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#3638: Poincy Replies to Dr. Gill & Antoine : A fine line between authoritarian and democratic government




From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>

On Corbettland, some of us tend to perpetuate the common fallacy to
associate dictatorship and autocratic government to an authoritarian
one.  I know I am repeating myself here, but it is necessary to make
clear that an authoritarian government should be taken simply as a legal
forceful government fulfilling its primary function,   ensuring
collective security.  The people must have allegiance to such a
government and dissidents holding a destructive position should be
prevented from going astray at any cost.

A true authoritarian government is no different from a true democratic
one. For both use laws effectively to make the society livable. The
common denominator is a well established body of laws that is respected
by all. A lack of such necessarily leads to severe consequences for the
violators/deviants.  Enforcement of the law is a key point and the mere
fact to enforce it implies repressions which depending on the society
vary in degree and forms. 

Rather than claiming democracy as the power of the many, the point I
believe proponents of democracy want to emphasize on is that
representatives of the people are to be held accountable and be kept in
check with their constituencies' votes. A fact that gives the people
some leverage against the representatives and can't be prevented from
using it. Subsequently, representatives can be voted out of office or
regain their seat a number of times depending on people's level of
satisfaction. 

We may have a participatory democracy or non-participatory democracy.
When the former is in effect the choices of a governing Úlite group, it
can be very faulty depending on the political development stage of the
society. Where political maturity is lacking as it is in Ayiti's case,
participatory democracy should be totally avoided. However, it does not
mean at all that the form of government is non democratic. Forms of
government are not a black and white matter. There are not cut and dry.
They are not either or.  The melting of some of all kinds is needed to
make a form effective. Again, it depends on the political maturity level
or the political development stage of the society. 

The difference between each form of government lies in the will of the
people in a democratic system and that of one individual or a group in
an authoritarian regime. However, when laws become the guiding hands of
all forms in achieving the well-being of individuals and that of the
collectivity, the difference fades out. The fine line between a
democratic system and an authoritarian regime is in fact the use of laws
which are repressive by nature. 

 Both a democratic and an authoritarian systems become viable only when
law and order prevail. In a community where people live by the law, they
are repressed from behaving free-willingly at the detriment of one
another or the collectivity. Where strong institutions lack, both
systems will have a premature life. To lay the foundation of such
institutions, the people must be refrained at any cost.  For there must
be a strong central authority to enforce the laws and the people must
have allegiance to it and respect its final word.

While in a democratic system the will of the people is a strong voice
behind the central authority, in an authoritarian regime, the will of
one person or a group is the heart of it. If both have the same purpose
why having one and not the other? This is our central question and where
others and I diverge greatly.  Others seem to rely very much on past
experiences of authoritarian regimes which failed in their functions.
Myself, I look in the practicality of each system according to the
reality of a community, Ayiti in our case.  Where I give consideration
to the history of democratic societies, others choose to dismiss them. 

An objective look would lead us to the history of most fervent
democratic countries today and see that they all had an authoritarian
account someway or another. Some were quite virulent in the case the
ancient kingdoms of Europe and others were more subtle in the case of
United States. In the former strong institutions were already in place
and people lived by the rules whether they liked it or not. A strong
central government was in place. For the latter, that was a liberal
system in progress, issued from a kingdom. It made effective use of the
laws to refrain people. Again they were people who were used to live by
the law in the first place before they migrate from the kingdom.  

In fact the United States founded its strong institutions on some very
undemocratic principles, if democracy means the choice of the people as
others advocate. To cite briefly a few: not everyone had the right to
vote, direct participation in the electoral process was limited only to
elect two year term public officials only, while those for a longer term
were to be chosen by a selective group of individuals. The idea behind
it was that the masses did not have good judgment to choose the right
leader. 
More over, a certain qualification was attached to such and such public
functions in order for a candidate to run for it. I don't know how
democratic that was, however that was authoritarian enough to my view
and it put limitation on the participatory process. It was quite legal
and the people came to accept it because it was the law. That helped the
United-States to build a strong foundation for its institutions and it
works. Today, since all are in place these form of restrictions become
obsolete. 

It is clear that the term "authoritarian" can not be associated only to
arbitrary ruling of an individual or a group. The mere fact that the
masses can not behave free-willingly as restrictions are imposed, we
have issue for authoritarianism. It can be explained by one factor, an
imposition of an external  force on the citizenry arbitrarily or not.
Such an external force has its source from the State whether
administered by an elected body through laws or by an individual or a
group of people through decree.  

The fact remains that both law and decree have the common denominator
which is the imposition of force aiming at the same objective: ensuring
the collective security and well-being of the community. Because the
decree is originated from a body of government that was not chosen nor
renewed by the people's choice does not make it a lesser tool to ensure
the function of the State. Again, often this decree may not be the sole
decision of one individual, but that of a consulting body. In that case,
the consultation makes the decision process a democratic one, since it
involves a choice among different alternatives by many members within a
group before making a final decision. If such a decision bears the
capacity to attain or attains the same goal with the decision of an
elected body what can invalidate it? What makes it less valuable than
the other? 

The non-participation of the masses to elect their representatives is
far from being the lever to determine which process is more valuable. As
I demonstrated above, a democratic process only guarantees the liberty
of choosing an "Úlite" by the masses. Once this group is in function,
their actions can be totally different from the expectations of the
constituencies. Resultantly, one would expect this group to be voted out
of office. However, if their actions, although departed from the will of
the constituencies, brought a satisfiable result, it would be less
likely that these representatives would be voted out of office. This is
to show that within a democratic process the possibility of
authoritarian ruling exists. If such kind of ruling does not jeopardize
the life of the citizenry, but promotes its well-being instead, it is
worthwhile to nurture it  especially in a situation where chaos and
disorder prevail. Necessarily, this form of government is benevolent
since its ultimate function is to promote well-being of the
collectivity. 


Ayiti has lived, lives and will live
Mozeb