The Necessity of Democracy

This essay on democracy is written in continuance of the chain of thoughts that triggered last week’s essay. Please read the previous week’s essay: The Necessity of Constitution first if you haven’t already.

Democracy – most people love it; some despise it while all are intrigued by it. It is arguably the most commonly referred-to political phenomenon in human history. The idea of democracy is pervasive throughout the recorded intellectual discourse on organised society since Greek antiquity.

Our obsession with democracy comes at a very high human cost. Millions of people have died in the name of democracy. And yet, there is no agreed single interpretation of the concept. Other than religion, there is no other construct which has caused so many to lose their lives. And yet, ironically, it combines the glossy ideas of freedom of expression, human rights, rule of law and individual liberty.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2010 Democra...
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2010 Democracy Index map: lighter colours represent more democracy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In simple modern terms, democracy means rule by the ruled; a government chosen by those who are governed. It grants equality to every member of the society to choose its representative in the government. The chosen majority then forms the government and rules for a specified period of time. It has many variants from constitutional monarchy to anarchism. Sometimes it is even hard to remember the many merits, pitfalls and points of differences of each, for I have a very slow mind.

The popular western rhetoric presents democracy as the only valid construct of a good life. But, thankfully, the west cannot bomb everyone without destroying themselves too in the process so everyone doesn’t agree. This criticism of democracy is spread over a wide range of philosophical, economic, social, and political as well as governance related gaps in democratic systems.

Several minds, great and mediocre, have long argued in favour of democracy. But, no one has reflected more than Pakistanis on whether democracy is actually necessary at all. This, singularly, is one area where Pakistanis have outshone and outclassed all their bigoted detractors. Our progress in advancing the ideas of Henry de Bracton, from the medieval age, is truly unparalleled. We call it the “doctrine of necessity”.

One of the often quoted arguments against democracy is the fact that an average voter is not knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision. The voter simply doesn’t have access to the required information about the many challenges his society is facing and the venues available at disposal to address those challenges. Bryan Caplan points out, on top of this lack of complete information, that the voter interprets the available information quite irrationally. Winston Churchill once very rightly said:

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, American president during the World War II, believed that the best safeguard of democracy is education. It is commonly opined that an educated population is a must for a successful democracy to function.

English: From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Fr...
English: From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the portico of the Russian Embassy during the Tehran Conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are only a few nations whose citizenry is more irrational or uneducated than ours. What are more dangerous are the inherent divisive tendencies of a democratic society. People are free to say what they like and protest when they like. They band together in groups, unions and parties. This is clearly not healthy for national solidarity while freedoms to express and protest are too disruptive for national life. What is worse is that our people, especially the youth, are too abusive and disrespectful when they are able to say what they like. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Identity crisis comes as a given in democracy. Every citizen, voters of all sizes and shapes, worry too much about what identity they associate with. There are religious and sectarian identities as well as ethnic, racial and linguistic. They cannot be permitted to have a go at each other’s throats on these fault lines. We are too diverse to allow that. This can prove catastrophic for the Federation. Blimey, look at the Middle East for once!

John Adams, the second American president, was probably talking about Pakistan centuries ago when he said:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

It is this self-harming and suicidal tendency of democracy which makes it completely unnecessary more than its philosophical fallacies or practical failures. And it is probably because of John Adams’ wise pronouncement that those who safeguard the “national interest” must act proactively and nip the evil in the bud. It saves a lot of precious national time and resources. It also saves our God-given motherland from dangerous politicians.

In a world of necessity, as philosophers logically argue, nothing happens because of chance. It happens because it was necessitated. All those Pakistani regimes that fell, the democratic enterprise that failed, did not do so on their own accord. It happened because it was necessitated and it could not be left to chance. Someone had to rise to the occasion, and the tiny minds of this horde of a nation cannot be trusted. The guardians of the “national interest” find it absolutely necessary to act.

Therefore, it can be safely concluded that democracy is completely unnecessary and no more national time should be wasted to deliver this still-born child. It would save everyone involved a lot more trouble if democracy is eliminated permanently.

There are examples of states that are not democratic but have defied all western logic in their complete economic turnaround such as China. What people care more about are safety, stability and economic elevation. The right to choose a ruler is not at the heart of their problems; especially when this right to choose is merely a façade and the actual decisions are made elsewhere.

photo credit: Abode of Chaos Benazir Bhutto, painted portrait _DDC6157.JPG via photopin (license)