fredclaymeyer

Democratization

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Yesterday, I attended a very informative and well-delivered lunch lecture on US-Iran relations by Dr. Suzanne Maloney, a Fletcher Ph.D. and fellow at the Brookings Institute. One of her observations during the talk agrees strongly with my own: that the high level of education and progressive values of Iran’s large population of young people bodes well for its long-term prospects as a stable, prosperous, democratic nation.

I think a certain level of economic and cultural well-being (say, decent physical infrastructure and a significant middle class) is usually needed to make democratic government a stable proposition, and that many developing countries develop this well-being under highly authoritarian government, which they eventually shed. In the 20th century, Germany, Japan, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, and Taiwan seem to fit this mold. In the 21st, Iraq seems a plausible (though not certain) addition—in fact, I credit the divergent outcomes of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan largely with those countries’ different levels of development.

If some authoritarian governments are, in fact, “transition” governments that will eventually yield stable, prosperous democracies, this is cause for optimism even at the times when those countries’ internal situations look most distorted. On the other hand, I’m leery of anyone who declares the inevitable triumph of a particular “pinnacle” system of government; and the celebration of social conflict as a means to a greater end is precisely what makes most revolutionary movements unhelpful and repellent. Do any experts (or self-proclaimed experts) care to weigh in?

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