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October 17, 2019 / Congau

Compulsive Choice

If Russia became a democracy, it would not be Russia anymore. It would fade into a diluted version of Europe and a junior partner of America.

If China became a democracy, it would repeat its colonial past and sink back as a failed copy of the West.

India is a democracy and is steeped in bottomless poverty; a great culture tucked up in an insignificant corner of the world, with no power and no choice.

Russia and China are alternatives; something else that one might want to choose or stay away from. You may like them or hate them, but at least they are different. They offer a choice in the world, and somehow we thought that was a feature of democracy. In a global perspective the spread of democracy leads to less diversity, and isn’t that a shame?

Inside those undemocratic countries there is little choice, you object, and that’s undeniably correct, but the realistic choice we have in a democracy is also quite limited. True, we can vote for a range of parties and candidates formally covering the entire spectrum from right to left but most of them are ridiculously irrelevant. A choice that has close to zero chance of coming into being isn’t much of a choice.

Very well, the genuine alternatives of a democracy are very limited but of course there are more than none, and surely that’s enough to give it an advantage, isn’t it? my invisible objector continues. Yes, I may concede to that, but it comes at a price. As some alternatives are added, others are subtracted and what used to be reality is no longer possible.

Suppose the Russians really prefer the kind of system they’re having (there’s a good chance they really do). If the country opened up, that system would no longer be possible.

The tide of times is an inevitable force, and democracy, more than any other system, is inclined to bow to its impact. A one-party state tends to resist it and thereby it gives a choice by giving no choice.

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