My Book on Democracy

My book, When is Democracy Normal? The Relation to Demography, Market Economy, and Globalization, was published by the Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York, in 2008.  My publisher’s web site  is: www.mellenpress.com.

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Abstract

The concept of democracy has fascinated social philosophers and political scientists from antiquity to the present. Its purpose and ideals have inspired millions of individuals and leaders. The size of ancient city-states permitted the initial establishment of a democratic rule in classical Greece. As the city-states enlarged to empires and, later on, changed to nation-states, the viability of face-to-face deliberations, assembly meetings, and consensual decision-making procedures of classical democracy have declined. It took several centuries before more stable democratic systems of a modern type were established. The key condition for the emergence of modern democracies was the Industrial Revolution.

Procedurally, democracy is commonly defined as the presence of political rights and civil liberties. For procedural democracy to exist, certain conditions have to be fulfilled. Of these conditions, I argue that economic development is the most important one, mainly because it enlarges the size of the middle class, which, with its preponderant size, higher incomes, moderate political values, and various professional associations, serves as the social foundation of democracy. That is, political equality occurs only with social equality. Other factors that facilitate the formation of democracy are the political process and external influences; the former includes effective political leadership and interest group politics and the latter relates to the end of the Cold War and the diffusion of the ideals of democracy. Procedural democracy, once established, does not merely stabilize, however; it keeps evolving and it seems to do so indefinitely. The main force that propels the further evolution of democracy is economic development. It does so by continuously increasing the size and income (and thus the power) of the middle class. Given the foregoing, I define democracy as a political procedure that allows the presence of political rights, civil liberties, a majoritarian decision-making or voting mechanism as well as a system that permits the continuous achievement of a more equal distribution of political power.

Once democratic rule is established, the procedural attributes or dimensions of democracy start becoming constant or nearly constant. In other words, they will add little or no variance to the further development of democracy. The dynamic attribute of democratic evolution is a “more equal distribution of political power.” The quality or degree of democracy increases as power diffuses among individuals over time. More specifically, as economic development continues to enlarge the middle class, the current skewed distribution of income (and thus rationality and power) becomes unbiased; as a result, income, rationality, and power become normally distributed or take the form of a bell curve. I have called such a state of political evolution normal democracy. My postulate of normal democracy is predicated on three basic assumptions: that economic development will, due to human ingenuity and hard work, continue to grow indefinitely, that there exists an unequal rationality or knowledge among individuals, and that a market-based economic system will be maintained. It is when normal democracy is achieved that a highly stable political equilibrium or balance would be possible. The symmetric nature of the normal curve entails that the mean citizen, who lies at the center of the distribution, would balance the interests, preferences, and powers of individuals of a given polity. Put differently, the political values, preferences, and power of the mean citizen would be decisive in democratic politics particularly after normal democracy is achieved. Given the presence of unequal rationality (and hence tensions between individual liberty and equality) among individuals of a given society, however, a perfectly equal distribution of power or democratic society may not be feasible.

Interestingly, democracy or the distribution of power seems to have similar characteristics with other social and natural phenomena. The patterns exhibited between the developments of political democracy and life expectancy are, for instance, remarkable. Life expectancy, as does democracy, is impacted by the industrialization process. Proper diet and hygiene, which have existed only in modern societies, have contributed to the longevity of human beings. Moreover, the level of life expectancy, as in the case of democracy, stabilizes after a certain country reaches near or at mid-level of development. The stabilization of life expectancy and democracy seem to herald that the two processes may be approaching their respective equilibrium positions. Population and political equilibria will exist if the sizes of the young and old-aged groups (and birth and death rates) and the sizes of the lower and upper classes are, respectively, equal. Similarly, population and political equilibria will yield a distribution in which the middle-age group and the middle class are, respectively, the majority in a given society. However, although the growth rates of life expectancy and democracy have decreased, the two phenomena seem (due to mainly the impact of continuous economic development) to evolve indefinitely. In other words, trends in post-equilibrium era of population and politics would always be, albeit with diminishing levels of increases, dynamic not static.

