William Anthony Hay: Can Democracy Be Imposed from the Outside?

Roundup: Historians' Take

William Anthony Hay is assistant professor of history at Mississippi State University and author of The Whig Revival, 1808-1830 (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005). This E-note and a related article in the Winter 2006 Orbis are based on a presentation he made to FPRI’s Study Group on America and the West on September 12, 2005, in Philadelphia.

Can democracy be imposed on societies from the outside? Current debates tend to focus on immediate aims without clarifying the terms for discussing them. A historically grounded definition provides a starting point for these discussions. Experience indicates that democracy requires a particular combination of institutions and informed public opinion. Outside efforts to impose change typically bring unforeseen consequences that may result in neither stability nor democracy. Indeed, a comparative overview of the history of democracy points towards a reassessment of current U.S. policy, to bring ends and means in line.

Studies focusing on the historical development of democracy typically compare Great Britain and Germany. The German Sonderweg, or special path, toward authoritarianism thus offers a cautionary tale of how modernization can go wrong, but two world wars and the Nazi era make this an emotionally charged analogy. Its focus on the emergence of German liberalism in the mid nineteenth century, followed by its suppression under Otto von Bismarck and later revival during Konrad Adenauer’s post-1945 ascendancy, imposes a relatively narrow frame of reference. Looking instead to Britain and France, two countries identified as democratic, highlights the impact of public opinion and representative government on democracy while taking a much longer view of how the system emerged. The Anglo-French comparison also engages the way in which institutions stabilize or destabilize countries where the political order must expand to accommodate a larger portion of society. Samuel Huntington set out the problem with reference to the developing world in Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), and recent academic literature on the “institutional deficit” plaguing failed states reflects its ongoing importance. The fundamental question connecting these issues to the wider debate is whether and how democracy can provide a stable framework for governing.

Current debate over democratization as a foreign policy objective reflects two conflicting views of democracy with deep roots in American thinking on international relations. Advocates of spreading democracy connect their agenda with a global order favorable to American interests. September 11 shifted the Bush administration toward a more aggressive policy that invoked the memory of Woodrow Wilson. Containment and deterrence had failed to block terrorism, and Bush’s second inaugural speech cast spreading democracy as a moral obligation that would secure domestic peace against tyranny overseas. His rhetoric paralleled Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war against Germany in April 1917, which argued that only regime change could end the threat Germany’s government posed. Despite the different context for the speeches, both describe tyranny as an aggressive threat to the United States to be countered by spreading democracy.

Defining Democracy?

Liberal, representative democracy, where political parties mobilize and focus public opinion and alternate in power to provide regular accountability, provides the only example of a stable democratic order. It combines institutions with a reinforcing political culture that guarantees the rule of law and ensures that policy follows the considered opinion of the people expressed over time. Other models either mimic some attributes of democracy or simply lapse into anarchy or authoritarianism. Truly democratic institutions and political cultures engage public opinion within a framework of checks and balances that limits both majority rule and government power. Representative bodies oversee executive government, with control over taxation and budgets as leverage. Transparency in public business and debate characterizes liberal regimes. Stable, periodic transfers of power ensure accountability while limiting the costs to those who lose the political contest at any given point. Representative democracy allows people to rule themselves in polities beyond the smallest communities by enabling leaders to mobilize opinion, facilitate consensus, and develop policies they can implement. Democracy works as both a political culture for regulating behavior and governing institution

Democracy grew organically within societies in response to challenges, and parliamentary liberalism as it emerged in nineteenth-century Britain embodies the liberal, representative order that brought stability during a painful transition. It created a system within which potentially incompatible interests—whether classes, nationalities or sects—accepted an overarching code of law that guaranteed each a wide variety of liberties. The combination of representative government and public opinion that formed parliamentary liberalism in Britain provides the archetype for true democracy, but other countries took different paths toward modernization. A comparative historical view sharpens definitions while engaging problems connected with imposing democracy from the outside.

Absolutist France and the Ancien Régime

France’s history from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries demonstrates how institutions fail when they prove unable to manage conflicts or adapt to pressures. Religious disputes from the Reformation, social and economic changes, and external military pressures challenged regimes across Europe. France under Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIV responded by developing a centralized royal bureaucracy to mobilize resources and concentrate authority. War had already expanded the responsibilities of royal officials France at the expense of both local institutions and the old military classes, while failure of the Fronde revolt in the 1750s left no alternate authority. Absolutism met challenges that had undermined the older partnership between rulers and social estates, and it worked well enough to provide an appealing model of rational, efficient royal governance that other European rulers copied. Representative government seemed backward and an impediment to progress when measured against the modernizing efforts to absolutist regimes. The fragility of the absolutist state only became apparent as financial crises and forceful popular resistance to state policy emerged during the 1780s.

