Thursday, April 3, 2008

Too much democracy? What's the point?

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy (an unbelievably smart clan of politically astute lawyers) there is a growing series of posts about a recent UN Human Rights Council resolution. The resolution is being condemned by all commentators there for being...against human rights.

Which, in fact, it is.

The resolution urges the member states of the UN (not just the ones who voted for this measure) to use legislative and police means to prevent any incitement of hatred or violence against a race or religion. This provision in and of itself would not likely be abused too badly by strong democracies. In the US, the government may act against hateful speech if it seems likely to cause actual violence. A legitimate threat enables the government to go against free speech to preserve the more fundamental right of freedom from harm. Of course, religiously divided countries would use this provision to go after opposition. Countries with ethnic minorities that accuse the majority of 'imperialism' could also find this measure used upon them. For some regimes, opposition to total rule by a foreign ethnic group is racial incitement.

Fine, fine. The UN has no enforcement apparatus. Any state that wanted this stuff could/would do it anyway. Now they just get to point to the UN resolution and say 'hey, it's all right.'

10. Emphasizes that respect of religions and their protection from
contempt is an essential element conducive for the exercise by all of
the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
This is incorrect. This is wrong. This is the section that violates the human rights the council is supposed to uphold. There are strategies for allowing free exercise of religion. One is government noninterference, a separation of church and state. This is a strategy that I personally do like. But no modern democracy should ensure that a religion will be 'respected'. What standard will be used to judge 'protection from contempt?' If someone rails against religious creationists saying that their faith blinds them to scientific consensus, does this constitute contempt? I think it very well might.

States should not act to prevent defamation of religions. Discrimination, yes. The banning of religious groups from activities is a violation of rights. But is there a right to not be offended? There is none. People whose religion is being attacked can do two things in a free society: suck it up and ignore the shouting defamer, or try to rebut them. They may not ban the defamer or send the police after him.

When you look at which countries voted in approval of this resolution, it becomes apparent that the ones who did are in no way strong democracies. They are, for the most part, human rights violators of the worst sort. This resolution is religious-collectivist nonsense that does far more to undermine rights and freedoms than to uphold them.

This brings me to a quandary: should rights violators be allowed on the UN Human Rights Council? No. So what is the council for?

The council runs into the following problem: it's too democratic. Sure, that word has become a loaded buzzword in recent times. 'Democracy = good' is a simple equation. But how permanent and important are any rights that 50%+1 countries can just add or take away at any time? The lack of structure in the UN makes it a very bad contender for a world-wide government.

An essay (which I cannot remember now) said that, as a governing body the UN was destined to fail, and it deserved to. But as a stage, a place where discussions can happen and the proclivities of other nations can be determined, it is actually valuable.

So what about a Union of Democracies? Under the best circumstances, the UD could be set up by a number of strong democracies from around the world. Imagine how much clout something such as this could gain if the original members were smaller but strong democracies. The larger ones would wait until the organization was set up, then apply for membership. Watching the process of admitting states like Germany, the US, France, and the UK to something started by smaller states would be amazing.

My dream team to start the UD:
  1. Mexico - sure it can be corrupt, but they love to vote and don't like vote-rigging
  2. South Africa - yes it's a one-party state right now, but that's because no other party can define itself well enough to capture a new segment of the population. It is, however, a model African democracy
  3. Turkey - hopefully there won't be any more military coups. Another model - a working, secular Muslim state
  4. Czech Republic - Eastern Europe should be represented in here somewhere.
  5. South Korea - not Japan, because it's too well established as a democracy. The whole point is to let upstarts found the organization

This gives one African, one Muslim, one Asian, one American and one European member to the founding group. Immediately afterwards, the US and friends (Western Europe, Canada, Japan, etc) would apply and go through the formal vetting process. States get into the UN quite easily, but getting into the UD would be something to get excited about. This is not to set up the UD as a world government, but rather to let someone other than Cuba and Egypt set the human rights agenda for the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I,ve read all your blogs and think your global perspective is right on and very insightful. I just wish peace was an alternate history

dude from nj