I don’t know about you but I have a far different concept of what constitutes a ‘democracy’ than does the recently-retired American vice president, Joe Biden.
According to CBNC (18 Jan 2017) the fellow had this to say to the elites attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“The gist of his speech was simple: At a time of "uncertainty" we must double down on the values that made Western democracies great, and not allow the "liberal world order" to be torn apart by destructive forces.”
The ‘destructive forces’ being of course the world’s people wanting their lives and nations back from the control of the ‘world elite’.
Biden, we read, also went after Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, saying he is using "every tool" in his power to whittle away the European project, and undermine Western democracies. Biden accused Putin of wanting to "roll back decades of progress."
Biden said Russia used "cyber aggression" to meddle in the U.S. election, an assertion supported by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. He also warned that we will see further interference from Russia in the future and said the "purpose is clear" — that Putin wants to see a "collapse of the international order."
"Simply put, Putin has a different vision of the future," the vice president warned…”
The references to Vladimir Putin are of interest. We know Putin was a great admirer of his fellow-countryman, that great patriot and writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In his book “Rebuilding Russia” (English translation, 1991) Solzhenitsyn looked at what some of the great thinkers of the age had to say about ‘democracy’. We present the following dot points from his book:
What Democracy is Not
· Alexis de Tocqueville viewed the concepts of democracy and liberty as polar opposites. An ardent proponent of liberty, but not at all of democracy.
· For John Stuart Mill, unlimited democracy held the danger of “the tyranny of the majority”, a situation that, from the point of view of an individual, is indistinguishable from the tyranny of one.
· George Fedotov believed that democracy had been distorted by the dehumanizing assault of nineteenth-century atheistic materialism.
· Twentieth-century Austrian statesman Joseph Schumpeter referred to democracy as the surrogate faith of intellectuals deprived of religion
Russian philosopher Sergei Levitsky proposed distinguishing the essence of democracy, consisting of (1) individual freedom and (2) a government of laws, from its secondary, non-mandatory features, namely (I) the parliamentary system or (2) universal suffrage, neither of which he considered self-evident.
Respect for the individual represents a broader principle than democracy and it is a principle that must be ensured without fail. But this need not necessarily be rendered only by means of a parliamentary system. But it is also true that the rights of individuals must not be exalted to the point of eclipsing the rights of society.
And President Reagan expressed his thoughts on democracy as follows in his remarks at Moscow University in 1988: Democracy is less a system of government than a means of limiting government, preventing it from interfering in the development of the true sources of human values that are found only in family and faith.
“Democracy” is today a supremely fashionable word in our country, mouthed in endless variations, ﬂaunted, brandished, and exploited for personal advantage. But there is no tangible evidence that we have given close thought to the exact meaning of this term.
Following the bitter experience of I917, when we plunged headlong into what we had thought was democracy, Vasili Maklakov, a prominent leader of the Constitutional Democrats, reminded us all of a simple truth by the following admission: “In order to function, democracy needs a certain level of political discipline among the populace.” But this is precisely what we lacked in I917, and one fears that there is even less of it today.
The Heartland Does Not Possess the Moral and Spiritual Reserves Needed
At the beginning of this century the eminent political thinker Sergei Kryzhanovsky foresaw that “the Russian heartland does not possess the reserves of cultural and moral strength necessary to assimilate the peripheries.
That [effort] weakens the Russian national core.” And this statement was made in a rich, flourishing country, before the extermination of millions of our people, an extermination, moreover, that was no blind mass killing, but rather involved a speciﬁc targeting of the best that Russia had produced.
Today Kryzhanovsky’s words are a thousand times more valid:
We don’t have the strength for the peripheries either economically or morally. We don’t have the strength for sustaining an empire - and it is just as well. Let this burden fall from our shoulders: it is crushing us, sapping our energy‘, and hastening our demise…
The time has come for an uncompromising choice between an empire of which we ourselves are the primary victims, and the spiritual and physical salvation of our own people…
Free Ourselves for a Precious Inner Development
Do we want Russians to lose their unique characteristics? We must strive not for the expansion of the state, but for a clarity of what remains of our spirit. By separating off twelve republics, by this seeming sacriﬁce, Russia will in fact free itself for a precious inner development, at long last turning diligent attention toward itself. Besides, what hope can there be of preserving and developing Russian culture amid the chaotic jumble of today? Less and less, surely, as things become ever more mashed and pounded together…
Holding on to a great empire means to contribute to the extinction of our own people. And anyway, what need is there of this heterogeneous amalgam? Do we want Russians to lose their unique characteristics? We must strive not for the expansion of the state, but for a clarity of what remains of our spirit. By separating off twelve republics, by this seeming sacriﬁce, Russia will in fact free itself for a precious inner development, at long last turning diligent attention toward itself. Besides, what hope can there be of preserving and developing Russian culture amid the chaotic jumble of today? Less and less, surely, as things become ever more mashed and pounded together…”
I think this is why Joe Biden doesn't like what Vladimir Putin is doing. If we just replaced the word ‘Russian’ for Australian or American or English or French in the above, wouldn’t we see the problems we face more clearly?
Be that as it may, I don't live in a 'democracy' here in Australia, I live in a Constitutional Monarchy. It is the people who must strive to make it work better for them.