The Road to Democracy

I have pointed out earlier that adopting democracy is like nuclear disarmament – there are serious costs to being the first one to do it. This does not mean that it is impossible. One possible approach is to have dictatorship at the central level, but democracy at the local level. This is best done when the central leadership is neither too strong nor too weak. If it is too strong, the central leadership has no incentive to allow democracy. As it gets weaker, allowing local democracy is a good way to contain discontent and preventing rebellion. But the central leadership should not be too weak. It should be strong enough to make a credible commitment that it can enforce the rules. BJP might be in that situation:

Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi held on to his job as Deputy Chief Minister after an unprecedented secret ballot, allowed by the party leadership, showed he enjoyed support of majority party MLAs and MLCs in the state. (Indian Express)

The other example I can think of is.. China, but I am not very sure of it.

Of course, allowing local democracy is the first step; the ultimate goal is to have democracy at the central level too. But I am not sure if there is a next step that is not dangerous.

A Familiar Story

Disparities between cities and villages are widening. Village land is under the chokehold of government officials, who behave like petty landlords. Agricultural land is being taken away for development projects with no compensation to farmers, because farmers do not have any real rights over their land. The excuse given for denying farmers rights over their land is that if they can freely own and sell their land, the current shortage of arable land will worsen. But in practice, farm land is being given away anyway, so the restriction only means that farmers don’t get anything from the development.

We are of course talking about China. While agents of China seek to bring about a Maoist revolution and collective farming in India, Chinese peasants are asking for their land to be privatized.