Before Putin, Russia seemed to be on a path to a more democratic government. Certainly under Mikhail Gorbachev (leadership positions, 1988 to 1991), a new openness and transparency (glasnost) had begun. Political reform within the communist party within Russia is called Perestroika. I note Gorbachev is still alive (age 91 years) and lives outside of Moscow. He has been critical of both the US and Putin.
I had a few conversations with friends of how democracies are terribly inefficient. The president has one agenda and Congress has another. And we may be entering one of these periods, if Republicans gain control of the Senate and/or the House. So, democracies bring with it, a lot of in-fighting between parties. Right now, very few Republicans approve of Joe Biden. They blame him for just about everything.
Companies seem so much more efficient. The CEO and Board of Directors sets out objectives, and the employees do their best to follow the plan.
We can see what a democracy brings to the table, by examining the autocracies. I will define them as follows:
“Autocracy is a system of government in which absolute power over a state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject neither to external legal restraints nor to regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of coup d’état or other forms of rebellion).” Wikipedia
Churchill’s quote on democracy still holds:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
There are several pillars that hold up a democracy, to keep it from turning into an autocracy. First is the right of free speech and the right to assembly. The right to a fair trial is also fundamental to a democracy. It is the amendments of the constitution which put limits on what government can do. As Putin increased his power, critics were silenced. Television stations critical of the government were closed. Other critics have been assassinated.
The second pillar is free and open elections and term limits. They are not perfect. But they do result in no one being the leader of a country for decades. Elections should be the result of people making informed decisions. So, some awareness of the responsibility of the electorate, not to vote strictly on the basis of party line, is needed.
The third pillar is our constitution is the supreme law of our country, is not easily amended and can not be scrapped altogether. Otherwise, a strong president could be ordering changes in the constitution to favor his re-election and concentration of authority. What goes along with this, is a respect for the legal system, and the concept that no one is above the law.
The fourth pillar is our system of checks and balances, designed to keep no one branch of government as the exclusive source of power and authority. A good example is that every cabinet level nomination must be approved by the Senate. Supreme Court nominations are all subject to Senate review and approval. Yes, our checks and balances don’t work perfectly, but they are there.
The benefits to a democracy are best understood by looking what an autocracy lacks and how it can bring ruin to a country. We now see this nightly, as we follow Putin’s war. Putin is looking for support and he really hasn’t found it. No functioning democracy supports Putin’s invasion.
Putin is not faced with massive opposition to his war, because he controls the news stations. Anyone who protests the war will be jailed. No court is going to dare not convict protestors. No Congress is going to impeach him for abuse of power. No checks and balances. No fair elections. And way to transfer power when one day Putin steps down.
So, remember the 4 pillars, (1) The civil liberties from our bill of rights (2) Free and open elections, (3) Our constitution is the supreme law of the country and can not be easily changed and (4) Our system of checks and balances.
Giving up democracy to make the system more efficient or effective, is a terrible idea.
Wikipedia, Mikhail Gorbachev