LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY

February 17, 2007 : Saturday 

 

Gerald Magno

LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY

The two go hand in hand in popular thinking, fused by more than three hundred years of Philippine history. More democracy means more freedom. Or does it? At a time when democracy is transcendent, the one political system whose legitimacy is unquestioned, this deeply important idea points out the tensions between democracy and freedom. It ranges widely through the past and present to remind us that we can have too much of a good thing.

Take Philippine democracy, in many people minds the model for the rest of the world. I am pointing out that the Philippine form of democracy is one of the least democratic in use today. Members of the Supreme Court and the other institutions that fundamentally shape our lives-are appointed, not elected. The Bill of Rights enumerates a set of privileges to which citizens are entitled no matter what the majority says. By restricting our democracy, we enhance our freedom.

Nonetheless, we fall into the mistake of thinking, both at home and abroad, that the answer to problems is always more democracy. But look at the end of dictatorship in 1986, which opened up politics. They brought into the halls of Congress not the voice of the people but the cries of special interests, well- organized minorities, and money. Philippine government today is democratic than ever before-and also more dysfunctional.

Abroad, the problem is that the spread of democracy has not produced a corresponding growth of liberty. We are seeing in many parts of the world, from Russia to Venezuela to the Palestinian Authority, a strange creature-the elected autocrat. In the Arab world in particular we see societies trapped between repressive dictatorships and fanatical masses. Is there a way out?

Filipinos should call for a restoration of the balance between liberty and democracy and shows how liberal democracy has to be made effective and relevant for our times. Woodrow Wilson said the challenge of the twentieth century was to make the world safe for democracy. As we enter the twenty-first century, this timely book challenges us to make democracy safe for the world.

1 Comment »

  1. Irene Said:

    I’m afraid but now I am starting to believe democracy is a myth….


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