Democracy as Process: Can we lose it?
In my recent HNN article on the political crises in Taiwan and South Korea I posited that democracy is more a process than a system, and that there are three"landmark moments" in the development of a democracy:
1. First peaceful transfer of power to opposition party
2. First peaceful transfer of power to another party (non-entrenchment of power)
3. Resolution of first major constitutional crisis
Taiwan remains gripped in a struggle with both #2 and #3, and may not survive the process unscathed; Korea is grappling with #3 reasonably successfully.
What I implied in the conclusion but didn't develop is that the latter two conditions must be continually renewed: it is possible to backslide out of functional democracy. Japan's"1.5 party" system has been on the margin of functional for decades; Mussolini and Hitler are the most notorious examples of how a multi-party democracy can be hijacked. And, as I suggested, the US might be on the verge of it today.
I was just talking about the electronic voting problem: the loss of transparency in elections could presage a loss of legitimacy. There are other problems as well: media partisanization and the"state of emergency" [via Peevish], political polarization [also via Peevish], the politicization of government, and low levels of interest and participation in politics, including such low-investment activities as voting every couple of years.
I'm not giving up. But it's getting to the point where the libertarian position, government is your enemy, is starting to look more realistic than alarmist. I prefer to think that it's the administration, rather than a structural problem, though, so I remain liberal rather than libertarian. Democracy and rights are two of the greatest endowments of humanity, self-rule and self-control the greatest achievements of society. I saddens me, enrages me, to see them threatened.
comments powered by Disqus
Konrad M Lawson - 4/10/2004
Interesting post and some important points, both here, and in your HNN article! I have a few comments on your eval. of the state of democracy in Korea/Taiwan which I posted as an article to my own blog at:
- T. rex fossils arrive at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
- Quote of the Day -- Time Magazine's Top 100 People
- Investigation: The Resegregation of America's Schools
- 5 Explosive Revelations Leaked from Senate Report Exposing CIA Torture
- In Parts of the South, Glorifying Slavery No Longer Pays the Bills
- UC Berkeley professor emeritus Robert Harlan dies at 84
- She Came All the Way from Melbourne to Attend the OAH
- The 7 Most Popular HNN Videos from the 2014 OAH
- Jesse Lemisch’s up-from-below history is still strikingly original
- U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War -- His second Pulitzer!