An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Democracy AmBUSHed

Here is the deal:

– Price of oil is $60/barrel
– With India and China growing, Oil can only become more expensive!
– Bush is pushing for democracy as a single-minded agenda.

Democracy is not merely a mantra. It is not just elections. Elections are the first step. Sustaining the “culture of choice” is far more important. Not just once. But year after year, decade after decade, and century after century! That kind of longevity in “culture of choice” requires Political Institutions. The three main ones – Executive, Judiciary and Legislative are the critical ones. More critical than their presence are the checks and balances that each has on the other! Circle of checks should be such that anyone to go wayward may not be a possibility.

Democracies have a strange evolutionary path! It is often said “Nothing succeeds like success”. It is more true of democracy. India – the largest democracy in the world – has had a Gandhi dynasty. Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and now Rahul Gandhi have come, gone and waiting in the wings. Three Prime Ministers and one “almost”a Prime Minister with over 50 years of rule (out of roughly 60 years of independence)! US – the most successful democracy – is no different either. Kennedy’s, Bush’s, and now Clintons have been blue-blooded too.

Why does that happen? And are the nascent “democracies” going to be any different? Why?

Of the countries which are either embracing democracies or on which democracy is being thrust upon are mostly poor-and-backward or rich-country-poor-people societies. Middle East and most of Latin America falls in that category.

In all these societies – as in the richer ones too – politicians sell “Hope”. From “cutting taxes” to “Improve Health benefits” to “Reducing deficits” are some of the hollow promises that every poliltician makes.. and wins and then forgets. Its the same in these new democratic states. However, hopes are not so sophiticated. They are simple. Equal distribution and demonizing of the rich, or eulogizing of God – the ultimate giver of Hope. God is a “toy” that human beings have invented whom they can “clothe” the way they want, and extract the promise they want!

So depending upon whether a state’s people value drudgery of poverty over the passion for religion, the message is crafted. In Latin American countries, it is socialism, because God does not evoke much of a response. In Middle East, they have created a concept of God who is uncompromisingly strict and one-sided. So, He a great ally for the politicians. They, therefore, shoot for theocracies.

Anyone who has experienced democracy in a poor country will understand that sabotaging democracy is easy. It becomes all the more easier if the basic institutions and the checks and balances are not even there! And, for the record, as we saw so amply demonstrated, elections can be stolen in US too with a little help from kin.

The result there fore is that the politicians who are victorious once, make sure that the way to victory is paved well!

Amazing thing is that either these countries are Oil rich, drug havens or have continuous strife (which means that they can provide militias in a heart beat)!

With the Oil prices rising, these politicians who have seized the power will be most prosperous. And their control ever stronger. And if China and India continue to grow they will in effect be helping the theocratic and socialist and roundly corrupt governments. Their increased – and naturally more expensive – exports are in effect “financing” the rogues!

Bush is of course not deterred from spreading “Lite version” of democracy. No-institutions-just-elections version. This will provide increasing opportunities to those wannabe theocracies and socialists waiting in the wings to overpower some more nations.

Democracy also has an inherent instability as the power is to be distributed through polls – which involves people’s views. And these views can be very diverse. It is not as clear cut as an aristocracy – where every one knows that the son of the King will one day be the King – no discussions!

If some of these inherently unstable but increasingly theocratic or socialist states with huge oil reserves somehow channel and fund the militias from the rampantly poor states of Africa, the mix would be deadly! Strange thing is that these Oil rich politiies (not necessarily people) have no way but to grow richer and therefore have little care for the West which will be increasingly dependent on them! Worse deal will be reserved for the new emerging countries like China and India, who will be most threatened in the new scenario – when the world growth that ensures their success as economies will be at peril!

Finally, there is a strong case for a counter argument to Bush’s obsession with democracy. Is the world even ready to withstand the aftermath of democracies in Middle East and Latin America?

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