Is too much democracy a hindrance?

By Nita Chicooree

The disillusionment with ultraliberal economic policies that western style democracy has advocated for the past decades may account for a leaning towards ‘de-ideologizing’ politics and questioning the forms of the democratic system that are exported as an absolute model to other countries, not only in former authoritarian régimes that are about to experience a newly-found freedom but also in the West.

Are we made to believe that due to the declining influence of western powers in the world economy the system that has imposed itself as the right model, due to the dominant status Europe and North America have held for decades, is being increasingly questioned?

More than a decade ago, a French university professor of American Studies commented that elections and voting had lost all meaning in the developed world, that they are just perpetuated as a democratic ritual. « Je ne vous apprends rien en vous disant que voter ne sert à rien de nos jours. » In the US, multipartyism virtually boils down to a two-party system with not much difference between them. European countries have been gradually losing sovereignty as key decisions that affect the lives of people in Munich, Strasbourg, Naples or Barcelona are being taken by technocrats in Brussels. Financial markets are dictating rules to governments elected by the people. In other post-colonial democracies, democracy has become ‘government by politicians for politicians.’ As things stand today, a monarchial system will hardly make a difference.

When all the rites of the democratic ritual are not performed according to democratic rules, as when elections are postponed, it has become part of the show to pretend that History is coming to an end. Bearing in mind that the fundamental principle is the welfare of the greatest number of people, we should honestly assess the relevance of the traditional forms of village and town elections. What does it matter to the common man that elections are postponed? How does it concretely affect his life? It is most unlikely that a great number of us subscribe to the idea that the electoral farce and the art of staying in power or laying hands on power for power’s sake is the only means to achieve progress and promote social justice.

Even in developed countries, the average voters are hardly able to assess all the long-term implications of policies that are proposed to them, and when they do oppose controversial policies, their opinion receives little consideration. Do elections really have any significance? A selected number of people from different professional backgrounds and high academic profile who have vast ground experience of the developmental potential of their respective regions and who are chosen for their integrity and dedication to national economic progress can be an alternative to political parties claiming an ‘ideological line’ when there is virtually no ideological divide. The question remains: how do we select those representatives?

Extreme capitalism has led to undemocratic situations which has created deep disparities between the haves and the have-nots while fleecing the middle class.

Yet, capitalism as a corollary of democracy has gained wide consensus mainly because by its very design it cannot claim certitude, notwithstanding the fact that too much freedom has hurt capitalism. What failed and will continue to fail are totalitarian models. It is believed that unlike the dogmas of Marx, capitalism can fail, falter and correct itself for the better.

Marxism is good at redistribution of wealth in the short term so that poor people may draw some benefits but it gives no incentives to create or produce; so, it fails in the long term and common poverty results. It has been tried in enough places and there is now enough empirical evidence to draw some broad conclusions. Conversely, as long as disparities exist, the yearning for justice will remain and any other ‘ism’ that supports that yearning is not an idea that can be wished away.

In immature democracies as in India, multipartyism is often about choosing between the devil and the deep-sea type of politicians. Especially where corporate greed has corrupted politics, economy and society. Less democracy would lead to faster economic progress, former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir said in a conference in Delhi two weeks ago. He cited East Asian countries like South Korea that became democratic after achieving prosperity. With such rampant corruption and looting going on in India for the last decade and the government being called ‘looti government’ within a democratic structure, one wonders what would have happened if India was not a democracy!

The former Malaysian PM is not a liberal in politics and he owes his political career to the petrodollars from Saudi Arabia that financed his campaign in the 80s. In the process, he sacrificed the country’s secular tradition for religious radicalism. Democracy is the best form of government but not the easiest way to govern, the former Malaysian PM observed. China is quoted as having made changes to its economic policies while retaining its political system. A BJP MP retorted that India looks towards development as a marathon not as a sprint.

Despite all the ghost towns that China keeps building to keep up the high rate of growth, the country will implode sooner or later. Resentment in various parts of the country over Han political, economic and cultural domination is just one of the reasons besides corruption and authoritarian rule.

What can be a hindrance to progress in India are the shortsighted, immature and regional-language oriented political leaders keeping their states backward in education and development. There is no doubt that a stronger Central government and less powerful provinces would help promote development. In smaller countries like Mauritius, one wonders about the relevance of applying the westminsterian model from A to Z, and all the fuss over village and municipal elections if it all ends up in inflating the number of ABCs (assizé béze casse), the term coined by TP Saran in MT.

Unfortunately for India, politics was converted into a family concern by the first PM, and till now dynastic politics has been masquerading as a democracy. The slavish mindset of formerly colonized people put up with worthless dynasts, partly foreign as if they were demi-gods — people who have never worked in their life and are allegedly amassing huge wealth in Swiss bank accounts. In comparison, the Chinese Communist Party is not headed by an Italian lady keeping the prime ministerial seat warm for her brainless son. The Chinese are too proud for that.

What is a hindrance to progress in India is its own deep-rooted social evil of castes and outcasts, a family ruling the roost and dictating terms to the government of India presiding over the destiny of more than a billion people. The other tragedy is the so-called ‘secular’ leftist corporate media in the English language parroting the ideological refuse of the west and striving to undermine the country’s national identity based on its unique civilization, Hindu humanism and Dharmic culture.

Whether in big or small countries, excess of democracy that leads to anarchic situations, useless 24/7 news channels and non-stop cheap entertainment programmes offered by a host of private media operators that numb people’s intelligence or propose warped discourses that hinder the process of nation-building are not what the average citizen aspires to. More than the forms of the democratic system and fading ideological lines, citizens aspire to efficient enlightened leadership with insight and foresight within a model that amalgamates the benefits of discussion with the authority of a legitimate power.

* Published in print edition on 16 December 2011

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