Financial crisis undermined absolutism in France, but the relationship between public opinion and the state played a crucial role in the government capacity to mobilize resources. French rulers declined to call an Estates General between 1614 and 1789 because such assemblies inevitably led to trouble. While some provincial estates and judicial parlements advised the crown and occasionally acted as a venue for expressing public opinion, these bodies’ narrow focus limited their impact. Public opinion thus emerged as a political category in France from the gap created when representative institutions failed to provide an outlet of criticism and discontent. It acted as an abstract category of authority invoked to give positions the legitimacy that an absolutist political order could not provide. Because only the king could legitimately decide questions on behalf of the community, absolutism precluded a public politics beyond the court. The notion of government as private royal business made unauthorized discussion illegal, but the French crown failed to stop debate, and political contestation forced the government to argue its own case. If French rulers minded public opinion for lack of an alternative, they failed to give it a stabilizing institutional role. Political culture in eighteenth-century France and other absolutist states therefore tended towards polarization. Disengaged from practical concerns and lacking a political role, public opinion under absolutism fostered a culture of critique that turned on society itself.

British Institutions and Parliamentary Liberalism

Britain offered a very different model from France and other ancien régime states in continental Europe. Representative government in England withstood the challenges that marginalized it elsewhere, and an effective partnership between elites and the Crown through parliament defined eighteenth-century British political culture. Britain became a fiscal military state after 1688 as a parliamentary regime able to secure resources through consensual taxation and long-term loans guaranteed by parliament. National politics focused on parliament and the capital, with a parallel local politics operating at the level of parliamentary constituencies that gave politicians at Westminster prestige to bolster their national standing. Constituency politics largely emphasized local concerns before 1812 as rival interests competed for popular support. Elaborate rituals connected with mediated relations between elites and population in a way that shows the limits of authority, and elections tested the standing of candidates or their patrons. The whole process tied local constituencies with the political contest at Westminster, but provincial and national politics remained separate outside those rare occasions when general elections focused on a single issue. Public opinion also played a very different role in Britain’s political culture than under French-style absolutism. Newspapers covered parliamentary debates closely from the mid-eighteenth century, and printing the proceedings tied parliament into a broader discourse that extended beyond the elite or educated classes. Public discussion of affairs in Britain had an accepted place that emphasized specific issues over abstract speculation.

Britain entered the general European crisis of the late eighteenth century with a stronger, more flexible system than most of its counterparts. Representation followed older patterns that did not account for industrialization and demographic change, and the provincial groups demanded a greater voice in policy from the 1780s. Political reforms that recast the constitutional order between 1828 and 1832 followed from confrontations that set the Tory government against a Whig opposition that revived itself through an alliance with provincial interest groups. Where Edmund Burke had constructed a justification for party activity in the 1770s, Henry Brougham applied the concept and extended it beyond Westminster to create an expanded political nation. Brougham, a Whig barrister and politician, mobilized opinion beyond the capital to give his party leverage in parliamentary debates, and his efforts transformed the Whigs into a viable governing party that dominated British politics through 1886. They also expanded the political nation to encompass a wider range of provincial interests and integrate constituency politics with the party contest. Parliamentary liberalism in Britain marked an institution that more effectively linked government with the governed.

Challenges to Parliamentary Liberalism

The need to reconcile competing groups defined Victorian parliamentary liberalism. Where appropriate, the political nation could expand to accommodate new interests. Lord John Russell had equated “the people” with the middle classes in 1831, but by 1861 he expanded its scope to include the respectable working classes. Benjamin Disraeli realized that a wider suffrage would add ballast to the political order by enfranchising working men with conservative sentiments. The writer William Lecky described extended suffrage as reaching “below the regions where crotchets and experiments and crude utopias prevail” to an industrious working class of settled habits and “the deep conservative instincts of the nation.” Broadening the basis of consent could improve stability.

