If we have a look at countries other than the US, we may find that democracy is not a criterion for progress and peace. A quick comparison of the status of democracy in some countries will help.
Cuba is not a democracy. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than forty years, it has, however, achieved first world health and education standards in a Third World country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivaling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain. Compare it with next-door, US-backed “democracy” of Haiti, where half the population is unable to read and infant mortality is over 10 times higher. Those, too, are human rights, recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention.
Despite the catastrophic withdrawal of Soviet support more than a decade ago and the social damage wrought by dollarization and mass tourism, Cuba has developed biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries acknowledged by the US to be the most advanced in Latin America. Meanwhile, it has sent 50,000 doctors to work for free in 93 Third World countries (currently there are 1,000 working in Venezuela’s slums) and given a free university education to 1,000 third world students a year. How much of that would survive a takeover by the Miami-backed opposition?
Look at what happened in Russia in 2000. Vladimir Putin’s electoral victory there exposes what incomplete, vulnerable democracy really looks like in the 21st century. That is, Mr. Putin’s victory illustrates the dangers of mistaking the expression of majority will through a free ballot as full democracy.
A closer look reveals that the changes, which first took place in former communist societies, were ideological and not connected with real social structure. Based on patience and tolerance alone, these changes did not consider active participation of society. The people passively observed the transformation carried out through a “revolution from above.” Now it is true that the West constructed new institutions and new mechanisms in Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union. However, if we look deeper, we see that these institutions and mechanisms are, in fact, a kind of window dressing because the real process of decision-making takes place not within the legitimate institutions “within the government, the Parliament, or the presidential office” but in an indirect way, through “sweet deals.” Therefore, what we have is the phenomena of “shadow politics” and “shadow economics,” which are very interesting, but far from the typical model of liberal democracy.
This is not just a problem with the former Soviet Republics alone. Incomplete democracy has proliferated across the globe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War, as it did after the colonial era. Autocrats from Uganda to Uzbekistan, who surrender little real power to their citizens, have adopted in token form, elections and other external trapping of the political system that has taken root firmly, with significant variations, in the United States, Western Europe and elsewhere.
Take the example of Tunisia and its neighbor Algeria: one is peaceful without democracy; the other is reaping fruits of a one-time experiment. This will help us understand the point of Islamic doctrine that individuals, family and community development and consolidation come first and government follows. Later parts of the book cover the Islamic philosophy of governance in detail.
Let us take the example of Afghanistan. Why will this fragile tribal society remain unfit for US encouraged versions of democracy? Why could the United States’ close to two years direct presence not address the security vacuum and the issue of broad-based government? If the Taliban were blinded by Islamic tyranny, why could the US not institutionalize pluralism with its experience and expertise to restore at least as much peace, law and order as was there during the Taliban era? Why do most Afghans now believe that the Taliban reign was far better than any kind of government they have experienced in many, many years?
Not any “Muslim fundamentalist” organization, but the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI), an independent institute based in Jerusalem, believes that democracy in Israel is a faÃ§ade to cover apartheid policies. The recently published findings about the democracy index in Israel indicate a tendency toward the “Apartheid” policy. Israel is at the bottom of the list in terms of stability and social cohesion, mainly because of the rift between the different social blocs and because of the governments’ turnover in the past few years. Only India ranked below Israel in terms of stability and social cohesion.
In Bosnia, democracy legitimized the worst war crimes in Europe since the Nazi era. In Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Congo-Brazzaville, democracy has weakened institutions and services, and manipulated elections simply restored and legitimized dictatorships. In Mali, which is considered a democratic success story, elections -” with less than 20 percent voter turnout -” were marred by killings and riots. The opposition thought it worth staying home and opting for a total boycott. Even in Latin America, the Third World’s most successful venue for democracy, the record is murky due to interventions by the champion of democracy.
Venezuela enjoyed elected civilian governments since 1959 till the US intervened lately and messed up the political environment. President George W. Bush’s administration says it never backed a coup in Venezuela, but senior US officials met several times with leading opponents of President Hugo ChÃ¡vez FrÃas and agreed to remove him. A former Navy official says the United States provided logistical support the attempted ouster.
