The limits of democracy

Image thanks to US News

If the situation in Afghanistan has shown us anything, it is that there are significant limits to democracy, limits that severely question its legitimacy as a political system. While he is no hero of mine, it was Churchill who said that ‘democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.’ I agree with his sentiment but would add the word ‘yet’. 

To address the increasingly global nature of the problems we are facing (climate change, population growth, rampant capitalism and increasing inequality) we need a new universal system of government. I’m normally an optimistic person who believes in the basic good of humanity, but good luck with that.

What is my concern with democracy then? I have looked at this before in previous blogs and no doubt will come back to it again. The problem with democracy is that it is limited by the boundaries of the nation state. A country can democratically elect a government, fair and square, that then goes on to make decisions that are detrimental to neighbouring or other states. 

We see this time and time again, where powerful countries, though democratically governed, impose conditions upon other countries, such as debt burden, human rights abuses, support for  cruel political regimes, foreign culture and ideologies etc. Countries with democratically elected governments have been known to invade other countries and overthrow democratically elected governments because they don’t like the colour of the people’s choice. 

Afghanistan is a case in point. What gives the west the right to invade a sovereign state? Surely not democracy but rather weapons, money and their inherent power. Indeed, what gives any country the right to invade another?

I accept that everyone has the right to defend themselves and only governments can have the capacity to defend large groups of people but it makes a mockery of the defence industry when it is used for aggression, even in the name of a seemingly just cause.

Democracy allows such aggression.  This severely limits its legitimacy as a political system.

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