I came across recently few articles that identified a crisis of democracy. Some commentators argue that democracy is already a thing of the past and that the Chinese model (which combines an authoritarian political structure with a 19th-century-type capitalism) is the way forward. I will discuss here in the following weeks a number of different aspects to this question. I will take Germany as an example. We start off today with some general considerations.
Democracy is a relatively new kid on the block. Its origins date back to events of major importance at the end of the 18th century: the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789); the former ended royal British rule in 13 North-American colonies, the latter marked the beginning of the end of absolutism in continental Europe. The revolutionary thing about these two events was that sovereign powers past from a single person (the king) to the citizenry. History had taken a momentous turn.
And we have come a long way since. At the outset the right to vote was granted only to a relatively small part of the population. Restrictive rules had been applied regarding gender, race, age and taxable wealth. It was not until well into the 20th century that universal suffrage became the standard for western democracies.
The gradual extension of the franchise to all citizens above a minimal age ensured the widest possible representation in the national assembly (via political parties). This arrangement proved to be remarkable stable and resilient, but only if the following conditions are met.
- A strong constitutional framework and an independent juridical system,
- A political system that represents the electorate and its interests,
- A public administration that delivers adequate services at the best possible price,
- An independent media that scrutinizes all the above,
- And a citizenry that participates actively and passively in a democratic society.
So where is “danger” likely to come from? What of the above works and what doesn’t?
- Democracy and Development Politics (bfpags.wordpress.com)
- The True Dysfunction (inveritatefortitudo.wordpress.com)
- The ‘Culture’ of Democracy (secondlawofthermodynamics.wordpress.com)
- Czerulf: Is democracy in a crisis? (Part 2 – The constitution) (czerulfsthoughts.wordpress.com)
- Food for Thought: Evolving Democracy (jspclayton.wordpress.com)