Democracy in Crisis and Why Democracy Matters

Educate the next generation so as to cope intellectually, morally, and politically with the messiness and complexity of the world.

            Yehuda Elkana

In developing democracy in the United States and Europe over the last few centuries, the people of both continents have forged five fundamental safeguards against the tyranny of those with dangerous personality disorders. These safeguards are: representative democracy, in which leaders are freely elected and freely removed by the people; the separation of church and state, which limits the ability of tyrants to wield the power of the state on behalf of sectarian causes; social democracy, in which the state has the responsibility to redistribute wealth in order to minimise poverty and ensure social cohesion; pooled sovereignty, which reduces nationalist sentiment and deprives tyrants of a rallying cry to arms; and the protection of individual human rights in law, including the rights of minorities, which deprives tyrants of their most vulnerable scapegoats. Although the mix of safeguards varies between the United States and Europe, and between countries in Europe, they together characterise the Western democratic model.   Continue reading

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The China Model – Advantages of the One Party Meritocratic State?

China’s success in recent decades has been remarkable. Economic reforms have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of severe poverty, the greatest reduction in poverty ever[1]. Beneath China’s spectacular economic progress, however, the Chinese Communist Party retains much of its authoritarian nature.[2] But while the Party still relies on many of the classic tactics of authoritarianism to maintain its grip on power, supporters argue that the China Model has some critical advantages over the model of liberal democracy.[3]  Continue reading

The Solution to Democracy’s Crisis is More Democracy

A version of this article appears in the May edition of Village magazine.

Whatever else it is, Trump’s chaotic post-truth presidency is a gift for psychologists. Under their code of ethics, psychologists are not allowed to make pronouncements about the mental health of public figures. Despite this rule, thousands of psychotherapists in the U.S. have come together in Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism to warn about Trump’s dubious mental health. Psychology professors from top U.S. universities have also broken ranks to voice their clinical opinion that Trump suffers from a dangerous mental disorder.    Continue reading

Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration Speech -“The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.”

On each of the days leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, disorderedworld has been posting the words of six icons of democracy to remind us of what democracy really means, and inspire us to stand in resolute opposition to the divisive path along which Trump is leading the world. Today, on Inauguration Day we let the words of the giant of democracy, Nelson Mandela, stand in judgement on the shame that is Donald Trump.

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“I can’t forget the looks on faces of people who’ve lost hope… you have to give people hope.” Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk, gay activist and human rights leader, was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the world. The transformation of many societies in their attitudes not only to gay people, but to women, to people of different race, to people with disabilities, have all come about mainly through civic activism and democratic debate. Democracy has been a pathway to freedom for women and minorities around the world. In the extracts from his speech given after his election Harvey Milk reminds us that democracy is, ultimately, about hope.   Continue reading

“All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights…” Jawaharlal Nehru

On each of the days leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, disorderedworld is posting the words of five icons of democracy to remind us of what democracy really means, and inspire us to stand in resolute opposition to the divisive path along which Trump is leading the world. Today we remember the speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India on the eve of India’s Independence on 15 August 1947. In it Nehru outlines the aim of India’s democracy as ending the poverty and suffering of its citizens, providing a home for all people regardless of religion, and playing a leading role in spreading justice across the world. Continue reading

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth…” Liu Xiaobo

Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11 year jail sentence for campaigning for democracy in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in a ceremony he could not attend. In a message smuggled from his prison cell he asked that his Nobel Peace Prize to be dedicated to “the lost souls from the 4th of June” Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 which suppressed China’s dawning democracy movement. The following extracts from the speech he made at his trail remind us of the enormous personal cost that those who struggle for freedom of speech, human rights and democracy are often willing to pay for the benefit of strangers and future generations.  Continue reading