Monday 7 February 2005
Is only democracy the goal?
With Nepal on the boil there is talk of democracy again. We had a few rounds before with Afghanistan and Iraq; and also most of the time when Bush opens his mouth.
Coinciding with elections in Iraq, Newsweek of January 31 has two articles one by Fareed Zakaria, High Hopes and Hard Facts, and the other by Andrew Moravcsik Dream On, America.
Sunday Times of India newspaper of yesterday had a wonderful Special Report on democracy; and the different forms of it prevalent in different countries: from the US and the UK to India and Pakistan; to Singapore and Russia; to Afghanistan and Iraq. There is voting in all countries. But does mere voting rights for people make them democracies?
Jug Suraiya, in the main article, makes a good comparison between Singapore and Bihar (state of India, which is currently electing its state assembly.) Singapore is so progressive that it boasts of First World standard of living. Bihar is backward. Singapore has very limited individual freedom for people. But Bihar has so much freedom, that you can really do anything. Which one will you choose, Jug Suraiya asks. He says really democracy is when you have a choice to choose; and when no body else tells you that this is the democracy you should have. Democracy, or freedom, can’t be enforced.
It is said that democracy with all its faults is much better than a dictatorship with all its good. India and Indians should be proud that our democracy is so vibrant. But what we should feel ashamed of is that the vibrancy has brought in chaos rather than order.
I really doubt if mere freedom to vote makes a country democratic. May be true to some extent. Democracy is all about people; and therefore, it is of no use if people are not good enough for it. People -- who are not good enough for democracy -- will elect leaders who are not good enough for democracy. What if the people have the freedom but they don’t know to use it?
The right to vote (or democracy) is not the end. It is only the beginning in the pursuit of having a well-evolved society with a reasonably good standard of living. And, it is often the leaders who determine that, and not the type of government.
I am sure Bush knows that...