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Elitist Democracy

I’m reading The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez, which describes the last days of Simòn Bolìvar, the South American liberator who now serves as a role model for Hugo Chàvez of Venezuela. According to Wikipedia, Bolìvar favored a limited government of checks and balances, but due to the difficulty of holding the new nation together, he sought and held dictatorial power at various times in his life. This inspired me to have a small thought.

Liberal democracy is almost as elitist as monarchy. It is the opposite of demagogy, because it defends minority interests and opposes itself to mob rule, and because it seeks balance over the long term and opposes itself to the will of the moment.

Does this apply to Morocco, which according to the provocative new book Quand le Maroc sera islamiste, risks plunging into the chaos of Islamic revolution? (The book quotes a top French antiterrorism official as saying that Morocco today is like “Russia in 1916.”) In mature democracies, policies tend to be set by a highly trained elite, with the popular will serving only as an occasional corrective force. Is direct rule by the majority even desirable?

Popular revolutions such as Cuba’s or Iran’s don’t tend to lead to what we call democracy. So how to get democracy where it doesn’t already exist? How to get it if the elite lacks vision or direction, or the sort of patriotic spirit that would lead them to limit their advantages for the common good? How to get it in Morocco or the rest of the Arab world today, without charging off the cliff of mob rule?

Just wondering. Any ideas?


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