Supporting this preposition requires a lengthily written article. But for the sake of brevity, we will try our best as possible to limit the size and scope of this piece and achieve the objective of giving our reading audience a clear understanding of where we stand.
Political pundits worldwide have hypothesized that Democracy is the best system of governance. Who am I to disagree? It is obvious that this system of governance in theory and in practice places the people at the centerfold of the political process in any society that adheres to democratic ethics and ethos. In his book “Profiles in Courage” the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, argues: “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve." Additionally, political scholars of ancient and modern political thoughts have regarded the tenets of democracy as the surest way of conducting the state of affairs of a nation because they believe that this system is not brutish, callous, and barbaric. Many maintain that this system of governance is pro-people and this is evidenced by the ideas expressed by John Locke, an English political philosopher, who provided the foundation for the constitutional democracy that America and other Western Countries and allies enjoy today. In his seminal, “The Two Treatise of Government”, Locke argues that, “all legitimate government rests upon "the consent of the governed.".
Locke also advanced his theory on Natural Rights as being identical with God’s law which guaranteed to all men certain basic inalienable rights which include the right to life, certain liberties, to own property, and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. According to Locke, since the state of nature is unfavorable and does not provide the condition necessary for men to enjoy these natural rights, it is prudent that a democratic society be established through a social contract. That is the people should surrender the right to govern to a group of people (government) who will have the rights to make laws, manage the economy, defend the state from foreign attack and act in the interest of public good. The citizens then will be obliged to obey the laws, and be held responsible for the violation of any. If the government becomes anarchic, chaotic, haphazard, nationally unconscious and not acting in the interest of the public, the people have the right to overthrow democratically such government and replace it with a new one. That is democracy, a system of governance that many including myself value and apprize so much.
Now, let’s come to the principal of this debate. Democracy as described above cannot augur well in the midst of extreme inequality. That is, democracy is fruitless when you have a condition where the wealth (land, labor and capital) of a country is controlled by a small group of people while the vast majority lives in what we call “Social Darwinism”. This state of affairs is what activists like Joel Bakan referred to as corporate capitalism and inverted totalitarianism. In his documentary “The Corporation”, Joel contends that: “Such condition is inverted totalitarianism because you have a condition where you have a high level of concentration of money and property in the hands of the relatively small minority, and this can result to the significant loss of political, democratic and economic power for the vast majority”.
Furthermore, you will realize that the government instead of it being own by the masses of the people, it will be directed and controlled by the owners of large corporations, industries, etc. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the great United States of America warned against the growth of private power in any democracy. He understood that when wealth or economic power is concentrated in the hands of few, it undermines the creeds of democracy. In his message to Congress on April 29, 1938, President FDR cautioned that: “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”
The periodic electing of leaders (president, lawmakers, mayors, superintendents, etc.), unarguably is one of the key pillars of democracy. In this light, the people, as the boss, must be adequately (economically) positioned to participate in such political process. But if you have a country where an elite power swims in the pool of wealth and vast majority of the population does not have food on their table, quality and affordable education for its children, health care remains elusive for them, etc., the masses of the people will not be competent enough to elect leaders who have developed the altruistic values and agenda to move the country forward.
In this state of affairs, the people busy themselves with hunting for survival in whatever way than exercising their democratic rights in the interest of the state. One will realize this during elections when vast majority of the would-be custodians of democracy cast votes not based on issues and ideas that have the appetite to move the country forward, but because they had been influenced either by money, bags of rice, or pseudo philanthropic gesture from politicians and people who have monopolized economic power. This appalling political culture is habitually practiced in Africa and other third world countries around the world. And my country Liberia is of no exception.
Still wanting to limit the size and scope of this paper, we will only take Liberia into consideration. Liberia, a country located on the West Coast of Africa, has a disturbing record of economic inequality. According to the World Bank, Liberia is the fourth poorest country in the world. With a GDP per capital of less than US$ 500.00, vast majority of Liberians live on less than two (2) dollars per day. Global Witness, Transparency International, and other international monitoring bodies have reported that the abundant wealth of the West African Nation is controlled and owned by less than ten percent (10%) of people living and doing business in the country.
Learning from professor Dew Mayson’s economic analysis of Liberia’s class structure, this ten percent (10%) consists of the “False Bourgeoisie” (Administrative heads of the state), multinational corporations (Firestone, Arcelor Mittal, BHP Biliton, China Union, etc.), commercial companies (Scrimex Oil and Gas, Total, LP, NP, Office Ideal, JMart, Exclusive SuperStore, etc.) and the “Petit Intellectual Bourgeoisie ( Some Journalists, Doctors, Professors, etc.). This agonizing condition of the country leaves many Liberians with no other alternative but to seek for temporary resources from politicians and rent seekers during electioneering periods for provisional survival. And this amounts to marketing their democratic franchise at their own detriment.
