My turn to be controversial

Poor, poor Western governments. Having spent so much time banging on about how wonderful democracy is and how every nation should be democratic, they now have to decide what to do now that Palestine has democratically elected a terrorist organisation into power.

One of the EU election observers was on the radio this morning, confirming that yes, the election was free and fair and followed all the rules. He then went to say that while it followed the ‘democratic process’, it didn’t agree with ‘democratic values’.

Democratic values? Democracy isn’t an ideology, or a way of life, or a guarantee of right behaviour. Democracy is merely a system of government with the advantages that (a) no one person is in control and (b) there is a process for sacking the government if they behave badly.

The reason democracy seems to correlate, in the Western world at least, with tolerance and justice and equality is not because democracy makes people more tolerant, or just, or enlightened. It doesn’t. It’s just that once people have become more tolerant, more just, and more enlightened, they realise that making sure no one person has too much power a good thing, and being able to sack the government is a useful tool to have. Democracy is an effect of enlightenment, not a cause.

So imposing democracy on countries that aren’t used to it won’t get you ‘democratic values’. Educating the people in those countries might. Worshipping the Great God Democracy is unlikely to be rewarded. In case anyone’s forgotten, Hitler was democratically elected.

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