Are freedom and democracy obsolete?

The Prime Minister of Hungary has said what many people around the world have been thinking:  That freedom and democracy are obsolete.  With today’s complex economic and social problems, the democratic process is always checking and balancing itself, making it just too slow and polarizing, as evidenced by the political paralysis in the United States.  The most successful models that nations should be emulating, he says, are the authoritarian systems of Russia, China, Turkey, and Singapore. [Read more...]

The Civic Sacrament

Today is election day.  Mostly up for grabs are local and state races.  Voting has been called a “civic sacrament.”  The analogy is an imperfect one, and it applies only to democratic systems.  Some say that voting “doesn’t do any good,” which even if it were true is not the point.  We have a vocation of citizenship.  For those of us blessed enough to have been called to citizenship in a country in which we govern ourselves by choosing our own leaders, voting is one of the duties of our vocation.

What to do about gerrymandered elections?

An issue for election day:  One of the problems in our political system today is that Congressional districts have been drawn up to ensure that each one is a “safe seat” for the incumbent and a particular political party.  That means that voters almost never have competitive elections with genuine choices–unless, that is, the incumbent has a primary rival from the same party.  This makes for ideological polarization, say many observers, as well as thwarting the basic processes of democracy. [Read more...]

The Bible and Liberty

In the course of recounting an online argument, novelist Lars Walker gives an excellent account of how the Bible gave ordinary men and women the conceptual ability to question their rulers, thus, in his words, turning them “from subjects to citizens.” [Read more...]

Beware of Greeks fearing gifts

The Greeks founded Europe, and now they may end it.  And the vehicle for both is the same:  Democracy.

The European powers carefully crafted a deal to bail out Greece, forgiving half of their debt at the cost of significant reforms and austerity measures.  With this agreement, the world’s stock markets soared.  But then the Greek government, despite its earlier agreement, suddenly decided to put the accord to the vote of the people.  Since the population seems opposed to  austerity, the prospect of a referendum has cast the agreement into doubt, sending the world’s stock markets into another dive and shaking the economic foundations of the Eurozone.

World leaders convening at this resort [Cannes] for a long-planned summit find themselves confronting a suddenly acute crisis over Greece and signs of an economic slowdown throughout Europe that may narrow their room for action.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou left a cabinet meeting in Athens early Wednesday with his government intact — for now — and backing his plan to hold a national referendum on the country’s latest international rescue program.

World leaders will gather in Cannes, France, on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 to discuss Europe’s debt crisis and other economic issues. Thousands of protesters are gathering in France to urge the G-20 leaders to focus on the poor.

But his call for a popular vote on Tuesday has jeopardized the rescue plan and upended the agenda for Group of 20 leaders. Papandreou has been called to a meeting here Wednesday night to explain himself.

This was to have been a summit where the G-20 — the forum where industrialized nations and the leading developing economies compare notes on the world economy — puts its stamp on a plan that convincingly appeared to settle Europe’s lingering financial crisis.

Instead, with Cannes under a security lockdown that has made its streets into a virtual ghost town, the group will be looking for ways to avoid even greater problems. The 17-nation euro region is trying desperately to navigate between the budget-cutting and reform needed to bring down high levels of government debt, and the tepid economic growth that is sapping incomes, causing chronically high unemployment and straining political systems.

via World leaders to confer with Greece over referendum call – The Washington Post.

Do you think the Greek government was right to put the question of accepting the economic package to a popular referendum?  Does the world’s economic problems bring us to the limits of Democracy, the possibility that people will not vote to suffer, even when the alternative may be suffering on a far greater scale?  Can you see something like that happening here, with voters rejecting efforts to cut back federal spending AND repudiating new taxes AND demanding ever more entitlements, to the point of national bankruptcy?

UPDATE:  The Greek government has now scrapped the referendum.

Democracy rules, except when my guy doesn’t win

Nigeria elected a president, the incumbent, who received twice the votes of the other candidate.  But the president is a Christian, so Nigerian Muslims are rioting, setting fires, and protesting the election:

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has won a presidential election with results being reported in all 36 states, as riots broke out in the mainly Muslim north to protest the outcome.

Election officials announced Monday that Mr. Jonathan received million 22,495,187 votes in Saturday’s polls, nearly twice the number of his main challenger, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who garnered 12,214,853.

Officials say Mr. Jonathan has met the requirements to avoid a run-off vote. A candidates must win a simple majority and at least a quarter of the vote in 24 states.

Earlier Monday, news of Mr. Jonathan’s likely win sparked riots across Nigeria’s northern region.

Opposition supporters claimed the vote had been rigged and torched homes, burned tires and hurled rocks at police to protest the results.

Many in the Muslim-majority north backed Mr. Buhari, a Muslim. President Jonathan, a Christian, dominated the mostly Christian south.

Riots Break Out in Northern Nigeria As President Declared Winner | Africa | English.

There has been a debate about whether Islam is compatible with democracy and political freedom.   It appears that some Muslims are willing to use democracy and to demand political freedom when it advances their agenda.   That is, they use it instrumentally, as a means to their end.  But if the end is not what they want, they reject the process.

HT:  Carl Vehse


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