As you may know, demonstrations are planned to demand free elections in Hong Kong. This seems to have popular support, and may be permissible under the Basic Law. Coverage in FT is mainly about tactics – should protesters blockade the Central financial district, or no?
Pro-democracy activists fear that even with open voting, the list of candidates will be dictated by Beijing.
Comments on the topic have tended toward a referendum on democracy itself, and the assorted evils of the West. Here are some highlights:
- Democracy is a scam whereby the West can remove inconvenient leaders and replace them with stooges.
- Elected leaders in the West are idiots.
- The latest survey shows Chinese respondents have a high level of trust in their government, versus a sharp decline for America.
- The West got rich through exploitation, not democracy.
Jeremiah is not the best spokesman for American foreign policy, but he would like to assure his Chinese readers that we are sincerely pretty cultish about democracy. Our leaders are idiots, as the comment says, and we elect them regularly. President Obama has said, “go win an election,” on several occasions, as if that were the wellspring of legitimacy. If democracy is a poison, we imbibe it ourselves.
Brain surgeons are not elected but they rise through their merits. So why should the stupid but popular … have the legitimacy to lead a nation?
Our enthusiasm for democracy goes all the way back to the Roman Republic – and Greece, the cradle of our civilization. We believe that democracies are less likely to wage war, at least among themselves, and history reinforces this. Of course, Rome degraded into a dictatorship, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi – but our faith in democracy is undimmed.
Jeremiah insists that the people must have a right to choose their leaders, although he sometimes wishes this right came with an IQ test. Also, the more a government is constrained by laws, rights, courts, activism, and the media – the better it can withstand the occasional idiot. This brings us to the central paradox of democracy or, as we say, “you get the government you deserve.”
The Hong Kong activists are energized, and likely to vote responsibly. When people must fight to vote, they take it seriously. We Americans, who vote in low numbers and for stupid reasons, are badly suited to a democracy.