Saturday, 14 June 2014

Iraq and Democracy

This will be my last post on this subject.

I had a look around at some bits of research to try to understand why some countries become democratic and others don't. It's often spoke about in terms of people becoming rich enough, but we can look at countries like Qatar that aren't democratic that have a very high GDP per capita and it doesn't quite add up.

I stumbled across a paper on  The Impact of Economic Development on Democracy by Evelyne Huber, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and John D. Stephens which contained the following:-

Our central thesis, and indeed our most basic finding, can now be stated in stark fashion: Capitalist development is related to democracy because it shifts the balance of class power, because it weakens the power of the landlord class and strengthens subordinate classes. The working and the middle classes—unlike other subordinate classes in history—gain an unprecedented capacity for self-organization due to such developments as urbanization, factory production, and new forms of communication and transportation.

If we look at Western democracies that's pretty much the case. Countries like Taiwan and South Korea also became democracies after their countries industrialised.

If you look at countries like Qatar or Iraq, though, while they're advanced countries, the shift in the balance of class power hasn't happened in the same way. The wealth of the country is still under the control of the leaders, that wealth being the oil in the ground (nearly half of Iraqi GDP is oil). On the other hand, Egypt, a country that is developing and moving away from a dependence on oil and tourism does seem to be rising up on their own. Early days perhaps, but they seem to fit the pattern.

The one place we successfully imposed democracy was Japan which was already quite an advanced industrialized economy in 1945.

Which now makes me ponder if imposing democracy, shortcutting the process and not building up the structures is sustainable. Can you intervene and create it and expect it to last, or does the lack of class shift mean that it's a house built on sand?

36 comments:

Rich Tee said...

Broadly agree. What I ponder about is the impact of weaponry.

Western democracies went through years of turmoil (eg. English & USA civil wars) before they settled down. During this time people could only fight with bows and arrows and muskets etc.

Nowadays a warlord can oppress people with bombs and guns, as we see in Africa and the Middle East.

Also oil gives countries like Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Qatar money without them having to do anything productive to earn it. They also import technology rather than inventing and building it themselves. Western countries has to invent and build things themselves which requires stability.

The Stigler said...

Rich Tee,

I don't think the advanced weapons thing matters much. Romania, Libya and Egypt all had advanced weapons at the time of their revolutions.

The key thing with revolutions is when the people stand up and say they aren't scared of their leaders. The sheer numbers of people in a country compared to their army size is so great that the army can't win, regardless of weapons, which is why they often turn during the revolt.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Yes, good find, everything is a simplification but that's a good way of looking at things.

We also note that with the re-emergence of the landlord class in this country, fewer people are voting and 'democracy' is becoming a bit of a joke (Indian Bicycle Marketing etc).

Physiocrat said...

It is simpler than that and goes back far into history. Islam is not compatible with democracy for theological reasons which favour absolute autocracy.

The same seems to be true for Orthodox Christianity but there may be extraneous forces which have led to the historical association between Orthodoxy and autocracy.

Catholic and Protestant Christianity tend to have provided conditions in which democracy can flourish.

Much depends on the system of land tenure. Concentrated land holdings and land rights without corresponding obligations are strongly associated with a lack of democracy and the lack of democracy reinforces the concentration of holdings and rights.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Phys, yes, religion is another factor, whereby military coups are far more common in Catholic countries than in Protestant ones.

The religion which is most compatible with democracy is Protestantism, of course, because that is closest to atheism.

A K Haart said...

Interesting paper - I've downloaded it.

I'm sure the basic idea is sound in spite of other factors such as religion.

paulc156 said...

Sounds plausible but worth noting that China is this moment trying to disprove the thesis. Capitalism [albeit of the state form]/ Industrialisation on unprecedented scale...minus the democracy.

Physiocrat said...

Christianity and Judaism in all forms should be condemnatory of land ownership since it is contrary to scripture and the established teaching of the church. Things like Rerum Novarum are the usual bad fudge on the matter of "property".

