When Democracy Fails
The dawning of the 20th century had brightened the great and continuing hopes of mankind for peace and goodwill among nations. The president of Stanford University at the time expressed these hopes in a book he authored at the turn of the century: “The man of the 20th century will be a hopeful man. He will love the world, and the world will love him” (David Starr Jordan, The Call of the Twentieth Century).
Such hopes were gravely dashed in the mud, flames and agony of the dying, injured and displaced in World War i. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. comments, “Looking back, we recall a century marked a good deal less by love than by hate, irrationality and atrocity, one that for a long dark passage inspired the gravest forebodings about the very survival of the human race” (Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 1997, p. 3).
Thus, although “people of good will in 1900 believed in the inevitability of democracy, the invincibility of progress, the decency of human nature, and the coming reign of reason and peace” (ibid.), a gray pall soon settled over humankind as the 20th century’s wars, floods, fires, famines, pestilences, earthquakes and the outbreak of an uncontrollable aids pandemic slaughtered multiple millions in their prime.
And yet, the same global euphoria gripped the world in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the end of the cold war as the 20th century waned. Hopes of a “new world order” were declared.
The end-of-history historian Francis Fukiyama expounded his theme of “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” If indeed universal liberal democracy is the final hope for mankind in his quest for a form of government that will bring peace and unity to humankind, what if it fails? It collapsed due to the political, economic and moral failure to deal with the forces of evil, twice in the days of appeasement of the enemy in the years preceding World Wars i and ii. If indeed liberal democracy, of all the forms of government tried by man over 6,000 years of recorded history, is the best that man can find, to what form of government do we then turn in the event of a third collapse?
“If liberal democracy fails in the 21st century, as it failed in the 20th, to construct a humane, prosperous and peaceful world, it will invite the rise of alternative creeds apt to be based, like fascism and communism, on flight from freedom and surrender to authority” (ibid., p. 4).
Following the liberal democratic dictum which declares that a nation will never go to war with a trading partner, the Western democracies zealously pursue globalization of trade and commerce. As Josef Joffe, editor for Süddeutsche Zeitung, puts it, “Today the United States is more like Bismark’s Germany, developing [trade] alliances with everyone so that ganging up against it is impossible” (ibid., p. I). Perhaps that is why the U.S. does not begin to recognize the grave threat that is increasingly being posed by the Bismarkian corporate leaders of Germany to its trading economy (see article, p. 21).
While the U.S. is caught pursuing such policies to meet its own ends, it remains oblivious to the incursions into its own vitals by those who hail from the country of source of the Bismarkian philosophy!