Is Democracy a Luxury That Developing Countries Cannot Afford?

By Taha Khalid

Any time an ideal or practice is shoved down a sovereign nation, albeit well-intentioned and based on principles of equality and representative government, is something that no nation or individual can afford as a bargain item or a luxury good. The western notion and practice of democracy – under globalization – had hundreds of years to smooth-out its rough edges, and it is still a live process. For a developing nation that has a legacy of governance that conflicts with democracy as we know it today, the installation of democracy at an instant will be counter-productive; and perhaps it is not a question of benevolent luxury rather the salient question is what version of democracy is suitable to the developing nation in question. In other words, customizable democracy. Globalization has allowed humanity to learn that one size fits all is cruel in any manifestation, particularly when governance, laws, policy and influencing norms are in question.

All developing nations, and developed nations, must care for their citizens under the principles of fairness, freedom and equality. This ideal or notion is not exclusive to the concept of democracy. If democracy is being presented as the only equitable forum in which to thrive in the age of globalization then that argument or belief is flawed. Citizens can participate equally under any regime. If the regime is practicing evil and corrupt mechanics to govern it is not because democracy is not in play. Even under democracy, governments can be highly corrupt where half of the citizens have no healthcare, where the unemployed and those in low-income strata starve and education suffers to the political representatives cronyism and/or incompetence. One must come to terms that the form of democratic governance that works in the west may not work in another part of the developing world – be it east or west. It would be highly arrogant to posit that good governance equals democratic governance. History is clear that many paradigms performed much better than what we have today in democracy.

In order to answer the question whether democracy is a luxury that developing nations cannot afford, one must first explore how the majority of the developing world thinks of and treats democracy, and how the globally savvy community can categorize these critical voices to incorporate a sustainable and locally appropriate form of democracy – after all, one Western nation cannot dictate to the entire world what the only form of democracy is. The manner in which a globalized society has dealt with growing up in democracy is what the developing community needs; that is, to form a common bond with those nations where non-equality and non-freedom loving governors find it safe to govern with a regime that does not allow for citizen representation in a fair and equitable manner. As a matter of policy, the western democracies need to support the developing nations with strengthening not only democratic values, but also providing them with the tools of apprehending and suffocating the channels which the ruling governments have been employing thus far. However, the challenge in combating corrupt and barbaric regimes is in the fact that they have western allies or serve strategic interest of the western democracies which look away at atrocities allowing for these non-democracies to thrive. The problem with the developing world, in adapting democratic principles is that each developing nation possesses a different psychology and decision making structure. Indeed, one should not speak of the developing world in the singular, but rather acknowledge the diversity in culture, norms, geographies and rich histories. Tactically, regional programs on how to erode the prevalent non-democratic regimes should be devised strategically and implemented carefully on a country case-by-case basis.

The developed countries need to be engaged in educating the citizenry of the developing countries along with the their military structures. As a matter of foreign policy, western nations need to deliver the message that equality, equal representation and rights, as espoused by the principles of democracy, is in everyone’s national interest. This has to be clarified from an economic, social, legal and political perspective that will lead to the developing world adopting democratic and free market values. There is evidence of developing nations’ commitment to make democracy a reality. It is not uncommon to turn the news on and hear that several senior politicians and/or officials have been killed or assassinated simply because they have joined the new government which tries to be democratic. It is admirable that many remain steadfast despite daily assassination attempts. The model of working with local-regional governments has proven to yield effective results versus national governments. In addition to providing education to developing nations around the globe on equality and rights, the reality is that the world will be better served and less prone to radical thoughts if we allow a model of democracy that serves their region versus misguided notions concocted by so-called specialists who could barely find the developing nation in question on a map. As a policy goal, the global community should provide training to civil servants, government officials, policing agents and military units in administering a governance structure that can withstand dissension without chaos, and as a result allowing democracy to grow and reach a mature age as it has in the west.

Most of the developing nations rely so heavily on the aid from the developed world, that is, the champion democratic countries – that for democracy to thrive is not exactly a question of luxury, rather its possibility is imaginary. How in the can developing countries begin think for themselves if the western nations continue to keep them dependent. The analogy here would be one of patient and doctor. If the doctor has the patient on medication, how can the patient be permitted to lead his or her own affairs the way non medicated ones do. That is, there is no confidence amongst developing nations if they are made to subsist on economic and military aid. Furthermore, any presumption that countries that elect their parliaments or rulers are in some shape the democracy we in the west are accustomed to, are one and the same. To proclaim India or Pakistan are democracies is forgivable. To believe it with one’s heart and quote it in scholarly texts is shameful. Countries like India and Pakistan which claim to be democratic is laughable because they are ruled by special interests that practice cruel and barbaric tactics on its own citizens. Their poverty is so inhumane that their wealthy would rather have the less fortunate by material income work as their slaves and live in squalor rather establish sustainable programs to uplift their own people.

Even in the United States, the level of special interests’ influence on redistricting has rendered its political landscape somewhat of a joke. It is so skewed that it resembles more of a country where democracy is only a fable. If the U.S. cannot manage to balance its different voices and the result is evident in the mess we are currently in, what hope does a developing nation have in ever witnessing any form of democracy. Developing nations also have been brainwashed by colonialism with no appetite for self-confidence or preservation. The result is a developing world that believes that the only model of justice, reform, rights, freedom and civility are the offspring of democracy. History has witnessed golden ages in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. While the west was in dark ages, the rest of the world which we know today as developing world was practicing forms of freedom and right that make democracy look like a cheap good versus a product of luxury.

The natural tendency of starting something new is to create expectations which are usually far from reality. The developing world is accustomed to being ruled on, denied rights, carrying the bowl of please give us aid, and authoritarian rule in one form or another. To impose a democratic governance system where the have nots can see eye-to-eye with the haves is a recipe in disaster. That is not ideal but it is the reality. The poor simply will not rise up and even if they do, it is short-lived and devoid of lasting hope. Case in point Arab Spring. The countries where this happened are a mess. Those iron hands that were ruling are now more powerful than before with the blessing of their western counterparts.

On a personal note, most developing nations need to be brought within a competent democratic and civil society network. Proper voting rights and political representation are still an extravaganza even in the educated/suburban areas; this must be remedied. The answer to a sustainable society lies in the development of a democratic civil society and the economic empowerment of citizens. And at present there is no consolidated framework of democratic institutions in the field of politics and socio-economic development fields in most developing countries. Most of these developing countries have to depend on the availability and price compatibility of imported items to sustain a working economy – leading to gross sovereign debts. All these problems can be attended if we view the problem of not having democracy as not the problem or whether it is simply too luxurious to rent democracy form those who have it. The solution is to empower the developing countries completely and allow their form of democracy to emerge carrying with it a bridging of the international trade, financial, legal and social justice systems that are compatible with principles of liberty.

Taha Khalid can be found on Twitter @TahaKhalid23.



One thought on “Is Democracy a Luxury That Developing Countries Cannot Afford?

  1. የሃይሌ ነገር፡ ከአህያ የዋለች ጊደር ፈስ ተምራ መጣች ነዉ!!


    Posted by Woye | February 16, 2016, 9:02 am

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