Chapter 13 - Making Democracies Work
Diamond argues for the open-ended possibilities of democracy - main one being that the
whole world can become democratic. However, it is not enough for the whole word to
become democratic. Imp → can those countries that become democracies remain dem & can
they achieve a level of democracy that their people just as worth having?
Many democracies performing poorly - citizens experienced a mix of distressed governance:
abusive police forces, domineering local oligarchies, incompetent & indifferent state
bureaucracies, corrupt & inaccessible judiciaries & unethical ruling elites disrespectful of the
rule of law & accountable to no one but themselves. There was a democracy in a formal
sense, but people were still not politically free.
Whether a regime is competitive auth or merely a badly governed, low-quality democracy,
the challenge remains: For dem structures to endure - they must be more than a shell. Must
have substance, quality & meaning. They must over time, hear people's voices, engage their
participation, tolerate their protests, protect their freedoms & respect their needs.
In most of the Arab & auth Asian states, the best path toward dem transition, through gradual
liberalization, appears to be largely closed in the near term. These regimes might collapse b/c
of a sudden crisis or a split within the ruling ranks but might usher in new auth rule rather
The prospects for renewed global expansion of dem will depend on 3 factors: 1) Gradual eco.
development that lifts levels of education, information, & autonomous citizen power &
2) Gradual integration of countries into a global eco, society, & political order in which
democracy remains the dominant value & the most attractive type of pol system. These 2
conditions would produce rising pressures for democratization in Asia (China & Vietnam), in
Iran & in parts of the Arab world. For dem to maintain its attraction & regain its momentum
as a universal value, the established dem of the West - most of all, the U.S - must keep from
losing their heads & their freedoms as they struggle against diffuse terrorist threats.
3) Before democracy can spread further, it must take deeper root where it has already
sprouted. New democracies that have come into being since 1974 must demonstrate that they
can solve governance problems & meet citizens' expectations for freedom, justice, a better
life, & a fairer society.
Why New Democracies Perform Poorly
Most of the "at risk" democracies suffer from decaying or simply bad governance. Some
countries are trapped in patterns of corrupt, abusive, personalistic rule that it is hard to see
how they can survive as demo w/o reform. Main prob → bad governance is not an illness to
be cured. It is a natural state.
Once pol access is closed, power is used to restrict economic competition so as to generate
rents that benefit the small minority of ruling elites over the broad bulk of the society.
Diamond calls this a "predatory system" - it can be stable if the ruling elites use some of the
Page 1 of 9 rents they collect to enforce & maintain pol order, but it will not generate sustained eco
A stable & high quality democracy needs to be embedded in an "open access order" which
has systematic competition, entry and mobility in both the economic & pol spheres.
Open access can only be sustained in a corresponding culture & social structure → "civic
community" → abundance of social capital. People trust one another, combine in many
forms of association & cooperate for larger, collective ends. Mutually respect & tolerate their
differences & feel some sense of attachment to the community or the nation that transcends
their differences. Citizens see one another as political equals & believe in equality of opp.
Citizens carry such confidence b/c there are strong, effective institutions of governance to
induce & reward civic beh. People obey the law, pay their taxes, observe ethical standards
etc. b/c they believe there will be some penalty for not following the rules.
The predatory society is the opposite of the civic comm. 1) There is no real comm, no shared
commitment to any common vision of the public good, & no respect for law. Behaviour is
cynical & opportunistic. Those who capture pol. power seek to monopolize it & the rents that
flow from it. People ally with one another in the quest for power & privilege, but not as
In a pred. society, officials feed on the state & the powerful prey on the weak. The rich
extract wealth from the poor & deprive them of public goods. "Corruption is widely regarded
as the norm". Everyone feels powerless, exploited & unhappy.
Often, pred elites mobilize ethnic tension or nationalism in order to direct public frustration
& resentment away from their own exploitative behaviour. From Nigeria to Congo, from
Serbia to Sudan, ethnic violence, nationalist bloodletting & civil war have been heavily
mixed up w/ the corruption of cynical elites.
The pred society can't sustain dem, for sustainable dem requires constitutionalism,
compromise & respect for law. People get rich by manipulating power & privilege, by
stealing from the state & by shirking the law. Politicians bribe electoral officials, beat up
opposition campaigners & assassinate opp candidates. Presidents silence criticism &
eliminate their opponents by legal manipulation, arrest or murder.
Overcoming the Predatory State
Several innovations are needed in order to move a society from a state of predation & closure
to one of openness & democracy.
1) Horizontal relations of trust & cooperation must be constructed, ideally across ethnic &
regional divides - to challenge elitist hierarchies & personal rule. This requires building a
dense, vigorous civil society w/ indep organizations, mass media, think tanks, & other
networks that will generate social capital, foster civic norms, press public interests, raise
citizen consciousness & lobby for good governance reforms.
