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Argentina Needs a Republic, Not Mob Rule

By: Contributor - Oct 6, 2015, 3:33 pm
As we approach the upcoming presidential election, voters in Argentina should reflect on what democracy actually means.
As we approach the upcoming presidential election, voters in Argentina should take a moment to consider what democracy actually means. (Diariomóvil)

By Horacio Giusto Vaudagna

EspañolOn October 25, Argentineans will elect their next president, and now is the perfect time to reassess how much our country actually values democracy.

Democratic ideals are, of course, intimately tied to freedom. Democracy is designed to offer a wide spectrum of liberties to individuals, allowing everyone to participate in the political sphere, and assuring the periodic replacement of government officials.

However, exercising freedom becomes difficult when individuals live under a regime in which every political decision depends on the whim of one person who holds the state’s coercive power. The glory of a nation does not come from the promises of its leader, but from the autonomy of its citizens.

In this regard, democracy is a valid instrument to elect representatives who reflect the will of the majority and to ensure checks and balances by the minority. Having tools which hinder tyranny guarantees that individual rights will be protected.

Aristotle said democracy risks devolving into a populist regime. The demagogue appropriates state resources to prop up his political power, corrupting institutions that are essential for society to flourish.

Argentina has had plenty of examples of both local and national populist governments, where a political clan has sought to maintain power through bribery and handouts. Those who diminish democracy always try to create a narrative in which their leader is the only legitimate spokesman of popular will.

To monopolize democratic discourse is to undermine the opposition. In other words, when a candidate exalts himself as the only democratic representative, he is implying that his adversary is anti-democratic. Over time, as has happened in many socialist regimes, this entails the suppression of elections to protect “the spirit of the people.”

Turning democracy into an absolute is to confuse the majority with unanimity. If democracy is regarded as superior to republican principles, such as alternation, checks and balances, or transparency, nothing prevents the ruler from violating individual rights in the name of the majority.

It’s very dangerous to regard one person as the sole representative of a nation’s will. In many Argentinean provinces, this has led to attempts to concentrate power in a single party.

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Therefore, it has become necessary to restore the idea of republican democracy, whose guiding principles cannot be undermined in the name of a shifting majority. If the “public’s will” — however rulers determine what that is — is prioritized above normal and transparent elections, abusive regimes end up being legitimized. This is what has happened in dictatorships whose democratically elected leaders cripple human rights in the name of democracy.

In the upcoming elections, every Argentinean should remember that democracy is not an absolute principle that allows for abuses. Instead, it can be an excellent tool for a peaceful alternation of power when a political party has failed to live up to its promised goals.

Argentina needs this valuable tool to demand greater freedom, not to perpetually submit the nation to the will of a political class.

Every voter has the responsibility to find out whether candidates will actually protect the republic, or just perpetuate a regime that, in the name of democracy, will violate our basic rights to life, liberty, and property.

Horacio Giusto Vaudagna is a member of the Center for Freedom Studies and Responsibility in Argentina. Follow @HoracioGiusto.

Translated by Rachel Rodriguez.