If extending the political nation built a sustainable democratic order, at least in nineteenth-century Britain, failure to accommodate groups threatened it. Parliamentary liberalism broke down when it could not reconcile difference within a framework of law. When the Irish Nationalist party led by Charles Stuart Parnell forced its agenda by obstructing parliamentary business, the political system lacked recourse beyond changing its rules to prevent them being used against it. Irish home rule split William Gladstone’s government in 1886 and ended the Liberal ascendancy, but it also showed that parliamentary government required acceptance of rules, written or otherwise. Stretching the system beyond its breaking point curtailed minority rights and stifled debate. George Dangerfield described the turbulent years in Britain from 1910 to 1914 when suffragettes, trade unions, and Ulster Protestants forced their demands with extra-constitutional as the “death” of liberal England. The period shows how democracy could falter, but in Britain it marked a departure from general patterns of stability.

Illiberal Democracy

Historical challenges to parliamentary liberalism highlight a contrast between liberal and illiberal democracy that is very relevant today. Liberal democracy allows for the expression of public opinion and reconciling competing interests with the rule of law; illiberal democracy preserves institutional forms while hollowing out the substance of representation and accountability. Parliamentary liberalism’s democratic order did not offer the only solution to political transformation. Louis Napoleon established the French Second Empire in 1852 through a plebiscite, a different path toward establishing a national politics with institutional legitimacy. He carefully appealed to the French peasantry over elites that might check his power. Representation meant embodying the nation rather than providing voice to its citizens. Decades later, Henry Cabot Lodge would remark that “[Woodrow] Wilson’s comprehension of government is that of the third Napoleon, an autocrat to be elected by the people through a plebiscite and no representative bodies of any consequence in between.” Lecky concluded from the French case that plebiscitary despotism was “just as natural a form of democracy as a republic”, and he warned that “some of the strongest democratic tendencies are distinctly adverse to liberty.”

Populism and the managerial state provide two sides to the authoritarianism that reacted to parliamentary liberalism’s perceived inadequacy. They have a symbiotic relationship. Populist challenges prompt elites to restrict public opinion’s impact, and the consequent lack of accountability may spark a backlash. Populism covers a range of movements that challenged the existing representative order as corrupt and oligarchic while demanding a more direct voice for the people. Far from empowering people, populism typically strengthens leaders claiming to embody the people in their struggle against elites. While challenging some elites, it also helps others manipulate politics in their favor.

Managerialism solves political deadlock by redefining major decisions as problems for experts rather than the political process. Business administration in large corporations provided a model, and, like populism, the managerial state grew from the perceived failure of representative government. Crises brought by World War I and the Great Depression raised its appeal. Karl Lowenstein argued that democracy must become “the application of disciplined authority by liberal minded men, for the ultimate end of liberal government: human dignity and freedom.” Planning defined the new liberalism after World War II and the view that benevolent elites with expertise and vision would give the people what the elites thought best for them shaped policy in the United States and Europe. Resistance grew, however, with the failure of grand projects that cost institutions and elites their legitimacy. A populist backlash where voters use radical parties as a vehicle for protest has marked European politics since 2001, and it reflects the political establishment’s failure to address key issues. A system intended to defuse conflict now promotes it, raising the specter of populism and the managerial state working in a fundamentally anti-democratic cycle.

Promoting Democracy? Civil Society and Group Competition

Democracy cannot be transferred as a package because it developed organically and requires a supportive political culture to operate effectively. Institutions must run along the grain of societies rather than cutting across or against them. A long view suggests that few countries will create sustainable liberal democratic regimes. Copying superficial aspects of democracy typically brings either illiberal or simply unsustainable outcomes. Some countries, like Singapore, sustain a relative liberal order without complete democracy. Other authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan restrict their population’s opportunity for political activity while limiting the scope of state intervention in personal or economic life. Rather than an absolute polarity between democracy and despotism, politics operates at different levels with a variety of systems adapted to particular contexts.

No easy path exists to national cohesion and democratic institutions in developing nations. Forcing democratization’s pace risks unrest, particularly where deep fault lines exist within societies. Sectarian differences and opposing economic interests can both work against the basic level of consensus that democracy requires, and ethnic conflict introduces another volatile factor that often combines with religion and economic disparities. Rapid change and competition for power within a society exacerbate preexisting ethnic tensions, as seen in post-1989 conflicts from Yugoslavia to Rwanda. Populists from the late Slobodan Milosovic to Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez seize upon ethnic resentment as a populist tool for maintaining their power as leaders of populist movements operating behind a quasi-democratic façade. Whether conflict derives fundamentally from ethnic differences or economic conflict matters less than its impact on stability. Civic patriotism cannot establish a demos without social cohesion and a general agreement on rules for public behavior. Public opinion driven by demagogues or ideology exerts a destructive force. Forced democratization that unleashes such forces defeats its own aims, and fosters a backlash that can make the United States less secure.