For most of the 1970s and 1980s, Chile was effectively under military rule. CIA acknowledges its ties to the military junta and Pinochet’s Repression.7 Again, analysts consider Chile as a stable middle-class society simply because of its economic growth. Then there is Peru, where, all faults of the present regime notwithstanding, a retreat from democracy into quasi-authoritarianism helped bring a measure of stability. Democratic Colombia is a pageant of bloodletting only due to US interventions in its internal affairs and military assistance to one faction against the other under the banner of war on drugs, which benefits only US agencies.
In Brazil and other countries democracy faces a backlash from millions of poorly educated and newly urbanized dwellers in teeming slums, who see few palpable benefits to Western parliamentary systems. Their discontent is a reason for the multi-fold increases in crime in many Latin American cities over the past decade. Despite pumping millions of dollars from international financial institutions, Russia remains violent, unstable, and miserably poor despite its 99 percent literacy rate. To the contrary, under its authoritarian system China has dramatically improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people. It does not mean that authoritarianism is better. The question is, of what use is cosmetic democracy that cannot do as better as an authoritarian government.
More importantly, the champions of democracy ignore to tell reality behind the Rwandan genocide. Of course, the sine qua non of the Rwandan genocide was the increasing imbalance in land, food, and people that led to malnutrition, hunger, periodic famine, and fierce competition for land to farm. It is true that Rwanda’s leaders chose to respond to these conditions by eliminating the Tutsi portion of the population as well as their Hutu political rivals. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that one of the main factors in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis was the parliamentary system the West had prematurely promoted.
Responding to pressure from Western governments, the Rwandan regime established a multi-party system in 1992 and transformed itself into a coalition government. The new political parties became masks for ethnic groups that organized murderous militias, and the coalition nature of the new government helped to prepare the context for the events that led to the genocide two years later. Evil individuals were certainly responsible for mass murder, but they operated within a fatally flawed system. Again, the question is, of what use is a system that makes a people leave their centuries’ old traditions and bring genocide upon them before they could reap fruits of the imposed system.
Particularly in Muslim countries, democracy has never been the objective of the establishments in Washington or London, nor do Muslims reap any benefit from democracy. When referring to autocratic Muslim leaders, Western analysts hold few complements than “moderate” and “Western oriented.” The objective is rarely to attack lack of political values such as democracy, human rights or pluralism unless Washington needs to demonize a particular leader. The death of King Hassan II of Morocco is a good example. The US government eulogised and press hauled the late monarch for his long service as a reliable client of Western diplomacy, with little note of his autocratic, corrupt and bloody rule. In an editorial, the Washington Post hailed the deceased monarch as “a figure who earned a reputation far beyond his region for moderation and reason.”
The same day, the French newspaper Le Monde detailed Hassan’s accumulated fortune, estimated at $1.6 billion. The king owned more than 20 palaces and villas scattered around Morocco, real-estate holdings in the United States and Europe, bulging stock portfolios and offshore bank accounts, many placed in the names of trusted advisers. Reportedly, Hassan’s wealth also derived from the transit of cocaine through Morocco and from the sale of cannabis. All this happened at a time when a quarter of its population (more than 7 million people) lived below the poverty line: 23% of the economically active population were unemployed; more than half the inhabitants were still illiterate. On top of this, there is a substantial foreign debt ($22 billion), representing 39% of GDP and consuming more than 25% of the country’s export income. The same pattern is repeated country after country. It shows how democracy is irrelevant for its champions in places where their interests under kings and dictators are not at stake.
In short, throughout the so-called democracies there is anxiety that the wave of democratization will remain weak until enlargement of the shrinking middle classes and modernization of obsolete institutions. Corruption, exploitation and unemployment are high. Every passing day is raising more questions about democracy’s sustainability -” questions that the Desert Storm seemed to have laid to rest in 1991.
Without a serious assessment of the weaknesses of democracy in the US and elsewhere, it is out to democratize the whole world, the Muslim part of it in particular. It is not to conclude that dictatorship is good and democracy is bad. It is that it is neither feasible nor final that democracy is the ultimate form of governing mechanism. Of course, the ideals of democracy still hold. However, as far as its implementation, look at Haiti, a small country only ninety minutes by air from Miami, where 22,000 American soldiers were dispatched in 1994 to restore “democracy.” Five percent of eligible Haitian voters participated in an election in April 1997 -” chronic instability continues, and famine threatens. Those who think that America can establish democracy the world over need both to look at the status of democracy around the world, and the scope of the task the US claims to have shouldered.