On another front, because the concentration of wealth in a few hands leads to the exploitation of the vast majority, you will find out as in the case of Liberia, education will be under consumed, and the people will lack the intelligence to discern good and bad leaders. In a third world country like Liberia , the people also result to electing leaders based on ethnic extraction. This is evidenced when in 2011 without critically considering ideas on the economy, foreign policy, security, etc., the people of Nimba overwhelmingly voted their kinsman Prince Johnson; the Bassa people voted in their numbers for their perceived son Charles Brumskine; the people of Lofa County voted the Unity Party because their uncle Joseph Boakai was a running mate to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
This comes as a result of ignorance which I think is caused by the lack of access to quality and affordable education for many Liberians. According to the UNDP's 2015 Human Development Index, more than 60percent of Liberians are illiterate. A just released report from UNICEF shows that Liberia has the highest ratio of children that lack access to primary education in the world. Many Liberians lack education. Education globally can guarantee economic independence and objective voting decisions during elections. But because this is not a priority in Liberia, the masses of our people swim in the cesspool of tribal bigotry and elect buffoons and thieves into public offices.
If many Liberians were consciously educated and clothed with the ability to independently put food on their tables, develop a property to provide shelter, send their children to school, have access to health care, etc., political pundits would be predicting the looming 2017 Presidential and legislative and other elections to come as events in our political history where the people will be searching for nationally conscious leaders who have developed the capacity to progress the motherland. If the status quo were so as my utopia Liberia which obviously I think is attainable, Elections in Liberia would be viewed by national and international observers and partners as issues and ideas based. Issues and ideas tackling the change in our socioeconomic system, agriculture, the rule of law, security, foreign policy, international trade, etc., would have been on the lips of many Liberians throughout the trenches of our country.
Had our resources been mobilized to provide economic opportunities (education, jobs, health care, etc?) for them, many Liberians would have been opting for debate among candidates who are considering contesting the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections. Presidential and legislative debates have the potential of adequately increasing voters’ knowledge in a society that is highly educated and ascribes to democracy. But unfortunately, with respect to how things are in Liberia, the masses of Liberians in their destitute state do not care whether a leader has the ability to articulate his/her idea or not. Liberians careless about aspiring leaders debating ideas about foreign relations, international trade, merchandise agricultural, etc. They are blind to these realities. Consequently, they will be taken advantage of by leaders who see this space as "A plantation where one would come to amass quick affluence" and keep the people far away from progress.
Prior to the First U.S. Presidential Debate which was held on September 27, 2016 at the Hofstra University in New York, the Cable News Network (CNN) announced that there were still so many undecided voters in America. And that they are only considering voting for a candidate in the impending Presidential election based on factual and reasonable deliberations concerning taxes, job creation, immigration reform, racial violence and segregation, judicial reforms, etc. from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the three presidential debates. After the first debate on that Tuesday morning, according to an opinion poll conducted by the CNN, 62% of Americans who participated in the poll voted that Hillary Clinton won the debate. In a separate poll from the CNN more than 60% participants voted that although Clinton won the debate based on the deliberations, they are not convinced that the both can make a better president for the United States of America. With two more debates remaining, the two candidates still have the opportunity to convince many undecided voters.
For me, this is how a conscious people make decision. This sense of nationalism and consciousness from Americans which cannot be overcomed by the size of either of the candidate's pockets or their racial, tribal or social origin did not come as a result of miracle. This came as a result of the state granting the necessary ingredients to allow the masses of Americans to objectively participate in the political process. The major ingredient is economic viability which provides education, decent health care and other social public goods for the average American. Had America shared similar economic features with Liberia, it would have been democratically horrendous. You would have seen voters overwhelmingly supporting Donald Trump because of the depth of his pocket. But obviously, it has not been established that Trump is being supported by many Americans because of his wealth. But rather he is being followed by conservative Americans based on his stance on immigration reform, revamping of the American Economy, his isolationist tendency, etc.
America's democracy is unique and admirable. This did not come as a result of hindsight or in the midst of poverty, disease and ignorance among the masses of Americans. In this multipolar world, America still controls the economy of the world although it is being competitively battled by China. And America’s control of the world economy is vividly seen in the lives of Americans. According to the World Bank, America's GDP per capital is US$ 53,042.00. This means, an average American lives on US$ 145.00 per day. According to the UNDP'S 2014 Human Development Index (HDI) report, America scored very high Human Development. The UNDP explained the HDI as "A composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income per capita indicators. A country scores higher HDI when the life expectancy at birth is longer, the education period is longer, and the income per capita is higher".
So you see, such level of economic climate gives rise to Americans' objective, patriotic and conscious participation in the demonstration of their democracy. I wish this could be replicated in our Liberian democratic framework. But unfortunately we are still a poor beggar nation whose wealth is in the hands of those Amilcar Cabral refers to as “false bourgeoisie” like the president, speaker, lawmakers, Ministers; multinational corporations such as Firestone, Acelor Mittal, BHP Biliton; Middle Commercial companies own by those Professor Dew Mayson named as the Lebanese and East Indians in one of his pieces where he eruditely analyzed the class structure of the Liberian society. These people who control the national wealth will obviously dictate the politics of the motherland. This is not democracy. This is what Karl Marx referred to as "social contradiction".