Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Giving Democracy to the World

There is a curious argument running under many “foreign” news stories – particularly concerning Africa and the Middle East.

There is an assumption that “democracy” (as defined by us) is a “gift” that we should impose on the rest of the world.

Does this really stand up to scrutiny?

It does not help that the Western Leader who invaded Iraq “won” a “democratic election”:

  • George W Bush 50,456,002 Votes
  • Al Gore       50,999,897 Votes

The final result after disputes over hanging chads etc. being decided with heavy intervention by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (republican) who had previously overseen a purge of voters that many say eliminated a disproportionate number of eligible African-Americans from Florida voter rolls.

Then in the UK many of us have our MPs effectively elected for us by the incumbent party’s selection committee. Outside the marginal constituencies have we really moved on that much from letting “the village headman cast all the votes”? And we get results such as in February 1974 when Heath’s Conservatives out-polled Wilson’s Socialists, but we got Wilson!

Then Israel has an extreme PR system (single constituency, closed party-list system with a minimal threshold) that often means that the political extremes have an undue influence on the eventual government.

Then democracy has given countries like Italy stable long-lasting effective governments?

But do we have to remember it is “the least worst system” or “the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried” depending on your point of view.

There are other values that might have a claim to trump “individual freedom”:

  • Family
  • Stability & Good Order
  • Economic Growth (particularly if it avoids growing inequality)
  • Security (of property and life)
  • Security (of availability of resources such as food, water, energy)
  • Respect (for elders, for tradition)
  • Religion (particularly in some of the so-called democracies)

Trouble is how do we convince the rest of the world – when it is probable that it is a minority of the world’s population that live in democracies?

I don’t know – but I shudder when I hear democratic leaders launching “crusades” in the name of democracy?


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