Wednesday, May 14, 2008

liberal and illiberal democracy: an empty distinction

A distinction has recently been made between liberal and illiberal democracy – with America being the paragon of the former variety.

America has never been a liberal democracy – until 1865 it was a slave-owning republic. Then the 'Jim Crow' period followed; the blacks were lynched at the drop of a hat until 1964; until the Civil Rights Act, they were not allowed to mix with their white superiors; today, they comprise 40% of the US prison population, even though they constitute only 14% of US population.

And that's ignoring all the other illiberal tendencies of the US: the decimation of the he Native Americans in the great westward expansion under the slogan "Manifest Destiny" (which, according to Norman Finkelstein, was Hitler's model for his eastward push under the slogan 'lebensraum'); the wars that followed the fulfillment of 'manifest destiny'; the overseas adventures, such as the Vietnam War, and today the illegal war in Iraq.

Similar crimes can be attributed to most, if not all, the democracies: that is to say, the idea of a 'liberal democracy' is a red herring, to pursued for profit by the canny and to their ruin by the foolish.

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