What is democ­racy?

CityPress - - Voices -

Pi­eter Steenekamp Gaut­eng en­joyed the ar­ti­cle “A democ­racy is not demo­cratic” (City Press, March 12 2017) by Ar­turo Bris. How­ever, I think the ar­ti­cle misses the point. In my hum­ble opin­ion, a bet­ter ap­proach is to ad­dress the is­sues of democ­racy as part of a big­ger ques­tion: What makes a good sys­tem of gov­ern­ment and what role does democ­racy play in this sys­tem of a good gov­ern­ment?

For ex­am­ple, Niall Fer­gu­son’s ap­proach of try­ing to iden­tify the “killer apps” of pros­per­ity (he iden­ti­fies them as com­pe­ti­tion, sci­ence, prop­erty, mod­ern medicine and work ethic) is one such ap­proach of look­ing beyond a sin­gle com­po­nent like democ­racy.

My point here is not to ar­gue for Fer­gu­son’s an­swers to pros­per­ity; my point is to ar­gue for go­ing beyond ad­dress­ing only a sin­gle com­po­nent,

IClearly, there is col­lu­sion be­tween Bathabile Dlamini and CPS. The pres­i­dent knows about it, and he is prob­a­bly com­plicit. He is, after all, do­ing noth­ing about it.

There is im­punity in the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion – that’s why cor­rupt min­is­ters are brazenly non­cha­lant, de­spite pub­lic out­cries. such as democ­racy, as the source of a good sys­tem of gov­er­nance.

An­other im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion is the con­sti­tu­tion that grants the demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment spe­cific pow­ers.

For ex­am­ple, a clas­si­cal lib­eral Con­sti­tu­tion would re­strict the pow­ers of the demo­cratic gov­ern­ment and al­low a large de­gree of per­sonal free­dom, while a mod­ern lib­eral con­sti­tu­tion would grant the demo­cratic gov­ern­ment the power to act as a “nanny” state and limit per­sonal free­dom in an at­tempt to “make so­ci­ety bet­ter”.

My point is that, with ev­ery­thing else the same, democ­racy is good, but an au­to­cratic sys­tem with good in­sti­tu­tions – not nec­es­sar­ily Fer­gu­son’s killer apps, but sim­i­lar com­po­nents of a “good” sys­tem and a “good” Con­sti­tu­tion – is much bet­ter than a demo­cratic sys­tem with­out these other fac­tors.

As an ex­am­ple, South Africa is more demo­cratic than Sin­ga­pore, but I think there is an ar­gu­ment to be made that Sin­ga­pore has a bet­ter gov­ern­ment.

I would ar­gue that it is not be­cause Sin­ga­pore has less democ­racy, but be­cause of many other pos­i­tive fac­tors in Sin­ga­pore’s favour.

So I would say Sin­ga­pore has a bet­ter gov­ern­ment in spite of (as op­posed to “be­cause of”) less democ­racy.

In con­clu­sion, yes, please do ad­dress the pros and cons of and is­sues around democ­racy. It’s good to read the opin­ions of well-in­formed con­trib­u­tors such as Bris. But I’m sure he will agree that there are many other fac­tors con­tribut­ing to a good gov­ern­ment, not only democ­racy.

So please make it clear that democ­racy plays but a par­tial role in mak­ing a good gov­ern­ment, and at least men­tion the fact that there are other ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tors to mak­ing a good gov­ern­ment.

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