Monday, September 02, 2013

Democracy And The Modern World

The modern world really began with the end of the Victorian Age and WW I.  This signaled the end to the power of the nobility and the rise of the common man.  The aristocrats survived but they are nothing more than quaint anachronisms and are irrelevant today.  The end of WW I brought great social change across the Western world but it also signaled the rise of the Bolsheviks, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nazi’s, and even what became Communist China.  These all represent populist movements intended to right the wrongs of the past socially, politically, and economically.  The history of the twentieth century is littered with the enormous cost in human lives brought about by the failures of these movements.  But the echoes of these movements continue into the twenty first century and the social and economic problems which these movements meant to solve remain and are growing with the growth in population.

The globalization of markets made possible by technology and the speed of communications has spread global capitalism or at least the concept of individual worth  which has highlighted the unequal distribution of benefits and wealth that characterize capitalism.  In effect there are more rich people it the world today but there is also a larger and growing underclass of the working poor.  This isn’t as obvious in the developed western countries but it is very visible in the large cities in South America, Asia, and Africa.  This population of underpaid and frequently unemployed is a destabilizing influence and forms a ready source for radical terrorists, which is readily visible throughout the Middle East and Africa.  Throughout the twentieth century the poor were largely isolated geographically and technologically but that has changed in the twenty first century.

It is estimated that by 2010 thirty percent of the world’s population will have communication access through the internet and cell phones and that number will continue to grow.  This spread of technology will not and historically has not led to stability, but instead has been a destabilizing influence most recently demonstrated by the Islamic based violence around the world.  History shows that the invention of the printing press led to the religious reformation but also to the wars, controversies, and religious schisms that followed.  The current spread of information access is repeating this historical pattern.  We are witnessing the rise in violence triggered not by oppression but by the freedom of speech via communications not easily controlled by governments but readily available to the general population.

Policy makers – especially in the industrialized countries, are focused on bringing democracy to many of these countries currently under the thrall of dictators and religious zealots.  This policy of “democratization” is based on the assumption that this is a solution, but historically political freedom has unleashed the violence we are witnessing in Egypt and across the Middle East and North Africa.  These large populations of uneducated underpaid, and unemployed are unstable and as can be seen from the violence in these areas, easily manipulated by ethnic, religious, and power driven leaders.  The historic reality is that dictatorships can actually serve the people better than representative governments.  Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordon are examples how a dictator who truly acts in the interest of the people can be more effective than an unstable and unworkable representative government.  Sadat and Hussein could not have made peace with Israel without the dictatorial power they possessed.  The current policy of democratization of countries is unlikely to yield stable governments but more likely to contribute to rising violence.

Some believe that if Egypt and Syria made peace with Israel the violence in the Middle East would cease or at the very least decline to a manageable level.  This is a false hope that rests on the premise that Israel itself is the casus belli but if Israel were to vanish the problems and carnage would remain.  The root cause of the problems in the Middle East is not Israel but the power struggle between Islamic factions and Israel is merely an excuse.  None of the Islamic states cares about Palestine or the Palestinians because they have never been willing to accept them as immigrants.  Instead they use the conflict with Israel for their own political ends, which are religious, ethnic, and struggles for power.  Therefore, democratization of Islamic states is unlikely to stabilize them and the reality of this can already be seen in Egypt.  The Mubarak dictatorship was overthrown and a democratic government elected which immediately failed because the newly elected leaders moved immediately to install a religious dictatorship.  It is unlikely that a democracy is the solution in the Middle East and in Egypt a military backed dictatorship may be the best solution.


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