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The strength of democracy

Reader comment on item: A Better World[, Explains Michael Mandelbaum]

Submitted by Brian Jackson (United Kingdom), Feb 1, 2003 at 16:57

Democracy is not such a fragile flower as some think. The reason for its strength is that, like our own bodies, it has been created by evolution. The ancient Greeks are credited with the invention of democracy, but their version, based on a slave-owning society, was very crude by our standards.

In England democracy evolved over many centuries, and is still evolving, not from any grand design but by "two steps forwards and one step backwards"; the golden rule - survival of the fittest. In the process we have created many intrinsic institutions such as a free press and an independent judiciary. These institutions form a complex network which renders our democracy both resiliant to attack and adaptable to changing circumstances.

America, learning from England's mistakes, adopted a full-blown republican system (based on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - to my mind one of the most beautiful and elegant constructs in the English language) and their constitution too has evolved into a modern democracy.

Some democracies, such as newly made nations in Africa, have disintegrated for lack of the hard-won institutions needed to support them. But in time, they may revive.

In spite of the inherent weaknesses of the democratic system, such as freedom of speech for opponents as well as adherents, I am optimistic that we shall survive and outlive those who seek to destroy us. We defeated fascism, we have seen the demise of soviet communism, and I believe we shall weather the rise of militant Islam.
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