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Alexis de Tocqueville and Turkey

Reader comment on item: The Religious Roots of Turkey's Currency Crisis

Submitted by Dave (United States), Dec 30, 2021 at 07:42

When he visited America, Alexis de Tocqueville formed the belief that democracy could become a form of tyranny. His concluded that a government which was directly elected could be tainted by the same prejudices and limitations of the populace that elected it and could therefore be more unjust and tyrannical than a government controlled by an enlightened elite, as in Europe. He pointed to the example of the northern states excluding voting rights for freed slaves. Without getting too involved in details, there is something to be said for his view that an elected government is only as good, or bad, as the people electing it.

Despite his later slide into despotism, Erdogan was originally elected, so one must conclude that his Islamist beliefs are shared by a large portion of Turkish society. Whether his subsequent actions, including the savaging of the Turkish economy, are still popular, is somewhat doubtful, although it's probable that a significant chunk of the populace could still be characterized as bitter clingers when it comes to Islamic principles.

The Turkish experience shows that de Tocqueville's skepticism about democracy is well taken, particularly when dealing with a Muslim majority country, and that the years of military rule in Turkey could be viewed as preferable. We could have saved a lot of trouble had we realized all this before undertaking our naive crusade for the democratization of Iraq and Afghanistan, but we should be better prepared going forward.

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Daniel Pipes replies:

True, except that you are using the word democracy to mean a system of voting. These days, however, it is generally used to mean political participation in general, including minority rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech, loyal opposition, and so on. Understood that way, democracy is not a path to dictatorship.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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