The United States: “Flawed Democracy”
We see the 2022 edition of The Economist’s Intelligence Unit Democracy Index is out.
This tabulation ranks the world’s nations across several categories. These categories include but are not limited to:
Civil liberties… the functioning of government… political participation… electoral process… pluralism… and political culture.
The higher the categorical score, the higher the democratic ranking.
And so we ask: Where does the United States rank among the nations of the Earth?
Is it the most democratic? Perhaps the fifth? The eighth? Or heaven forfend… the 27th?
Answer shortly. We concede it at the outset: We hold democracy in lesser esteem than most.
As old Ben Franklin never said: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.”
We are for the lamb and against the wolves. But let it go for now.
We nonetheless find the spectacle of democracy vastly fascinating and amusing, a spectacle without equal, a circus in 100 rings or more.
The “people” give the orders in democracy, say the civics books.
But did anyone ask the people — for example — if invading Iraq in 2003 was a swell idea?
Or if their tax dollars should rescue Wall Street in 2008?
Or if their government should dispatch main battle tanks to Ukraine — or $100 billion of their tax monies?
We do not recall the orders going out.
Somehow it all seems beyond democratic agency, beyond all control.
It is simply the way the political machinery operates, a fellow concludes.
He may cluck-cluck his opposition to it. He often does. Yet he is largely a man resigned… and he simply throws up the sponge in frustration.
If “the people own the government” — as the democratic gospel singers tell us — we suggest you put the theory to this test:
Approach the guardhouse at the nearest military installation. Demand immediate, unqualified and unrestricted access to the post, asserting your rights of property.
The ownership theory hinges upon the reaction you receive.But to return to our question:
Where is the United States’ democratic ranking among the nations of Earth?
The answer, says The Economist’s Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, is…
Thirtieth. The United States is the 30th most democratic nation of Earth.
It finds itself wedged between hellcat Israel and the Jeffersonian heaven of Slovenia.
Thus America is sorted into the category of “flawed democracies,” coming beneath the “full democracies” of the world.
Listed here are the world’s top 10 “full democracies,” seriatim:
Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands — and Taiwan.
May we please pick a nit with The Economist’s esteemed ladies and gentlemen?
They rank New Zealand second-most democratic among the world’s nations. Yet the very same New Zealand imposed nearly totalitarian lockdowns during the pandemic — lockdowns not dissimilar from China’s.
“The people” did not vote for them. But to proceed…
You may not be surprised to learn that demon Russia ranks very low in the democratic categories.
Russia is the world’s 146th most democratic nation of the 167 ranked, a scourge. About which:
Just so. Meantime, poor little innocent and corrupt Ukraine, Russia’s invadee, is ranked the 87th most democratic nation of Earth.
We are nonetheless informed that Ukraine “shows the power of democratic ideas and principles to bind together a nation and its people in the pursuit of democracy.”
Afghanistan, incidentally — despite nearly two decades of American democracy-constructing — ranks 167 of 167 — the least democratic of all.
In all, merely 8% of Earth’s inhabitants parade around in “full democracies.”
Please spare a tender thought for the world’s remaining 92%.
They are denied the unvarnished glories, benefits, advantages, swindles, vanities and preposterousnesses that full democracy offers.
United States citizens are not among the top 8%, alas. They are instead the semi-fortunate residents of a lesser category — a “flawed democracy.”
We find this rather disconcerting. We would expect a higher democratic ranking.
We have always taken solace in the belief that our existence takes place beneath the unrivaled democratic folds of the stars and stripes.
Yes, we concede that “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention” — as James Madison observes in Federalist No. 10.
We further grant Mr. Madison his argument that democracies:
“Have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
But this you cannot deny: What a show while it lasts…
We have previously compared and contrasted democracy with the outdated system of monarchy. Today we republish our musings and reflections on both forms of government.
Is democracy superior to monarchy? Read on…
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