By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Democracies are upside down, but they move. With ups and downs, with marches and countermarches, but they move in the right direction. The scandals that have arisen around Odebrecht, FIFA or Siemens are a sample. We must not fear these scandals. The world is shedding skin.
The United Kingdom does not know how to divorce the European Union. In Spain and Israel, they do not agree to form a coalition government capable of reconciling in parliaments the diversity of their societies. In Argentina, a sick country after 70 years of populism, they will again hand over the keys of the State to an incompetent and dishonest lady who has already destroyed it and looted it thoroughly. However, the melancholic definition given by Winston Churchill is still true: “the worst form of government… except for all the others.”
Somehow, the option is simple; either there is a government presided over and directed by omnipotent human beings, or, instead, universal rules administered by an independent Judicial Branch are followed.
We live in states where a man or a group of men rules, or, conversely, in which authority, limited by law, is given to the majority, as democratic principles recommend.
We enrich or impoverish ourselves in an economic system governed by favoritism, in which a central power decides who are the winners and who are the losers, or we opt, contrario sensu, for an open and free market, in which blind supply and demand determine who become rich and who become poor, regardless of personal relationships.
American Douglass North, a brilliant Nobel Prize in Economics, described the two models of behavior that humanity has known since, more than ten thousand years ago, we abandoned nomadism and founded states. North called them: “limited access societies” and “open access societies” (Violence and the Rise of Open Access Orders. Journal of Democracy, 2009).
There’s no more.
The “limited access” societies soon established a distribution of benefits that extends to this day and consists of sharing the income between the bosses and the courtiers. Out of 200 nations on the planet, 140 or 150 are “limited access societies,” but that is changing rapidly. There is a sudden transfer from one model to the other. Privileges are no longer a gift, as it is not enriching oneself outside of licit and competitive activities.
The first “open access” society was the American republic born in 1776 but continued in 1787 with the drafting of the Constitution in Philadelphia. As George Washington flatly refused to be named king, they chose a democratic procedure to transfer authority to the electors, who became the recipients of sovereignty.
It is evident that this “open access society” that had emerged in the United States did not take into account (among others) women, blacks and natives, but the adopted Republic was an open model, absolutely revolutionary, which allowed progressively incorporating everybody.
From the four million whites registered in 1790, the nation has gone to 325 or 330 million people of all colors and religions that will be counted in the 2020 census. From the two million square kilometers distributed among the 13 original states along the Atlantic shore, now it has more than nine million, on both coasts, divided into 50 states, including the Hawaiian archipelago.
The example of the United States was followed, abandoned and then retaken by France, Holland, England, Belgium, Germany and thus up to 27 countries in the European Union. Likewise, almost all Latin America simultaneously imitates and rejects the American model of “open access”, but the persecution of corruption and international crime foretells a moment in which this block of countries will accept as inevitable to conduct some public affairs as they do in the United States. This is the way things will turn out.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.