Nor is the market system immune from the tendencies and patterns exhibited in other social systems. The economic and political systems are intimately related, indeed. The analogies that exist between the two systems are remarkable. For instance, normal democracy could be achieved only after the process of political development passes through autocratic, oligarchic, and polyarchic political systems. Similarly, the market system has to go through monopoly, oligopoly, and monopolistic competition before it could achieve what I have called normal competition. Whereas rationality and information seem to be skewed in favor of a few firms in monopolistic competition (the market system that modern industrial countries currently rely on), they would be normally distributed under normal competition. As the market becomes highly competitive, most firms in their respective industries would have nearly similar products and prices. The number of sellers and buyers would be extremely high under normal competition, and the majority of firms will tend to make ‘normal profits’. Those firms that would come up with innovative ideas and products will likely make higher than ‘normal profit’, and they would be located to the right of the mean in the normal curve. And the reverse would be true for those firms that lie to the left of the mean. After the achievement of normal competition, the level of rationality and information among buyers and sellers, respectively, is likely to be normally distributed. Normal competition will likely be an optimal economic system that could be achieved; it would lead to the presence of economic equilibrium in which profits, investment returns, and prices of goods and services would be highly stable. Nevertheless, a perfect or pure competition in which the distribution of rationality, information, profits, and investment returns are uniform or equal is not likely to exist. Differences in ingenuity of firms and individuals would disallow the presence of a perfect or pure competition. In sum, the normalcy of power, income, rationality, age, profits, and investment returns (among others) seem to be a general law of human nature.

The movement of social and economic processes towards the achievement of equilibria leads me to inquire logically and to ask the question: what were the original conditions under which the various systems might have existed? I posit that the social systems in the beginning of human history may have been in equilibrium positions. In other words, prehistoric societies might not have started as equals; differences in skills and motivations might have been natural in the past as they are in the present. The leaders of prehistoric communities may have been persons who had better intuitions and wisdom. As times passed by and human productivity increased, some of the able persons and community leaders may have acquired greater wealth and power, leading to the formation of class-based societies. The slave and the feudal systems may have, thus, been the outcomes of decisions made by the powerful persons of the past. History seems, however, to come in full circle, albeit in a more advanced way. The industrialization process has changed the autocratic and monopolistic natures of politics and economics, respectively, in most of the industrial world. As individuals became educated, they questioned (and challenged) the old autocratic systems as unjust and inappropriate. As individuals became wealthy, they felt they could decide on their political and social stakes, either by holding electoral offices or by influencing public policies. In large middle class societies, democracy has become the most cherished and desired political system, and it will likely continue to do so until normal democracy is achieved. The same seems to hold true for the economic system: the economic development process has made markets more efficient over time, and they will likely continue to be so until normal competition is achieved. Human nature, similar to the subservience of physical objects and living things to gravitational force, seems to be obeying, or governed by, a general law of equilibrium or balance.

The foregoing discussion implies that the democratic institution will remain in place across countries and over time. Some scholars, however, question whether or not the nation state will continue to exist in the new age of globalization; the latter could lead to a world government, a federation of states, or region states. Or, globalization could erode some but not all of the sovereignty of the nation state. I argue that the latter is a more accurate description of reality than the former. My contention is that the nation state (and its democratic institution) will continue to exist along with globalization indefinitely. The question is how? To address this question, we need to define and explain globalization. The globalization process, I contend, may be explained by post-modernization theory, a theory that may be thought of as a synthesis and extension of realism and liberalism. Realism and liberalism could be reconciled and better understood if we visualize that the two theories’ positions are located at each end of a continuum. Thus, realism’s concern for the security dilemma and liberalism’s quest for peace may be shown to lie at the two ends of a continuum. Similarly, realism’s concerns for power and wealth maximization and liberalism’s quest for power and wealth parity may be shown as the two ends of continua. Finally, realism’s mercantilist or protectionist trade policies may be matched by liberalism’s free trade position at each end of a continuum. In practice, a combination of the two theories explains the political and economic interactions of states. For instance, states form defense forces but they also trade with each other. Nevertheless, it should be noted that there is a tendency for countries to move towards the theoretical positions of liberalism over time. Thus, as countries establish democratic rule, they become more peaceful with each other. And as the global environment becomes more stable (as in the case of the end of the Cold War), states tend to trade more with each other. Accordingly, I define globalization as a process of economic and political interdependence of states, which continuously leads towards the achievement of a more peaceful world as well as to a more equal distribution of wealth and power among countries.

Thus, given that democracies are peaceful to each other and since the ultimate goal of political globalization is a stable or peaceful global environment, political globalization seems in part to be a function of democracy. If properly managed, economic globalization has also the potential to contribute to the prosperity of all societies, including to developing countries. The logic of the market is such that capital and know-how flow from highly industrial to less industrial countries. As a result, the economies of developing countries could, using the capital and know-how of the developed worlds as well as their own, prosper. Consequently, a more equal distribution of wealth (and thus power) among all countries could exist. Moreover, although globalization may foster individuals who would cherish values of a global perspective (such as the protection of the environment), it may not necessarily lead to the abandonment of nationalism and the end of the nation state. Democracy is thus a political system that may continue to prosper under the auspices of the nation state. The globalization process seems destined to foster prosperity and peace among states; it is not, nor will it likely be, dismantling or transforming the nation state.