Valuing Democracy

We’re accustomed to thinking that our system of free enterprise is embedded in capitalism and fed by democracy. We naturally deduce that this would apply to other nations as well. But what about China? China has robust free enterprise and is neither democratic nor capitalistic in the way the West is. China’s economic success and the growing number of its millionaires ought to lead us to rethink our assumptions and priorities. Given the issues we face, about terrorism, first amendments right, the role of government, the lack of voter’s participation, the sway of corporations, we shouldn’t fool ourselves, for underlying many of these issues is a tacit question, which is more important democracy or free enterprise? Free enterprise, as many already know, is the phrase currently used by the Texas school board to replace the word capitalism. If we had free enterprise without democracy, as the Chinese do, then it wouldn’t be a relevant question. But not only is that not our system, a system without democracy is not what we want. If one believes in the openness that preserves the exercise of freedom and guarantees the development of one’s spirit, the values upon which a given society is erected and what those values mean for the quality of life of ordinary citizens, then democracy is paramount. And if democracy is paramount we ought to at least acknowledge it and start putting it ahead of free enterprise, capitalism and all the other isms that could undermine it.