Friday, July 12, 2013

Democracy in Action in Egypt

The recent upheaval in Egypt highlights the true nature of democracy. A year and a half ago, Egypt's elections swept Islamist President Mohamed Morsi into power and handed the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood huge victories. In December, 2012, an Islamist constitution was approved by a two to one vote. This was a continuation of the trend ignited by President Bush's "Forward Strategy for Freedom," which was really a forward strategy for democracy, not freedom. The result; Islamists have swept into power all over the region, with the implicit legitimacy engendered by elections. The biggest loser, as recently noted by Ralph Peters; freedom.  This disaster was predicted by Yaron Brook and Elan Journo in 2007 in The Objective Standard with their essay The "Forward Strategy" for Failure

As the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson notes in Egypt's Dark Future:

It is clear that Morsi wanted to make Egypt a more religious, less pluralistic society than it was during the Mubarak years. The rights of Coptic Christians and other minorities were under assault. To Egyptians who are young, secular and middle class — those who poured back into Tahrir Square, cellphones in hand, tweeting their rage to the world — Morsi’s government must have been a nightmare.

There are important lessons to be learned from the Egyptian fiasco. 

Under democracy, the majority has absolute rule. With the false veneer of legitimacy accorded by elections, the Islamist majority initiated force against the non-Islamist minority by attempting to impose an Islamist theocracy—an Islamist dictatorship. Under democracy, minorities have no way to fight back against majority tyranny except through retaliatory force. So, those minorities whose rights were under assault took to the streets in mass protests, culminating in the military takeover.

Proponents of democracy are between a rock and a hard place. Robinson is one, and he struggled to make some sense of it all. He condemns the military coup d'etat, expresses strong disapproval with Morsi's "power grab," while lauding the democracy that led to the upheavals—"When vast throngs of self-proclaimed 'moderates' took to the streets to protest the way Morsi was governing, the generals could have made clear their support for Egypt’s new democratic order, however flawed." 

However flawed! But it was this same "democratic order" that threatened the minority with theocratic suppression, leaving them no choice but to revolt. 

Robinson notes that irreconcilable differences will make it hard to produce a stable government:

Like it or not, the Muslim Brotherhood is the best-organized political force in the country. Under Mubarak, the group was banned. Egypt’s new military-backed rulers claim to want to include Islamist parties in the government, but as a practical matter they’re going to have to repress the Brotherhood in some way to keep the group from winning again at the polls.The Brotherhood might choose to fight with bullets rather than ballots. Or it might just bide its time. Either way, a huge chunk of Egypt’s population will be unreconciled to the new government — and bitterly resent the way it came to power.

Such is the unavoidable nature of democracy. The choice is not flawed vs. unflawed democracy. The choice is democracy or freedom. How do you reconcile with a Muslim Brotherhood  that believes its electoral victory is a mandate to impose tyranny? When rights aren't protected, the losers will always be threatened or frustrated, leading to never-ending turmoil. 

I left these comments:

"The rights of Coptic Christians and other minorities were under assault" by an elected Islamic government and a majority-imposed Islamic constitution. Why is a military dictatorship any worse than an Islamic theocracy? Because the Islamists were elected? All events in Egypt prove is that democracy—absolute majority rule—is cut from the same cloth as any tyranny, including a military dictatorship. 

There is only one alternative to any form of tyranny—a constitutionally limited republic based on inalienable individual rights.

Yes, democracies and constitutional republics both entail elections. But that similarity is superficial. Fundamentally, democracies and free societies spring from opposite philosophic premises. Under democracy, the individual is without rights, and subordinate to the majority or dominant political bloc; which means, the state. In a free society, the state is subordinate to the sovereign individual, and exists solely to protect his rights to his life, liberty, and property. 

In fact, America's democracy crusade of the last dozen years has led to a broad rise in authoritarian governments at the expense of freedom. It's time to recognize the true nature of democracy, and begin supporting freedom instead. Elections should never be put first. We should never support elections in any country until iron-clad constitutional protections for individual rights are in place, so that the individual can never be alienated from his rights by vote.

As Ayn Rand so succinctly put it, "Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law."

Related Reading:

The "Forward Strategy" for Failure by Yaron Brook and Elan Journo

Iraqi Democracy vs. Freedom

Rights are Inalienable, not an Electoral Privilege

No comments: