Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Democracy Promotion the Answer?

I think it is time to re-examine both the realist and liberal theories of international relations. First, both are based on flawed assumptions of human nature and behavior. Second, neither theory takes into account cognitive biases, belief structures in the human brain, the human fear response system and the myriad of other discoveries about behavior. Instead, both the realists and liberals assume rational, self-interested players. For example, the idea of democracy promotion assumes that every human would rationally prefer to live under an elected form of government. Maybe, maybe not. I argue that a more sophisticated perspective is needed. Democracy promotion sounds good, moral, and right. In the absence of context, however, it is a meaningless policy that universally applied is doomed to fail miserably. Let us look at each country, nation, and region which we wish to assist and determine whether the population is emotionally prepared, sufficiently motivated, and cognitively aware enough to succeed at a democratic experiment. If not, let's decide how to help them prepare themselves for democracy. Let us determine whether there are leaders sufficiently developed to take on the ambiguities, uncertainties, and anxieties of democratic governance. In the meantime, we can encourage development of local rule of law to create simple property and contract rights and create a sustainable local economy. Without this deeper inquiry, we and the people we wish to help will suffer in frustration and failure.

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