Democracy: Present Challenges

The European Union was created under certain principles; democracy is one of the basic that should be considered. With the development of an organism of this kind, one should be aware of the potential stages that should be achieved among the time, following a free trade area and a commercial union then the integration of the area take more complex topics where the human “capital” is now taken into consideration but dealing with goods is not the same as dealing with people and even less when trying to reach agreements looking for more than economic benefits and this is why democratic institutions should be emerged in order to operate the freedom of the citizens. As written by Mogens Herman Hansen (1992) “Democracy is both a set of political institutions and a set of political ideals” Seems like a higher level of integration demands for a higher level of actions facing more sophisticated challenges such as globalization and terrorism.

 

The question centers our attention to the model of the EU, is it a democratic project? What are the roles of institutions and their different modalities of integration? Is it possible to generate these institutions without affecting the democratic side of the project? Or maybe with the challenge of a greater order the union will be looking more as a socialist project or even authoritarian? And what role plays the globalization? Is it a beneficial phenomenon or just for a few? Terrorism is a problem shadowing the European project or is it a cancer caused by the anxiety of unifying the complex States today?

Is the EU a democratic project? Role played by institutions in different levels

To talk about the European Union is mostly alike to talk about the human body; it might be as simple as a superficial outlook of gender or as deeper as defining the connection between the brain thoughts and the neurobiological system; but there should be generalities which could be discussed in a platform of mutual understandability regarding universal concepts such as liberty, dignity, sovereignty, culture and unity.

From my point of view, the “answer” to the question if the EU is a democratic project resides in what is understood by democracy and its minimal characteristics. Liberty should be included in the definition of democracy because where there is no liberty there is no democracy, and this leads to the next question: What is liberty in an international organism such as the EU? I would like to center my premise specifically in the methods used for get over the crisis since I consider the most important present challenge the “union” faces today.

When looking at the superficial objectives we can find that the projects looks after unifying the States with a free commercial and labor dynamism among the members, but as in a party, when there is plenty of food and music everything seems to be quite well, people love people and there are no disagreements; therefore when an electric failure comes to the scene the problems comes to the light and even more when the food is running out. Then you can see the real faces and the real situations that should be considered.

At this crisis point seems that the EU is cracking into two groups, the rich European supporters and the PIGS plus aggregates. I read an article which included the transcription of an intervention by the British Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage on November 24th, 2010; it called my attention in a very singular way because I think that he speaks in the name of those States in crisis, his assumptions may or may not be well supported and a better scientific analysis should be made in order to determine if the reasons he gives are truth but also must be considered that the public and gross number of European citizens does not have the vision before described, it is more a feeling than a scientific perspective and I do not blame them, anyway who can think properly (if the truth would be different than Farage’s) with hunger? Or even worse, with hunger plus kids with nothing to eat. I must say before proceeding that I am not completely in agreement with this “radical” politician but one could get light reflected from the moon even in the darkest night.

 

“Right across every member state in this Union – and perhaps this is why we see the fear in the faces (the ministers) – increasingly people are saying, ‘We don’t want that flag. We don’t want the anthem. We don’t want this political class. We want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history.”

 

Here I can see clearly a feeling that to me would be logic. When the economy crashes, people oftenly blame the government and since Europe is facing a really hard time, then it seems probable that most of the people of those countries with great deficits would think this way. According to the article by Robert Rohrschneider entitled “The democracy deficit and mass support for an EU-Wide government” it is exposed that since 2002 that “a majority of West Europeans does not believe that the EU represents them (…) These effects are especially strong in countries with high-quality institutions” Therefore, if the East Europeans were a little less skeptics and supportive for a EU then this crisis effects will change their mind and with the west believing that the EU is non-democratic and the east having anger because of the situation, then I do see a very long and winding road from now on for the European next integration levels.

