Summary: As Iraq stumbles its way toward a new government, one of the words that’s thrown around a lot in the news is ‘democracy’. If we sincerely want Iraq to achieve liberty, democracy is actually not what we want Iraq to have. Democracy tends toward mob rule—and we’ve been seeing a lot of that lately.
It looks like Ibrahim Jaafari finally stepped down. Holy cow! How long is it going to take to get this government moving? This democracy thing is pretty rough, isn’t it? Why does it work so much better in the United States?
There are definitely other mitigating factors, but the main reason government works better in the US than in Iraq, is because we realize that what we have in America is a democratic republic, while so far, all they (think they) have in Iraq is a mob—in other words, an ever-changing democracy. Sure it has all the trappings of republican government, but they sure haven’t treated it that way. Democratic republics are generally made up of people who show respect to their fellow men, while democracies are made up of competing mobs that continually try to acquire and maintain the upper hand.
James Madison, in defending the importance of the concept of a democratic republic, wrote in The Federalist #10 that “democracies…have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” There is a plethora of evidence that democracies end up this way. Iraq is the case in point on the world’s front burner.
Iraqis, trained to think that liberty equals democracy, seem to think that just because the elections didn’t turn out the way they want, it’s okay to obfuscate and postpone and delay seating the actual government. Even worse, some of them say they don’t even want to participate now. If massive election fraud had been shown, then these people might have a point—and a new election should be scheduled—but very little election fraud was shown in any of the elections or the referendum that took place in 2005. If Iraqis persist in their misunderstanding of what liberty entails, their democracy—which is already violent—will die a short death.
But of course, this is exactly what Islamic fundamentalists want—the death of liberty. At the top of the fundamentalist hierarchy are the Iranian mullahs. Liberty goes contrary to the wishes of these self-styled representatives of God, because liberty both allows and requires people to think for themselves.
Democracy sometimes allows, but in no way requires people to think for themselves, however. Sometimes it compels exactly the opposite. Democracy is whipped around by the latest winds of political doctrine until some majority gains the upper hand. Democracy stirs up the masses into orgiastic displays of grievance against such things as the Great Satan or Jerry Falwell, until people no longer think at all. Instead, their thinking is done for them by the effervescent and amorphous mob.
Iranians have democracy—but only sometimes. Iranians have democracy when the Iranian government leaders think they are about to lose control. Then, for a short time, they loosen the leash a little bit, and they let the people speak out a little bit, blog about it a little bit, and write newspaper articles about it a little bit, but as soon as anyone crosses that arbitrary red line, they are arrested, tortured, or killed. If they’re lucky, all that happens is that their lives are made into a living persecutory hell.
The beauty of American government is that each individual thinks for him- or herself, but he or she also realizes that every other person has that same right. So during election season we campaign, and we debate, and we go to the polls, but when the election results are in, we live with the results (we do our fair share of grumbling), with a firm commitment to campaign and debate harder next time if our candidate wasn’t successful this time. Meanwhile we go back to work being productive.
The concept is that simple. The reality may not be, but if Iraqis don’t understand and abide by the concept, the alternative reality will be much worse. Actually, they are living that alternative reality—right now.
Is this what Iraqis want—Democracy? I hope not. America has remained the greatest nation in the world and retained individual liberties precisely because we don’t have democracy—we have a democratic republic. So it would behoove Americans, when we talk about what we’re helping Iraq to achieve, to talk either in terms of a democratic republic or of liberty. It is important for Iraqis to realize that what they really need in order to achieve long-term stability is not democracy. Democratic republics are a far cry from democracies. Liberty is not democracy. And democracies only enjoy liberty sometimes.