The alternative to unadulterated democracy is not dictatorship

We go back to the quote on the cover of Dr. Ambedkar’s book mentioned in an earlier post:

More brain, O Lord, more brain! Or we shall mar,
Utterly this fair garden we might win

The point we want to emphasize about governance is that the alternative to unadulterated democracy is not dictatorship. But the consequence of reaching for a first-best solution can be the tragic loss of lives we are seeing in Kenya and Pakistan today. 

Fareed Zakaria in his 2003 book (The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad) has this to say:

One effect of the overemphasis on pure democracy is that little effort is given to creating imaginative constitutions for transitional countries. Constitutionalism… is a complicated system of checks and balances designed to prevent the accumulation of power and the abuse of office. This is accomplished not by simply writing up a list of rights but by constructing a system in which government will not violate those rights.

Constitutions were also meant to tame the passions of the public, creating not simply democratic but also deliberative government. The South African constitution is an example of an unusually crafted, somewhat undemocratic structure. It secures power for minorities, both those regionally based such as the Zulus and those that are dispersed, such as the whites. In doing so it has increased that country’s chances of success as a democracy, despite its poverty and harrowing social catastrophes. [Pages 157-158]

What we need in politics today is not more democracy but less. By this I do not mean we should embrace strongmen and dictators but rather that we should ask why certain institutions within our society… function so well and why others—such as legislatures—function poorly. [Page 248] 

The solution is not to scuttle democracy in the Third World… Yet cheerleading about democracy will not solve its problems. There must be a way to make democratic systems work so that they do not perennially produce short-term policies with dismal results. [Page 252]

… if current trends continue, democracy will undoubtedly face a crisis of legitimacy, which could prove crippling… The greatest danger of unfettered and dysfunctional democracy is that it will discredit democracy itself, casting all popular governance into a shadowy light. [Page 255]

Without [an] inner stuffing, democracy will become an empty shell, not simply inadequate but potentially dangerous, bringing with it the erosion of liberty, the manipulation of freedom, and the decay of a common life. This would be a tragedy because democracy, with all its flaws, represents the “last best hope” for people around the world… As we enter the twenty-first century, our task is to make democracy safe for the world. [Page 256]

More brain, O Lord, more brain! Or we shall mar,
Utterly this fair garden we might win 

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