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Thursday, December 07, 2017, 10:41
Democracy before rule of law a dangerous trap
By Xiao Ping
Thursday, December 07, 2017, 10:41 By Xiao Ping

Xiao Ping quotes Fukuyama’s steps of political development — which specify rule of law must come before democracy

A group of people who call themselves “anti-autocracy activists” held a rally here in Hong Kong the other day. As soon as they brought out the slogan of “No Democracy, No Rule of Law” they also exposed the “pan-democrat” camp’s ignorance on democratic politics. By advocating democracy before rule of law they have laid down a trap that can bury Hong Kong alive.

Rule of law protects democracy; and orderly democracy already indicates rule of law is crucial. If we must decide which one comes first, it has to be rule of law.

Japanese-American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, best known for his “end of history” concept, shot to fame after his book The End of History and the Last Man was published in 1992, following the demise of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, demonstrating his conclusion on the triumph of Western liberal democracy. More than 20 years later, however, Fukuyama realized not only that history was far from over but many countries were victimized by Western liberal democracy, as shown vividly when color revolutions ravaged the Arab world while Western democracies found themselves mired in “vetocracy”. Shocked, he sat down, collected himself and wrote another book: The Origins of Political Order.

In The Origins of Political Order, Fukuyama traces human history over 2,000 years to pick out the intrinsic logic of political development. He believes political order comprises three elements: government efficiency, rule of law and democracy. Government provides public resources and people cannot be happy and content if the government is inefficient. Rule of law is tasked with maintaining social order and society will fall apart without it. The core of democracy is accountability, which ensures the government follows popular will, rather than a simplistic model of “one person, one vote”.

Fukuyama’s retrospection led to his idea of the logical order of political development: First, the government must be capable of doing its job well; second, a rule of law system must be established from the top down; and, under the regulation by rule of law, comes democratic accountability and public participation (in democratic exercises). This “political order” must not be reversed, or democracy will become populism and out of control, leaving social order in shambles as a result. The “great democracy” during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) and the mess in West Asia and Northern Africa are all nightmarish examples of social disorder when the political order was reversed.

Democratic development must follow its inherent logic. It’s the natural way to expose the insidious intent of those “anti-autocracy activists” who compromise the rule of law in the name of democracy.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

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