If dispersed land ownership is a prerequisite for democracy then dictatorships in Catholic countries should not be happening. In practice the clergy have on the whole sided with the landowning cliques eg in Spain and Portugal and their ex-colonies. Shame on them.

Mark Wadsworth said...

I think Phys is right and the theory has to be refined.

Democracy is more likely/viable in societies with a more equal distribution. It doesn't really matter "of what" so the oldest democracies (Iceland, Isle of Man and Switzerland) are notable for their lack of a land-owning, aristocrat class, and democracy could take hold long before industrialisation.

It just so happens that under capitalism, wages tend to be distributed quite evenly, or certainly more evenly than land ownership is or was.

Lola said...

Robin Hood. He was renowned for 'robbing the rich to give to the poor'. Only he didn't. He took on the two major landowning classes, the Church and the State (in the form of the illegitimate rule of the Sherrif of Nottingham who was an early and armed to the teeth Rachmannite. Clearly the writers of the RH legend knew all about how land monopoly was inimical to freedom and democracy.

The other thing that leads to a democratic system (democracy being a process, not a political philosophy) is religious tolerance. But religious intolerance also leads to industrial development. People like Abraham Darby were Quakers and were denied access to professions like the law because they couldn't swear oaths, so they got stuck into production.
The development of the state based on the democratic system is a conundrum, although England provides a good example/model. But we all know that it'd be even better if the land monopoly was unerstood and acted upon.

Physiocrat said...

The Scandinavian democracies seem to be based on the wide ownership of land. The king broke the power of the aristocracy in 1680 by examining their titles which mostly turned out to be fraudulent, and giving the land to small farmers, in return for which they had to provide for the upkeep of soldiers - effectively LVT. This was known as the Great Reduction. They have long had some LVT anyway.

A corresponding process in Britain would see the Grosvenor Estate return to the Crown and become part of the Crown Estate.

Physiocrat said...

The Scandinavian democracies seem to be based on the wide ownership of land. The king broke the power of the aristocracy in 1680 by examining their titles which mostly turned out to be fraudulent, and giving the land to small farmers, in return for which they had to provide for the upkeep of soldiers - effectively LVT. This was known as the Great Reduction. They have long had some LVT anyway.

A corresponding process in Britain would see the Grosvenor Estate return to the Crown and become part of the Crown Estate.

The Stigler said...

Mark,
Ta

Physiocrat,
I don't buy the Islam argument. Medieval Christianity was pretty barbaric, too.

paulc,
China is not yet a heavily industrialised country. There's still huge areas of it that are peasant farmers.

If you look at the UK, we really got democracy in 1884 with the 3rd reform act that gave all men a vote. Before then, you had to be a landowner. And that happened decades after Brunel was running trains.

Physiocrat,
"If dispersed land ownership is a prerequisite for democracy then dictatorships in Catholic countries should not be happening." It's not about dispersed land ownership so much as the dispersement of land and production.

Mark,
Quite possibly - I used the word industrialization, simply because that's the general way it happens but the authors talk more about the shift of power from state to individual.

The United States had quite an early democracy without it because the revolution didn't lead to a state or dictator owning the land or having a land-owning hierarchy.

Lola,
I think it's the other way around, that industrialization leads to religious tolerance. And that's because people don't depend on the state (and the state's chosen religion) so much and instead have to trade with anyone they find.

paulc156 said...

@Stigler China's well on the way. They already produce more stuff than the US and the gap is getting wider all the time. There's no sign of them introducing democratic reforms as they go forwards. As I say it's an ongoing experiment. If they are successful, it's a model many might want to emulate.

The Stigler said...

paulc,

Yes, they produce more stuff, but they also have a much bigger population. And it's not just about how much you produce - it's about the balance with the state.

But my guess? China has less than 20 years until it's democratic.

Physiocrat said...

Stigler - what are your sources for allegations of the barbarous of Medieval Christian Europe?

Land ownership in Catholic southern Europe tends to be concentrated.

The Stigler said...

