Filipino views on democracy and social capital (Part II: Democracy, human development and political values)

Posted: June 15, 2018 in Authoritarianism, Democracy, Francis Fukuyama, Pew Research Center
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Part II:  Democracy, human development and political values

 

The felicitous relationship between human development, preference for democracy, and other positive political values has been argued in extant literature.

Welzel, Inglehart and Klingemann (2003) demonstrated that socioeconomic development, emancipative cultural change and democratization constitute a coherent syndrome of social progress – a syndrome whose common focus has not been properly specified by classical modernization theory. 

 

They specified this syndrome as ‘human  development’, arguing  that  its three  components have a common  focus on broadening human  choice. Socioeconomic development gives people  the objective  means  of  choice  by  increasing  individual  resources; rising  emancipative  values strengthen people’s  subjective  orientation towards  choice; and  democratization provides  legal  guarantees  of  choice  by  institutionalizing  freedom   rights.  Analysis  of  data   from the  World  Values  Surveys  demonstrates that  the  linkage  between  individual  resources, emancipative values and freedom rights is universal  in its presence across nations, regions and  cultural  zones; that  this  human  development  syndrome is shaped  by a causal  effect of  individual  resources and  emancipative values  on  freedom rights;  and  that  this  effect operates  through its impact  on  elite integrity, as the  factor  which  makes  freedom  rights effective.

 

In a related work, Welzel and Inglehart (2005) examined democratization as an aspect of human development: human development progresses when people attain greater autonomous choice in shaping their lives.  Democratization promotes this process in so far as it institutionalizes freedom of choice based on civil and political liberties.

 

This perspective allows one to integrate modernization-based explanations and civic culture-based explanations of democratization under a common theoretical umbrella. Both types of explanations reflect aspects of human development. Modernization provides socioeconomic resources that increase people’s capabilities to act in accordance with their autonomous choices; and the rise of a civic culture promotes post-materialist values that increase people’s emphasis on autonomous choices. Linked through their common focus on autonomous human choice, socioeconomic resources and post-materialist values provide overlapping sources of pressure for the growth of freedom. Within the limits set by the extent to which freedom is not yet present, socioeconomic resources and post-materialist values are conducive to the growth of political freedom in interchangeable ways.

 

These hypotheses are tested against the massive wave of democratization processes that occurred from the 1980s to the 1990s, using data from 62 nations of the World Values Surveys. We find that democratization is driven by social forces that focus on the growth of autonomous human choice, reflecting human development. From this perspective, modernization-based and civic culture-based explanations of democratization are manifestations of the same theme: the expansion of autonomous human choice.

It is obvious that a culture of dependence and fear reflects scarcity of socio-economic resources and instrumental/materialist values.  The love, nay need for, of a strong leader, betrays a society that is fundamentally authoritarian even if garbed in democratic integuments. The newest term for this socio-cultural complex is offered by North, Wallis and Weingast (2010): the natural state. For the trio, the natural state is a limited access society that limits violence by political manipulation of a few powerful actors but doing so hinders both economic and political development.  In contrast, modern societies create open access to economic and political organizations, fostering political and economic competition.

 

But democracy does (and did) not always have good reviews.  One can only recall how the ancient Athenian philosopher Aristotle depicted democracy as the perverted version of the ‘rule of many’—akin to mob rule since the many (who are poor) will most likely violate the rights (particularly property rights) of the few (who are rich).  He further argued that democracy also stunts economic growth because the numerous poor people will demand an increase in (present) consumption expenditures that will in turn decrease the amount of investible funds—the key to expanded economic growth.  In effect, Aristotle developed a political Malthusian theorem: a growing population of enfranchised poor people will swamp and starve an economy of investment funds needed to fund future economic growth. 

 

During the last half of the 20th century, many authoritarian regimes were established in formerly democratic states in Latin America, Africa and Asia (the Philippines, included) based on a Faustian social contract: suspend democracy in exchange for economic prosperity.  The underlying premise: democracy was a luxury reserved only for prosperous societies.  It imposes too much transactions costs; it is too messy and cumbersome; it leads to dissension and disunity—and thus it does not promote economic growth.

 

With the third democratization wave that started in Southern Europe in the late 1970s and culminated with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet bloc, the intellectual opinion turned in favor of democracy.  Admittedly, the demise of Soviet-type regimes was prematurely celebrated by the likes of Francis Fukuyama in his End of History and had led to the erroneous conflation of democracy with capitalism.  The competing metaphors?  The ‘grabbing hand’ versus the ‘invisible hand’!  Much of the theoretical reasoning centers on the virtues of democratic systems vis-à-vis property rights.  It is a stylized fact that democracies are associated with individual rights, including property rights. Secure property rights supposedly encourage entrepreneurship and investments as investors are assured that the gains from investments will not be arbitrarily taken away from them by an authoritarian state.

 

However, the experience of foreign capitalists with the People’s Republic of China belies the strong association between democratic polities and secure property rights.  China has proven that even a communist state can protect property rights of capitalists for the mutual benefit of both parties.  While there may be some feeble debate whether the political economy of China is socialist and/or non-capitalist, the political dominance of the Chinese Communist Party is beyond dispute. 

 

Global public opinion on democracy appears to be more complex.  A global survey done by the Pew Research Center in late 2017 found that majorities in each of the 38 countries polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country.  Majorities in nearly all of the surveyed countries said the same thing about direct democracy. But nondemocratic alternatives also had support.  Across the surveyed countries, a median of 49% said governance by experts would be a good way to run their nation.  The corresponding figures for military rule and rule by a strong, unconstrained executive were 24% and 26%, respectively (See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/06/despite-concerns-about-global-democracy-nearly-six-in-ten-countries-are-now-democratic/ and http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/10/16/globally-broad-support-for-representative-and-direct-democracy/).  What is quite disturbing is that even in rich, well-established democracies, non-democratic political models find support  This is true even if in general, public commitment to representative democracy is highest in rich countries that have a well-functioning democracy.

 

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The same Pew survey indicated that in the Philippines, only 15% of respondents were committed to representative democracy while a close 12% were open to non-democratic options.  Indonesian had a lower commitment of 12% while India registered a very low 8% commitment even as it reported, together with the Philippines, a 67% shallow commitment to representative democracy.  This phenomenon has been analyzed by scholars and had led many to qualify such democracies as ‘low-performing democracies’.  Citizens of such democracies have low opinions of democratic processes and retain significant preference for authoritarian politics due to the inability of their albeit-democratic governments to provide adequate bundles of public goods for their constituents. 

 

The Pew Research Center recently reported that Americans generally agree on democratic ideals and values that are important for the United States. But for the most part, they see the country falling well short in living up to these ideals, according to a new study of opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of key aspects of American democracy and the political system (See http://www.people-press.org/2018/04/26/the-public-the-political-system-and-american-democracy/). 

 

To be continued…

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