A Brief History of Democracy

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's What You Don't Get Mr. Charest: We Know that We Don't Live in a Democracy

Faced with the unprecedented appearance of an on-line petition that demands his resignation as Premier of Quebec, which has attracted more than 100,000 signatures in less than 48 hours, Jean Charest tried to minimize the turn of events by saying that we live in a democracy and that it is normal for people to disagree.

The guy just doesn't get it. He thinks that because he won an election that uses a medieval electoral system that allows him to form a majority government with the support of less than 25% of the electorate that this gives him the divine right to rule with democratic legitimacy to boot.

In reality, the vast majority of the population wants a public inquiry into the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and the finances of Quebec's political parties. Charest is steadfast in his refusal. He tells us that we should content ourselves with a police investigation, and we've had enough.

The petition puts it on the line. Respect the desire of the majority and give us what we want or find yourself another job.

What is in play is the nature of our political institutions. The question is clear. Do we live in a democracy where the majority hold and exercise political power or are we governed by an oligarchy headed by a professional politician? In this instance, the dispute concerns the basic distribution of power in a society: who governs on whose behalf.

In his efforts to frame this dispute within a democratic framework, Charest engages in the big lie. He tries to pass off the present form of governance as being democratic. In fact, it is the desire of the people for democratic rule that brings them into conflict with the oligarchy. Something will have to give. It will be interesting to see how this fundamental clash of power will be resolved.

In the meantime, I invite you to become acquainted with the thoughts of John Dunn, one of the world's leading democratic theorists.

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