Page 2 of 9 2) Effective institutions of governance must be constructed to constrain the nearly unlimited
discretion of rulers, to open their decisions & transactions to inspection & to hold them
accountable before the law, the constitution & public interest. This means building
institutions of vertical & horizontal accountability.
The premier institution of vertical acc is a genuine dem election in which citizens can
evaluate the conduct of officials & replace those who don't perform. State officials are
not rulers to whom the people are subordinate; rather, they are agents of the people &
must answer to them. Other effective agencies of vert acc : public hearings, citizen
audits & a freedom of info act.
3) Poorly performing democracies need better, stronger & more dem institutions linking
citizens not just to one another but also to the pol process. Primarily, this means pol parties,
parliaments & local governments. Shallow democracies → feckless pluralism → pol
participation doesn't really amount to much except occasional voting b/c politics is so elite-
dominated, corrupt & unresponsive. Reform requires internal democratization of pol parties
by improving their transparency & accessibility & strengthening other representative bodies.
In many badly performing democracies, there is the more general imperative of building the
state: improving the technical skills, resources, professional standards & efficiency of the
state so that it is better able to maintain security, establish authority, settle disputes,
promulgate laws, collect taxes etc. A state must be able to perform these basic functions
before it can effectively be democratic.
Finally, reforms must extent into the eco sphere → reforms generating a more open market
economy in which it is possible to accumulate wealth through honest effort & initiative in the
private sector - w/ the state playing a limited role.
An effectively functioning market economy requires independent oversight of financial
institutions, stock exchanges & corporations → operate within certain boundaries of fairness,
responsibility & transparency.
Common, core problem in all badly governed democracies : pervasive corruption, cronyism
& abuse of power. Change the way people will behave when they acquire power & control
over resources → requires sustained attention to how public officials utilize their offices.
Fund. challenge that all insecure democracies face.
Creating Horizontal Accountability
Poorly performing democracies/pseudodemocracies → ineffective parliaments, judiciaries,
audit agencies. Don't work effectively to control corruption & tame abuses of power. To
make dem effective, these institutions must be reformed & strengthened, restructured to fit
together well, revitalized w/ more resources & authority & insulated to ensure pol
independence & vigor.
Overlapping authority ensures that if 1 agency fails its duty to expose, quesn, punish & thus
ultimately deter corrupt behaviour, another may initiate the process.
Page 3 of 9 The Law
Public/gov officials declare their assets upon taking office & whenever their assets change in
some significant, defined way. To ensure public confidence, asset declaration must be made
publicly available for inspection by individuals, organizations, & the mass media. Laws that
give privilege to exec officials & members of the parl body also need to be narrowed.
Freedom of Information
The more that gov transaction & operations are transparent & visible, the more feasible it is
to expose, deter & contain corruption. Therefore, citizens must have the legal right to request
& receive info on all functions & decisions of gov that are not a matter of national security or
an infringement on ind rights of privacy.
Control of corruption requires a specific body to scrutinize the conduct of public officials for
signs of corruption. The body must have the authority not only to receive but also to monitor
& verify the assets declarations of all high-level elected & appointed officials.
If credible evidence of corruption emerges, there must be the institutional means to try the
suspected offender & impose punishment on the guilty.
The Judicial System
An effective jud. system requires well trained, competent judges, clerks, prosecutors,
investigators & defense attorneys. Courts need to streamline their admins. management &
their capacity to track & process criminal & civil cases.
A variety of civic organizations - think tanks, human rights groups etc may form coalitions to
lobby for constitutional changes to improve governance while also monitoring the conduct of
Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) - tracks gov budgets, spending & service
delivery; monitors the legislative process at both the national & provincial levels; surveys
public opinion; periodically audits the quality of democracy; tracks the uses of $ in South
An Independent Mass Media
Transparency requires free & open flows of info. W/o a free & pluralistic press, transparency
is not possible. Pluralism entails market competition as well as diversity. Pluralism requires
market competition as well as diversity. Controlling corruption requires a press that is free
from intimidation & restraint.
Page 4 of 9 Chapter 15 - Physician, Heal Thyself
2006 - Americans expressed low levels of confidence in the leaders of both political parties,
anger at the disproportionate power of the special interests that dominate campaign giving,
impatience w/ the polarization of political life, & a feeling that they were powerless to
change things. Forums exposed a decline in civil society & sense of civic responsibility.
Overall public trust in gov has been declining since 2000 & only about a third of Americans
in recent years "trust gov in Washington to do what is right". Increasingly, Americans feel
something is wrong w/ the way their democracy works. Although the U.S remains 1 of the
most liberal, institutionalized & vigorous democracies in the world, it is also a democracy w/
serious & even growing problems of pol corruption, influence peddling, abuse of liberties,
decline of constitutionalism & polarization of pa