THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY
The entire world is in transition. The developed parts of it, principally the nations of the so called “West”, have achieved multi-generational democracies, while most of the world’s population still lives under regimes that are thinly disguised vestiges of 8th century, pre-democratic autocracies. There is always a local transitional moment, that chaotic time period before the achievement of any democracy in a given place but after the demise of the predecessor regime. Whenever the identifiable trajectory of change is toward a more democratic situation a new transitional model tends to emerge. This model is_proto__-democracy._ Chaos accompanies these transitions. In these situations it can fairly be said that democracy is civil war by other means. In fact, this is one definition of a proto-democracy. The realization of Fukuyama’s dream will be hard fought, and the outcome in most of the world will be problematic for the entire 21st century. Some Broad Definitions.
As we go through the following list of elements, three things should be apparent: Five Elements of Viable Democratic Governance
A viable mechanism that produces objectively verifiable election results at regular intervals such that the process cannot merely be cancelled by the winners of the prior election. Sufficient civil order (think of violent tribal rivalries) that an election can be carried out in practical terms such that the will of a decisive majority of the people can reasonably be determined. An implementing legal system that accords primary legitimacy, authority, and official power to the majority’s will (via its elected representatives or otherwise) as determined by valid elections. A modality of governance that gives all significant minorities and their allied groups an ongoing representative voice in policy formation (thus obviating the incentive for civil war by providing a stake in the process). A modality of governance that always allows minority opinion to be heard and debated (allowing for the possible exception of the overt incitement to a civil war against democracy itself as inadmissible advocacy). Thus democracy is not federalism, as such, though it is equally compatible with its adoption or non-adoption. And democracy requires robust protections for speech and political communication, though not necessarily to the same degree expected by US citizens. The central, democratic authority, therefore, may or may not allow for autonomy, semi-autonomy, or even the division of subordinate local authority in matters of law, policy or governance. It may or may not tolerate all speech equally. These are questions of democratic style. The Sixth Element
I am worried by Fukuyama’s reliance on the ultimate utility of democracy as a guarantor of success. Because ideas matter in history, their source and ultimate authority also matters. As I hint below in a brief sketch of the American Enlightenment, it matters greatly whether one’s values are rooted outside utility calculation, whim, or tribal ethos. The men and women in Britain who gave blood, sweat and tears to oppose the Nazis didn’t fight for Jeremy Bentham’s “greatest good for the greatest number.” They fought for God and country. These issues are deeply philosophical, well beyond the scope of this essay. But I need to point out that when the democratic emperor has no clothes, he will not be respected. The philosophical underpinnings of democracy need to much stronger than “it just works better” to get us through the current crisis. The founders of the American experiment got that part right. Democracy requires not only an implementing legal system, in the American case one inherited directly from the English, but an underlying meta-normative structure that supports the whole project. Democracy was, for the founders, an institution solidly founded on natural law,...
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