Democracy

 

“History, and for that matter democracy, are not necessarily evolving along a continuum of benign progress. Regressions are frequent.”
(p. 30)

“Today, almost two decades after the protests and freedom revolutions of 1989, it is unclear whether it is the citizens of Eastern Germany or the students of Beijing that are better off. The West’s blind faith in democracy and freedom could well be the source of its unmaking.” (p.33)

“Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia was a high-profile victim of a mania for uncontrolled liberalization and democracy. Shock therapy, orchestrated by a group of eminent Harvard economists, in particular Jeffrey Sachs, who now prominently champions the fight against Third World poverty, had disastrous consequences for Russia. Impatiently and ignorant of Russia’s specific circumstances as well as the dangers of liberalizing financial markets too quickly in the absence of a liberalized real economy, advisors and advisees were obsessed with the pursuit of making history. To secure multi-billion dollar transfers from the West, the case was powerfully made that Russia’s democratic future and Western security were one and the same.” (p.34)

“In the midst of shock therapy, the US launched a US$4bn fund to aid Russian privatization. In April 1993, the US Treasury Secretary announced that ‘the scheme would free Russia’s central bank of some of the burden of converting the huge oil, gas and other leading industries to private control’. Chrysta Freeland’s ‘Sale of the Century’ is an extraordinary account of how shock therapy’s privatization program, sponsored by the West, created the oligarchs, effectively concentrating unprecedented wealth and control of the countries’ entire natural resources in the hands of a few, plunging the country into economic chaos and preparing Russia for authoritarian rule.” (p.34)

“Kohl defined a generation of political leadership in Europe that has been obsessed with institution-building as an end in its own right. German unification and European political integration – fostering peace and stability – will robotically stimulate economic prosperity – this has been the dominant belief…The problem with the post-1989 political leadership – on both sides of the Atlantic – has been its failure to appreciate that the world is changing, independently of Europe or the United States.” (p.36)

“For now, history is unlikely to document 1989 as the beginning of an irreversible democratic world revolution, but more likely as Western democracies’ peak. Democracy failed to deliver economic growth and job creation in Europe. And growth in the United States has quite dramatically polarized wealth-creation.” (p.38)

“The pace of the world is increasingly short-term, but a government’s ability to define and execute long-term and infrastructure-centric growth strategies is no less urgent. The governance of Western democracies, as it now stands, is destined for an impasse as the system of checks-and-balances has turned into a feeding ground for politics’ inherent short-term power aspirations…” (p.7) “Western democracies’ governance model has to become more corporate and results-oriented to re-conquer the hearts of the world.” (p.8)

“Western democracies are in need of a fundamental constitutional reform that redefines not only the priorities of a modern economy but the mechanisms that will allow approximating the objectives in the most straightforward way. However, it is unlikely to happen unless parliamentarians are prepared to question the very nature of their role and to envision a world where lawmaking is not monopolized by political parties. The global credit crisis presents a long-awaited opportunity to fundamentally question our governance system. We must reprogram a democracy model that appears to have lost its way.” (p. 39)

“Unless reformed, democracy – as a sought-after governance model – is unlikely to survive in its current practice, and authoritarianism is to further rise in prominence. The seeds for anti-systemic resentments have been sown in the West. Exit rather than Voice is an increasingly preferred option in an interconnected world where Loyalty to any particular place, system and ideology has lost its foundation… The West must re-conquer the space it started vacating no later than 1989.” (p. 39)