Physiocrat,

Well, for starters, there's the Spanish Inquisition. Burning at the stake of heretics and witches. And later, the destruction of catholic monastries in Britain and the Hundred Years War.

And what thankfully destroyed all of that was learning (often by more enlightened Christians) which created more industrialisation and destroyed more extreme religion to the point where religion has little effect on our states.

Physiocrat said...

The Stigler

What are your sources?

Rich Tee said...

There was also the Black Death. It is said that this killed so many ordinary workers that the survivors gained leverage over the land owners as their labour was now in short supply.

I've also read that wars did this too. The ruling class needed ordinary people to fight their wars and pay their taxes, so they would give them concessions to gain their cooperation.

What we can say is that is that the factors are complicated, which is why you can't simply remove a regime forcibly and hope that a democracy springs up in its place.

Lola said...

TS - Indeed, but it is a very nice point.

Bayard said...

"China has less than 20 years until it's democratic."

What do you mean by "democratic"? An elective oligarchy, as we have here, or real democracy, as they have in Switzerland?

The Stigler said...

Rich Tee,

All I'm really saying is that creating democracy has pre-requisites. I think also that it may be that you need to reach a certain power shift in society for that to stick, too.

If you look at countries that got democracy (because of say, colonialists leaving), they often voted badly, or along religious or tribal lines.

It's made me ponder about Northern Ireland where there's still lots of sectarianism and whether that's related to so many people there being clients of the state (either claiming unemployment benefits, working for the public sector or working for suppliers to the state).

The Stigler said...

Bayard,

I'm very critical of FPTP, but it is still, at least at a fairly reasonable level, democratic.

Personally, I'm more interested in government being less involved in the minutae of life, giving us all more individual choices.

paulc156 said...

@Rich Tee. Regards the Black Death and it's impact on labour I remember listening to the Sheffield Uni based historian who had been commissioned by the Masons to look into the history of masons. He found that the first mention of any such organised body was in the aftermath of the plague in the 14thC. It was at that point that the 'stone' masons gained great influence over their own destiny. They simply added all the cobblers about them building the Temple and the Pyramids to make themselves sound grander than they were.

paulc156 said...

Addendum. Obviously I was referring to the history of the organisation of 'Freemasonry'. 'Stone masons' themselves obviously had a hand in both Temple and Pyramid building...they just didn't engage in funny handshakes and secret ceremonies of initiation prior to the 14thC. :)

Physiocrat said...

Democracy is absolutely incompatible with Islam because of its theology of an all-powerful God who is so far above mere man. Tyrannical rule reflects that theology.

Those religions with a concept of divine incarnation have historically been amenable to democracy.

The barbarity of medieval Christians is about on a par with human barbarity generally, and was possibly somewhat mitigated by codes of chivalry and the like. The Crusades were a belated defensive action against aggressive Islamic expansion which had been going on for 400 years. Our picture of the Inquisition comes from commentators who cannot be regarded as impartial. Where original sources have been re-examined it turns out that most of the horror stories are just stories. The Spanish Inquisition was driven by political considerations in a kingdom which had only just been reunited.

I would suggest that the lack of democracy in southern Europe and its colonies was essentially a consequence of the latifundia pattern of land ownership which the Catholic church should long ago have condemned but still hasn't got round to doing it properly.

Physiocrat said...

Democracy is absolutely incompatible with Islam because of its theology of an all-powerful God who is so far above mere man. Tyrannical rule reflects that theology.

Those religions with a concept of divine incarnation have historically been amenable to democracy.

The barbarity of medieval Christians is about on a par with human barbarity generally, and was possibly somewhat mitigated by codes of chivalry and the like. The Crusades were a belated defensive action against aggressive Islamic expansion which had been going on for 400 years. Our picture of the Inquisition comes from commentators who cannot be regarded as impartial. Where original sources have been re-examined it turns out that most of the horror stories are just stories. The Spanish Inquisition was driven by political considerations in a kingdom which had only just been reunited.

I would suggest that the lack of democracy in southern Europe and its colonies was essentially a consequence of the latifundia pattern of land ownership which the Catholic church should long ago have condemned but still hasn't got round to doing it properly.

paulc156 said...

