The Price of Democracy

Really busy these days. Might have to work overtime this weekend and a few weekends to come. 🙁 Just want to write down a few thoughts that have been lingering in my mind.

NPR news has been filled with reports on Iraqi situation, whether to hold free-election early and risk a highly religious government installed by the majority of Iraqi voters.

I remember reading Where is Raed late summer and he was praying that the Americans would stay longer, otherwise, free election in current climate would for sure result in Mullah rule, thus converting Iraqi into another Iran.

But that is the price of democracy, isn¡¯t it? Majorities will is the will of the country, isn¡¯t that the definition of democracy, even when majorities will doesn¡¯t reflect the will of the US or the will of the western world? It is, after all, Iraqis¡¯ decision.

Maybe just like how an individual starts out as a hot-headed youth, goes through the period of many mistakes, and then he learns from the mistakes and mellows out. It was the growing pain. Countries have to go through a similar process. Just look at Iran! Over-imposed models don¡¯t work, at least not in that feverish land. Democracy could either ¡°grow out¡±* of a fanatic movement, like Iran has; or it could be slowly and spoonfed by its own iron-fist dictator, like Turkey.

*I understand ¡°grow out¡± is a misleading word. I have no intention of praising fanatic movement or credit any achievement to such madness. However, when a fanatic movement like the one Iran has endured happens to a country, its citizen soon or later will realize how ridiculous it is and fight for a more rational government. Culture Revolution came to mind as another example. In a way, it is probably a phase that¡¯s meant to happen to a particular country. The genius of democracy is the trust one places on ¡°majorities¡±, on average Joe¡¯s common sense. If one believes in democracy, one should believe in our fellow human beings to have the ability to govern and to tell good from evil, right from wrong, and sooner or later, a better model would emerge and be perfected slowly. But it must be an organic process.

4 thoughts on “The Price of Democracy

  1. Jean:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject of organic process. However, I do hope that whatever the majorities choose, the minorities will still have the option to leave, at least.

    Jean’s Reply:
    Do you mean the minorities should still have freedom to leave th country? or to leave th political system? Shouldn’t the minorities stay and try to enlarge their influence if they want to change what they don’t like?

    Either way, I think I understand your concern. But my mind is too muddled when it comes to this topic. For example, what will happen to the upcoming US election? If the liberal left is the minorities within the US voting population, doesn’t that mean everyone (minority or majority) has to endure another GWB presidency? Imagine what that means£¬ to national parks, to supreme court, to healthcare system, social security system, etc. etc. etc.. As depressing as that sound, would anyone in this country (minority or majority) want some other country to come in and take GWB out of power? I doubt it.

  2. Great that you’re thinking about this Jean! Democracy, government, what are we doing? Where are we going? Where should we be going?

    Regarding the interests of the majority vs. minority, I love these quotes by James Madison

    “Landholders ought to have a share in the government to support these invaluable interests and check the other many. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

    “But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.

    From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.”

    Of course, just because James Madison made some statements in the Federal Convention of 1787 and wrote the Federalist Letters doesn’t mean that this is how things have been and/or are currently structured in the US.

    Jean’s Reply:
    Great comments! As entertaining and thought provactive as ever! Keep them coming! 🙂
  3. I dusted off my copy of Karl Polanyi’s ‘The Great Transformation’ and turned up this lovely quote:

    “A hundred years later [after the chartering of the Bank of England in 1694] not commercial but industrial property was to be protected, and not against the Crown but against the people. … The American Constitution, shaped in a farmer-craftsman’s environment by a leadership forewarned by the English industrial scene, isolated the economic sphere entirely from the jurisdiction of the Constitution, put private property thereby under the highest conceivable protection, and created the only legally grounded market society in the world. In spite of universal suffrage, American voters were powerless against owners.”

    Ironically, I was at the magazine rack yesterday and read an article in the latest Wired magazine concerning American programmers raging against outsourcing to India and other countries (Canada was listed as one of the outsourcing destinations). Guess when you’re scrambling to make payments on the house and car and you’ve just lost your job, you’re eager to take away a little of your employer’s freedom (to invest and hire as he/she sees fit) provided you can get enough people on board with you to engage in the necessary arm-twisting.

  4. Very interesting, indeed! 🙂 I like this quote.
    I¡¯m ambivalent regarding ¡°protective¡± measures against foreign economy ¡°invasions¡±. On one hand I think it is just like bury your head in the sand, pretend not to see what is the major economy trend and the larger picture; on the other hand, I think it is instinctive to protect self-interests against others. It seems to only work for large and powerful economy bodies, and for only a short period of time, because in general the trend of market economy is like the tide of the ocean. A single crab, no matter how large and determined it is, can¡¯t turn the tide around.

    So in other words, the arm-twisting will only work, provided it works at all, for the immediate future.

    Remember last year¡¯s dock workers¡¯ strike in Oakland? They were on strike because the owners of the shipping yard want to modernize their operation and introducing computers into the dock. The union workers were terrified of losing their jobs to computers; they went on strike because they want the employers to promise that the workers won¡¯t lose their jobs after the computers were introduced.

    The programmers are just another kind of ¡°dock workers¡±. In this case, instead of computers, we are losing our jobs to cheaper programmers in non-US countries.

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