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Should we force democracy?

What I wanted to know is: do you think that democratic countries should force other countries to implement democracy? Don't you think that that is a flaw in the all idea of democracy?


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    Mar 26 2013: I think it’s not so much a question of ‘should’ (‘should’ and ‘force’ don’t go well together in pretty much any context, so an immediate response would be: no, of course not.) Rather, it’s a question of ‘can’.

    Two points:

    1. There is this tendency to depart from the various definitions of democracy and say that a political system, however flawed, is a democracy because it does not meet enough criteria to be called an authoritarian regime. When you consider things strictly from the point of view of this dichotomy, of course people will readily agree that democracy, while imperfect, is better. And while ‘forcing’ and ‘democracy’ seem like mutually exclusive terms, what you would be doing in effect is giving people more personal freedom, expanding their rights, encouraging participation and so on. However, the problem is that you can assist them in building democratic institutions, but you cannot ‘export’ a ready-made institutional system without considering the local context (and without exporting said system’s flaws along the way.)

    2. Democracy is not defined by one single thing, or even one single category. It is not simply a collection of rights associated with citizenship (i.e., voting, freedom of expression, political participation etc.) It is an interaction of different categories, such as electoral processes, civil rights, institutional accountability, socio-economic context and the international environment. This is a complex system that involves a lot of variables. As an external agent, you are not bringing (or forcing) democracy on a country, but impacting on 1-2 of these categories.

    I would argue that it’s not possible to force democracy on a country, but not because ‘forcing’ is an uncomfortable term. Instead, because it simply wouldn’t work as expected. You can assist in democracy building, you can offer expertise, involve said country’s citizens in the process or facilitate financial aid. But you cannot give them democracy as a full package.

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