Democracy, Why It Matters

February 16, 2012

Well, one of many reasons.


Every year, The Economist ranks 166 countries on a “democracy index” or the integration of democracy into government. The rankings are based on the country’s electorial process, civil liberties, how the government functions, and political participation and culture. In essence, the results are a guide for gauging the health of democracy in the world.

Countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Congo, and Iran rank lowest on the index. After all, these countries have very few, if any, democratic ideals in their authoritarian regimes.

What the report says is concerning, however, is the influence the Euro Debt Crisis has had on democracies in the Euro Zone.

Western Europe holds six of the top 10 democracies in the world. However, after Greece announced it had fudged numbers on its debt in order to enter the Euro Zone and the debt crisis began, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and France droppedfrom being “full democracies” (as defined at the end of the report).

In fact, the Economist Intelligent Unit reports that last year Europe experienced most of the decline felt by democracy in the world.

Why did this occur? Largely because of the economic debt crisis experienced in the Euro Zone.

The international community pressured certain Euro countries to pass austerity measures in order to avoid a default, to the frustration of their populaces. Italy and Greece both replaced their elected heads of state with unelected fiscal experts (called technocrats). In debt crisis, national sovereignty and the accountability of elected officials to the populace bowed to the needs of the world economy.

Could that happen here? Clearly, there are some significant differences between these Euro Zone nations and the United States, the most obvious being that we are not under a constitutional banner with other nations.

However, the trend of debt resolution is important to learn from. In tough situations, tough decisions are made, and the needs and voices of the population can be muffled by the needs and desires of the larger economy and shareholders. If our ability to pay our debt were to come into serious question, the consequences would reverberate throughout the world.

The key question is, to whom should the American government answer? Its citizens who are asking for cuts today, or its creditors tomorrow?

This year, the United States is already ranked the 19th democracy in the world. Let’s preserve and strengthen America today for tomorrow’s generations.


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