The journey of democracy so far shows that it evolved not through the kind of moral fiat the US is trying to impose throughout the world but as an organic outgrowth of development. The objective of democracy was not to achieve a higher purpose in individual and collective life. It simply evolved as a response to the problem of tyranny and anarchy. The aristocracy in Europe had reached its limits of complexity and it could not handle it any further without giving the public a feeling of equality and participation in the governing mechanism.
The champions of democracy retreat to the argument of good and evil, as well as authoritarianism and freedom, to justify democracy. For many around the world, particularly the victims of US aggression and fake democracies that thrive under US auspices, such arguments supporting democracy are just not there. In other words, in a secular society with no checks on animal instincts -” but lots of regulations on genuine liberty and no consolidated family and community structures -” handing power to a minority elite merely hardens and institutionalizes established prejudiced positions. The situation gets worse when outside forces intervene and support one or another group. Look at Azerbaijan, where external forces supported a coup only to give a foothold to Western oil companies. To many, this may sound an argument against Western interventions, not against the corrupted democracy. The fact remains that democracy is going to be the base of all future interventions. There is thus a need to show that keeping the contemporary democracy’s killer principles (chapter 6) and its beneficiaries (chapter 3) in mind, one can safely conclude that the price in the form of thousands of innocent lives is not worth the so-called democracy.
Occupations will never lead to democracy. Similarly, installing puppets, such as Karzai, and holding elections do not lead to viable governing mechanism. States put together by geography, settlement patterns, and ethnic cleansing are not what is required for peaceful and productive co-existence of human beings. Israel is both a democracy and State founded with the help of force and terrorism, and sustained through incessant ethnic cleansing. It exists as a democracy partly because the US injects unprecedented amounts of funds for keeping its economy and military hardware updated and partly because the world legitimizes its occupation and ethnic cleansing in the form of refugee transfers. Minus these supporting factors, there may be neither Israel nor democracy.
The point is that neither State nor democracy is the end of human existence. Supporting an idea or a system that does not serve the ultimate objective of human existence is of no use, no matter how long it may survive. With the strings of secularism attached, liberal democracy does not allow human beings to achieve the ultimate objective of their existence. Democracy has failed because it neither forms States nor strengthens them initially. Although multi-party systems suit those nations that already have efficient bureaucracies and a middle class that pays income tax -” where primary issues such as borders and power sharing have already been resolved. Still leaving politicians free to bicker just about budget and other matters do not lead to addressing the basic requirements of human nature: a just social and economic order.
Social stability does not result from the establishment of a middle class, as argued by many specialists in democratization. It comes from accepting permanent norms, rejected as “misinterpretation of the medieval texts.” Even if the Middle class theory is accepted, democracies do not create middle classes. It is authoritarian systems, including monarchies, which create middle classes. In an effort to develop this class for its support, democracies naturally have to bend themselves towards authoritarianism.11 Over-simplification has led many of us to believe that people have a choice between dictators and democrats, secularism and religion. However, the reality is not as simple as that.
Imposing democracy without giving due heed to the requirements of human nature and existence of social, religious and political setup in the target communities since centuries, is a recipe for disaster. Actually, the very institutional base that is required to run a democracy is hard to establish without incorporating the human development factor for consolidating each individual component of these institutions. Modern bureaucracies generally require high literacy rates over several generations and most governments remain composed of corrupt, bickering, ineffectual politicians due to avoiding the basic factors that only Islam can address.
Without clarifying the higher purpose of human existence and the role of a governing mechanism to achieve it in the minds of a majority of the population, even the basic premise of democracy -” free and fair elections -” will remain the US and its allies’ worst nightmare. We have to move far ahead of human rights and focus on human obligation as human beings have to go far beyond Mr. Bush’s definition of good and evil to enjoy the positive aspects of democracy.
Larry Diamond, who is Co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, Co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies, and Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, rightly concludes that one of the “greatest danger to democracy’s future is the blithe assumption that it will continue for want of any coherent ideological alternative.”12 Tangled in the web of communism, socialism, capitalism and democracy, Muslims could not put their act together. They could not realize that none of these systems addresses the real individual and collective needs. However, times have changed. Of course, democracy has survived in many countries because of its presentation in a better way and some good features to address certain human needs. Furthermore, a powerful international pressure fully supported it in the post Cold War period. However, despite wars and occupations in the name of democracy, there are no signs of real enthusiasm for the promotion of democracy on the part of international actors like the World Bank and powerful countries like France and even the United States.
