Monday, August 17, 2015

A Quick Recap

Although I found the articles on electoral democracy versus liberal democracy interesting and enlightening, I see one major flaw in their reasoning.  The authors talk about property rights, political rights, and civil rights, but under the heading of civil rights they conflate two different things.  One is the right of dissent; the other is equal treatment of "identity" minorities.  Although the authors vaguely acknowledge that one can respect one without respecting the other, they generally avoid the subject by including "ideology" among the markers of "identity," along with race, ethnicity, language, religion and geography.  This they contrast to class struggle, which they do not see as a matter of identity.

I find this argument unconvincing.  I do agree that societies are often divided by differences in race, ethnicity, religion, language or geography.  I agree that it is appropriate to refer to these things collectively as "identity."  I also agree that class is not a matter of identity in the same way.  Different social classes do have different sub-cultures, and mobility between them is not as easy as many people believe because of cultural differences, but ultimately class does not become a matter of identity in the same sense that these other differences do.  But neither does ideology.  Once again, different ideologies can form their own tribe and sub-culture, as the present-day US attests.  But ultimately ideology fits in the same category as class -- not a true identity in the same way as ethnic identities.

Alternately there is the argument that as an empirical matter liberal democracy and liberal autocracy respect dissent in a way that electoral democracy does not.  And certainly it is true that a lot of the illiberal democracies arising today lack respect for either dissent or minority rights.  But if respect for dissent and respect for minorities, though theoretically different, empirically seem to go together, then the authors really ought to explore why this should be.

The other reason I am skeptical of linking respect for minorities and respect for dissent together is that I see historically at least one glaring exception to the general rule that they go together -- the United States.  The US from the very start strongly respected and protected the right of dissent.  But our history on minority rights is quite a different matter.

So really, that issue ought to be addressed -- do respect for dissent and respect for minority rights empirically go together and, if so, why.

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