Let’s now talk about the hard facts, how free are the local institutions? In modern and contemporary times, the way out of the crisis was the labor of policies applied by the State, as we can see Keynesian policies worked until the late 60′s and then other policies were applied, all on a niche of “free State”. However, in current times the member States of the European Union cannot act according to their will in regards that they should face the European Parliament when taking a decision; so if in an emergency, as this crisis, supra-national institutions do not allow local institutions act then somehow democracy is being violated by States by the removal of sovereignty and freedom, maybe also their dignity. We come back to Farage:

 

“Now I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this. They should never ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust.

But look at your response to them. What they’re being told, as their government is collapsing, is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election. In fact Commissioner Rehn here said they had to agree their budget first before they’d be allowed to have a general election.”

 

In this case, a general election was not blessed by the Parliament, so one can think that this principle of free elections have been violated by the supra-national organization, this is completely in contradiction with a democracy.

 

“Because if you rob people of their identity. If you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.”

 

Even though this is a radical diagnosis of the situation in Europe, I must agree with the fact that when a State’s democracy is root out then severe consequences are to be expected. And when a raise in nationalism and violence get the banks and other local institutions, nor the regional or the supra-nationals would be in conditions of operate and the chaos will lead to a worse situation than expected.

Local institutions could be categorized as direct democracy institutions while regional are more representative but supra-national institutions barely represent the gross part of the European population, from my point of view, they reflect more a mixture of political and trade interests.

Impact of globalization on democracy

Globalization is a term that has changed among the time. It was probably conceived during the 80’s as a mere trade of goods among countries and during the 90’s it took a greater level. With the incorporation of technologies, internet made possible the e-commerce; as expected, everything related to new technologies tends to be overestimated, and logically led to a bubble crashing after a while. Then, coming from Stanford, a good idea came: e-commerce with people. This is a very disturbing fact, not because it has evil in it but because it is widely accepted, one makes use of the internet every day with the notion of it as a “free service” or even worse as a “civil right”. But nothing in this era is for free, is it? The business is made by trading with human beings, with the information; with a logarithm Google has the best marketing research that surely will be bought by companies for their convenience; this might not be that serious but when somebody thinks of the Poland Jew registry during the WWII one could be somehow interested. What would happen if that simple database had included not only names and addresses but also relatives, friends, locations, properties and a “real-time” track of every movement with pictures of one’s life? The information is vital for business, but also for other darker purposes and we are not clearly aware of the potential risks we are running when using internet as a daily tool.

As Globalization plus technology purvey, we can have access to goods and information all around the world and in exchange we feed a potential mass destruction weapon that resides in a data base controlled not by particulars with merely business purposes but now by powerful governments.

Renren is basically the Chinese Facebook, with more than 30 million users in China manages the information, pictures and lives of a great percentage of the world’s population. It is clearly as popular and successful as Facebook for the only reason that Facebook is not allowed by the Chinese government, the reason: The Communist Chinese government is not allowed to control the blue “f” logo company, but it is with Renren. In this case, any person member of Renren that is suspected to be against the Communist Party or organizing a democratic strike to claim for its rights will be immediately investigated and surely punished, so this company, literally named “All world’s web”, is to be serving as a Communist tool to block democracy, the same working with the engine Baidu, the Chinese counterpart of Google. This is sadly “normal” for a Communist country and the reader must be asking what this all has to do with democracy, well, what if this great Communist tools were supported financially by the “Spreader of the democracy”? Renren can be found in the NYSE as Renren Inc. in case one would like to invest in this “profitable” company. Maybe during the Cold War this could have been considered as communist conspiracy against freedom and democracy, but nowadays it’s just about money and if Renren or Baidu pays better than IBM, then who cares about democracy?

But not only Communists have this problem, democrat President Obama is catching our backs when browsing:

 

What next? We’ve had the IRS targeting conservative groups, journalists hounded by the state, the NSA collecting phone record data – and now it seems that the US government has been watching what you click on. According to The Guardian and The Washington Post, the NSA is monitoring internet traffic through Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Yahoo etc. The programme even has a sci-fi sounding name that conjures up images of some 25th century dystopia: PRISM.