If ruling or aspiring elites feel the world will abide by their authoritarian alternatives in the garb of democracy, they are not likely to look for some normative or ideological justification of it if democracy is widely seen to be malfunctioning, decadent, corrupt, inept, abusive, and contemptuous of the real concerns and interests of ordinary citizens. These are the classic conditions for democratic breakdown -” a real possibility in the coming years.
To many it might be a joke, but we must not forget that the swing of pendulum towards democracy following the Cold War -” despite its apparent triumph for liberal philosophy -” will definitely come to rest where it belongs, in the middle, to the real core of Islam: between the tyranny of democracy and the realities of all the past empires. Like the previous governing system, based on human rationalism, logic and reason alone, democracy, too, has leaned too far in one direction. Fundamental realignment or disaster is inevitable. It is now beyond the power of its proponents to hide the exposed limits of their worldwide liberal, humanist enterprise.
Why Democracy Failed?
Democracy stands only when men are principled enough to make it stand. Again, the questions come to individual responsibilities, morality and strength of character that can never come with the exclusion of religious norms.
In contemporary democracies, politicians debate issues that are essentially meaningless, eschewing dialog about issues that concern voters; and the public let them get away not only with it but their lies (remember Bush Junior) and even their debased moral characters (remember Clinton). Thus, one of the biggest failures of democracy is that people with double digit IQs are not voting because they can see through the farce of elections and incompetence of its institutions.
Jaffrey Simpson wrote in the Globe and Mail about the Canadian democracy’s ineffectiveness in the sense of Parliament handing over main issues for decisions to court. Questioning the credibility of Parliament, he titled his article: “Why don’t we just turn policy over to courts?” Parliament, he argues, “is increasingly an institution of secondary importance, while the Supreme Court and the provincial superior courts have become those of primary importance. Canada should therefore stop living the fiction that the courts check Parliament and recognize in democratic practice that the courts rule in wide areas of public policy.” Simpson finally suggests that keeping Parliament’s “waste of time and grappling with issues” in mind, the political system should bring in unelected “courts fully into the political process-¦by letting them decide much earlier what should or should not be done in public policy.”
After watching the result of debate and vote on same-sex marriage, Simpson again titled his column, “Irrelevancy is Parliament’s fate,” in Globe and Mail, September 17, 2003. What else could be failure of democracy when a leading analyst in a leading daily says about the proceedings in the country’s Parliament: “A ‘free’ vote occured…in the House of Commons, but the vote was not entirely free. A debate unfolded, but it dod not change opinions. A vote took place, but the outcome did not matter. The political system did what it was supposed to do, but its efforts were irrelevant. Irrelevant because irrelevancy is parliament’s fate in the Age [when] the courts define and decide an issue. The political system can thrash about. It can struggle with issues. It can search for compromises. It is all for naught.” What may one expect from democracy when the most honored institution of a representative system becomes ineffective and irrelevant, and legislation goes into the hands of courts. What is the use of use of democracy, representation and the will of the people when no one is in a position to challenge the standards set by the courts, realizing well that “after all the courts are not infallible” (TSVI Kahana, Globe and Mail, September 19, 2003, p. A11).
This is happening in a country where Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows the federal Parliament or any provincial legislature to make laws “notwithstanding” provisions. This clause empowers legislators to stay a court ruling for five years. However, according to Kahana, “politicians could never use this notwithstanding clause to override the Supreme Court…no matter how strongly they feel.” Simpson argues in his September 17, 2003 column that keeping priorities of politicians and their not daring to take a bold position in mind “the irrelevancy of Parliament could not be more evident in the face of determind judges.” The leftover democracy will become irrelevant by default when its leading institutions become irrelevant. Imagine countries where there is no protection available in the form of “notwithstanding clause.”
Furthermore, the ineffectiveness of democratic process and “the majority is right principle” in dealing sensitive moral and social issues in the absence of permanent norms is clearly evident. One more vote is enough to make anything legal -” same sex marriage today, incest tomorrow. With no permanet norms and in the absence of human development programs, schools under prevailing democracies have become indoctrination centers for a corrupt ideology, crass materialism, Darwinian secularism and sexual life in a way which is still considered uncivilized in most societies. Imagine the quality of leadership in a society, which teaches its children that it is un-constitutional for them to pray at sporting events, while they have the rights to sexual perversion and promiscuity. The same kids when grown up preside over the destruction of culture, attack religion, promote the murder of millions of unborn babies and wage wars against foreign countries.
