Finger-Wagging On The One Way Street

2 01 2008

Simon Jenkins has a good piece in The Age called Finger-Wagging Will Not Help Fledgling Democracies Flourish. Simon believes that democracy is the best path to a stable and prosperous society, but reprimands Western governments for what he calls finger-wagging that occurs when developing democracies fall short of the high Western standards:

I may believe that democracy is the best path to a stable and prosperous society and hope that others agree as to its virtues. Unlike the earlier propagation of Christianity, I do not regard this as a matter of blind faith.

Democratic principles are rooted in human freedom and tested empirically over time. Other things being equal, or even unequal, I would advocate them as of universal application to every society. Those who espouse them merit active friendship and support, especially in time of trouble.

But democracy is best propagated by example, not by conquest or official admonition. There are too many blots on Britain’s escutcheon for its leaders to go lecturing the world in terms redolent of the new interventionism. There may be beams in the eyes of other democracies and motes in ours, but their beams are not our business.

There is plenty to agree with in Simon’s article even though it is skewed by fashionable relativism. Here at Lattenomics we also believe that lecturing the world on how to live their lives is not a good idea.

Still, we see one big problem with Simon’s argument. While it is fair to say that we shouldn’t tell others how to run their countries, this also implies that others have to be prepared to take responsibility for their own actions and failures. This means when shit hits the fan in Pakistan or Kenya, there should be no running back to the colonial mummy and daddy for help. There is also a strong case for cracking down on Western do-gooders (you know who you are) that only serve to perpetuate misery and suffering with well-meaning interventionism. This requires a dramatic rethink of foreign aid programs and crackdown on charitable organisations.

It is easy to beat up Western leaders for their finger-wagging, but their frustration and impatience are entirely understandable. While it seems that what happens in the Third World should none of our beeswax, nobody sees anything wrong with us shouldering the responsibility when things turn bad. We suspect the finger-wagging will go on until such parasitic one-way relationship is over.

P.S. You see, we don’t just ridicule The Age. Credit where the credit’s due.

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