The value of democracy

Book: The Value of Democracy by Amartya Sen

In this essay Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in economics in 1998 talks about the importance of democracy, the value of it and tells us about different false myths that arise related to westernization and about globalization.

The essay edited by the publishing house El viejo topo and with a translation by Javier Lomelí Ponce, makes us reflect on the consequences of democracy and what it means for a country to establish this system.

The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Democracy and its global roots.
  2. Democracy as a universal value.
  3. Judgments on globalization.

Democracy and its global roots

We all instinctively associate democracy with ancient Greece. But Sen shows us with examples how there have been ancient democracies both in the West and in the East

We should not fall into the trap of arguing that, in general, there was greater tolerance in non-Western societies compared to those in the West. A generalization of this kind cannot be established, as there are numerous examples of tolerance, as well as intolerance, on both sides of this supposed division of the world.

Amartya Sen. The value of democracy

And it continues with historical facts. Always very focused on the issue of westernization because it is one of the main arguments today of the opponents in the east of democracy

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What exactly is democracy?

Unavoidable question in this essay and that makes us reflect and broaden the focus and concept that we have of democracy. In the countries where it is established and established, we see it as the right to vote for our representatives. But the change from dictatorship to democracy entails much more.

The most important that freedom of expression must be guaranteed and press censorship eliminated

To begin with, we must avoid his identification with the idea of ​​majority rule. Democracy entails certain requirements, such as the right to vote and respect for it in electoral results; but it also requires the protection of freedom, respect for rights within the legal framework and the guarantee of freedom of expression, as well as that there is no censorship of the press and that information can circulate freely.

He quotes us, for example, as in countries with freedom of the press there has never been a famine.

In the terrible history of the world's famines, none of them have occurred in an independent and democratic country enjoying relative freedom of the press. There is no exception to this rule, nor does it matter where we look

Thus, democracy is not only the right to vote, but also to freedom of expression and universal rights-

Democracy as a universal value

The second part is a vindication of democracy as a universal value.

The practice of democracy provides citizens with the possibility of learning from each other, as well as helping society to form its values ​​and establish its priorities. Even the idea of ​​"needs," which includes economic needs, requires public discussion and the exchange of information, views, and analysis. In this sense, democracy has a constructive function that adds to its intrinsic value for the lives of citizens and its instrumental importance in political decision-making. The vindication of democracy as a universal value must take into account this diversity of considerations.

Judgments on Globalization

Globalization corresponds to the third part of the essay. Amartya Sen constantly defends the benefits of globalization.

And it is based on several arguments. The one who drives throughout the book of that democracy is not an invention of the West just as globalization is not. Throughout history there has been both from east to west and vice versa

The world should be considered at the beginning of the past millennium rather than at the end. By 1000 AD, the global expansion of science, technology, and mathematics had changed the nature of the Old World, but their diffusion took place in the opposite direction from what we observe today. High technology in AD 1000 included paper, printing, bow, gunpowder, steel chain bridge suspension, magnetic compass, and mill wheel. All these instruments, common in China, were practically unknown in other parts of the world. Globalization took them all over the world, including Europe. A similar movement occurred with the influence of the East on Western mathematics.

It remind us the mistake of confusing globalization with westernization

Confusing globalization with Westernization is not only ahistorical misunderstanding, it also distracts attention from the many potential benefits that can result from global integration. Globalization is a historical process that has offered abundant opportunities and benefits throughout history, and continues to do so today. The very existence of potential benefits makes the question of distributive justice a fundamental issue.

The second argument focuses on the wealth distribution problems that Globalization brings and that are the main reason for complaint. Globalization that makes us move forward is not bad, but rather how we redistribute its benefits.

Global capitalism is far more concerned with the expansion of market relations than with the establishment of democracy, elementary education, or the social opportunities of the disadvantaged. The globalization of markets, seen in itself, supposes an inadequate perspective to tackle the problem of economic prosperity; it is necessary to go beyond the priorities produced by global capitalism itself seen from this perspective. As George Soros points out, international entrepreneurs tend to prefer working with highly regimented autocracies than with less regimented, activist democracies; and this has a regressive influence on the possibilities of a more egalitarian development.

Conclude with a very interesting paragraph

The central problem of this controversy does not lie in globalization itself, nor in the use of the market as an (economic) institution, but in the inequality that results from the balance in global institutional agreements, with a rather unequal distribution of the benefits of the globalization. The question, therefore, does not focus on whether the world's poor benefit in any way from the globalization process, but rather on the conditions that make them share in truly fair opportunities and benefits.

Globalization deserves a reasoned defense, but not only a defense, it also requires reform.

The author

Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. He was born in Bengal (India) in 1933, he is rector of Trinity College, Cambridge University.

Seeds to follow

By seeds I mean data or ideas that I consider interesting and about which I would like to expand my knowledge.

I start with a historical theme

The first printed book in the world was a Chinese translation from Sanskrit of an Indian treatise, later known as the Diamond Sutra, by a half-Indian, half-Turkish sage named Kumarajeeva, in the 868th century, printed in China for four and a half centuries. later in XNUMX AD

Delve into what we know about this constitution

The Buddhist prince Shotoku, regent of his mother, Empress Suiko, introduced a relatively liberal Constitution or kempo, then known as the "Seventeen Articles Constitution", in AD 604. This largely coincided with the spirit of the Charter. Great is the convenience that important public decisions should not be made by a single person, but discussed by several individuals. " Also »Nor are we allowed to be offended when others differ with us. All men have a heart, and each heart has its own knowledge and learning. His good is our evil, and our evil is his good »

The great famine of China. Historical episode to investigate.

Between 1958 and 1961, China experienced the largest famine in recorded history, in which an estimated XNUMX to XNUMX million Chinese died as a result of the collectivization debacle in the so-called "Great Leap Forward."

Search History of Mathematics, Howard Eves year 1150 AD

More democracy and ethics in reviews

Thinking about the topics that I am reading, the essays are gaining more and more weight.

In Ikkaro we have talked about Aristotle, his ideas and constitutional democracy. Also on ethics with Ethics for Amador y What is the purpose of ethics by Adela Cortina, in addition to the ones I have to review such as Fernando Savater's Policy for Amador and John Stuart Mill's On Freedom.

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