Human beings need justice and human societies and governance mechanism can never survive without justice and balance in all aspects of their operation. The most familiar part of the US Constitution is the preamble, in which the first value mentioned is the establishment of Justice.14 The preamble appears on postage stamps and presented everywhere as evidence of a “democratic” beginning. “Ordaining” and “establishing,” the Constitution for the last 200 years could not provide the world an opportunity to see a ray of hope in the form of a just act by the most established democracy. We must not forget to assess the strength of lofty democratic principles from the fact that the enslavement of human beings continued for seventy-six years after the signing of the US Constitution. It shows that human life and governance needs something more than mere lofty ideals without any will for implementation.
In 1798, the Sedition Act was passed which made it a crime in the US to “write, print, utter or publish…any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States or the President…with intent…to bring them…into contempt or disrepute.” A court slapped a mechanic with eighteen months in prison and a $400 fine for his writing: “Here is the 1,000 out of 5,000,000 that receive all the benefit of public property and all the rest no share in it. Indeed all our administration is as fast approaching to the Lords and Commons as possible – that a few men should possess the whole Country and the rest be tenants to the others…[the few have] invented every means…to destroy the laboring part of the Community…”
Middle East monarchies or select dictatorships are not the only regimes associated with political repression. The reality is that even in the US, political repression has been constant and widespread. The depth and persistence of political repression in the United States, in light of Americans’ self-understanding as a free and innocent people, is, in a word, shocking. The Taliban were condemned for silencing voices of the opposition. American society is conditioned to the extent that embedded journalism and self-censorship is openly observed due to fear of the government. According to Robert Justin Goldstein, “Political repression contributed significantly to the failure of the labor movement as a whole to achieve major power until the 1930s, the destruction of radical labor movements, the destruction of radical political movements, and the continuing self-censorship which Americans have imposed upon their own exercise of basic political freedoms.” It has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that “repression and threats of repression remain important guarantors of elite rule and governmental power” in the United States.
The problem is that we get lost in the growing calls and even wars for establishing democracy. The US and its allies present it as the only solution to all problems. The rest of the world, which does not agree, is an “enemy” of American democracy and freedom. A deeper look suggests that almost all systems of the leading promoters of democracy maintain disparity and injustice. Jerry Fresia observes: “Historian Arthur Lovejoy concludes that the intention of the Framers in adding a senate to the legislative branch was to ensure that ‘the poor’ could never get a law passed which would be unfavorable to the economic interests of ‘the rich.'”19 This leads us to the roots that fed injustice into the prevailing democratic systems. Have a look at the following statement of Madison, the Father of the American Constitution:
The landed interest, at present, is prevalent, but in process of time…when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small…will not the landed interests be overbalanced in future elections? And, unless wisely provided against, what will become of our government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.
As Veron Parrington states, the “revolutionary conception of equalitarianism, that asserted the rights of man apart from property and superior to property, did not enter into their [the elite framers of the American constitution] thinking…”20 This was simply because in the fall of 1774, the members of the Congress were selected from the “ablest and wealthiest men in America.” John Jay, who would later become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was chosen as President. He believed that the upper classes “were the better kind of people, by which I mean the people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their situation and not uneasy in their circumstances.” His theory of government was simple: “The people who own the country ought to govern it.”
By 1776, according to Jackson Main, 10 percent of the white population – large landholders and merchants – owned nearly half the wealth of the country and held as slaves one-seventh of the country’s people. As Howard Zinn correctly points out, the Framers were a “rising class of important people” who “needed to enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat England, without disturbing too much the relations of wealth and power that had developed over 150 years of colonial history.” Unlike the situation in Pennsylvania, efforts of common people to build popular governments in most of the other states were defeated. In Massachusetts, for example, the new Constitutions of 1776 to 1780 increased rather than decreased property qualifications for voting. In Maryland, 90 percent of the population was excluded from holding office because of property qualifications.
According to John Miller, the framers of US Constitutions “had no wish to usher in democracy in the United States. They were not making war upon the principle of aristocracy and they had no more intention than had the Tories of destroying the tradition of upper-class leadership in the colonies. Although they hoped to turn the Tories out of office, they did not propose to open these lush pastures to the common herd. They did believe, however, that the common people, if properly bridled and reined, might be made allies in the work of freeing the colonies from British rule and that they -” the gentry -” might reap the benefits without interference. They expected, in other words, to achieve a ‘safe and sane’ revolution of gentlemen, by gentlemen, and for gentlemen.”
