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Re: <nettime> Eric X. Li: Democracy Is Not the Answer.
Flick Harrison on Sat, 7 Jul 2012 03:54:33 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Eric X. Li: Democracy Is Not the Answer.

Li is a clown.  Somebody put a pie in his face.

Come on, nettimers.  As they say, Democracy is the worst system, except for all the others.

Whenever I hear someone argue against free speech - someone else's free speech, of course -  I wonder how they would feel if I tell them to shut up or else I will kill them, torture their family etc?

'A responsible person, one would think, would consider the consequences of advocating everyone being free to say whatever he wants. An intelligent observer of human society and student of history ought to be more thoughtful than simply asking, "why is that a problem?"'
If he's in favour of limiting speech, why is he allowed to speak freely?  Because he's intelligent, responsible, thoughtful.  A student of history.  Those well-intentioned protestors under the tank treads of Tiananmen, however, were simply whistling their way towards social catastrophe.  Off with their heads.  Well, not so much off, as SQUISH their heads.

You, for instance, reading this. You aren't allowed to respond, or we'll come to your house and cut your balls off.

Mr Li, shut your yap.  Quit rationalizing your own privilege. For instance, talking about Japan, Taiwan, etc, he says:

"True, some of them have implemented electoral democracies after they became wealthy. But barely a generation has passed since they did so - is it not much too soon for any serious student of history and politics to render judgment on their outcomes?"

"Barely a generation" since Japan and Taiwan became democracies?  They got universal suffrage in 1945 and 1947 - almost 70 years ago, maybe three generations.  How can he say it's "much too soon" to analyze their successes and failures but he's fine judging the historical shift from Marxist-Leninism to (so-called) Confucianism in 1979?  Or maybe he's fine wrapping up his analysis of Communist China starting in 1949?  Or if he's going to start with the founding of the CPC in 1921, then it's only fair to start with Japan's first election in 1890.  Over that period, has more democracy or more authoritarianism been the most beneficial to Japan and its neighbours?  Discuss.

Mr Li, how can corruption be controlled without free speech?  Oh yes, by magic:

"For example, in Confucian values, power is checked by the inherent moral order of society not by legal means relied upon by the Western tradition."

Is such obvious nonsense really worth rebutting with more than an "OMG WTF ETC"?  

*Sigh*  Ok, then.

Li claims that the CPC keeps its finger on the pulse of society, without the need for free speech and democracy.  We should take the Party at their word that they are doing this, because their system demonstrably plucks the best and brightest from all corners of society, and what else could the best and brightest of any society do but make the world better?  There's no need for civil-society oversight, and in any case civil society's oversight is what allows the CPC to oversee themselves.

Seriously, his argument wouldn't be out of place in ancient Sparta.

It's gobbledygook.  Moreover, the most obvious cases of corruption that the CPC deal with forcefully are the ones that get broadcast illegally on Weibo, like the Li Gang incident.


So then Li tries to rebut an ancient chinese proverb, about how ships of state can, and should, be occasionally overturned by the people:

"The ship, however, is no longer just an emperor and his dynasty but the larger and far more sophisticated political system that constitutes the modern nation-state."

He's basically arguing that it would be harder to overturn the CPC than an emperor.  It's unclear how this relates to the question of whether it should be overthrown at all, but it's also bollocks because the Emperor wasn't just standing alone on top of a throne in the wilderness.  I mean, for pete's sakes, check out the palace:


"The idea of consent is hyped. The political ideology of the modern West equates the so-called consent of the governed to legitimacy. This is form over substance and procedure over essence."

Can a man who claims to be expressing unpolluted Chinese thought sound any more like Ghaddafy? 

But whatever huge flaws democracies have - the power of money, the structural biases in favour of incumbents, the sound-bite culture and the game-theory strategizing - I believe the channeling of conflicts into elections is probably their most beneficial aspect.  Procedure is the very substance of Democracy, not some sideshow.  I think even the placebo effect of elections - elections where real change is possible, even if it never works out that way - is good for us.  We argue, we get together with like-minded neighbours, what would the gun-bearing Tea Party nut bars be doing for the last few years if they didn't have rallies to go to?!

Those of you who think we should be at the barricades instead of the ballot box, who do you think will be meeting you halfway over the top, coming the other way?  Who do you think will be better armed and trained?

Anyway, the problem in our democracies is not too much democracy, but too little.  The parliamentary first-past-the-post systems in Canada, for instance, are deeply flawed, and this is because they are simply the best model we've been able to claw out by strikes, rebellions, deep organization, occasional armed resistance, and shameless horse-trading against the fascist patriarchy we inherited from the dark mist of history.  Good god, there's a monarch on our coin, how much farther uphill is the struggle for true democracy?

We certainly have a lot to learn from China, about philosophy, food, medicine, culture, planning, science and internet socializing.  But we have nothing to learn from the CPC about good government.  Stability, as defined in US State Department jargon, is nothing to emulate.

-Flick Harrison


* FLICK's WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.flickharrison.com 

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