Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Islands of Non-Democracy

The United States is a democracy ... for the most part. If we define, as a basic element of democracy, that all persons permanently under the jurisdiction of the sovereign have equal democratic voting rights, then the United States has some islands of non-democracy: residents of D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and various other American overseas territories do not have a voting member of Congress or (except for D.C.) a vote for the President.

This got me thinking: How many other places are in a similar situation? How many non-democratic islands within democracies are there? One obvious potential example is Israel with regard to the Palestinian residents of the West Bank -- the idea of a perpetual occupation threatens Israeli democracy precisely because it seems to promise a permanent state of affairs wherein a chunk of persons under the jurisdiction of the Israeli sovereign lacks equal democratic participation rights. Of course, that raises the question of why this state of affairs is deemed more threatening to Israel's democratic character than the disenfranchisement of Puerto Rico, et al, is to America's democratic character. But I'm poorly positioned to investigate that argument since I think the American case absolutely poses a significant threat to America's democratic character.

But I digress. As I said, what I'm curious about is the prevalence of this state of affairs. I don't know the status of Bermuda vis-a-vis the U.K., or Aruba and the Netherlands, or French Guinea and France. Are they fully represented in the political structures of their sovereigns the same as someone from Manchester or Rotterdam or Nantes? This of course doesn't even get into non-democratic states where nobody has significant voting rights of any kind, but for the moment I'm just interested in the democratic world. Is this normal? Do most democratic states in fact have a few non-democratic pockets? And what are the implications if the answer is "yes"?

1 comment:

8e1c37d4-d286-11e4-b580-4b7432e703be said...

If critics of Israeli democracy don't even worry about incredibly superficial (hybrid regimes) "democracies" like Turkey, Pakistan, or Russia it's a bit rich to expect them to worry about full democracies (according to the Democracy Index) like the US, or UK. When was the last time you even heard anyone criticize other so-called flawed democracies (in whose category Israel falls) like Belgium, India, South Africa, Hungary, Argentina, Greece, etc? As always we know what makes Israel special is not its occupation of the WB but the nature of the ethnic group that comprises a majority in it.