Saturday, September 14, 2013

Democracy is Democracy

In an article titled Middle East Has Too Much History to Embrace Democracy, John Farmer delivers a common view that equates democracy with constitutional republicanism, which Farmer labels "U.S.-style democracy." He focusses primarily on the strife in Egypt, but also cites other Middle East countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, when he observed:

But a second look suggests that what was suppressed [by the military coup] in Egypt fell far short of “democracy,” as do most such movements in the Third World and, if you include Russia, even in the developed world. For much of the Third World, the American notion of democracy begins with “free elections” and, unfortunately, ends there. The rest of the democratic process, perhaps the most critical part — the establishment of a representative and inclusive post-election government — gets lost.

In Egypt, Farmer continues:

The government of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, which prevailed in the election over a badly divided secular opposition, promptly consolidated all power in its own hands — firing the military commander, fashioning an Islamist constitution that ignored secular concerns and the rights of women, and ousting the judiciary.Hard-line Islamists in the Brotherhood were installed by Morsi to head regional governments, triggering real worry among the non-Islamist Arab and Christian communities. 

What does "representative and inclusive post-election government" mean? What makes it possible? Farmer rightly blames religion for the repressive nature of elected governments there, but misses the wider concept of rights, which entail much more than religion.

I left these comments:

In fact, Egypt is a precise example of democracy. The antipode of democracy is a constitutionally limited republic based upon inalienable individual rights, supported by objective laws and upheld by an impartial judiciary.

Both forms of government entail elections. But that similarity is merely superficial: Fundamentally, democracy is incompatible with freedom, because the two systems stem from opposite philosophic premises. Democracy is unlimited majority rule—manifested in the state—where individuals have no rights, and are subordinate to the majority or dominant political bloc. Constitutional republicanism—which Farmer conspicuously fails to mention—subordinates the state to the sovereign individual, in which no individual can be alienated from his rights to life, liberty, and property by vote.

The separation of religion and state, in which government can not impose or promote anyone's religious ideas, is a key component of a republic, and that is certainly missing from the Mideast. To that extent, America is a free republic. But separation of religion and state is part of a broader principle of a free society; separation of ideas and state. Egyptian-style democracy is exactly what has evolved in America in other areas, where our democratically elected government imposes its scientific ideas through its tax-funding of science, its educational ideas through its government schools, its economic ideas through its regulatory regime, and its philanthropic ideas through redistributionist tax and spend policies.

There are not variants of democracy—some good, some bad. Democracy is totalitarian, and evil. Constitutional republicanism is freedom, and good. America today is a mixture, with democracy winning; a nation in transition from a free constitutional republic to a socialist democracy. The price we are paying is our liberty.

American statists, of course, love democracy when it suits them.

On the Left, it's no wonder Mr. Farmer uses the term "American-style democracy" to describe this country. The Left hates anyone imposing their religious views on others by government force (as we all should). But the Left loves to shove its scientific (e.g., global warming), educational (progressive ed.), economic (regulations), and charity (welfare state programs) ideas on all of us by building an electoral constituency.

On the Religious Right, we see the attempt to impose religious views, particularly on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, scientific issues like stem-cell research, and educational issues like "intelligent design.," by legislative or court fiat.

We will not have a fully free society until the separation of religion and state is joined by separation of state from science, education, economics, and charity—a full separation of ideas and state, where the government protects everyone's freedom to live and act on his own beliefs, so long as his actions don't violate the same rights of others. This is what the true Right—those who advocate a constitutional republic—must fight for.

Related Reading:

Iraqi Democracy vs. Freedom

Democracy in Action in Egypt

Rights and Democracy

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