Martin Wolf argues in the FT this morning that there are four condition for democracy. They are, he says, citizens committed to the process; guardians committed to defending democracy including opposition politicians; free and open markets and, lastly, the rule of law. I am surprised that he did not refer to a free press, but I suspect that they fall into his category of guardians of democracy. This apart, I think his analysis powerful and appropriate.
There is, however, a problem, and I think that Martin Wolf knows this. Within neoliberal systems, and within the states that the neoliberal system has promoted, including Russia, these conditions either do not exist or they are being progressively undermined.
We do not, for example, have free and open markets. The tax haven systems of the world are designed to undermine such markets, just as they are designed to undermine the concept of citizenship by removing many from the obligations of the states in which they either reside or trade or make their income.
The concept of citizenship is also under attack: there are those who now say that unless a person pays tax they should not have the right to vote. It is, I agree, a minority view, but one that would not have been heard very long ago.
And, as for the guardians, as I argued in The Courageous State, politicians of all the major parties in the UK have been committed to the idea that government is necessarily dysfunctional and that markets and competition provide the answer to all economic allocation problems. That is clear indication of their failure to act as guardians of democracy when it is very obvious that the state has, as one of its functions, to correct the externalities that markets create.
As for the rule of law, our lawyers in this country are on strike on Friday because of the denial of justice to too many on the basis of their inability to pay, a process that inevitably undermines the rule of law by creating inequality in access to justice.
Martin Wolf wrote about the creation of democracy in Ukraine. That would be a good outcome for the current crisis in that country. I would welcome it. But, equally, I look forward to the guardians of democracy standing up for it in this country, and do so, too often, in despair rather than any realistic hope.