Tag Archives: positive rights

How to Build a Democracy


It is the height of hubris to claim that one knows how to build a democracy from scratch. The U.S. has learned this from its attempts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other countries. But there are a few common themes that can help. One lesson is that it has to come from within, not imposed by foreign countries. Another is that new institutions have to evolve out of old ones, and have to suit local conditions and cultures.

Over at the Daily Caller, I trace out two other themes that emerging democracies should keep in mind: simpler is better, and rely on negative rights, not positive rights. Here’s a taste:

The Arab Spring is over a year old now. It’s too early to tell if that movement will bring liberal democracy to countries that badly need it. But if it does succeed, it will be right in line with a decades-long global trend. According to Freedom House, 41 percent of the world’s countries in 1989 were democracies. By 2011, 60 percent were democracies.

There are still a few monarchies here and there, and plenty of dictatorships. Cuba and North Korea are even keeping the last dying embers of communism alight. But more and more, democracy is seen as the way to go.

This is a wonderful development. But not all democracies succeed. Without the proper institutions, democracy can be very temporary, as Russia has found out.

Read the whole thing here.

Congressional Economics

Some people think that the only reason poverty still exists is because Congress hasn’t passed laws guaranteeing the right to decent housing, health, and education.

Some of these people are in Congress. Over at The American Spectator, my colleague Jacqueline Otto and I explain why their hearts are in the right place, but their heads aren’t:

Suppose that poverty really can be abolished by passing a few laws. Jackson isn’t going nearly far enough, then. The Constitution should guarantee everyone not just a decent home, but a mansion filled with servants to take care of every need.

Everyone should have the right to not just a doctor’s visit every 6 months, but a cadre of specialists with access to the latest technologies and tests. This would be a boon for life expectancy.

And why only an iPod and a laptop for children? They deserve supercomputers! And the right to a Harvard Ph.D. Such a law would give America the most educated population in the world; though it would probably know the least.

Congress might as well pass a law guaranteeing an above-average lifestyle for all Americans.