Bolivia on the Road to Serfdom
EspañolIn a speech before the House of Commons in 1947, Winston Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.” He concluded that the goal of a democratic system is “to yield, from time to time, to the opinions of others.”
The very democracy that the ex-prime minister of England spoke of is the same system that has allowed countless tyrants to come to power — the same system that not only places despots in the seat of the presidency, but allows the destruction of institutions, even those as spontaneous as language and money. This is a system that slowly self-destructs, degenerating into dictatorship.
Paradoxically, the democracy that Churchill spoke of has also been responsible for some of the most peaceful and beneficial processes in history — processes that not only turned tools of war into voting ballots but allowed women, racial minorities, and young people to exercise their political rights. In many cases, the calm consensus that results from the debate of competing beliefs and ideologies has created effective and, most important, legitimate laws that allow governance to proceed in accordance with the social values of a particular country.
What, then, causes democracy to revert to an imperfect and undesirable state, forcing us to relent to the opinions of others, even though they may be atrocious and undesirable?
The answer is very simple. However, we must first understand the contextual vulnerabilities or shortfalls that pave the way to dictatorship, looking specifically at Bolivia.
No Free Market of Political Parties
It sounds strange to mention free markets and political parties in the same sentence, but to understand the problem in Bolivia, these parties must be analyzed through the lens of the market. Those that sell public policy (the parties) should have to compete with one another to be chosen by the consumer (the voter). These sellers should present their policies to the consumer openly and competitively.
However, Bolivia’s political marketplace is handicapped by a lack of genuine, open competition. These elements simply did not exist during the most recent elections in Bolivia, given that the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) had virtually unlimited campaign resources, funded by taxpayer dollars. This is in stark contrast to the levels of funding for the small number of opposition campaigns, which have to raise their own funds, as they should.
This is not democracy.
Centralization of Power
During the 18th century, in his book The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu spoke of the checks and balances that must exist between distinct powers of government. In Bolivia there are four (executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral), each of which should be independent from the other.
For transparency, impartiality, and efficient governance to exist, this separation and independence of powers must be decisive — to the extent that the only relationship between these powers is one of continuous monitoring, and distrust their only shared sentiment.
The complete opposite is the case in Bolivia: the four branches of government are all managed by those loyal to the ruling political party. The government’s electoral apparatus, which is in charge of organizing elections, tallying the votes, and determining the winner of each contest works in harmonious tandem with the executive branch.
I repeat, this is not democracy.
Obsession with Controlling Everything, Arrogance of Knowing Everything
One of the most admirable characteristics of a democratic system is citizen representation in parliament, where politicians are expected to debate the distinct desires of the citizens they represent. Parliament should be comprised of young people, the elderly, women, men, indigenous people, homosexuals, the disabled, Catholics, Christians, atheists, and any other individual who deserves representation.
Unfortunately, the Bolivian Parliament is home to only two classes of politicians: representatives of the ruling MAS and representatives of the opposition. Regardless of the wishes and customs of the citizenry, representatives in the Bolivian Parliament raise their hands in favor of whatever law is proposed by their leader, be it Morales or the leader of the opposition.
These leaders, in an almost messianic or supernatural manner, say they understand the needs of all citizens, arrogantly dictating laws that we must all yield to, just as Churchill said.
The Root Problem: Education
A lack of education sends democracy down the path of destruction. Mature democracies do not generate prosperous and free societies because they adhere to antiquated traditions. Rather, prosperity and freedom are the result of an educated citizenry, who toss aside indifference, and demand an efficient, transparent, representative, and participatory system of governance.
Unfortunately, Bolivia is a long way from a mature democracy, and a lack of education regarding political rights can be seen every day. Before October’s presidential elections, Evo Morales asked the candidates from his party to gain an absolute majority in Parliament (which they did); and he recently expressed his desire to gain control over all nine Bolivian departments and 339 municipalities in the next round of local elections. At present, MAS controls seven departments and 289 municipalities.
This is not democracy; this is tyranny of the majority, the beginning of a dictatorship, and a clear example that Bolivian citizens lack political education. These next five years under the MAS government will be five years without free-thinking citizens, as recently noted by Executive Secretary Juanita Ancieta of the Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous, and Native Women of Bolivia.
We are subjugated to the opinion of a single ruler. We now walk the path that Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek warned us about, “the road to serfdom.”
Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.