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Democracy - What Is It and What Do We Need It for?

Democracy - What Is It and What Do We Need It for?
Delyagin Michael 08.09.2008

Long dialogue with the Russian democrats compelled me to return to the clearing of the initial, base question stated in the heading of an article.

The ratio of democracy and a level of economic development depends first of all on understanding of the concept of democracy. Now three completely different approaches to its understanding and, accordingly, three criteria coexist in the world.

The first, the least proved but nevertheless actively introduced and most vigorously put into practice, consists in that criterion of democratic character of this or that authority - presence of support from the part of the USA. Therefore elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia (at Saakashvili, in conditions of state of emergency) are democratic, while they are not such in Putin's Russia, therefore until recently one-party Japan - is "a great democracy", therefore democratism of Latvia and Estonia is doubtless, the only countries where legally forbidden apartheid still exist.

Counteraction of Russia is close to this criterion on the postSoviet space. Countries participating in "strategic restraint" of Russia, as allies of the USA automatically are admitted democratic. It is seen from example of Baltic, Georgia and especially Kazakhstan which president Nazarbaev was treated by the Americans either "awful corrupted official" or "the great democrat" - depending on whether he supported position of Russia or the USA in the question of the route of the gas line.

The given criterion of democracy is closely connected to economic development as support of the USA and EU following in a waterway of its politics including financial is usually sufficient for temporal well-being of the small in its size country.

At the same time such support is insufficient for large countries (like Ukraine and Kazakhstan). Besides it usually weakens local management which starts to hope for support of the USA and Europe as way out for solving of all problems. Meanwhile external support cannot compensate poor quality of the government including the one caused by excessive hopes for this support. Kirghizia is a tragic of it, however, development of economy of the countries of Baltic, Ukraine (where inflation in annual expression made 26%), Georgia and a number of other contries also confirms this hypothesis.

The second criterion of democracy is the most distributed in science by virtue of simplicity of formalizability. According to it, democracy is a synonym of a certain kit of tools: independent on other branches of authority of the court, mass-media independent of the state, free elections and political (but not social and economic!!) human rights.

This criterion is less frequently used recently in practice as it enters a glaring contradiction with political needs of the USA and European Community to which the first criterion corresponds.

However from theoretical point of view it looks indisputable and is perceived as noncritically as well as religious postulates. Meanwhile the given kit is not universal supervalues for any human society corresponding to the human nature but really the tools allowing to realize these supervalues (for example, aspiration to happiness).

Supporters of the given concept overlook that the given tools are not universal but correspond quite certain (very high) level of development of a society in frameworks of quite certain (western) civilization. For other conditions these tools do not suit - and we see, attempts of their mechanical carry to the societies which are at other stage of development and belonging to other civilizations ("export of democracy") over and over again (from Russia after February revolution up to Kosovo) turn out into either severe dictatorship, or bloody chaos.

Thus, democracy in the given understanding is a result of certain development of society belonging to a certain civilization. Attempts to run forward are anti-productive including in the economic plan (for the bloody chaos destroys economy and dictatorship does not allow it to develop in the long-term plan).

However in the societies to which level of development and the ytpe of civilization the given tools quite correspond we see an amazing picture: these tools promote achievement not so much economic progress but personal comfort of citizens. While the progress is a tool of achievement of comfort, it is being carried out but after achievement of a high level of comfort society starts braking it as collective efforts on continuation of progress start to prevent getting individual pleasure from pleasure from comforts.

We see today it in economy of the advanced part of Europe (in particular in crises of motivation, social and pension systems) with the same sequence and inevitability that quarter of a century ago we saw in the economy of own country.

Moreover: as we see on example of the USA, maintenance of economic and technological progress in modern conditions gets a kind of partial and inconsistent but refusal of the given principles - regarding restriction of freedom of mass-media (including self-censorship) and distortions of selective procedures.

The reason is that democratic tools - are only tools of achievement of democracy suitable only for concrete circumstances. These are formal attributes but not at all the content of democracy.

Fortunately, the content of democracy is much wider and, unfortunately, could be taken for formalization much difficultly.

Democracy is a social system at which the state in the fullest degree takes into account interests and opinions of a society.

Thus two circumstances are essential.

First of all, the state takes into account all interests of society and not just those which it perceives. Otherwise well-perceived short-term interests would receive a priority before long-term which are preceived much worse and society would cease to undertake efforts for the development being limited to consumption of the results of efforts of the previous generations.

Besides the state should take into account not only interests but also opinions existing in society. It's the main feature democracy essentially differs from dictatorship which at the first stage of existence can be rather effective and realize interests of society as a whole correctly (classical example - economy of Germany in 1932-1938).

Neither state, nor society can for sure precisely and fully understand national interests by themselves; therefore managing system needs constant "feedback" with society which will enrich it with pointing out on new opportunities and prospects. Such "feedback" exists in the form of the account of opinions.

Depending on a level of development democracy for this purpose can use and completely not democratic tools (so, sociological researches in imperial Russia were carried out by gendarmes, in the USSR - KGB).

Weakness of economic development compels the state to give priority to social and economic, instead of political rights and interests of citizens, resolutely making a sacrifice of individual blessing for the sake of the general one, that can generate monstrous abusing (example - modern China accused of use of bodies of prisoners).

However as a whole such democracy is true and it should be admitted as true democracy and it's it, as practice shows, most effectively provides economic development.

It is essentially important that aspiration of the state to the fullest account of interests and opinions of citizens can be generated by various reasons: democratic institutes (as in the countries of the West), and culture of the government (as in China), and feeling of responsibility by elite for its country and people (as in Japan and countries of Southeast Asia).

None of these reasons is eternal; moreover, their operation is internally inconsistent.

So, standard democratic institutes in the countries of the West, as we have seen, create danger of economic stagnation and in the Arabian world responsibility of elite before society passes quickly enough, as it's not supported by centuries-old culture of such responsibility.

It's also essential that long-term interests of society, as a rule, contradict short-term. Democratic in substantial sense of a word state should find balance between them, that is fraught with mistakes (as long-term interests are taken worse to analysis, than short-term ones) and, moreover, restriction of political and other rights of citizens (for they are "with other things being equal", certainly, inclined to realization of their short-term interests, instead of working on abstract "bright future").

Thus, maintenance of substantial democracy demands restriction of formal democracy and does not give guarantees of success - it's sad but indisputable fact.

Democracy in itself is not at all universal formula of solving of economic problems, however, aspiration to democracy - certainly, substantial and not formal - is the closest to such formula.


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