Many still have the lingering sense that democracy means ‘rule by the people’ – in other words, people participate in the decisions that affect them most closely. If this is the central criterion of a democracy, we are a long way from it now. This sense of a failed promise to achieve a democratic life is perhaps the underlying reason for the groundswell of discontent. The system of centralized state power seems increasingly remote from most people’s lives and it becomes difficult to believe that politicians (no matter what their views) concerned with the macro-management of society and economy have any real interest in what is important to us.
This problem is not limited to US and Europe alone. Almost everywhere the kind of people who have already accumulated a high level of economic and social power are usually over-represented in the political class under the democratic system. Lawyers and those from the corporate boardroom in the West and industrialists, property owners and families already in politics tend to predominate. Former bureaucrats and military officials are not far behind.
Many Western analysts, such as Samuel P. Huntington, are realising that democracy is going through what they call “governability crisis.” Despite too much authoritarianism, champions of democracy are not happy with the little check and balances on their working. That is why Huntington’s research (funded by the elite Trilateral Commission) advanced the notion that the system of government was being ‘overloaded’ with unrealistic popular demands. In other words, too much democracy and ways out needed to protect the elite political class, to insulate them from popular pressure. “Otherwise how could they make those tough unpopular decisions that were necessary to maintain stability and prosperity?”
It is interesting to note that Muslims have been engaged in discussions about compatibility of democracy with Islam and presentations over Islam and the challenge of democracy. The reality however is that serious analysts are questioning democracy’s compatibility with free markets and capitalism, which are presently running the show of democracy for their interests. Studies have concluded that capitalist institutions such as the major private banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Bank and so on, are actually limiting democratic possibilities through public debt held by nearly all nation-states.
The undemocratic policies of these institutions need enforcement by the use of police-state tactics. These institutions need persons such as Moin Qureshi and General Musharraf in Pakistan to impose cutbacks, price increases and currency devaluations. There may not be some apparent contemporary example of how democracy and the ‘free’ market are fundamentally incompatible, but the ways in which capitalist financial institutions rush to support and finance dictators show their willingness to prefer autocrats to democratically elected governments. This leads to grave injustice, one of the main flip sides of democracy, in the form of income concentration favoring a few and deteriorating quality of life for the vast majority of citizens.
Findings of economists, such as Irma Adelman and Cynthia Morris, suggest “no automatic or even likely trickling down of the benefits of economic growth to the poorest segments of society.” A 1982 United Nations study reached the same conclusion: Although multinational corporate investment sometimes contributes to high rates of growth in “host” countries, the benefits flow “to domestic elites associated with foreign interests” and “basic needs of the population such as food, health, education, and housing” are ignored.
All development activities face the same problem. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) theme for the year 2001 for Human Development Report (HDR) was “Deepening democracy in a fragmented world.” Sakiko Fukuda Parr, chief author of the Report, acknowledges, “Around the world, there is a growing sense that democracy has not delivered development such as more jobs, schools, and health care for ordinary people.” She said, “Democracies all over the world are in trouble.” According to the UNDP report even in fully functioning democracies, “citizens often feel powerless to influence national policies.”
The majority often feels powerless because most of the time, it is repeat appearance of the same faces at the top. Whether it is the “established” democracy of the US or fledgling democracy in places such as Pakistan, all resources and systems revolve around serving and protecting the interests of the elite. Members of national or provincial assemblies are able to use the formidable resources at their command to help them win re-election campaigns. “We the people” have no place and no voice in a system in which more than 90 percent of incumbent (US representatives) who sought re-election have won. In 1986 and 1988, 98 percent who sought re-election won.
The more the system matures the more it arms the elite with a variety of tools that allows them to publicize their names and maintain favorable images. In the developing world, the tools mostly used for securing re-election are economic incentives, undue favors to particular groups, a few development projects in their respective constituencies, and peer or social pressure. In the developed world, government resources are misused to achieve the same objective. In the two months before the November 1988 US congressional elections, for example, members sent 60 million newsletters to constituents. Congressional recording studios permit members to send live or taped audiovisual messages to their constituents via local television and radio stations. In both instances, these resources make it possible for individual representatives to claim credit and take personal responsibility for government actions desired by constituents.
