Political Competition: Real Race to the Bottom
The current presidential election in Turkey gives an example of a phenomenon that is characteristic of politics and which is not absent from the American scene: unrestrained political competition is the ne plus ultra of the proverbial race to the bottom. As the main opposition candidate tries to defeat Turkey’s populist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Financial Times reports (“Turkey’s ‘Desperate’ Opposition Plays Nationalist Card,” May 20, 2023):
It marked the start of a jarring makeover for Turkey’s lead opposition candidate, whose campaign has swung from talk of spring, pictures of cherry trees and heart-shaped emojis to bellicose speeches promising to throw out millions of immigrants. …
A Turkish journalist declares:
When politicians in Turkey fall short or need quick results, they play the nationalism card.
Compare politics and the market. Unrestrained market competition leads to the production of everything that somebody, however small his minority, is willing to pay for. Unrestrained political competition produces everything that powerful enough groups want and that can be forced onto somebody else. In politics, you win by fighting down to the bottom of the barrel.
Nothing is perfect, of course, but imperfect liberty is better than imperfect tyranny.
Whether political competition can realistically be “constitutionally” constrained is the crucial issue. One can interpret the work of James Buchanan or Friedrich Hayek as major attempts to provide a positive answer. The crucial and underestimated work of Anthony de Jasay suggests a negative answer (see also his Against Politics: On Government, Anarchy, and Order (Routledge, 1997).
May 23 2023 at 12:05pm
Even though opposition plays nationalism and anti immigrant card, it doesn’t mean that when it comes to power it will be the one.
Erdoğan must go. Otherwise, Turkey will turn into a hybrid Russian Iranian regime.
May 23 2023 at 12:58pm
Sven: Like you, and from what I know, I hope Erdoğan will be defeated. My point is that we can only hope that his replacement will not bring his own bricks to the construction of the police state. (Some of my libertarian friends justified Trump’s declarations in the 2016 election campaign by saying that he just uttered them to be elected.)
May 23 2023 at 10:45pm
“My point is that we can only hope that his replacement will not bring his own bricks to the construction of the police state. ”
I’ve been to Istanbul and I can attest, Turkey is an amazing country. If you had to choose between Rome and Istanbul and could only go to one, if you like history, I might suggest Istanbul should be strongly considered.
If you compare Turkey to Canada or the US or the UK, well, Turkey is going to have some serious shortcomings of course. In some respects Turkey is a Muslim Argentina economically.
Turkey is a country that values free speech, kind’ve, just don’t ‘insult Turkishness’ or Kemal Attaturk, right? Turkey is a country that values freedom of religion, kind’ve, and definitely not any concept of separation of church/mosque and state either. Well, maybe when compared to Iran, it compares favorably.
The thing is is that Kemalism sets up a nominally secular state with some serious sops to Islamism where the military considered itself, at least until recently, the guardian of the secular state. The Peace at Home 2016 coup, they got that from Kemal too, wrote: “Fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the secular democratic legal structure based on the separation of powers have been abolished by the heedless, misguided and even treacherous president and government officials.” The US govt would condemn it
Now of course its 2023 and inflation rages in a country that really has so much promise and so I think people in the West might like to think that Kemal Kilicdaroglu will restore a pro-Western/secular Turkey and he might, but that vision, even if he prevails, will unfold in a typically Turkish way. It straddles two continents after all. I hope he prevails but I personally don’t see his potential election of a rejection of statism itself but rather as embracing a more EU style secular statism over the more Islamist statism of Erdogan.