Thursday, January 25, 2007

Henry Ford Democrats

Comment is Free carries a piece by Neil Clark attacking those who both espouse democracy and take issue with some, democratically elected, leaders. He likens this to Henry Ford's maxim that people could have his cars in any colour, so long as it was black (in reality the system ran batches of one colour for X number of cars).

This kind of democratic absolutism is massively ill-conceived. Imagine if we applied it to developed countries. Should the United States treat Britain and France exactly the same because it believes in democracy and both countries have democratically elected leaders?

The answer is clearly no. We do see it as preferable that people are allowed to elect their own leaders but these elections are choices and certain choices carry consequences. It is right that deciding to elect a party, like Hamas, which does not recognise the right of a neighbour to exist has consequences and it is right that we make those consequences clear.

Apply this to personal decisions. I believe in a person's right to gamble but I'm not going to compensate him for his losses. Protecting nations from the outcomes of their democratic choices takes positive liberty to a bizarre extreme.

Also, under the same "democracy is all" logic we should treat every non-democracy as a complete failure. Should we treat China like Myanmar, Pakistan like North Korea or modern Uganda like Uganda under Idi Amin? Probably not. Again, there are all sorts of things contributing to the question of how a state is good or bad that are not captured in democratic or not democratic and which should affect our policy response.

Democracy is, in principle, better than autocracy as it involves greater accountability, includes more people in decision making giving them a greater say over the conditions in which they live their lives and is less reliant upon the almost random choice of leaders chosen through heredity or through a military competition. However, that does not mean that the only divide between a good and bad country is whether or not it is democratic. As democratic countries can be have good and bad leaders it remains in the interests of ourselves, those democratic countries themselves and the world that we do our best to ensure that the good wins out.

1 comment:

Praguetory said...

Neil Clark is an idiot. Worth bearing that in mind, although it is irritating that he gets commissions.