In other words, the democratic system, as we are experiencing today, are promoting deceptions. In the world outside politics, heavy penalties, including imprisonment, apply to people who seek gain by misrepresenting themselves, their products or services to the public. The politicians who pass laws on such matters clearly take a dim view of false or deceptive advertising – except when it is their turn to suffer. The Age (Australia) reported: “political parties are now allowed to lie about each other in TV ads” because the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) decided, on legal advice, to stop vetting such advertising for truth. The decision attracted little comment, perhaps because many voters are resigned to the reality that politicians lie anyway. The reason FACTS gave -” “Parliament has made it clear that they don’t believe it’s appropriate for anyone to regulate this” -” is regrettable but accurate. A report this year by the Finance and Public Administration Committee said as much. As a result, parties no longer have to substantiate any claims aired in advertisements and aggrieved parties or voters have lost an avenue of appeal against unfair or untruthful advertising.
The people have no say, no authority and no way to address the problem. They can only protest, in an unsatisfactorily general way, at the ballot box. The world also witnessed the value of their protest and power of the ballot box. If the public threw out Bush Senior for his policies, it made little difference because 10 years later he reincarnated in the form of Bush Junior. This time all the protests to prevent him from killing more and more innocents went in vain. However, these personalities are not the problem; these are symptoms of the problem with the kind of governing mechanism presented to the world as the ultimate product of human experience.
Bush or Blair did not change the conduct of war. Instead, analysts describe democracy as a force behind the radical changes in the conduct of war. Professor Hoppe of the Mises Institute believes that both kings and presidents can externalize the costs of their own aggression onto others (via taxes). Therefore, both kings and presidents will be more than ‘normally’ aggressive and warlike. However, a king’s motive for war is typically an ownership-inheritance dispute. The objective of his war is tangible and territorial: to gain control over some piece of real estate and its inhabitants.
Democracy, on the other hand has transformed the limited wars of kings into total wars. The motive for war has become ideological -” democracy, liberty, civilization, humanity. The objectives are intangible and elusive: the ideological “conversion” of the losers, preceded by their “unconditional” surrender. Since one can never be certain about the sincerity of conversion, the victor may require such means as the mass murder of civilians. In addition, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants becomes fuzzy and ultimately disappears under democracy, and mass war involvement -” the draft and popular war rallies -” as well as “collateral damage” become part of war strategy.
These are views of serious thinkers, which are hard to brush aside as views of “Islamic extremists” or “fundamentalists” because they hate Western freedoms. The public at large has also started realizing the pitfall of democracy but it will take some time for the mass realization that we have fooled ourselves for far too long. In this regard, prime time media is at the service of democracy, which lets us tolerate the madness fed to us on a daily basis: Ditching the United Nations and international treaties is good. Attacking and occupying other nations without evidence is good. Lying is good. Do not criticize; US is at war with evil. America: love it or leave it. “Mission Accomplished”. “Either you are with us or against us.” It is not about oil. There is no need for a commission on 9/11 – trust US Hussein was a threat to the United States. You are safer now with Tom Ridge in charge. There are opposition parties. The presidents’ speeches and rallies are spontaneous. Without the US military, there would be no freedom. Freedom means the ability to buy and sell. Guantanamo Bay is not a death camp. The War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism are successful.
The majority is listening and believing -” that “the majority rules” is the democratic way. However, what if the majority is wrong? There is nothing new about that. Nobody is so naÃ¯ve as to believe that the majority is always right. Since the very beginning, minds have been wrestling to balance the concept of majority rule with the demands of justice. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released November 28 2001, reported that nearly six out of ten Americans agreed that secret military courts should try terrorist suspects and that seven in ten believed that the government was doing enough to protect the civil rights of suspected terrorists, of Arab- and Muslim-Americans and of non-citizens from Islamic countries.
Similarly, a poll by CBS and the New York Times taken just before the war on Iraq began, showed that 45percent of the American people believed Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in the attacks of September 11. A previous poll taken by Princeton Survey Research Associates showed that 50precent of the American people believed that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis.30 The highest figure was 75 percent Americans who approved the way Bush was dealing Iraq in late April 2003. In late June, more than six in 10 said Bush’s decision to go to war was justified even if the United States does not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Even worse is yet to come. Most Americans happily approved the use of force when Bush declared in mid June 2003 that the United States “will not tolerate” nuclear weapons in Iran. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, by 56 percent to 38 percent, the public endorsed the use of the military to block Iran from developing nuclear arms.
