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Wednesday, 29 July 2015


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No doubt there can be any number of cornerstones; well, four at least! The one essential one is freedom of speech. Interesting that it is constantly being chipped away by the UK and US governments.

There has never been absolute freedom of speech. If the restrictions placed on it by governments become too onerous to enough people then every five years you get the chance to chance to vote 'em out.

As we have found out, this doesn't work when the alternative government has the same policies.

David, basicalyy I agree with you, but my view is slightly different.
I reckon democracy - it is when the government creates and provides to people a conditions for prosperity, well-being and self-realization. The cornerstones you mentioned are the tools of democracy. However I'd changed free elections for some severe mechanism of replacement and probably punishment (in case of corruption) of ineffective executives. Elections don't seem quite a reliable thing in that regard. When fools vote for fools it's at least stagnation and at worst - degradation. Moreover, the elections can only be honest to some extent I suppose.
The next point will defineteley shock you, so get ready.
Taking into account all above I consider China as a democratic country. I've never been to there but all I know about it makes me think that on a whole the state provides the necessary conditions, encourage people to learn, to study and to work. It's also got a mechanism of prevention of fools getting in charge (in the shape of CPC). Yes, one can not share or demonstrate any different political values but I think ordinary chinese don't care about it.

A fine discussion here and on the previous thread as well. Democracy can be a deadly form of government. A republican form of government can be a difficult form of government. A Republic requires all the foundations mentioned in prior comments, but self government requires a people capable of self discipline.

Odd timing with this, but over last weekend I went through my collection of older VHS films and settled on a favorite of mine.."Cromwell" with Richard Harris playing the part. Its themes are still relevant throughout the Anglosphere.

The key is the deep cultural understanding that democracy is there to subtract a negative, not add a positive.

Accept that authority is the problem, not the solution, and get that into the cultural genes, and you're done. You could dump a bunch of criminals on the other side of the planet, or sail across a wide ocean in a rickety wooden ship in an attempt to start again, but you will still have it, if you already had it.

But you can ram it down a barbarian's throat until hell freezes over, but you'll get no where.


Alexey, your comment is fascinating and illustrates exactly my point about the near impossibility of introducing democracy into Russia. You are obviously an intelligent, well-read and perhaps well-travelled man, certainly a man capable of looking up and beyond the immediate circumstances in your country where you realise that all is not well. But you are still making a mistake!

Democracy is not a means to an end. You can't point democracy at a problem and expect it to be fixed. Democracy does not aim to produce this or that result. It is merely 'a state of affairs', a 'general condition'. To use a better analogy, democracy is like the ropes round a boxing-ring, they do not effect the fight itself, they merely keep it in one place and the violence involved is contained so the audience is not too badly effected.

You write "democracy - it is when the government creates and provides to people a conditions for prosperity, well-being and self-realization". With respect, no, that is not what democracy is for. Providing all those good things is what governments and politicians are for. As they tend to fail then democracy is a way of ensuring that other politicians can try their methods without the need for bloody revolution. And one thing is absolutely certain, China is as far removed from democracy as Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany. Yes, the government has provided wealth for most of the population using what they *think* is western capitalism. It is because they do not understand the true nature of western capitalism which, like democracy itself, is a very subtle creation. In fact, I would add to my definition of democracy that as well as the ability to change governments regularly and bloodlessly, supported by an independent judiciary, you also need capitalism which is absolutely based on the idea of 'private property'.

Whitewall, it's difficult but you mustn't give up on democracy. Yes, it's messy and foolish and inefficient - it doesn't always make the trains run on time! - but it's still better than any other alternative.

Lawrence, you put it well, "democracy is there to subtract a negative, not add a positive".

David, the democracy in Russia is impossible because of different reasons (I reckon there are three of them). I will probably call them in the next post.
Actually I anticipated such a reaction. Now let me explain the logic.
Academically the democracy is "the power of the people". Any particular chinese cannot affect politics, but all the "chinese people" - is the object CPC and the government work for. Aren't you agree they actually do? Hasn't China strict "ropes round a boxing-ring"? I think it has. Chinese don't have ability to change government but why it's needed if it constantly performs pretty well and renews regularly? Look at the country's performance for the last 20-25 years? Yes they do mistakes, they are pretty primitive in many regards but China now is the world's manufactury.
I think to understand better why I think so you must live in the times of jobless & foodless democracy (like it had been in Russia in 1991-1998, before PM Yevgeny Primakov got in charge).
There can be no any options for "the ability to change governments regularly and bloodlessly". However China just has different system of the change, I see it so.

