Posts tagged ‘Arab Spring’

Freedom <> Democracy

In this country, at least in high school civics classes, we often equate freedom and democracy.  But this is not the case.  I have written before that protection of individual rights is far more critical to our well-being than voting.  If there was a system with a better track record for protecting individual rights than democracy, I would support it, even if it did not involve voting.

Here is an interesting example from Kuwait of a king protecting individual rights from a democratically-elected body

Although a monarchy, Kuwait has an elected parliament and a generally free media. It regularly invites foreign analysts and journalists to observe its elections. I am making my second trip this year.

Tremors from the Arab Spring are being felt here. The parliament elected in 2009 faced charges of corruption and lost popularity, and was dissolved at the beginning of the year. Elections were held in February.

All very democratic.

The new legislature was dominated by anti-government activists and, more important, Islamists. Top of the latter’s agenda was making Sharia the basis of all laws, imposing the death penalty for blasphemy, and closing Christian churches. Not very good for liberty.

The Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said no to all three. Liberty was protected only because Kuwait was not a genuine parliamentary system where elections determine the government.

Please, do not over-interpret my point here.  I am well aware that the Emir in Kuwait holds a number of illiberal views with which I would disagree.  But its an interesting example none-the-less.

Winter is Coming

It appears the Arab Spring, unsurprisingly, is coming to an end, as Islamic hard liners take a large share of the Parliamentary seats.

The idealist in me is offended when the US supports dictators with mixed respect for individual rights.  The realist in me knows that often, when such people are removed, worse governments take their place.