Monday, March 3, 2014

One Last Question Before I Take a Break

I should make one last comment on my proposed series on how democracies fail before leaving it for the time being.  My preliminary hypothesis that the danger generally lies on the Right.  My point is not to deny the very real horrors of violent revolution from the Left, simply to say that those horrors do not seem to occur in democratic countries; that violent revolution from the Left only occurs against authoritarian regimes.

But in modern times, the leap has not generally been from one to the other.  At least some interim period of democratic rule usually intervenes.  Just how long does it have to be to count?  The case of Russia may seem straightforward.  Revolution against the Czar erupted in the end of February (old calendar; mid-March by the new calendar).  The Bolsheviks took over in late October (old calendar; early November by the new calendar). The interim provisional government was wracked by chaos and turmoil.  Nothing like a functioning government, let along a recognizable democracy existed.  Compare that to Weimar which, however turbulent its birth and and troubled its adolescence, at least drew up a constitution and functioning government and held numerous, regular elections.  Weimar endured only fourteen years and was never a mature or healthy democracy, but it was hardly comparable to Russia during those few chaotic months.

But what of, say, the French Revolution?  It took several years to swing badly out of control and managed to hold elections and write a constitution.  Even if one dismisses the several years of chaos, ultimately France did establish an elective Directory that managed to run a functioning government until Napoleon overthrew it. Why not include it?  I do intend to include the subversion by Communists of nascent democracy in Eastern Europe after WWII, which took about three years.  Why not the French First or Second Republic?  In other words, how long does a democratically elective government have to endure to say that it failed, rather than that it just never succeeded?

My answer has to be, I don't know.  Maybe I will include some of these other examples later one; who knows.  But I do intend at least one rule -- that a failed democracy must last at least long enough to but up and running and then fail in order to count.

And now I mean to drop the subject for a while until I have learned something about the Greeks.

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