Is democracy the best?

Woodrow Wilson justified WWI by saying that we were “making the world safe for democracy.” Since then the US has, at times, “created” or significantly supported the creation of democracies in Germany, Japan, the fmr. Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, over the same period of time, the US has installed or significantly supported dictators and regimes posing as democracies in South Korean, South Vietnam, Egypt, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and elsewhere.

So where does that leave us? Is Democracy is the best form of government for all of the world’s inhabitants? Here are two opposing points of view:

Pro: There is no doubt that democracy is the best form of government for all the world’s inhabitants. Whether the government is a constitutional monarchy (like the United Kingdom, Japan, and Sweden) or a republic (like Switzerland or Israel), democratic nation-states have greater social mobility, greater economic opportunities and a higher quality of life.

In federal democracies, the democratic nature of the government ensures a fair distribution of power among distinct parts of the country, as in Germany or the United States. The great parliamentary democracies (which are often found in unitary governments like the UK, Iceland, and Italy) have democracies that are more responsive to the immediate wishes of the people.

The members of the economic powerhouses (G-8) are all democracies.

The most powerful military alliance, NATO, is composed of democracies. Europe, the bastion of democracy, has the highest standard of living in the world.

In the Cold War, it was the Western democracies that economically outlasted the Eastern European communist states. Democracy has proven to be the best form of government.

Four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are democracies.

The only country in the world without an army, Costa Rica, is a democracy. The countries that donate the most are democracies.

Democracies have a highest immigration rate.

Democracy is the government of choice for the world’s people: the students of Serbia, the elites of Indonesia, the Good Friday signers in Northern Ireland, and the founders of the two newest countries in the world, East Timor and Tuvalu…they all chose democracy.

Con: Democracy, while an acceptable for of government for many countries, is not a panacea “for all of the world’s inhabitants.” Look at the Russian foray into democracy. The average life expectancy of a Russian has dropped since 1989. The hottest economy in the world is the (communist) People’s Republic of China. In China, while the industrialized coastal regions are clamoring for democracy, the inland peasantry is addicted to the centralized autocracy and subsidy of Beijing.

The entire supposition that democracy is the best government has a naïve assumption that the will of the majority has some inherent good. What about bitterly divided nations with unbridled intolerance for other segments of their own nation-state (Iraq-2005)? What about indigenous people who are disenfranchised by their modern “democracies” like the Native Americans in Bolivia, the peasants of Chiapas, the aborigines of Australia, or the Maori of New Zealand? In Latin America, the rise of democracies have given to the rise of Hugo Chavez, the devaluation of the Mexican peso, the devaluation of the Brazilian real, and five Argentinean presidents in four months.

In Africa, Egypt’s democracy holds elections with only one viable candidate and South Africa deals with a democratically elected president who has stated there is no connection between AIDS and sexual activity.

In Asia, the Philippines have corrupt president after president (and an opposition party that has just been caught spying in th e US Vice-President’s office) and India elects the religious Bharatiya Janata Party which is accused of inciting religious riots between Muslims and Hindus. It can even be argued that the violence in Chechnya is a product of the democratization of Russian; such violence was never witnessed under Stalinist autocracy, even though the same hatreds simmered.

In short, there is no evidence that democracy is stable enough to be the staple of world governments. The attractiveness of democracy must be weighed against the increase of sectarian arguments, the dissolution of nation-states and the despotism of the majority.

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