Will Ukraine become a stable liberal democracy? We don’t know, but government accountable to the governed is the only form suitable for grown-ups. All other forms of government treat people as children, writes FT analyst Martin Wolf:
In the past, when most people were illiterate, such paternalism might have been justified. That can no longer be true. As the population becomes more informed, governments that treat their peoples in this way will be less acceptable. I expect (or hope) that, in the long run, this will be true even of China.
The evidence is consistent with this optimism. According to the Polity IV database, almost 100 countries are now (more or less imperfect) democracies. This is double the number in 1990. …. Unfortunately, there has been a rise from about 20 to over 50 in the number of anocracies – regimes whose governance is highly unstable, ineffective and corrupt. Such regimes may be either crumbling autocracies or failing democracies. They are also vulnerable to outbreaks of armed conflict or forcible seizures of power.
Democracy requires a double set of restraints: among the people and between the people and the state, resting on four essential features, Wolf contends:
First of all, democracies need citizens [who] accept that their loyalty to the processes they share must override loyalty to their own political side….. Citizens, it follows, … accept the legitimacy of dissent and even vociferous protest. They rule out only the use of force. …
Second, democracies need guardians, a term used by the late Jane Jacobs in her superb book, Systems of Survival. Guardians hold positions of political, bureaucratic, legal or military power. What makes them guardians, as opposed to bandits, is that they use their positions not for personal material advantage, but in accordance with objective rules or in favour of a notion of the commonweal. ….
Third, democracies need markets. By markets we definitely do not mean the abuse of the power of state to turn public into private wealth, as happened throughout so much of the former Soviet Union. Business people who build their fortunes on such theft are no more legitimate than the politicians who helped them…..
Finally, if all these complex, albeit essential, systems are to be effective, democracies need accepted laws, including not least constitutional ones (even if sometimes unwritten). …. A country that lacks the rule of law is permanently on the verge of chaos or tyranny – the unhappy fate of Russia over the centuries.