too early

January 7th, 2008

It should be illegal to blog this early, especially when you’ve been awake most of the night staring at the ceiling wishing you were asleep, but what the hell.

Two items in the NZ Herald have grabbed my interest this morning. The first is Mike Moore arguing that democracies always outperform authoritarian societies.  He starts off making some pretty big claims for the superiority of democracy, but the trouble is he provides absolutely no evidence to back his claims up. And reading that first part of the article I just wanted to scream “Well what about India? And what about China?” And he doesn’t help his case by using several countries generally considered democracies (India and Mexico being two stand-outs) as examples of why democracy is needed to eliminate poverty. And then there’s this:

When China established de facto securitisation of property and liberalised agriculture, productivity jumped some 42 per cent between 1978 and 1984. Its more open economy has helped to lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty.

Securitisation of property? Since when?

In the end, what Moore ends up showing is that a minimum of regulation and a maximum of institutional guarantees that one’s economic freedom will not be interefered with are what’s needed for economic growth and elimination of poverty. Unfortunately, there is no inherent connection between a system of governance and an economy. On the democracy side, we can name the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as having achieved economic development under a democratic system. On the authoritarian side, we can name South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, remembering that South Korea and Taiwan only became democracies after a certain amount of development had been achieved, Hong Kong has only just begun allowing very limited democracy, and Singapore and Malaysia have democratic systems on paper, but very authoritarian governments in practice.

Second is the Georgian election. I think what this shows is the very, very, very big disadvantage of all those colour revolutions: They’ve set a precedent. We’ve seen it time and again: An election is won, the loser cries “Fraud!” and the loser’s supporters hit the streets hoping for a repeat of the last time. Nevermind whether the election was actually rigged or not, the important thing is that “I could not possibly have lost!” Now in some cases, as in the original colour revolutions and perhaps now in Kenya (although I’d like to stress that perhaps– I’m not entirely convinced Kibaki stole it) the revoloutionaries are in the right. In some cases, as in the last Mexican election, it’s not entirely clear and perhaps the best solution would’ve been for the loser to step back and start building up for the next round- claim the moral high ground and build on that rather than behaving like a spoilt brat, in other words. And in other cases, as would seem to be the case now in Georgia, the international observers declare the election valid, and there would seem to be no valid case for revolution at all. But as I said, the precedent has been set, and so the loser will still try anyway. It worked once before, so why can’t it work again?

Told you it should be illegal to blog this early in the morning.

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