This is a brief note on elections – that bedrock of modern democracy.
A key and indispensable pillar of modern democracy – heck modernity – is the notion of elections. Elections, many believe, are a fundamental way for people to express their voice, and some believe even for people to engage in self-determination as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations. Without elections, there can be no political accountability, no political legitimacy. Oh yes, there might be, once in a while, a government such as the one in China today that gains popular approval without elections, but such a political structure cannot be sustained. Over time, bad leadership inevitably arises. Non-democratic political orders provides no means for the people to get rid of a “bad emperor.” Over the long haul, the only way to rid governments that don’t serve the people is elections.
This may sound all fair and good except in real life, elections don’t work that way. In real life – elections rarely project a “people’s voice,” too often detracts from the routine act of governing. And the world has never witnessed – nor do I expect to witness – elections to overturn a truly unjust order.
It’s easy to accuse others. After all, as a well-known verse from the Christian Bible says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” But isn’t this going a bit too far?
Recently, FAIR had an interesting article about the militarizing of the police in the U.S. and the aggressive tactics taken by police against the Occupy protesters throughout the nation.
Jim Hoge has been the editor of Foreign Affairs magazine since 1992. He holds the Peter G. Peterson Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a director of Human Rights Watch and the Foundation for a Civil Society. He is also the chairman of the International Center for Journalists.
In 1996, Samuel P. Huntington published his famous book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” where he posited after the Cold War, the world is more likely going to have major wars due to civilizational fault lines than anything else. He recognized that the Cold War was a competition between the Capitalist West and the Communist East. Huntington provoked great debates among international relations theorists. Of course, Hungtington followed the heels of Francis Fukuyama who famously wrote “End of History” at the end of the Cold War, proclaiming that Democracy has won; that that system would be an eventuality for every nation on earth and there will no longer be any major conflicts after that.
Fukuyama has since recanted what he wrote, especially as China has risen in the last couple of decades with a system of its own (albeit changing). Regardless of whether Huntington or Fukuyama is ultimately right, the biggest international relations question for our life time and for the next few generations will be how a new power rises peacefully so the declining power does not clash with it. For now it appears to be between China and America, but for our collective future, it can be between any two nation states (or civilizations if you prefer). History tells us that those clashes are often brutal, and given the awesome technologies we have today, there is probably no place to hide and nobody spared.