In a country with a news media that can provide data in an unrelenting stream 24 hours a day, millions of people, both Americans and non-Americans believed in a connection that was completely false. These poll numbers should not surprise anybody for several reasons. First, most Americans are getting their news from the prime time as discussed earlier. All the so-called mainstream media sources are biased towards the sitting administration and its corporate agenda; even if there is a discussion about civil liberties, it has been preceded with a message of “Trust the President, he’s doing the right thing” that spills over into the discussion. The approval of such measures is inconsistent with the concepts of justice in a free and open society, even in times of war. That a majority supports it today, under the influence of multiple factors, still does not make it right. (See Hitler and the German People).
In his famous essay, Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau (1817 -1862)32 wrote of the issue of obedience to the law that he considered unjust, even if the government that legislate it has a democratic mandate by the rule of the majority. For Thoreau, his conscience still held primacy. It was not a question to wait until he had persuaded his fellow citizens to repeal the law about the poll tax he considered unjust. Calling for civil disobedience, he said: “[T]hose who call themselves abolitionists should at once effectively withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait until they constitute a majority of one-¦I think that it is enough that they have God on their side, without waiting for the other one. Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.”
Thoreau gave voice to a new idea of individual resistance to the idea that majority is always right. Thoreau, Madison and Tocqueville did not study Islam, but they did not believe for a minute that numerical majorities would always carry the weight of moral justice. They did not know the limits set by Qur’an and Sunnah, but they knew there are some boundaries of human conduct, trespassing which could lead to injustice and anarchy. It all depends on what solution is proposed. Institutional checks are required but dictatorship or monarchy is not a solution. Thoreau, on the other hand, offered the words and deeds a dignified man of conscience as the counterweight to the tyranny of the majority. A man of conscience with the courage of his convictions is a majority of one. Later parts of the book explain how this philosophy fits into the overall theme of Islam.
Like any other godless system, democracy has many pitfalls, which will never allow it to grow or refine beyond its present form. F. A. Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom, shows that asking too much of representative government (“democracy”) can, ironically, push it towards totalitarianism. Hayek points out that while getting a consensus on generalities is easy (say that the objective should be to secure the “common welfare”); reaching agreement on the specific path to that goal is close to impossible. He writes, “It may be the unanimously expressed will of the people that its Parliament should prepare a comprehensive economic plan, yet neither the people nor its representatives need therefore be able to agree on any particular plan…. [I]t is a superstition that there should be a majority view on everything.”
Planting the seeds of totalitarianism takes place at this stage. The endless wrangling in the legislature may prompt people to reconsider not central planning but representative government. “The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people,” Hayek writes, “will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Parliaments come to be regarded as ‘talking shops,’ unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they have been chosen. The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be ‘taken out of politics’ and placed in the hands of experts-“permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies.”
Like Richman and Hayek many analysts are coming to the conclusion that the more that democracy is asked to do, the more its future-“and that of individual liberty-“are clouded by the threat of dictatorship, whether by committee or by Fuehrer. That is a persuasive reason, even if there were no other, for an alternative form of governance mechanism. Experimentations such as confining government to the strictest of constitutional restraints are not enough to leave individuals to carry out their own plans and to resolve disagreements through private property, free trade, and freedom of association, or more importantly for Muslims to Islamize their systems.
In nutshell, the Center for the Evolution of Democracy has identified the following problems with democracy:
1. The continual attempt by special interests to steal the wealth of the commons;
2. Incomplete or unfair representation for minorities, women, and the poor,
3. A growing disparity between rich and poor;
4. Unfairly structured electoral processes;
5. A lack of integration among nations;
6. The absence of measures to protect the natural environment and to control population growth;
7. The inordinate influence of lobbyists;
8. Pervasive distortions of information by mass media that are dominated by special interests;
9. An increasing degree of information overload;
10. The inadequacy of educational institutions in preparing citizens to participate in the multicultural and increasingly complex process of democratic decision-making; and
11. The “demosclerotic” web of entitlements that has accompanied the struggle for a greater share of the “welfare state.” Each of these problems, along with the many supranational problems that are defying solution by anything less than a democratically controlled global authority, is taken up in the model.
The problem is thus not to realize that democracy has failed and identify its shortcomings. The problem is that it is becoming hard for many to identify the solution and suggest an alternative.