Physiocrat, you're attempt to jump through several layers of contortion to defend said 'Christian' barbarities belies the strength of your argument.

Chivalry was conditional and limited to times of war. In much the same way, early Islamic conquests were tempered by the defeated 'pagans' acceptance of Islam. Jews and Christians 'mostly' allowed to retain their faiths until the rise of the almohads much later on. Contrast that with the the ultimatum given to Spanish Jews in 1492. Convertion, death or exile. The persecution of the marranos [conversos]followed.

Nor should the crusade be seen as a defensive action circa 1100.
The First Crusade was not about turning back centuries of Muslim expansion. Jerusalem had not been governed by Christians for 400 years and Jerusalem was the main target of the first crusade. It was about seizing control of sacred landscapes. It was a war of vengeance. Vengeance against the sufferings of the 'saviour'. Vengeance against the christ killers. Hence the mass slaughter of Jews both on route to Jerusalem and once they arrived.
Indeed, Jews had been able to pray at their holy places until the crusaders arrived, hence their presence in large numbers. Thousands were rounded up and burnt alive in their synagogues.

The 'chivalrous' knights were actually a part of the problem that led to the first crusade. Europe was subject to endless violence and destruction by those same knights. Villages were regularly sacked. The men were killed, the women were raped, the children sold into slavery and all the plunder that could be taken was taken.

One of the reasons that a Crusade seemed such a good idea to Pope Urban II was it served as an opportunity to get the 'chivalrous' knights out of Europe. The constant wars sunk Europe into virtual chaos.

Jews certainly suffered at the hands of both religions at different times but you only have to pick up a standard daily prayer book in a synagogue to read the English translations to appreciate it was the horrors of christian persecution throughout the middle ages and most notably in the crusades, in Europe particularly, which dominated medieval Jewish thought. It's from those horrors that many of the best known prayers Jews now make, originate.

Physiocrat said...

PaulC - it's one interpretation.

Muslim expansion brought about the immediate expulsion of Jews and Christians from Saudi Arabia, followed by the over-running of North Africa and half the Byzantine Empire in the west, and Persia, Afghanistan, Central Asia and India in the east. And southern Italy. They then conquered the Iberian peninsula and were not turned until the battle of Poitiers in 732. The crusades were a brief counter movement but Byzantium was eventually conquered, followed by the Balkans, Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Ottomans eventually reached Vienna and were only defeated at the last moment by the Polish cavalry under the king Jan Sobiecki. None of this islamisation was by the eloquence of its preachers of the convincingness of their theological arguments.

Incidentally the Jews of Poland came there because they were invited to take refuge from the Crusades by the Polish king. The record of Christianity is not very creditable but violence is not embedded in the teach of its founder and its texts, as is the case with Islam. There is no comparison.

Physiocrat said...

PaulC - it's one interpretation.

Muslim expansion brought about the immediate expulsion of Jews and Christians from Saudi Arabia, followed by the over-running of North Africa and half the Byzantine Empire in the west, and Persia, Afghanistan, Central Asia and India in the east. And southern Italy. They then conquered the Iberian peninsula and were not turned until the battle of Poitiers in 732. The crusades were a brief counter movement but Byzantium was eventually conquered, followed by the Balkans, Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Ottomans eventually reached Vienna and were only defeated at the last moment by the Polish cavalry under the king Jan Sobiecki. None of this islamisation was by the eloquence of its preachers of the convincingness of their theological arguments.

Incidentally the Jews of Poland came there because they were invited to take refuge from the Crusades by the Polish king. The record of Christianity is not very creditable but violence is not embedded in the teach of its founder and its texts, as is the case with Islam. There is no comparison.

paulc156 said...

