Monday, December 3, 2007

Here's an improvement on democracy

"Consider some dates. Native Americans got the vote in the United States in 1924. Spanish women were given the same privilege in 1931, French women in 1944. Lords of the Realm in the United Kingdom could not vote in parliamentary elections until 1999. Although democracy began in Athens two and a half thousand years ago, it was for centuries a fragile flower and has blossomed only recently.
Democracy, we tell ourselves, is a hallmark of “the West”, the treasure that the rest of the World envies and that accounts for the pre-eminence of Europe and North America in economic progress, intellectual dominance and moral freedoms.
But it's not the case when you examine the chronology. The rise of the West had much less to do with democracy than with the rise of secularism. The West's advance was chiefly related to the decline in the influence of religion that sought the truth by “looking in” to see what God had to say, and its replacement by looking out, deriving authority from observation, experimentation and exploration."

Peter Watson, The Times, December 1, 2007
It's very true. Democracy rests on the idea that the population can rationally discuss and select the best options. But what if people aren't rational?

2 comments:

Divided By Zer0 said...

Don't forget that Greek Democracy did not allow slaves or women to vote either.

Strappado said...

Indeed. And at the time, it probably made sense because women and slaves did not have the possibility to get educated and would jump to a lot of bad conclusions. Now obviously, they should have let them get educated instead of merely preventing them from voting.

And that's what the comment pretty much says, that secularism is (one) condition for a working democracy. Just consider how deeply religious people throughout the world reacts to the Palestine conflict.