Paul Collier on Democracy
By Arnold Kling
What incumbents fear most is not losing an election, but being overthrown by their own military. When the international community can protect a government from such a threat, it should do so, conditional upon the election being properly conducted. For example, the ousting of the properly elected president of Madagascar in 2008 by a coup could have been averted by prompt international military action. Ultimately, transparent budgets and security guarantees might be enough to nudge these elections closer to our democratic ideal.
I am wary of the term “international community.” It is a nice way of saying coercion exerted by some governments on other governments.
I think that the larger issue is that elections, even fair ones, are much overrated. In Unchecked and Unbalanced, I make the case that monopoly government is becoming increasingly incongruent with the specialization and dispersion of knowledge in society.
We have a situation, which we are seeing clearly in the case of health care legislation, in which more and more power is grabbed by officials who have an ever-diminishing share of the knowledge base required to make intelligent decisions. Ken Rogoff keeps using the phrase “arrogance and ignorance” to describe actors in financial markets in recent years. That phrase applies to regulators as well as to CEO’s. It applies to policy makers as well as to market participants. And it applies to the “international community.”