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Democracy and non-democracy

By Jonathan Thang

The real nature of Democracy and non-democracy, is what I have learned from many great professors in short-to-the-points.

A lot of nonsense is talked about democracy, and mostly by people who live in relatively rich Western democracies, who attribute their comparative wealth and well-being to, of course, first, their own hard work, second, their liberal capitalist system, and thirdly, their democratic form of government.

In other words, the benefits of democracy are relative. It depends on who you are, where you are in the global system, how wealthy your state is compared to others, and where you are in the evolution of your own political system.

Now, first, look at who you are, supposing you are a member of a minority community, an ethnic or religious minority, for example, a Basque separatist in Spain, a Jew in Nazi Germany, a Turk in Germany, or ethnic minority group in Burma, in that case, how well will majority rule protect you? Democracy does not automatically do so.

Your safety depends on the values espoused by the government of the day, and a populist government may win an election by playing to majority prejudices at the expense of minorities. Why else would religious minority communities /political minority groups sometimes feel safer under dictatorial rule than under majority rule? The benefits of democracy all depend on whether you draw the lines on the map around the democracy concerned.

For ordinary Indians who do have a democracy, and Chinese who do not, what matters is that their government is strong enough to defend their national corner. They’re not operating in a vacuum, democracy or otherwise. Thus, whether they have a say in the composition of their government is less relevant to their chances of prosperity than the ability of their government to exercise leverage at the international level.

Suppose you live in a small, underdeveloped country, dependent on investment and aid from the developed world for you to achieve a halfway decent standard of living and gain full employment. Whether elected or not, your government will have to bow to the dictates of multinationals and international financial institutions, whose priorities are, respectively, profits and loan repayments, not your well-being.

Your democracy is meaningless when your government has no real power. In any case, politicians are masters at managing national perceptions, manufacturing consent even. And I contend that Western democracies mistake their moral authority at home as a license to tell other people how they should govern themselves. But their own systems are non-exportable.

Do not, please, ladies and gentlemen, equate the word democracy with what makes you feel good here, because it cannot work without the comparative economic advantages that are enjoyed here.


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