March 18, 2005

Democracy In a Kit?

New acquisition to my reading list Pundita (thanks Mark) is amazingly simplistic in his Democracy Stage Show Kit essay.

The first error is a huge error of omission. The Democracy Stage Show Kit (DSSK) is analyzed in isolation without even mentioning that it is the mirror of the Great Power Puppet Regime Kit (GPPRK), most often, but not exclusively deployed by the USSR and now Russia. The GPPRK was developed when it became clear that E. Europe satellite retention was not entirely tenable as a monolithic Soviet Bloc with the Warsaw Pact on the military end and Comecon doing the economics end of the system.

The idea of rent-a-mob is much more heavily supported in the modern GPPRK model. Romania's 1991 riots are typical of the GPPRK model's use of such resources. These are real mobs with real clubs and there's real blood in the streets in the aftermath. By comparison, the DSSK mobs, if the DSSK exists in more than Pundita's imagination, are utterly benign by comparison. What was the death toll of the Orange Revolution?

By clearing out the ugly alternative through the simple expedient of pretending it does not exist, the DSSK is examined against the platonic ideal of the let's all get along sitting room societies and, mirabile dictu, the DSSK comes up short.

No, mass protests are not a demonstration of democratic governance but when all you have is a sham democracy whose strings are pulled from the back rooms in your own country and in foreign capitals, mass protests are a pretty good first step to getting a real democratic republic complete with that rule of law that Pundita would like to see. The right of those protesting was not enshrined in the Ukrainian system, it was established in defiance of the actual Ukrainian system. That serious people in the government considered violently clearing the protesters before they ultimately blinked is an established fact in the public record.

The idea that people have no time for political freedom is, frankly, just not credible. If the franchise could be exercised two centuries ago in the wilds of Kentucky and Ohio where agriculture was the main pursuit, time saving devices were nonexistant, and the wilderness or hostile indians could destroy all you had built in the blink of an eye, it is certainly practical for people in today's Ukraine, Romania, Georgia, or Iraq where the physical and economic challenges are generally less.

Pundita complains that "The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect to have good government." The problem with this complaint is that it seems to be endorsing democracy over democratic republicanism. That's just stupid if its intentional and badly written if Pundita did it by accident. By definition democratic republicanism is the idea of voting to give somebody else the government for a time and not much worrying about it until next election day. It's possibly the most successful system of governance on the planet even if a little long. That's why lazy people have shortened it down to calling it a democracy (well that and not to get letters from the constitutional monarchists who have a twin system in practice with different theoretical foundations).

Again, turning back to Romania, they voted in a neo-communist first government by wide margins, voted again to put them in by slimmer margins, voted in an opposition government that promptly betrayed its electoral platform, voted the neo-communist/social democrats back into power for another term and when that turned out to be a bad idea they put in a liberal government late last year. There were lots of corruption scandals, lots of bad choices along the way but nobody can seriously say that things are worse off than if Ceasescu the butcher or his rapist son were still in power. Nor is it credible to hold that the Romanian people haven't grown in sophistication and improved in their exercise of their sovereign power through the use of the franchise.

The chants of freedom and hand signs in mass rallies eventually die away and fast or slow the people improve in their understanding of liberty and how to use politics to achieve a good life. But if the old elites were still in power none of that would happen. It's a wonder why Pundita seems to mourn their passing.

Posted by TMLutas at March 18, 2005 04:28 PM