Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy versus Guardianship

Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy versus Guardianship

Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy versus Guardianship

Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy versus Guardianship

Excerpt

This testimony to the power of the democratic idea in the present world that, with few exceptions, even in the most flagrantly undemocratic countries leaders generally portray their regimes as transitional systems that will someday eventuate in democracy— usually some "higher order" of cleansed or purified democracy. That they should feel compelled to do so, presumably in order to enhance their own legitimacy, is historically quite recent. Until this century, leaders in undemocratic regimes would ordinarily have felt no need to acknowledge the ultimate superiority of the democratic ideal in order to clothe their own rule in a mantle of legitimacy.

This nearly universal appeal of democracy as an ultimate ideal today should be heartening to advocates of democracy. Yet two important qualifications immediately leap to mind: First, most regimes in the present world are not democratic.Even by the rather generous standards we must use when applying the term to the United States, the countries of western Europe, Japan, and others, only about forty countries out of approximately 150 can reasonably be said to have democratic political systems. Second, leaders in many, perhaps most, nondemocratic regimes justify their claim to rule at least transitionally by appealing, in some form, to an argument of great antiquity and ubiquity. The argument is that at least in the particular time and place, but per-

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