01 March 2009

Democracy wins and loses

India has a new political party dedicated to fighting against the "corruption and incompetence" endemic in government. The PPI (Professionals Party of India) embodies the concerns of the rising middle class, which has previously tended to focus on business at the expense of politics.

This exemplifies why I'm more optimistic about India's future than I am about that of the other Asian giant, China. The activities and statements of the founders of the PPI (not to mention the very act of establishing a new political party) would, in China, have been illegal and would have resulted in the arrest of everyone involved. Uprooting entrenched corruption is horrendously difficult -- just look at what we've found under the rocks turned over in Chicago lately! -- but India at least has some hope of doing it. China, with its totalitarian regime, its void of independent media or other power centers, and its consequent total lack of accountability for those in power, has none.

Sadly, South Africa, long an oasis of hope in Africa's bleak political landscape, now seems to be losing the democracy it so nobly won in the anti-apartheid struggle. The ruling ANC (African National Congress) is turning to violence and intimidation to retain power, complete with brownshirt-like gangs deployed to break up the rallies of rival parties. If its rulers succeed in creating a thinly-disguised one-party state, then South Africa's fate will be sealed: eroding freedoms, rising corruption, emigration of the most educated and productive (whether white or black) elements of society, economic stagnation, and general decline.

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