@Physiocrat. "but violence is not embedded in the teach of its founder and its texts, as is the case with Islam"

You can find what you want in religious texts. The papacy first then the protestant church had little trouble finding what they wanted in the texts when it suited them to propose some fiendish punishment for Jews.The infallible Pope Paul IV published a Bull that coined the term 'Christ-killers'. Pope Gregory later claimed their guilt 'only deepens' with time.
I mean how can you in all seriousness make that claim unless you've forgotten Mathew's gospel?
'His blood be upon us'. You can contextualise these texts all you like but you can do so with Islamic texts just as easily as with Christian ones.

It's strange, if one accepts your claim that Islamic texts offer far more vitriol and violence than the Christian scriptures then fair enough, but that the Jews suffered disproportionately greater deprivations under Christian rule, at least until the rise of Zionism then demands some other explanation. It surely should be the other way round?
Of course the Jews were periodically welcomed back from various exiles by their European benefactors. Poland that bastion of Christian tolerance through the ages :) Yes,when usury was in fashion it was all the rage to welcome the Jews back. As did Cromwell. I tend to think you have a weak case in trying to pin Islamic intolerance 'today' on scriptural grounds in the 1st millenium rather than socio-political/cultural grounds, which isn't helped by some imaginative historical revisionism.
I agree with you on land rents though.

The Stigler said...

paulc,

There's plenty of foul violence in the bible that most Christians today do not accept:

Leviticus says that adulterers should be put to death. Or people who curse their father. Or homosexuals. Or bigamists. Or wizards. Or if the daughter of a vicar goes on the game (that's burning in fire).

So, Christians are just waiting to do all this stuff, right? It's in their book, like all the stuff in the Qu'ran, yes?

And I'm not saying that there aren't crazy sadistic bastards carrying out violent acts under the name of their religion. But so were the conquistadors.

Physiocrat said...

There was a rationalising movement with Islam in the ninth century - these were the Mutazalites who tried to integrate the works of Aristotle, but they were suppressed in favour of the orthodox line.

There are milder texts in the Koran but the principle of abrogation applies - the later ones supplant the earlier. But the real issue here is not so much embedded Islamic violence as the embedded autocratic tendency. Mention of the suffering of Jews at the hands of Christians is, whilst shameful, in this context, whataboutery.

paulc156 said...

@TS. Not sure what you're arguing here. You're quoting OT which in the language being proposed in the post by Physiocrat below is 'abrogated' by the NT. If your point [conquistadors] is that the fault is with people rather than religions, I broadly agree with the proviso that religion and religious belief was most often the weapon of choice with regards to justifying acts of war and violence in the middle ages in the Christian and Muslim world.

My points in the posts to P are
1. That Islamic texts are not themselves a good explanation for todays lack of democracy in the Islamic world. There are so many better, less contrived explanations.

2. The comments that 'the barbarity of Christians' was not comparable to that of Islam. It was.

paulc156 said...

@Physiocrat.
"But the real issue here is not so much embedded Islamic violence as the embedded autocratic tendency. Mention of the suffering of Jews at the hands of Christians is, whilst shameful, in this context, whataboutery."

OK but I only remarked on the suffering at the hands of Christians because you seemed to think the Crusades were merely defensive, the inquisition much exaggerated [propaganda] and justifiable on political grounds [contemporary political upheavals].

Now as for the autocratic tendency being due to Islamic teachings I'd rather stress autocracy due to the repeated removal of reformers by outside forces with vested interests, both before [the great game] and since the discovery of oil. There's no need to hypothesize difficult to demonstrate theories relating to ancient texts. In fact the early Christian texts were used to support Papal claims to power over Kings. The Kings just fought back.

Then there's the small matter of Turkey today. No paragon of virtue but still committed to a parliamentary form of democracy. Despite the texts.

Bayard said...

"I'm very critical of FPTP, but it is still, at least at a fairly reasonable level, democratic."

It's not really the elective system which I object to , though there are many ways it could be changed for the better and isn't, it's the fact that under the present system, with no change, the government could be far more democratic, by holding more referendums, but they don't (two in my lifetime) because they want to keep even the small amount of power that the legislature holds in the hands of the elected oligarchs. Of course, there is no chance that "the people" will ever have a sniff of control over the executive.