Showing posts with label rule of law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rule of law. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2017

Democracy And Rule Of Law

Democracy is more than just elections.

The Soviet Union had elections.

Joseph Stalin usually received 98 or 99% of the vote.

The Soviet Union didn't have rule of law. The fictonal Ivan Denisovich was sentenced to ten years in a labor camp for suspicion of an offence. Actual Soviet citizens were sentenced for making jokes about Stalin.

Soviet citizens, like those of Tsarist Russia before them, lived in mortal fear of even minor bureaucrats.

One of my favorite stories by Anton Chekhov is titled "Death Of A Bureaucrat." It describes the terror faced by a minor official who accidentally sneezes on a senior civil service official, keeps apologizing obsequiously and fears the senior official does not excuse him. He goes home to bed, turns his face to the wall and dies of mortification.

When our soldiers came home from World War II, they were determined to prevent our country from going down that path. We might not have been a perfect democracy in 1941 or yet in 1945, but we aspired to be as perfect as we could be and to continue perfecting that state.

What defends us from autocracy is democracy and the rule of law. Not just a casual regard for laws, but a deep respect for law.

Five years ago, our elected officials in the Town of Oriental turned away from rule of law and toward arbitrary exercise of authority in favor of the wishes of the wealthy and the powerful.

When elected officials in a democracy abandon rule of law in favor of influence or some other value, that is a betrayal of democracy and of its citizens.

Last Friday's meeting of the Oriental Planning Board was an attempt to address the consequences of a five year old betrayal.

More to follow.