Current efforts to promote democracy uncannily echo the global meliorism that brought profound disillusionment when it failed during the Vietnam era. Indeed, the Bush administration has backtracked as questions arose regarding the specific policies that would follow from the president’s rhetoric. While the United States prefers democracy over authoritarianism, it also values gradual change over stasis and, above all, friends over adversaries. The present debate offers a reprise of earlier tensions between realist and idealist perspectives. Such cycles typically end with frustrated idealism giving way to a cautious realist focus on stability and protecting American interests. Not only does attempting to export democracy usually fail, but the endeavor distracts resources and attention from other pressing challenges. A more reasonable guide to managing political change involves adapting existing structures in target societies and securing a rough balance among competing groups to provide the order necessary for promoting the growth of civil society. Such an approach fits the means and objectives of American foreign policy more realistically than the grand strategy of promoting democracy in countries where it has no roots.

Read entire article at Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI)

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Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

If in accordance to the Bush Administration's definition of democracy one finds an anti-western, pro-Iranian and Theocratic totalitarian regime then the implantation in Iraq has been a smashing success.

However, before we pound our chest/ pat each other on the back/ raise a toast and certainly before the US attempts to export anymore of her brand of democracy abroad it should at least have a viable democracy here at home or something that at least looks/smells like democracy.

If the Founders were with us today to see the democracy they envisioned circa 2006 many would be puking in their cups... Republican backwash 'fer shizzle!

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

What a load of HOGWASH. A lecture on the current economic conditions in the United States, circa 2006, from a high ender without the use of any real/solid economic data...

How nice to know that 91% of American's own a color TV... all the better to get a daily dose of corporate propaganda...

How quaint 74% own microwave ovens to radiate food/ expose to cancer/ get fat & unhealthy...

55% own VCR's to watch porn. If you can still find VCR's with DVD formats in use for only (20) years...

47% own dishwasher and yours is named Pepe...

Here's some real number statistics...

Homeless Statistics

A census of the homeless in L. A. County last January found that 83,347 people are on the streets or in shelters on any one night

Men: 57,426 (69%)
Women: 24,671 (30%)
Transgender/unknown 1,250 (1%)


Chronically homeless individuals (Individuals who have been on the streets for a year or more, or who have had four episodes of homelessness in the last three years, and who have one or more disabilities) 34,898 (42%)

People in families: 19,965 (24%)
Other individuals: 28,484 (34%)

Disabilities reported by the chronically homeless (individual may report more than one disability)

Depression: 24,708 (71%)
Alcohol: 18,706 (54%)
Drugs: 16,856 (48%) 7.
Mental illness: 16,367 (47%)
Physical disability: 5,634 (45%)
Chronic health problem: 11,516 (33%)

And for good measure...

300,000 Homeless US Military Veterans nationwide.

The economy according to Daddy Warbucks is not as bright and cheery as the true facts presented here support.

John Edward Philips - 6/1/2006

Property is never inherited? Never stolen? Never found? Never obtained by fraud?

Why does my tax return recognize the categories "earned" and "unearned income"?

And even when the distribution of collectively produced property is according to law, that distribution may or may not be just in any particular instance.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/30/2006

"property . . . is earned."

Not necessarily. The relationship between individuals and property, however defined, is determined by the system of government and by the values of that society. Our legal system values some forms of ownership over others.

As an example, a man can lose ownership over his crop if it can be shown that the crop carries a patented gene. Why? Because the government has altered the definition of property in a way that encourages new technology at the cost of older forms of ownership.

What was earned in this case?

Rob Willis - 5/25/2006

Sir, I know enough about world politics to know that it isn't working as planned. This result is the absolute end-game for planned economies. I also know that property, whether physical, intellectual, or theoretical, is not distributed, it is earned.


Bill Heuisler - 5/25/2006

Mr. Philips,
We agree on many things, but we disagree on the empirical effects of our democracy - oldest in the world.

Your claim, "American society is becoming less and less equal in terms of distribution of property, as a result not only of deliberate policy but also of the normal workings of the market." is not supported by unadulterated data. In fact the US economy is raising all standards of living to the point that the term "poor" loses meaning. Our middle class is larger as a percent of total people and GNP than ever in our history. We have more millionaires and fewer poor. The so-called "gap" isn't in any statistics based on standards of living.

