Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Britain should not lecture Libyans on democracy

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Libya has better role models to follow than Britain’s mix of feudalism and oligarchy.

Is there anything more nauseating about Britain's political elite than the way they promote their country as a shining example of modern democracy that other less "enlightened" nations ought to follow?

The latest to advise others to take their lead from the UK is former Tory prime minister Sir John Major, speaking on the Today programme. Major thinks that Britain, with its "long democratic tradition" and "civil aptitude" can "advise and help a great deal" with the "resurrection of civil democracies" in Libya.

But are we really the model democracy that Libya should try to emulate if and when the people rid themselves of Muammar Gaddafi?

You can read the whole article here.


jock mctrousers said...

Strikes me that what's needed (amongst other things obviously) is a legal requirement that elected political parties and politicians may only go against election pledges if they hold a referendum to get permission. Is there anyone, anywhere in the UK political spectrum even discussing this basic minimum requirement of a democracy? And if it's by any miracle on the agenda of any party at the next election, what chance of them actually doing it?

Pat Davers said...

"It's no coincidence that the top four - Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden - are also among the most egalitarian countries in the world, showing a direct correlation between high levels of economic equality and democracy. "

And how many of them are also constitutional monarchies, I wonder?

In fact, if you look at the constitutional monarchies in the world, (Scandinavia, Benelux, Spain, Japan, the "old" Commonwealth, and, let's face it, Britain too), you'd have to conclude that it was a pretty successful form of government.

If I were a betting man like Neil Clark, I'd put money on Morocco and Jordan to come out best from the current crisis in the Arab world, for whereas they may be autocratic monarchies, their rules have the option of remaining titular heads of state, and guaranteeing this role for their offspring, while gradually transferring the political power to a more representative system.

In autocratic republics, on the other hand, their presidents having everything to lose by a change or regime and are more likely to resist, causing civil war, or flee, creating a power vacuum.

olching said...

I think Pat has half a point: Not that constitutional monarchy means the 'good life' (there are far too many bad examples in past and present to claim this with a straight face), but rather that the non-democratic aspects to British society lay elsewhere (in a parallel to the ME, which highlights the hypocrisy):

I can almost guarantee that on the march on 26th March, the police will use violence and coercion and will be praised for securing 'order' while the undoubtedly sizeable demonstration will be condemned as 'unrepresentative'. Similarly, the anti-war marches were actually bigger than some of these ME revolutions, yet were blatantly ignored. That is the hypocrisy; our democratic rights to demonstrate and hold power to account are being undercut (not to mention the assault on living standards via cuts, which resonates to some extent with the immediate worries of the ME populations).

Douglas said...

There are some conservatives here in America who contend that the 17th Amendment, mandating election of Senators by the people, instead of the State Legislature, is a bad thing, as it overly dilutes the power of States.

On the other hand, America had problems with the election of Senators both before and after the passing of the Amendment.

I hereby confess that I never drift off to sleep at night thinking "Blast that awful 17th Amendment!"

@jock mctrousers - Yes, I'm reading Naked Lunch. You didn't say I had to enjoy it, did you?

Anonymous said...

FYI because many bloggers are not telling it like it is:

As U.S. warships near Libya, Danger of Imperialist Military Intervention Grows
by Sara Flounders
March 2 2011

The NFSL a bit of history:

Gadafi just who is he?

Coup d'etat: made in the USA:


Anonymous said...

On 4international and on we call for a principled defence of Gadaffi just as Trotsky did with Haile Selassie in Abyssinia

Neil you write

"But are we really the model democracy that Libya should try to emulate if and when the people rid themselves of Muammar Gaddafi?"

That is not a defence

Felix Quigley

jock mctrousers said...

Douglas - " Yes, I'm reading Naked Lunch. You didn't say I had to enjoy it, did you? "

LOL! Well, I'd be worried if you did (too much anyway), not because it's disgusting, but because it's really pretty heavy going. But worth it for his frequent hilarious gems, and for his remarkable insight into the development of the world. If you can get past the idea that he's just being disgusting for the sake of it (which he mostly is, I admit) and consider the metaphor he occasionally introduces of heroin as the ultimate commodity, and its action as a metaphor for all sorts of things that intrude on the human world and create a dependency, like the networks of law enforcement agencies that grew up around heroin, and capitalism itself and its ruling classes - the Mugwumps and the Heavy Metal Kids, the Oven gang...

When I first read the book, I thought - quite amusing if disgusting, but why would anyone be that much interested in what heroin addicts do? But now when the antics of the CIA in SE Asia and S. America and Afghanistan, and affairs like Iran-contra, are all well-known, and we can see that this illicit economy has been going on since at least the 19C Opium wars with China ( see the books of Peter Dale Scott and Alfred McCoy), and that it is a big part of the official economy of so-called democracies ( see Nicholas Shaxton's new book, Treasure Islands), well... the Naked Lunch ( the moment when everyone sees what's on the end of every fork) seems like a remarkable prophecy of the world we've grown into, at a time when everyone else was writing about the cold war.

It helps to hear Burroughs read his work out loud, to get the dead-pan humour, in his voice like these voice-overs you get commenting on the action in old tv shows like Dragnet or the Untouchables.

To be honest, you look so clean-cut (if that avatar is really you), I couldn't resist it, so fair play to you for giving it a go. So, I promise to read Atlas shrugged in return, though I already know what it's about.

Douglas said...

On still further review, I never drift off to sleep at night thinking "Thank you, Dear Lord, for the 17th Amendment!"

@jock mctrousers - My avatar is a picture of me taken in the spring of 1974, at age 16