Elections and Democracy

Yes it's true, elections alone don't make a democracy. So why does western policy often seem myopically focused on elections? I used to wonder about this until I heard a wise man (but I can't quite remember who, I think he worked at Carnegie, though) explain that the international community tends to overemphasize this point because that's what we know how to do. If a government sincerely wants to run a free and fair election, we can help make that happen. We can give political parties advice about how to organize. We can monitor elections and have a pretty good system for assessing them. When it comes to elections, we know what we're doing.

The rest . . . well, we know that the rest is very important. The rule of law, in particular, is crucial. But while have have a lot of knowledge about, say, the rule of law we don't have much know-how about instilling it elsewhere. So you see a lot of emphasis on elections.

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

Just In