The Realism of Helping People Cast off Their Chains

December 12, 2008

[First published March 16, 2005] When President Bush calls for “fostering democracy,” one should read this phrase as “helping a people cast off the chains the bind and the fear that paralyzes them.” The difference between tyranny and liberal democracy is that in the former people are in chains, in effect prisoners of the whims and desires of the thugs that rule, and in fear over what might happen or be done to them – metaphorically, the 3am knock on the door.

One should keep this firmly in mind when coming across the assertion that we should not “export democracy.” It’s like saying that we should not export freedom to the victims of a kidnapping. After all, countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Libya, Burma, Sudan, and many others, are ruled by thugs, or their survivors, who took over by the force of arms, and threaten with death those who actively oppose them. Their people have been kidnapped.

So much in politics depends on the viewpoint and use of language. And regarding spreading democracy, lets get this right. Lives and welfare depend on it. And so does ending war and democide, the moral fruits of successfully globalizing democratic freedom.


Link of Note

”Democracy Is Now the Realistic Policy“ By Victor Davis Hanson. Published in HYPERLINK “http://www.taemag.com/issues/current_issue.asp”Democracy Breaks Out in the Middle East, April/May 2005

From Colleague: Largely through your work — and that of the other DPers [those working on the democratic peace] — it has become increasingly obvious that democracy has certain consequences in world politics. Why the “realists” are so obtuse about this, refusing to acknowledge reality itself, is curious and disconcerting. What else have they been oblivious about? I wonder what the bozos at Hoover who are so dismissive of the democratic peace are saying now….

The recognition that Democracy matters, and that its promotion is realistic and a long time coming, this article by Victor Davis Hanson sums things up nicely, and is a recommended link for your blog. Hanson says:

The foreign policy Realists want nothing to do with George Bush’s idealism. They rely exclusively on deterrence and balance of power to adjudicate relations abroad: We must deal with the world as it is, they say, rather than as we think it should be. Isolationists likewise bristle at the idea of expending blood or treasure in an open-ended commitment to spread our values. And don’t expect liberals to applaud the new idealism, as if their 1960s vision of an ethical foreign policy has at last arrived. The Left’s attachment to “multiculturalism” long ago ended the idea that the U.S. had any right to place Western ideas of politics over indigenous practices. Other “progressives” are de facto pacifists; for them, any use of U.S. force is a betrayal of global diplomacy. . . .

And while promoting democracy is idealistic, it does not necessarily follow that it is naive. What, after all, prevents wars? Hardly the U.N.; and not just aircraft carriers either. The last half-century of peace in Europe and Japan, and the end of our old enmity of Russia, attest that the widest spread of democratic rule is the best guarantee against international aggression. Ballots substitute for bullets in venting internal frustrations.


The Solution to Mass Poverty

December 12, 2008

[First published May 24, 2005] Lately in international organization circles, there has been much to do about poverty, with some sad facts being focused upon (from the Guardian Unlimited link here):

One third of deaths – some 18 million people a year – are caused by poverty.

An estimated 600m children live in absolute poverty. Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases.

Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the past 20 years.

More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year – one death a minute.

Clear to all is that the effort to ameliorate the conditions of the poor in one country after another has failed. In the resulting soul searching, especially at the World Bank that has been in the forefront of this effort, a reevaluation of their approach to poverty concludes that they have placed too much effort on lessening poverty, rather than fostering economic growth, an increase which, to invent an expression, will lift all boats.

Still, as I go through the articles on this, one thing is missing, which is the real solution. Look again at Table 4.1 and its plot in Figure 4.1 that I showed in a previous blog:

Table  4.1
Figure 4.1

Note the strong relationship between measure of poverty (HPI) and human development (HDI), and the internal freedom, really the liberal democraticness, of a country.

The degree to which a country is free is strongly related to its economic freedom, which in turn is inversely related to the impoverishment of its people. And the theoretical reason for this is well known among free market economists, so there is theory and fact and fact for this solution.

So, why don’t the international organizations get it? To push economic solutions, to focus on poverty, is accepted internationally even by the mass of dictators that benefit from the poverty-development give-aways, and the periodical forgiveness of their debts (we are due for another round of the fleecing of the taxpayers of the democracies). And to focus on poverty and development to lessen mass poverty is compassionate and objective. But, to focus on democratic freedom . . . . well, now, that is . . . being political and internationall partisan, you know. And where is the profit for dictators in that?


Link of Note

”World Bank failing to reduce poverty in poorest countries” (5/20/05) Financial Express

The article says:

The World Bank, the largest financer of projects in developing nations, is failing in its mission to reduce poverty in the poorest countries by paying too little attention to boosting economic growth, an internal audit found.

In the past 15 years, the bank put too much emphasis on social development and cut spending on bridges, dams, pipelines and other projects that have a more dramatic impact on economic growth, according to the report, obtained by Bloomberg News.

The World Bank’s model to fight poverty in the poorest of nations had, in practice, paid insufficient attention to fighting poverty growth, the 115-page report said. “Without growth, no sustainable poverty reduction is likely.”

There is nothing on democracy or freedom in the article. And I’m afraid this refocus on growth will mean more grants to the dictators, and a recycling of the international forgiveness of their debts in order to facilitate growth. Heavy sigh.


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