Legislative Council.) But they will not be re-elected if their policies fail.

As the disastrous economic record of the Middle East shows, even a gifted people like the Arabs can be kept in poverty by despots who are able to pursue ideological delusions like "Arab socialism" indefinitely.

Voters are the ultimate pragmatists --in both economics and foreign policy. If socialist economics or an anti-American foreign policy work, they will support them; if they fail, they will reject them; and either way they will never be so fanatical as to use any method to achieve them.

Thus, democracies don't use children as weapons. The reason: parents vote. None of the rulers in Arafat's Palestinian territory sent out their children as suicide bombers. Well, in a democracy the people are the rulers.

And democracies don't maximize corruption. It is kept in check by investigative journalism, questions in parliament, and an independent judiciary. Unaccountable power is always abused, and in Arab despotisms power is very unaccountable.

Above all, democracies don't tolerate terrorism. Quite apart from the fact that the voters don't like being blown up, the two are theoretically incompatible. Terrorism is the theory that power flows out of the barrel of a gun; democracy the theory that power flows out of the ballot box. To preserve itself, democracy has to repress terrorism -- and vice versa.

So if the democratic advance continues, the Arabs will finally get their share of perestroika. The Middle East is likely to become more prosperous, less corrupt, less bellicose, and -- after a few hiccups of anti-Americanism -- better governed in the interests of its people, hence much less of a problem for the rest of us. So we'll get our share of perestroika too.


Unfortunately, he's wrong about the first, though right about the rest. What is the modern social welfare state but self-reinforcing failure? The great advantage of these emerging democracies is that they can seek to avoid the two most catastrophic mistakes of the West: (1) secularism; (2) welfarism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 8, 2005 8:09 AM
Comments

Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Japan, the Phillipines, Argentina, Turkey, Brazil, India and a number of other democracies are notoriously corrupt. The UK, India, Peru, Columbia, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other democracies have or are still dealing with violent terrorist movments. Even the U.S. has suffered from these problems.

"The great advantage of these emerging democracies is that they can seek to avoid the two most catastrophic mistakes of the West: (1) secularism; (2) welfarism."

They may avoid "secularism", the Iranians have done a wonderful job of that, but there is no evidence that they will avoid "welfarism." Indeed, most of the powerful parties are committed to some form of welfare or another. It's how they reinforce their power and prestige.

Posted by: Derek Copold at March 8, 2005 12:28 PM

Derek:

Yes, democracy is inevitable, but will destroy more than it saves.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 12:33 PM

What's this? Orrin Judd critiques democracy? Blasphemy!

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 2:14 PM

Paul:

Democracy is a destructive force.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 2:19 PM

japan is notoriously corrupt ? hmmmm, maybe they pay bribes to make deals in other countries but i always thought of japan proper as being pretty solid regarding financial dealings.

no system involving humans is going to be perfect, and its silly to expect that (if anyone is). the situation in the middle east is going to be profoundly better, soon, and that is an unalloyed good. i pitty the fool that can't see or accept that.

Posted by: cjm at March 8, 2005 2:47 PM

OJ:

I agree. Can we also agree, then, that the question is whether what is destroyed ought to be destroyed?

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 3:03 PM

Paul:

Sure, you just can't stop it.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 4:41 PM

Let us assume, arguendo, that, indeed, you cannot. So what? A thing is wrong (or right) whether it is inevitable or not.

As Tocqueville put it nearly 200 years ago:

The first of the duties that are at this time imposed upon those who direct our affairs is to educate democracy, to reawaken, if possible, its religious beliefs; to purify its morals; to mold its actions; to substitute a knowledge of statecraft for its inexperience, and an awareness of its true interest for its blind instincts, to adapt its government to time and place, and to modify it according to men and to conditions. A new science of politics is needed for a new world.

Even an inevitable thing can be shaped and molded, even unto the point where it appears as almost as something else altogether.

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 5:15 PM

Tocqueville failed. It only worked here.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 5:22 PM

If it worked here, then, um, it didn't fail, did it?

Anyway it worked fine in Great Britain.

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 5:50 PM

Paul:

No, he observed what had happened here and wondered if it could be duplicated elsewhere -- it hasn't been -- and if it could endure here given its obvious inherent self-destructive tendencies -- the jury's out on that one but the demise of Blue America in conjunction with the continued rise of Red and the importation of new Reds suggests we may make it at least awhile longer.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:10 PM

More accurately he observed what was happening here, and wonder whether it would endure or simply destroy everything. Since it did not destroy us (at least not yet), his "new science of politics" did not fail.

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 6:15 PM

Paul:

You chose the quote:

"The first of the duties that are at this time imposed upon those who direct our affairs is to educate democracy, to reawaken, if possible, its religious beliefs; to purify its morals; to mold its actions; to substitute a knowledge of statecraft for its inexperience, and an awareness of its true interest for its blind instincts, to adapt its government to time and place, and to modify it according to men and to conditions. A new science of politics is needed for a new world."

At that he failed.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:29 PM

So essentially I have maneuvered you (quite unintentionally) into arguing that decent democracy is -- what? -- a failed dream? Your sophistry betrays your own usual positions.

Posted by: Paul Cella at March 8, 2005 6:45 PM

An almost uniquely American phenomenon.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:48 PM

Paul and Derek: two-and-a-half cheers for democracy, and capitalism, not in spite of corruption but because of it. The alternative isn't justice, but rather a drive by the most fanatical among us for an unattainable purity, however purity is conceived and signified. This old world will be corrupt for just as long as you and I are here dying in it.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 8, 2005 8:31 PM
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