Friday, June 08, 2012

Democracy is no mere commodity

Taiwanese voters in the Jan. 14 presidential election
Acknowledging that Taiwan is the first Chinese democracy does not mean one agrees that Taiwan is part of China. Those are two different issues 

Some political commentators from the pan-green camp were recently angered by remarks by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which they interpreted as saying that Taiwan’s democratic way of life was a “Chinese democracy,” arguing instead that it was a “Taiwanese democracy.” 

Many of Ma’s detractors seem to regard the president’s comments on the subject as part of his administration’s attempts to Sinicize Taiwan, to the detriment of its identity as distinct from China. 

While a case can be made about the Ma government’s tendency to overemphasize the Chinese “bloodlines,” “history” and “culture” that are part of the mix of Taiwanese identity, those who see Ma’s efforts as a dangerous attempt at rewriting history should in turn be wary of making claims that depart from reality. Arguing that democracy in Taiwan is “Taiwan’s democracy,” it must be said, does exactly that. 

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

1 comment:

Mike Fagan said...

"...when in fact the thirst for equality, freedom and justice that lies at the core of democracy..."

There are good grounds to be more careful here because there are at least two, antagonistic arguments in play concerning the distribution of power in a "democracy". Common to both arguments is the insistence that power should not be concentrated in the hands of a few, but diffused throughout society.

According to the first argument, power is more likely to be widely diffused when it is of an economic nature premised upon voluntary cooperation; hence the insistence on the free market even in such things as security (a la Gustave Molinari's famous paper), and this points directly to the elimination of political power.

According to the second argument, resistance to the concentration of power is better achieved by stipulation to the electoral mechanism by which "democracy" is more commonly known. In this case, the supremacy of political power remains but it is entrusted to varying degrees in an entity referred to as "the people", or rather, their supposed representatives.

The antagonism between the market and the state is common to all major countries today, including China and so the necessary question is how long we have left before collapse, not whether China can democratize. That question seems to me to reflect the confirmation bias of those rose-tinted spectaclistas who still imagine that the state will go on "managing" the market indefinitely so long as it follows the advice of Enron-advisers and other assorted TV personalities.