Δευτέρα, 13 Σεπτεμβρίου 2010

For that reason democracy has a future in Russia,

Today I post my view of how democratic criteria might apply to the modern state in the 21st century. In other words, what might the universal standards of democracy be? Naturally, I am not claiming to have uncovered the absolute truth. These are simply some personal remarks, keeping in mind that the Bounceoff Yahoo group obviously is a place for discussion.

I post five criteria which I consider essential:

The first is the legal realisation of humanistic values and ideals. In other words, all our values should be enshrined in law. We must turn values into the practical force of law, one that guides the development of social relations and lays out the main goals of social development.

I consider the second standard the state's ability to provide and maintain an advanced level of technological development. Ultimately, promoting research and providing incentives for innovation produces numerous social benefits sufficient to allow citizens to achieve a decent standard of living.

Attempts to bypass democratic forms of governance in poor societies (we know countries where this has happened before and happens still) very often lead either to chaos or to dictatorship. We must promote economic development in these countries alongside political reform.

This is precisely what happened in Russia during the 1990s. Just recently, during the period of mass poverty generated by the first stage of reforms, in Russia the very word 'democracy' acquired a negative meaning. In a certain sense, it simply became a swear word. Now, after several years of sustained economic growth, we have a higher standard of living. For this reason Russian democracy has become more comprehensible or, if you wish, more profitable. It proved its validity: it is no longer denied by a significant portion of our population, it is no longer alien.

To continue this history of liberty, albeit a short one, in our country we must further facilitate the improvement of citizens' welfare and strengthen their confidence in democratic institutions. Leading American sociologist Seymour Lipset has written that the richer the country, the higher its chances of sustainable democracy.

The economic foundations of a free society rest on the increase of labour productivity, market-based economics, the introduction of innovations, as well as improvements to the quality of life and increased revenues of society and its citizens. The foundations rest on a new atmosphere.

Incidentally, this always has an absolutely specific aspect: our wealth, our potential, our abilities permit us to overcome the most difficult challenges. This year's anomalous heat and weather in Russia demonstrate that only new technology can withstand the elements during such a difficult period, the new technologies professionally employed by the people, because without people it is impossible to use these technologies. And social solidarity is also very important in this respect, as well as help from friends.

I would like to thank both Mr Berlusconi and Mr Lee Myung-bak for the assistance that the Italian Republic and Republic of Korea provided Russia during this difficult time.

The modernisation of our economy and technological production is among our most important political priorities. I laid out this new course a year ago and, in principle, it received the full support of all political and social forces. No one doubts that modernisation is necessary. I have not heard any political force state that they are categorically opposed to it, that they want to preserve everything as it is. Rather, the debate concerns institutions, capabilities, forces, and the pace. Of course, we all would like to see modernisation happen faster. But there are laws of social development and we are limited by our capacities. Finally, every country has its own mindset.

Incidentally, I would like to note the high level of interest our partners have shown in our desire to modernise. We are grateful for this and very much look forward to your support.

The third standard is the ability of a democratic state to protect its citizens from attacks by criminal networks. This includes terrorism , corruption, drug trafficking, illegal migration, and several other phenomena which threaten our way of life, our values and break our laws. Eradicating them poses a direct challenge to our democratic society. Democratic society and democratic state would not hide under the covers when difficulties arise, but will respond to these difficulties, sometimes quite decisively. Here I would quote the words of President Lee Myung-bak who said that "human rights and freedoms must be protected at any price."

Democracy must effectively and fully perform a wide variety of functions, including police functions. The 1999 OSCE Charter for European Security called for the establishment of a political and legal environment that allows police to perform their tasks in accordance with the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Nevertheless, the Charter links the performance of these tasks with support for a strong and independent judiciary and a humane prison system. All this is incorporated into our approach. Those who follow events in Russia will know that, as President, I deal with these issues regularly.

I think that the fourth distinctive feature of democracy is its high levels of culture, education, communication and information exchange. The more educated people are, the more cultured they are, the more freely they can judge and adopt independent positions. A free democratic society remains a society of well-trained, educated people, people with a high level of culture.

We have known other times, as have almost all other countries. Perhaps it's true that in Russia such times ended just recently. We have had centuries, in fact millenia, of undemocratic development. And our democracy is only 20 years old. This is the reason for some of its problems, quite significant ones, and hence its significance for our country and the world.

