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What went wrong with democracy?

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작성자 선우학원 작성일14-07-16 09:44 댓글0건

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What went wrong with democracy?

 

 

Harold Hak-Won Sunoo, PhD(재미동포전국연합회 고문)

 

Democracy is going through a difficult time.

 

In the second half of the 20th Century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstances possible - in Germany, which had been traumatized by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and in the 1990S, in South Africa, which had been disfigured by apartheid. Decolonization created a host of new democracies in Asia and Africa, and autocratic regimes gave away to democracy in Greece in 1974, Spain in 1975, Argentina in 1983, Brazil in 1985, and Chile 1989.  The Collapse of the Soviet Union created many democracies in Europe.  By 2000, there were 120 countries identified as democracies.  It seems that democracy is triumphant.

            

Now the weakness of democracy has become increasingly apparent.  Why has democracy lost its forward momentum? 

            

There are two main reasons.  First is the financial crisis of 2007-08.  The second reason is the rise of China.  The financial crisis did not only damage as financial aspect but also was psychological as well.  It revealed basic weakness in the West’s political systems, undermining the self-confidence that had been one of their great assets.  Many people become disillusioned with the workings of their political systems.  For example the government bailed out big banks with taxpayer’s money, and the bank executives pay for themselves with big bonuses, for example, American International group.  The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emergency world.

             T

he second reason is rise of China

            

China’s leaders have been able to tackle some of the big problems of state-building that can take decades to deal with in a democracy.  In just 2 years China has extended pension coverage to an extra 240 million rural dwellers, for example, for more than the total number of people covered by America’s public pension system

            

Many Chinese are prepared to put up with their system if it delivers growth.  The 2013 Pew Survey of Global Attitudes showed that 85% of Chinese were “very satisfied” with their country’s direction compared with 31% of American.

            

Some Chinese intellectuals have become positively boastful.  Prof. Zhang Weiusei of Fudan University argues that democracy is destroying the West, particularly America.

 

Prof. Yu Keiping of Beijing University argues that democracy makes simple thins “overly complicated and frivolous”, another Prof. Wang Gisi  of Beijing University, has observed that “many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and Chaos”, and that China offers an alternative model.  Countries from Africa to the Middle East and also South East Asia (Vietnam), are taking Chinese advice seriously.  Another setback for democracy is the Iraq War.

            

When Saddam Hussein’s story of Mass Destruction Weapons revealed that was not true story, President Bush’s invasion reason was exposed as fabrication.  Bush’s justifying the war as to promote democracy became prelude to defeat.   Mr. Bush believed that the Middle East would remain a breeding ground for terrorism.  But it did the democratic cause great harm.  Some regarded as proof that America such democracy was just a fig-leaf of American imperialism.  President Obama called  Iraq War as a bad war.

            

Another setback for democracy was Egypt, the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011.  Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi became the president.  Mr. Morsi treated democracy as a winner-take-all system, packing the state with Brothers, granting himself unlimited powers, trying a Islamic country.

            

In July 2013 the army stepped in, arresting Egypt’s first democratically elected president, imprisoning leading members of the Brotherhood and killing hundreds of demonstrators, along with the war in Syria and anarchy in Libya, this has dashed the hope that the Arab Spring would lead to flowering of democracy across the Middle East.

             

In recent years the very institutions that are meant to provide models for new democracies have come to seen outdated and dysfunctional in established ones.  The United States has become by word for gridlock, so obsessed with partisan point-setting that it has come to the verge of defaulting on its debts twice in the past 2 years.  Its democracy is also corrupted by gerrymandering, the practice of drawing constituency boundaries to entrench the power of incumbents.  This encourages extremism, because politicians have to appeal only to the party faithful, and in effect disenfranchise large members of voters and money talks louder even in American politics.  Thousands of lobbyists (more than 20 for every member of Congress) add to the length and complexity of legislations, the better to smuggle in special privileges.  All this creates the impression that American democracy is for sale and that the rich have more power than the poor, even as lobbyists and donors insist that political expenditure is an exercise in free speech.  The result is that America’s image - and by extension that of democracy itself - has taken a terrible battering.

            

In Europe, the European Parliament, an unsuccessful attempt to fix Europe’s democratic deficit, is both ignored and despised.  The EU has become a breeding ground for populist parties, such as Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, which claims to defend ordinary people against an arrogant and in competent elite.  Greece’s Golden Dawn is testing how far democracies can tolerate Nazi style parties.  A project designed to tame the beast of European populism is instead poking it back into life.

            

The biggest challenge to democracy, however, comes neither from above nor below but from within - from the voters themselves.

            

Plato’s great worry about democracy, that citizens would “live from day to day, including the pleasure of the moment” has proved prescient.  Democratic governments got into the habit of running big structural deficits as a matter of course, borrowing to give voters what they wanted in the short term, while neglecting long-term investment.

            

France and Italy have not balanced their budgets for more than 30 years.

            

A survey of seven European Countries in 2012 found that more than half of voters “had no trust in government” what-so-ever.  In case of British voters were 62% agreed that “politicians tell lies all the time.”

           

  America and Europe have lost their appeal as role models.  Why developing countries regard democracy as the ideal form of government when the American government cannot even pass budget, let alone plan for future?

         

  Meanwhile China’s making headway.  They built high ways, modern airport, high-speed trains.  China poses far more credible threat than communism ever did.

            

The most striking thing about the founders of modern democracy such as James Madison and John Stuart Mill is how hard headed they were.  They regarded democracy as a powerful but imperfect mechanism

           

  One reason why so many democratic experiments have failed recently is that they put too much emphasis on elections and too little on the other essential features of democracy.   The power of the state needs to be checked.  Freedom of speech must be guaranteed.

            

For example, India and Brazil survived as a democracy because both put limits on the power of the government and provided guarantees for individual rights.

          

   Established democracies need to update their own political systems.  It requires checks and balances on the power of elected government.

            

Tocqueville argued that local democracy frequently represented democracy at its best.  His town hall meetings were to promote civic involvement and innovation.   The encouraging example is California.  Its system of direct democracy allowed its citizens to vote.  The past five years California has introduced a series of reforms.

           

  Democracy is to remain, it must be carefully maintained when it is mature.

[이 게시물은 관리자님에 의해 2014-07-16 09:50:40 새 소식에서 복사 됨]

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