 

Now it is understandable when President Obama claimed for “Internet for everybody”, clearly if the information can be used as a governmental tool, the USA want it. Is globalization impacting positively on democracy? I think that the answer is very complex and would be gotten in terms of the effects globalization is having on democratic States. Again comes to my mind the concepts of freedom related to democracy, the world is apparently free to speak, free to act and free to browse but maybe this freedom is actually the way governments are taking in order to take that freedom off of us.

 

Impact of terrorism on democracy.

Terrorism is a problem that nowadays affects everybody, since we live in a globalized world; whatever happens in the USA will impact the other nations among the world; a lot has been written about terrorism and plenty of examples could arise but the real challenge is to find the reason that causes this cancer.

According to the research expressed in the article “Democracy, foreign policy and terrorism” (Savun, et. Al. 2009) states that “the positive empirical association between democracy and transnational terrorism is better explained by the foreign policy behavior of states” in fact, it was found that, kind of obvious, a State that interferes with other countries domestic policy are more vulnerable to cause bad feelings against it. The question to me should be how far a State should go? As good democrats, the power to respond to this question was given to the UN Security Council but the problem is that the USA does not respect the resolutions. In this case, democracy is violated by the State about to be interfered and by the country that does not respect the UN resolution. The impact of this behavior hits democracy from the very beginning. Terrorism could be considered as an effect of this interference “antidemocrat” a lot of times because it infringes the feeling of respect among the world and somehow the freedom of the nations to choose the best system for them.

Let’s consider terrorism as the act of rejecting the democratic code, as an attribution to force a certain group of people to act according to the will of another group of people or of an individual. In this case the terrorist does not necessarily belong to a group like Al Qaeda but also could be the USNAVY considering the perspectives of all the ideologies.

The terrorist considers democracy as a lost State since he is not represented and needs to take control by himself in the road of violence.

But what is the drive of the terrorist? The terrorist chooses the clandestine act of violence, because it is considered unable to overcome the opposing group and determine in an open confrontation, by the power difference between the two and injustice that he contemplates among the pseudo-democracy. This fact could better be linked to the domestic (or inter State) act of terrorism and it sets democracy in a place of failed system since it is not able to include and represent this radical group of people.

 

Conclusion

The relationship between local, regional and supra national institutions is driven by the ability of transmission of the will of the most; however, the transmission of this approach will present a “cone” that leads to a more and more difficult way to be perceived as representative institutions (and thus democratic) and they look very far to the base of society: citizens.

This and other situations impede the spread of democracy and present new challenges to the system such as terrorism. Terrorism could be describes as the response to the intrude of a State in the will of other State when there is a disparity of powers and it not only hits the democracy by its institutions but also impacts the image of the system among the world. The States should be very aware where and when to take part on a domestic conflict in regards to the propensity of attacks.

Globalization could be a great ally when it does not impact democracy, when it is used to restrict freedom could be the worst enemy of a democracy, it all depends of the system actions and the perception of the citizens.

Bibliography

 

Savun, Bursu / Phillips, Brian J. (2009): Democracy, Foreign Policy, and Terrorism.

In: Journal of Conflict Resolution: Vol. 53, No. 6. pp. 878-904.

Hansen, Mogens Herman (April, 1992): The Tradition of the Athenian Democracy A. D. 1750-1990. In: Greece & Rome, 2nd Series. Vol. 39, No. 1. pp. 14-30.

Rohrschneider, Robert (April, 2002): The Democracy Deficit and Mass Support for an EU-Wide Government. In: American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 46, No. 2. pp. 463-475.

The daily bell (2010): Speaking Truth. Retrieved from:

http://www.thedailybell.com/1555/Speaking-Truth-to-Euro-Power.html

The judicial watch (2013): Obama gives poor free internet after UN says it’s a basic human right. Retrieved from: http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2011/11/poor-get-free-internet-after-u-n-says-it-s-basic-human-right/

 

 

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