Greece, the home of Athenian democracy thousands of years ago, is now presided over by a former governor of the Bank of Greece for whom no one voted. But we shouldn’t forget that the Greek peninsula spawned the Spartan military caste as well as the democratic Athenians.No nation is inherently more democratic than another, it would seem. Plato, a Greek, was very suspicious of democracy, and favoured rule by what he called Philosopher Kings. Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and the European Union appears to prefer Economist Kings for its struggling member-states. Do these technocrat Prime Ministers really have any power though, or should we see the current system rather as the Tyranny of the Credit Ratings Agencies? Philosophy, in either case, doesn’t get a look in. All value judgments are entrusted to the financial sector. Did such-and-such a government make the right move? We all turn our heads to the all-powerful market analyst, who holds out his quivering thumb horizontally for a moment before giving the sign, up or down.In these circumstances you may well ask yourself, is democracy worth the trouble? Democratic decision-making is notoriously slow, and has little hope of keeping up with the lightning reactions of the markets. Surely something more streamlined and purposeful would be more apt to this age. Look at the Chinese model of state capitalism, for example.
And yet, despite all this, the desire for political freedom and representative government in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Libya is an undeniable fact. Have they just not realised that all steps towards democracy are futile? Or is their idea of democracy somehow different to the established concept? Is there another way of doing democracy that would truly allow the will of all the people to matter more than market forces?
These are the questions that I will be exploring in a series of blog posts on democracy around the world, starting with Greece. So stay tuned, and please contribute with comments if you wish.