Democracy as a Universal Value’, Journal of Democracy, Volvo. 10, No. 3, up. 3-17. The idea of democracy as a universal commitment is quite new, and it is quintessentially a product of the twentieth century. The rebels who forced restraint on the king of England through the Magna Cart saw the need as an entirely local one. In contrast, the American fighters for independence and the revolutionaries in France contributed greatly to an understanding of the need for democracy as a general system.
Yet the focus of their practical demands remained quite local– nonfood, in effect, to the two sides of the North Atlantic, and founded on the special economic, social, and political history of the region. A country does not eave to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fit through democracy. This is indeed a momentous change, extending the potential reach of democracy to cover billions of people, with their varying histories and cultures and disparate levels of affluence.
This recognition of democracy as a universally relevant system, which moves in the direction of its acceptance as a universal value, is a major revolution in thinking, and en of the main contributions of the twentieth century. It is in this context that we have to examine the question of democracy as a universal value. It is often claimed that undemocratic systems are better at bringing about economic development. This belief sometimes goes by the name of “the Lee hypothesis,” due to its advocacy by Lee Khan Yew, the leader and former president of Singapore.
He is certainly right that some disciplinarian states (such as South Korea, his own Singapore, and postmortem China) have had faster rates of economic growth than many less authoritarian ones (including India, Jamaica, and Costa Rica). The “Lee hypothesis,” however, is based on sporadic empiricism, drawing on very selective and limited information, rather than on any general statistical testing over the wide- ranging data that are available. A general relation of this kind cannot be established on the basis of very selective evidence.
For example, we cannot really take the high economic growth of Singapore or China as “definitive proof” that authoritarianism does better in promoting economic growth, any more than we can draw the opposite conclusion from the fact that Botswana, the country with the best record becoming Roth in Africa, indeed with one of the finest records of economic growth in the whole world, has been an oasis of democracy on that continent over the decades. We need more systematic empirical studies to sort out the claims and counterclaims. What exactly is democracy?
We must not identify democracy with majority rule. Democracy has complex demands, which certainly [End Page 9] include voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion feely defective if they occur without the different sides getting an adequate opportunity to present their respective cases, or without the electorate enjoying the freedom to obtain news and to consider the views of the competing protagonists.
Democracy is a demanding system, and not Just a mechanical condition (like majority rule) taken in isolation. There is a plurality of virtues here, including, first, the intrinsic importance of political participation and freedom in human life; second, the instrumental importance of political incentives in keeping governments responsible and accountable; and third, he constructive role of democracy in the formation of values and in the understanding of needs, rights, and duties. . As democracy has spread, its adherents have grown, not shrunk.
Some who dispute the status of democracy as a universal value base their argument not on the absence of unanimity, but on the presence of regional contrasts. These alleged contrasts are sometimes related to the poverty of some nations. According to this argument, poor people are interested, and have reason to be interested, in bread, not in democracy. Disorientated argument is fallacious at two different bevels. First, as discussed above, the protective role of democracy may be particularly important for the poor. This obviously applies to potential famine victims who face starvation.
It also applies to the destitute thrown off the economic ladder in a financial crisis. People in economic need also need a political voice. Democracy is not a luxury that can await the arrival of general prosperity. Second, there is very little evidence that poor people, given the choice, prefer to reject democracy. It is thus of some interest to note that when an erstwhile Indian overspent in the mid-asses tried out a similar argument to Justify the alleged “emergency” (and the suppression of various political and civil rights) that it had declared, an election was called that divided the voters precisely on this issue.
In that fateful election, fought largely on this one overriding theme, the suppression of basic political and civil rights was firmly rejected, and the Indian electorate–one of the poorest in the world–showed itself to be no less keen on protesting against the denial of basic liberties and rights than on complaining about economic deprivation. Asian values. It has been claimed that Asians traditionally value discipline, not political freedom, and thus the attitude to democracy must inevitably be much more skeptical in these countries.
Indeed, Confucius provides a clear pointer to the fact that the two pillars of the imagined edifice of Asian values, loyalty to family and obedience to the state, can be in severe conflict with each other. Many advocates of the power of “Asian values” see the role of the state as an extension of the role of the family, but as Confucius noted, One has only to reflect on the writings of Plato or Aquinas to see that devotion to spelling is not a special Asian taste.
To dismiss the plausibility of democracy as a universal value because of the presence of some Asian writings on discipline and order would be similar to rejecting the plausibility of democracy as a natural form of government in Europe or America today on the basis of the writings of Plato or Aquinas. Samuel Huntington thesis on the clash of civilizations, where the heterogeneity’s within each culture get quite inadequate recognition – “a sense of individualism and a tradition of rights and liberties” can be found in the West that are “unique among civilized societies. ”