In 1995, National Academy of Science found Census Bureau measurements "no longer provide an accurate picture of the differences in the extent of economic poverty among population groups or geographic areas of the country, nor an accurate picture of trends over time." They recommended
"poverty" be revised to reflect taxes, benefits, child care, medical costs, and regional differences in prices. Census Bureau incorporated these variables, but none of the changes were "officially" adopted.

This is political. "Poverty rates calculated using the experimental measures are all slightly higher than the official measure," Kathleen Short, John Iceland, and Joseph Dalaker, statisticians at the Census Bureau, reported in a 2002 paper reviewing academy recommendations.


"The poverty rate misleads the public and our representatives, and it thereby degrades the quality of our social policies," (Nicholas Eberstadt, of American Enterprise Institute, in a 2002 article). "It should be discarded for the broken tool that it is." In fact February, 2006 the Census Bureau released a report on new ways of measuring poverty that would cut the official rate by up to a third.

Other than subsistence-based data, there's no definitive way to list who is impoverished and who isn’t.
Subsistance is not an issue in a society with Federal, State and Local assistance in existance.

For instance, every other year researchers from the Feds survey the appliances in American homes. 91% of poor families owned color TVs in 2001; 74% owned microwave ovens; 55%owned VCRs; and 47% dishwashers.
Dishwashers? Are they in poverty?

Not by any measure of standards in any other part of the world except maybe Australia. What is different? Market-driven democracy.

W. Michael Cox, economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Richard Alm, reporter at the Dallas Morning News, in their book "Myths of Rich and Poor: Why We’re Better Off Than We Think" (1999), argue poverty stats overlook the extent to which falling prices allow poor families to buy consumer goods that a generation ago were considered luxury items. "By the standards of 1971, many of today’s poor families might be considered members of the middle class," they wrote.

We are so economically successful in the US that there are literally few, if any, societies to compare with. Our economy is thriving at unheard of percentages of GNP, investment and low unemployment. Most of our US citizens of lower incomes live in conditions Louis XIV would envy.

Sorry for the long answer to a short question.
Bill Heuisler

John Edward Philips - 5/24/2006

Obviously, as you suggest, democracy and autocracy are opposites. Just as obviously neither has ever existed in a pure form, and they fade into each other through various intermediaries such as republicanism, oligarchy, etc.

It is interesting that you make the end of political evolution some form of autocracy, when Francis Fukuyama has so influentially made it some form of representative democracy. I'm inclined to agree with Francis about this, not for the reasons he himself gave as much as for arguments dealing with complexity and chaos theory that are too complicated to get into here.

However, your argument about democracy and private property suggests another argument in your favor. Property tends to accumulate unless deliberate steps to redistribute it are undertaken. All stateless societies have mechanisms of redistribution. American society is becoming less and less equal in terms of distribution of property, as a result not only of deliberate policy but also of the normal workings of the market. If redistribution is not undertaken, do you see a threat to democracy? Do you care? After all, if autocracy is where we are evolving, why not just get on with it already?

Democracy, popular control of government, is a learned skill. Teachers can help, but it must be internalized. As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so demonstration is the best teacher.

My only serious argument with your facts is your claim that Germans replaced capitalism with socialism. The Socialist Party has the best claim to that word, and they were the only party in the Reichstag that voted against the Nazis. Both the Communists and the Catholic Center party sat on their hands, to their eternal shame.

Americans may not know enough about foreign politics to distinguish Socialism from Communism, much less either one from Naziism, but that ignorance should be no excuse for us.

Bill Heuisler - 5/23/2006

Mustafa Kemal became a benevolent dictator after he seized control of his corner of the crumbled Ottoman Empire. He decreed modernization and any democratization was carefully controlled by "Father of the Turks".

He ordered girls attend school, said men and women must be equal, gave women the right to vote and the right to jobs. He set aside Shariah and forbad fezzes or veils.

He decreed, Turkey obeyed.

He was popular leader, although many Muslims disliked his newly secular society. But it didn't matter who disagreed with Ataturk because he allowed only one political party and did not permit people to openly disagree with his policies.
No democracy in his Turkey.

