What is democracy?
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.