This week on Facebook: I returned to the subject of democracy, my earliest post on this being in 2009 and continued in 2011 with ‘Democracy ‚ Do we really have it?’. Ignoring the threats to democracy seen by many in the forthcoming Brexit referendum later this month, I chose to review articles on some current perceptions regarding democracy.
Monday: Ancient Greeks would not recognise our ‘democracy’ — It’s understandable that Aristotle dominates any thoughts about ancient Greece and democratic thought rather than Cleisthenes. An Aristotelian view that our notion of democracy refers to an oligarchy that benefits the ruling minority or those interests they represent is well founded. Aristotle reserved the word democracy for anarchic mob rule and favoured a constitutional form of Government, as the article points out most government policies in ancient Greece required the agreement of the people (eligible to vote) in a plebiscite.
Tuesday: Is democracy overrated? — For some time, the leading Western nations have acted upon the assumption that democracy is the solution to political conflict, and that the ultimate goal of foreign policy must be to encourage the emergence of democracy in countries which have not yet enjoyed its benefits. And they continue to adhere to this assumption, even when considering events in the Middle East today. The idea that there is a single, one-size-fits-all solution to social and political conflict around the world, and that democracy is the name of it, is based on a disregard of historical and cultural conditions, and a failure to see that democracy is only made possible by other and more deeply hidden institutions.
Wednesday: The trouble with democracy is that you just can’ t trust it — I liked the Mathew Parris quote that Democracy, I believe, should always be invited to the table but rarely left to dine alone. I mistrust the quivering, awe-struck deference to Demos as though to some sacred text or divine and inviolable authority. The popular will is one factor — one of many — that it may be wise to take into account. I found its source in the article (a debate revisited by Parris) that including Aristotelian influences — it’s a pity that he never reminded Bernard-Henri Lévy the French made Napoleon Emperor with a plebiscite in 1804.
Thursday: Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist — For the ninth consecutive year, Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years.
Friday: Is Democracy in Decline? — In his book The Spirit Of Democracy Larry Diamond argues that stabilising democracy requires a broad campaign to strengthen institutions of political and financial accountability. He urges the United States and its democratic allies to vigorously support good governance — transparency, the rule of law, individual rights, and shared economic prosperity — and to back those civic and political organisations that show commitment to the spirit of democracy. In the article he opines that perhaps the most worrisome dimension of the democratic recession has been the decline of democratic efficacy, energy, and self-confidence in the West. That the United States and in parts of the EU there is a need to foster better policymaking and diminish the corrupting influence of money in electoral politics and lobbying.
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