Alexey, I was about to answer your comment "government creates and provides to people a condition for prosperity". And later you seem to praise China for providing education. But I see Lawrence and David have already answered you. I'll just add, "A government that provides for you will one day be a government that takes it away."

Alexy. The history of the last 300 years shows that the best system for the common man is the system I would describe as Western Christian Democratic Capitalism where capitalism is restrained by welfarism.

Of course, a better system may arise in time, but I don't know what that might be. Remember what Churchill said - "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Alexy - I would add another one which I like - you can always rely on the Americans to do the right thing (after they have exhausted all the alternatives)

If you substitute Government for Americans you are half way to understanding the problem.

Democracy as it is understood in England and USA is really a state of mind. It is an expectation that at the end of the day they work for us not the other way around, and via the workings of the law, the press and periodic elections, we can just about keep reminding them of that fact.

I think that the key factor lacking in Russia is the separation of powers. Basically, government should have the power to create laws, the judiciary should have the power to interpret them and the police should have the power to enforce them. EVERYONE should be equally bound by the law and liable to the same punishment for breaking it.

Unfortunately, the government in Russia controls the police and the judiciary and is NOT bound by the laws that the rest of us have to obey. Nor unfortunately do they govern in the interests of the people. They primarily do things for their own benefit and anything that benefits the people is entirely incidental. This, I think you'll agree is a bad and a dangerous situation, made worse by the fact democracy in Russia is a token democracy only. When push comes to shove, you CANNOT remove your government in a properly constituted general election. Your government is therefore NOT accountable to the people lwhich it governs. Until this state of affairs changes, the Russian people remain in a perilous situation.

I hasten to add though, that Russia has treated me well and I look forward to returning in September.

Dear all, sincere thanks for comments.I want you to understand - I do not challenge basic democratic principles of elections, independence court and private property and the dictate of the law. Undoubtedly all these provide wellbeing. But I don't really get why (because of what part reasons) you consider China as an authocraty. Because it has not something like gay laws? Because they shoot corruptioners? Because they don't let wast minorities to dictate what should government do?
Now as I promised three reason why Russia will not become a democraty.
1) Mentally Russians mostly try and avoid changes. Their basic principle is "whatever but not to make worse". Therefore they will endure to the very end. But then...
2) In 1990-es Russia severely suffered of its democratic governments. Almost all the deposits were defaulted, the banditism got an unbeleivable scale, there were no drugs in hospitals, simple goods like shampoo became a true luxury. The children used to get a chocolate like "Mars" or "Snickers" only on great holidays, the giant manufactures were sold for nothing to oligarkhs. So all this stuff is still strongly associated with democrats. However I beleive these people were inexperienced and acted in their private interest. If they had been sentenced for their doings (including president Yeltsyn) - the democraty would have been regarded in different way.
3) Russia is an extremly rich of commodities. That is why countries potentially interested in gaining them would have been doing all in order to weaken it. The simplest way of doing it - is bribing elected politicians. We have already seen plenty of rougues at our political arena.

I'd like to add that free elections does not guarantiee one votes for honest man. Good example is Nicholas Sarcozie, which borrowed money from Kaddafi for his election campain, and then made a military operation in order to avoid payig the debt.
Bonus for all of you - the anecdot which perfectly reflects Russian mentality (to my great regret).

British, French and Russian governments have introduced the law according to which everyone is supposed to get 20 stick hits every saturday. What did peoples do?
British - elected the new government just the next day.
Frechn - made a revolution just the next day.
Russians - began taking their places in queues by friday evenings in order to get free earlier on saturday.

Sorry for silly mistakes above.

Hello Richard! Absolutely nothing to add. It is all so. This is the reason I told mostly about China rather than Russia.
I think it's really intresting and a sort of amazing to you to live here because you are not tied up by anything to Russia.

Alexey. I have a little book called Things Seen in Russia by W. Barnes Steveni. 1913. Steveni was Professor of English in the College of Peter the Great. Excellent book with illustrations.
I did see a copy once in an old bookshop opposite the British Museum.

Jimmy, I think one day you should visit Russia, and the sooner the better. Despite (however, personally I tnihk - because) of all its complications Russia is worth to be seen. I'll be your gyide with pleasure , if needed.

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