Advancing a Free Society

Is Democracy Viable?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Those who see hope in the Middle East uprisings seem to assume that they will lead in the direction of freedom or democracy. There is already talk about the "liberation" of Egypt, even though the biggest change there has been that a one-man dictatorship has been replaced by a military dictatorship that has suspended the constitution.

Perhaps the military dictatorship will be temporary, as its leaders say, but we have heard that song before. What we have also heard, too many times before, is the assumption that getting rid of an undemocratic government means that it will be replaced by a freer and better government.

History says otherwise. After Russia's czars were replaced by the Communists, the government executed more people in a day than the czars had executed in half a century. It was much the same story in Cuba, when the Batista regime was replaced by Castro and in Iran when the Shah was replaced by the Ayatollahs.

It is not inevitable that bad regimes are replaced by worse regimes. But it has happened too often for us to blithely assume that overthrowing a dictator means a movement toward freedom and democracy.

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(photo credit: Krishna Praveen)