The times when the 'leaders' told the so-called 'common people' how and why to live are over. It was in the 20th century, under the slogan of the 'common man', that the worst dictatorships were created. I am sure that the 21st century will be an educated, intelligent epoch – if you prefer, that of the 'complex' person who disposes of his or her abilities as they see fit, who does not need leaders, patrons or others to make decisions for him. But there must be a smart government, smart society and clever policies.

Today political and legal culture, as well as that of social interactions and civil dialogue all hold particular importance. Citizens who benefit from a range of opportunities and freedom must take on more responsibilities. Democracy is inseparable from duties – I think this is clear to any modern citizen. A democratic state which reduces the regulatory and oppressive burdens weighing on society, transfers to that very society some of the functions of maintaining order and stability.

And a low level of culture and related intolerance, irresponsibility and aggressiveness destroy democracy. The freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and organisation may only be practically effected within clearly-established legal boundaries. This is how it must be in the future.

We often talk about democratic institutions. As a lawyer I cannot but say again that democratic institutions are not simply the usual business practices of citizens, although this is also very important. Rather, they are a specific set of rules and regulations. It is precisely the strict observance of these rules and regulations that makes democracy effective. And therefore democracy is not only freedom but also self-restraint.

Thanks to unprecedented access to knowledge and communication, we are reaching a new level of democracy. I already had the chance to discuss this today. It is evident that not only indirect or representative democracy are in store for us, but also immediate or direct democracy, democracy where people will be able to instantly convey what they want and achieve concrete results.

Today public views on all major issues are garnered via open debate and informal voting. While obviously this process is not yet institutionalised, sooner or later it will be. It will guide popular will and, ultimately, it will be democracy. Direct and immediate, distinct from that of a thousand years ago, during the times of direct referenda, various popular assemblies and gatherings, but nevertheless not representative. The question is how to regulate this and how to exercise these powers.

And finally, the fifth standard of democracy is citizens' conviction that they live in a democratic state. It may be subjective, but it's nevertheless very important. After all, however we define a democracy, no matter how many times we say that we live in a democracy, including in Russia, of course the final judgment on democracy must be individual.

Liberty and justice are not just political slogans, they are also philosophical and social categories. Fundamentally, they are also human feelings. You can write these words in the constitution, in other laws, argue about them at academic conferences, but there is no democracy or there are problems with democracy if people feel limitations and injustice at a personal level. In this respect, no society or democracy is free of shortcomings and this is naturally true of Russia as well. Governments can indefinitely repeat to their citizens: "You are free." But democracy begins only when citizens say to themselves: "I am free".

It is also clear that it is very difficult to say this, not as simple as it might seem. I have already called attention to a very troubling affliction that is widespread in our society, that of so-called paternalistic attitudes. This refers to the expectations that someone has to solve a problem for you: the government or somebody else, but not everyone on their own, and this very often hinders our development.

Surprisingly, even today in the twenty-first century many Russians still like to say that they are not free, belittled, that things "do not depend on them". This has different sources. Such a position can be convenient: if you cannot do anything, neither are you responsible for anything, not responsible to the country or even your family. This is a very comfortable position but it is also a dangerous one. Fortunately, a growing number of citizens in our country think differently, and rely not just on the government, but also on themselves. For that reason democracy has a future in Russia, just as it does throughout the world.

In this regard I want to cite the very accurate words of Karl Popper, who may be more important than ever for Russia today. He said that the problem of improving democratic institutions is always a challenge for individuals, not for institutions. Democratic institutions cannot improve themselves, their improvement depends on us.

Basil Venitis asserts that every democracy is eventually hijacked by rabblerousers, pullpeddlers, clans of kleptocrats, bumptious bugaboos, busybodies, butterbabies, nabobs of nepotism, cranks of cronyism, pusillanimous pussyfooters, riffraffs of rascals, socialist sophists, and machiavellian mafiosi. Democracy tends to kleptocracy. Venitism should replace democracy.

The most efficient political system is venitism, where everything is private, there are no taxes at all, there is no parliament, and a powerless infinitesimal government is chosen and supported not by hoi polloi, but by the most generous benefactors.
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