James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

By John Samples | Go to book overview

11.
The Rule of Law and Freedom in
Emerging Democracies:
A Madisonian Perspective
James A. Dorn

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.

—James Madison 1

The collapse of communism in Eastern bloc countries in 1989–90 and in the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 paved the way for the emergence of a host of new democratic states. This latest wave of democratization continues a trend that began slowly in the first part of the 20th century, with the fall of empires and the rise of electoral democracies, and gained momentum during the second half of the century.

In 1900, there were no fully democratic governments, in the sense of sanctioning universal suffrage; in 1950, there were 22 democratic states that were home to 31 percent of the world's population; and by the end of the century, there were 120 democracies accounting for 58.2 percent of the global population (Figure 11.1). 2

The problem is that universal suffrage does not guarantee a free society in which government is limited, human rights are protected, and the rule of law is upheld. Indeed, Freedom House finds that, of the 120 electoral democracies, only 85 (representing 38 percent of the world's population) can be classified as “free.” 3 The real measure of progress will be the success of emerging democratic nations at cultivating freedom by limiting the powers of government and safeguarding persons and property, thereby stemming the growth of the welfare state.

The challenge is to foster the growth of liberal democracies in the Madisonian sense, not simply to promote the rise of majoritarianism.

-191-

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