In Fareed Zakaria’s The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, we can see his point of view on the difference between a liberal and illiberal democracy and how an illiberal democracy can and will cause civil war. He also speaks of how the two forms of democracy go hand in hand with our constitution and the formation of our US government. Additionally liberalism and democracy can be seen to have affected each other in regards to the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage. Finally, Zakaria’s work can be applied to the current state of Iraq as we can conclude what US amendments should be included in the Iraqi constitution to aid to their government and prevent any civil war.
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To begin, Zakaria begins his article speaking of many democratic governments including the United States over the years and of other countries and regimes as well. His main concern is dealing with illiberal democracy which is the majority of all democracies until this day. He clarifies the differentiation between a liberal and illiberal democracy. Being that a democracy is promoted as being ‘for the people’; both liberal and illiberal democracies give their citizens some form of freedom of speech along with free and fair rights. Zakaria begins with illiberal democracy which contains a Federal Republic with a presidential system such as the one found in the United States. Illiberal democracy started in Western Europe and the US, thus creating rights and freedoms ensuring citizens complete protection through the government. In the US we have our rights and liberties protected, along with competitive multiparty elections with free and fair public participation, and a government that has an even separation of powers containing checks and balances. While illiberal democracy is free and fair as any democracy should be, there are in fact more restrictions on certain freedoms such as religion. Additionally illiberal governments are not as focused on their procedures, rather on the government’s overall goals. Even though voting is free and fair, voters elect to bypass their own constitutional protections and civil liberties. This is done so as the citizens are cut off from any situational knowledge within their country’s government due to their lack of civil liberties.
Zakaria makes a point that illiberalism is the worst form of government because citizens have no rights or civil liberties; thus taking away all their individualism which will inevitably cause chaos, rebellion and eventually a civil war. As seen all through the world, a big issue in many countries is ethnic diversity which can and will divide a society. The minority will then up-rise and cause a rebellion against their government for having no compliance with their rights and liberties. “Political competition that is so divisive can rapidly degenerate into violence. Opposition movements, armed rebellions, and coupes in Africa have often been directed against ethnically based regimes, many of which came to power through elections. (Zakaria 35)” This is just one of many examples in which a country’s illiberal government can be the cause of genocide and war.
I agree with Zakaria that liberalism and democracy indeed went hand in hand with the development of our American constitution, as it upholds the beliefs of a fair and free government providing civil rights and all which constitutional liberalism stands for. Between the United States, democracy, and liberalism, I believe that democracy came first, then liberalism and finally the United States. To begin, democracy was first introduced by Plato, a Greek political philosopher who said that democracy was a “rule by the governed” in comparison to other types of government such as monarchy. As seen over time many countries adopted these ways by having assemblies and a system of voting which included more of the population’s vote through time. Once their was a sense of individual liberty, Western Europe and places such as Great Britain in 1830 had developed a democratic nation and, “by the late 1840s, most of them had adopted important aspects of constitutional liberalism – the rule of law, private property rights, and increasingly, separated powers and free speech and assembly” (Zakaria 27). Along with the West, East Asia maintains a liberal, semi-democracy. Finally, after the Age of Enlightenment, American and French Revolutions; the United States undertook liberal morals and principals which evolved into what is now the liberal democracy of the United States today.
Over time liberalism and democracy have affected each other and can be considered to be quite unconstitutional in many events. Two prime examples are during the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage. The Civil Rights Movement dated from 1954 starting with the Brown v. Board of Education case until President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Events such as the Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott lead by Reverend Martin Luther King, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme court ruling that the segregation law in Montgomery was unconstitutional. Even with this segregation, beatings and bombings such as the bus of the Freedom Riders still persisted. In 1964 The 24th Amendment was signed to abolish the poll tax, which originally was instituted in 11 southern states, making it difficult for poor blacks to vote. Finally in 1964 the first Civil Rights Act was signed by President Johnson, which prohibited all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provided the federal government with the power of enforcing desegregation. Additionally in 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act; making voting easier for Southern blacks with literacy tests, poll taxes, and other requirements that made all voting restrictions illegal. The final Civil Rights Act of 1968, signed by President Johnson, prohibited all forms of discrimination in sales, rental, and financing of houses. Being that it took the government so long to recognize the lack of liberalism and democracy within the Civil Rights movement, we can see just how undemocratic and unconstitutional our government was toward minorities.
Along with the black minority, another unconstitutional feature of our government is during the Woman’s Suffrage period. This started in the 1820s and took flight once the demand for the enfranchisement of American women was organized at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. After the Civil War, woman protested after the proposal of the Fifteenth Amendment allowing black men to vote. The National Woman Suffrage Association was on a federal level asking for leniencies such as allowing married woman to own their own property. In addition there was the American Woman Suffrage Association, which was toward state legislation aiming to secure ballots. In 1890 the two groups united calling themselves the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). After mass marches and hunger strikes; the perseverance of both organizations lead American women to victory and equality in 1920, with the Nineteenth Amendment granting the ballot to all American women. The undemocratic suffrage is displayed as the voting rights of women, African and Native Americans were not constitutionally protected. This can be seen chronologically starting in 1870 when the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited denial of suffrage due to race, in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment prohibited denial of suffrage due to sex, in 1964, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment prohibited poll taxes, which in some states were indirectly used to discriminate against blacks.
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Lastly, Zakaria’s work can be implied toward the current state of Iraq as it has held elections and has been forming its own constitution. I believe that some of the rights in the US constitution should be considered to be adopted by the Iraqi government. I believe that in order to ensure a proper form of a liberal democracy they should use the first amendment, having freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government. Next they should have the eighth amendment which prohibits excessive fines and excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment, thus keeping their country clean of criminals and cruel behavior. The tenth amendment should be used to limit the Federal government’s powers, protecting the rights of the people through Congress, which ensures any means of unfair rational by the ruler and government. Finally I believe the fifteenth and nineteenth amendment should be upheld in order to ensure peace and equality. With these rights I believe that there will be a proper sense of order with the assurance of protected rights and liberties of the people so that there will be no possibility of a civil war or uprising of the citizens or government. In addition I believe that Iraq cannot survive without liberalism due to the risk that the country would be putting itself in by taking away liberties and rights of the citizens which is a known cause of revolt and civil war. It is not a risk worth taking for Iraq, for the sake of their government and of other surrounding nations which can be at risk if anything were to happen due to an overly illiberal Iraqi government. I feel that democracy is “good” because it is the best way to protect citizen rights and liberties, which in the long run is the best way to protect a country, its government and its citizens.
To conclude, Fareed Zakaria’s article The Rise of Illiberal Democracy proves the clear distinction between democracy, liberalism and illiberalism. He explains in great detail how illiberal democracy causes civil war and in many events in which it has occurred. I have given my opinion on my agreement with Zakaria that liberalism and democracy do go hand in hand with the writing of the constitution. I then explained how liberalism and democracy affected each other during the Civil Rights movement and period of Woman’s Suffrage and how minorities got their right to vote once liberalism and democracy finally came in to play with these issues. Finally, I gave my opinion on which US amendments should be adopted by the new Iraqi government which is being formed today, and how these elements can prevent civil war. As I have stated before, I believe that a strong form of government is one that consists of a sense of liberal democracy, in order to maintain a complex and compliant government such as the one we live in the USA.
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