The Crisis in Democracy in
© 2006 Joseph George Caldwell. All
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I have commented a number of times about the fact that the US government ceaselessly promotes democracy for others, when our own Founding Fathers would have nothing to do with it (although George Bush and many other Americans seem ignorant of the fact, the Founding Fathers set the US up as a republic, not a democracy). They agreed with Plato (author of The Republic) that democracy is an extremely poor form of government, in which the elected leaders will pander to the desires of the masses. The word “democracy” does not even appear in either of the country’s two founding documents, the US Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution. Whenever democracy fails to produce the “desired” result, such as the takeover of Algeria or Palestine by radical Islamists, or the loss of power of indigenous peoples to migrants, such as in the case of Fiji or the Solomon Islands, the US government is quick to assert that the problem is not with democracy but with some other factor.
The most recent example of democracy producing unintended
results may be
The people who promote democracy are generally the same ones
who espouse tolerance, inclusiveness, egalitarianism, and
multiculturalism. In the case of
The strangeness of this situation is now being reflected in the continuing occurrence of public demonstrations demanding the resignation of Mr. Alkatiri. But Mr. Alkatiri refuses to resign. Why should he? He was chosen by democratic elections in full compliance with the East Timor Constitution. The “powers that be” are now scrambling around, trying to figure out how to suspend the Constitution, or parts of it, to allow a new election in which Alkatiri will be removed.
As I have observed on several occasions, democracy is a system that is useful only for governing bodies that don’t really matter, such as social clubs. It works well only with an electorate that is relatively well-educated and homogeneous, so that most of the electorate have about the same values and points of view on the issues to be resolved. It is not a good system for managing anything that really matters, such as operating a ship, an aircraft, a business, or a planet.
In addition to the problem of democracy,
The current government of Timor-Leste is very intent on
preserving and maintaining its Portuguese heritage, at least with respect to
language. Under Indonesian rule, Bahasa
Indonesia was taught in all schools.
Today, Timor-Leste has two official languages – Portuguese and Tetum –
and two working languages – English and Bahasa Indonesia. It is interesting to note that the Portuguese
ruled Timor-Leste for 450 years as a stable colony. It did this by keeping the indigenous people
uneducated and occupied essentially as slaves in subsistence agriculture. When
For the past six years, the United Nations and other development agencies have been promoting democracy in Timor-Leste. Over the past two months, civil law and order have collapsed, along with the country’s government’s authority. People are now desperately hoping for a return to stability and law and order. It is interesting to observe that under 450 years of Portuguese rule, stability and law and order were relatively strong, and that since Timor-Leste was abandoned by the Portuguese, it has seen nothing but civil strife and now, a near-total collapse of social structure and government. Evidently “freedom” and “democracy” come with a price – anarchy. Or perhaps democracy is not the right “country model” for Timor-Leste.
It is interesting to draw a parallel of the Timor-Leste
experience to that of
As I have commented before (in “A Country Model for East
Timor,” in Miscellany24), Timor-Leste
is so small, its terrain so mountainous, and its people so ethnically diverse
and uneducated (and likely to remain so, if they have to master four
languages!), that it does not seem rational to attempt to impose a modern
democratic system of government on it, as the UN and other development agencies
have been attempting to do for the past six years. That six-year effort has resulted in a total
collapse. In fact, the country is far
worse off now than it was six years ago, following its independence from
After the spectacular failure of a concerted six-year effort
to impose a modern market-oriented democracy on Timor-Leste, it is time to
reconsider whether that type of society and government is right for this
country. The fact that