January 29, 2005

The Pace of Freedom's March

Reading this criticism of Bush's inaugural, it really struck me how poorly researched so much journalism is.

There were the obvious contradictions between the president's stated goals and the reality of his first term. Freedom, after all, isn't exactly on the march in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or China or even Russia for that matter, and the US seems to be enjoying relatively cordial relations with those countries on economic and/or political terms.

Saudi Arabia is going to be undergoing its first elections in decades over the next few months. The PRC is undergoing a glacially paced program of electoral reform and has been holding village elections for some time now. Recently they've expanded the program. These are small steps, to be sure, but it's not exactly a good sign of reportorial competence when 50% of the examples you give of no democratic progress are actually progressing, albeit too slowly.

The closing author description was quite informative:

Dante Chinni is a senior associate with the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

That's just too funny.

Moving on from commentary snark, I think that an overwhelming percentage of the objections to "freedom everywhere" are on the perceived pacing of change that we're trying for. There was no pacing talk actually in the speech. Those who put it there are all engaging in self-administered verbal Rorschach tests. We hear what we hope, or fear, to hear. It might do us well to have a good, serious talk about how fast freedom should be on the march.

Certainly, one man, one vote, one time is too fast. Democracy isn't the act of a one time ballot box event. It's the predictable presentation of the government to the people to be judged on their performance time after time. The idiocy and horror of post-colonial Africa show the folly of stinting on safeguards to protect the regularity of free elections.

On the other hand, my recollection is that the PRC has penciled in 2050 for their democratic experiments to reach the national legislative level. Is this too slow? I think it is. But some sort of deliberate progression from absolute rule to free-wheeling multi-party elections should be a viable pathway for authoritarian states.

We don't really have any sort of policy on how to regulate the speed of such things. When to push for "faster please" and when to hold back support because the crazies are too dominant in the opposition and will just replace a decrepit tyrant with a vigorous one. How are we to judge?

As usual, hit the permalink to get to comments.

Posted by TMLutas at January 29, 2005 11:43 PM