« Hamas, Palestine, and the Economics of Democracy--Posner | Main | On the Economy and Hamas-BECKER »

02/05/2006

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Roger Albin

Judge Posner made some very good points in his first post on this topic. But, the historical examples cited, particularly the Weimar Republic, are not exactly accurate. Posner follows the conventional view of the Nazi's ending the democratic Weimar Republic. This is probably not true. The best account and analysis is Han Mommsen's The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. As Mommsen demonstrates, democratic institutions had already collapsed prior to the Nazi accession to power. By the early 30s, for example, the Reichstag was no longer functioning as a legislature and Germany was ruled via decree by the Chancellor using Presidential powers under the Weimer constitution. In essence, Germany had become an authoritarian state ruled by the right. The Nazis were brought into the ruling conservative coalition in an effort to coopt their popular support by conservative politicians who thought they could control Hitler, a disastrous miscalculation. The choice in 1933 and 1934 wasn't between democracy and dictatorship, it was a choice (though no one but the Nazi leadership knew this) between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. The Nazi accession to power was partly a result, not the cause, of the failure of Weimar democracy. A similar argument can be made for Fascist Italy.

Arun Khanna

Democratic governments are 'framed' within the context of societal values. Therefore, it is anybody's guess (given lack of detailed research) whether actions of a government like Hamas will converge towards democracies in tolerant societies or not. My guess is Hamas rule will tend towards Iran's 'Theo-democracy.'

Anonymous

I am a great devotee of Posner and agree with the thrust of what he has written here. However, the statement that democracy "provides a good framework for prosperity" seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. Of course, anti-democratic Marxists governments have been successful at thwarting economic development. But democracy often exacerbates social tensions: see, Yugoslavia, eg., and thus could very well thwart prosperity. I think that democracy and economic prosperity point to a third, and more important causal variable-- both democracy and the market require a high degree of trust and reliance on strangers. Countries with tight familial and kinship linkages lack this degree of trust in strangers, and thus a sophisticated market economy and democracy will tend to exacerbate ethnic tensions.

Can the market or democracy force the breakup of these tight kinship groups? Perhaps in some circumstances, though ethnic ties are extremely durable and I would not be optimistic about it.

Corey

"Of course, anti-democratic Marxists governments have been successful at thwarting economic development."

For the last 70 years, the vast majority of "marxist" governments have been democratically elected. Please stop using "democracy" as a synonym for Francis Fukuyama/Huntington style liberal representative western democratic republics.

A democracy does not have to have a liberal market economy if that's not what the people want. Distribution is as appropriate a goal as growth for an economy.

ben

For the last 70 years, the vast majority of "marxist" governments have been democratically elected.

Corey, you are simply making this up, as if any data, however false, is suitable when it suits your purpose. If your world view requires such disinformation for support then it is wrong and to be ignored. Charlatan.

N.E.Hatfield

The point that I was trying to highlight is that Propaganda, and Psy-Ops, is part and parcel of Nation Building; which many times must be "cruel and aggressive" in order to be effective. Hamas is no exception. It is one of the cruel facts of power politics that it is much of the time irrational, illogical, and emotional in nature.

Jonathan

But if democratic countries are indeed unlikely to go to war, then two democratic countries are very unlikely to go to war with each other.

Briefly, the last line proves to be the most important. Well said.

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