Xujun’s recent article on The China Beat and the comments it engendered made me think a little bit more about the whole concept of democracy. I can’t help but admire Jiang Qing, he really is a man who believes in his cause, and his cause does seem worthy. His epic search for good governance is reminiscent of both the spiritual search that Siddhartha undertook in search of enlightenment and the adventures of Odysseus.
Of course most people who go off in search of something don’t end up being noticed, let alone becoming Buddha. Much of the trick in making an impact is finding the right stopping place. Had Jiang Qing decided he liked Christianity, or gone on to become a libertarian it is unlikely any would have heard his name again. But, as it happens, he stopped on Confucianism and that does seem to strike a chord with many in
While the article itself seems to be more about the man and his journey, the comments all seem focused on his landing point. Few of those who commented embrace the idea of a Confucian state, deriding it as a quaint but impractical, if not simply bad, idea. I share in that skepticism, though not the derision, but it is worth pointing out that what is proposed is quite similar to the evolution of democracy in
What did strike me strongly in the things Jian Qing said was that popular will alone is not sufficient for good governance. To put this in a more western turn of phrase, how do we protect democracy from the voters?
While that may seem like a tongue in cheek questions, it really is worthy of pretty serious consideration.
It is not simply that the people voting don’t understand what is being asked of them. The voting processes in the
To get good governance, even political stability, you need a clear set of rules that people, by and large, will adhere to. For a democracy with individual freedom, those rules are pretty complicated since they have to let people do mostly what they want but not anything they want. The wealthy democracies have all found their own mix of freedom and restraint managed by both the force of law and social custom. I guess, when you reflect on it, all of this is painfully obvious, and was well understood by people from Cromwell to
So what does that imply for