He died in '38 at the time of Nazi overtures to his country. I've often wondered whether Turkey would've allied with Germany had he lived.
In any event, 1939 Turkey was not the democracy that eventually developed after the defeat in 1945.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/23/2006

"I cannot find any history in my (admittedly flawed) memory where democracy flowered in the shadow of a strong-man"

It may depend on what is meant by "flowered" and "democracy," but would Ataturk be an exception?

Bill Heuisler - 5/23/2006

Mr. Philips,
You are correct as far as you go, but do not take the preconditions for democracy into consideration.
I believe there's been a historic human evolutionary plateau reached through conquest and tribal war. That plateau has for millennnia been warlord, chieftan, king or emperor. Even when Greek city states evolved to self rule there was a strong-man.
Individual freedom and "strong-men" are inimical and evidently have not coexisted in human history.

Democracy is impossible without the existance of private property and the freedom of individuals to use and exchange said property. Only after the rise of mercantilism, private trade and free guilds did the concept of individually fungible property become widespread (Locke, Hume to Smith's Wealth of Nations) in Western societies. Democracy does not function without Capitalism and neither does the reverse thrive.

No absolutes, only tipping points.
Indian democracy was "imposed' by Great Britain under the loose rein of King and Governor. Pakistan's split was after the imposition was lifted and due to a religious war that left strong men in charge.

Your last two paragraphs forget how Weimar began when Wilhelm lost his hereditary power. Weimar failed when Germans allowed the bitterness of Versailles, economic failure and the fear of Communism to persuade them to relinquish civil freedoms and replace Capitalism with Socialism.

Imposed democracy is contradictory, but imposed conditions of freedom are a necessary condition for men to own property and allow other men to represent their interests in that social contract called government.

I cannot find any history in my (admittedly flawed) memory where democracy flowered in the shadow of a strong-man; nor can I come up with historical evidence of democracy as a natural state unaided by largely benevolent outside forces. Can you?
Bill Heuisler

John Edward Philips - 5/23/2006

If Indian democracy was imposed, why did democracy not take in Pakistan? Did the success of Indian Democracy have more to do with the Gandhian mass movement that mobilized the people to take over their government?

If democracy was ever imposed on Germany it was after World War I, when it obviously didn't take. The flaw in Japan's prewar constitution was the lack of civilian control of the military. If civilian control of the military was imposed by the Occupation (as opposed to the defeat) of Japan, why has the US been pressuring a reluctant Japan to rearm?

Imposed democracy is oxymoronic. Defeat and occupation is part of the learning experience of any people, but it is their experience which makes the democracy, not any outside imposition.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/22/2006

In Turkey and Spain, it emerged indigenously. In Turkey, in particular, it emerged in part in opposition to Great Power meddling. In Spain there was international encouragement after the fact, but the key factor was a king Machiavelian enough when young to fool Franco and idealistic enough not to get drunk with power. He was certainly not the result of outside intervention.

In Italy, you have more of a case, but as in Japan and Germany, there was some previous experience however imperfect with representative government. I don't know enough about Greek history since independence from the Ottomans to agree or disagree with you there.

Likewise my understanding of Cyprus is incomplete, except that the conflict between Greece and Turkey has made for difficulties.

Bill Heuisler - 5/22/2006

Au contraire, mon ami, there's very little evidence of the failure of imposed democracy anywhere in modern times. It just hasn't been tried much. Where it has, it's worked. Look at Greece, Italy, Spain and even Turkey and Cyprus.

On the other hand, one could postulate the Russian experiment isn't doing very well, but on the fourth hand, no one is imposing it.
In any case Hay didn't bother with any of the "hands" in his essay.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/22/2006


You have a point. Dr. Hay should have mentioned them. However, his primary point stands. Democracy is very hard to export, and at best takes multiple generations. The Philippines and India are not exceptions to that.

Japan is something of an exception, but in Japan we had a cooperating emperor (not to mention a population shaken both from overwhelming defeat and from America's most concerted effort at trying to bomb a nation back into the stone age.)

In short, there is little evidence that exporting democracy can be successful without either a thoroughgoing occupation that lasts multiple generations or a thoroughgoing occupation that follows a prolonged crushing military defeat.

Bill Heuisler - 5/21/2006

Mr. Hay,
Rereading your seemingly thorough essay twice convinced me: either you missed convincing contrary evidence to the title and first sentence, or Japan, India and the Philippines are unworthy of mention as examples of whole, or partial, imposition of Parlimentary or bi-cameral democracy.
Bill Heuisler