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Is Absolutely Fair Governance Possible In Any Country At Any Time? – OpEd


The systems and types of governance have been evolving steadily around the world over the last centuries.

In the beginning of history, it could have been a tribal leader, who might be violent and autocratic, controlling a group of people by force and intimidation, while keeping some well-rewarded supporters helping the tribal leader to hold his leadership.

In the next stage, a sort of feudal leadership (generally like a zamindary system) replaced most of the tribal leaderships, controlling larger number of population.

Then, the kings and queens ruled the regions, who constantly tried to expand their territory of governance by force or other means.

The essence of all the above forms of governance were use of force, intimidation and suppression of individual rights and freedom. People were treated as “soulless automatons.”

Advent of democracy and communism

Gradually, with the expansion of communication systems and the gradual spread of education, the rebellious movements started taking place against the above type of dictatorships and monarchy rule and thus evolved the basic concept of democracy.

Along with this concept of democracy, the concept of communism was also evolved, with communist philosophy eloquently developed and espoused by Karl Marx.  His theme that the “workers of the world have nothing to lose except the chain” caught the imagination of the suppressed and oppressed working class and many people thought that communist philosophy could provide the ultimate form of fair governance for the world.

Communism versus democracy

Later on, it was a war of words between the philosophy of communism where the protection of workers’ rights was the central theme and the philosophy of democracy, where the individual freedom and liberty was the central theme.

The communist movement all over the world has now nearly collapsed for all practical purposes. Now, China falsely claims that it has a communist form of government, and one is not sure as to what Cuba claims now after the period of Fidel Castro, who claimed that he was leading a communist movement. 

The present Chinese leadership, and earlier the Soviet Union communist government, have clearly proved that communist movement has not resulted in the envisaged leadership of the working class, but has only facilitated the rule by a coterie of oppressive, ruthless and self-centered leaders, who grab power by clever strategies and perhaps, even by foul means.

It appears that Karl Marx’s expectation of governance by a working class lies deeply buried.

Democracy becoming chaotic

The recent US Presidential election with Trump battling against Biden — highlighted by hate speech, unsubstantiated allegations hurled against one another and the so-called free media not being impartial and finally an unruly and violent mob ransacking the Capitol Hill — have clearly and conclusively shown that the system of democracy cannot be the be all and end all of fair governance, and certainly demands that changes and modifications be made.

Now, the world has experimented enough with both the forms of governance , where the merits and demerits of both communism and democracy are clearly seen and understood.

The world is now realizing that with both communist and democratic systems are failing to create a condition of absolutely fair governance, that there is a need for a new form of governance that could combine the positive aspects of both communism and democracy and shedding the negative ones. Whether it is a utopian expectation or not, there is certainly a craving for such a system of governance amongst the people at large.

While kingdoms and military leadership still continue in some parts of the world, the question is how long will this form of dictatorial governance continue and whether they can sustain themselves in future, facing the likely determined  protest by people demanding liberty and personal freedom and expressing themselves strongly against oppressive practices.  

The immediate evidence of people’s reaction to military leadership is the recent take over of governance by the military in Myanmar and the spontaneous and sustained mass agitations against the military junta in Myanmar. The ongoing protest by the mass of people in Hong Kong against the Chinese dictatorship form of governance is another evidence. Similar types of evidence against kingdoms, military leadership and totalitarian regimes are now being seen in one part of the world or other almost everyday, with mass protests by people.

The consensus now appears to be that while among the various forms of governance, the system of democracy is the better one, the growing feeling is that democratic form of governance also needs considerable change in methodology and structure, even though the democracy assures liberty and freedom for individuals.

“Mob rule

It appears that the movement for the process of change has already commenced, with “mob rule” happening to upset the existing systems even in democratic countries, where the standards of governance have become suspect due to widespread corruption, nepotism and attempts to entrench family rule under the guise of electoral democracy,  and where undeserving people are able to gain control.

In the light of such conditions and increasing “mob rule” incidents taking place — demanding justice, freedom and personal liberty — many times the protests become violent and incidents of arson and shootings have been reported, even though the basic objective of the protest may be justifiable to some extent. Further, with the conditions of freedom without adequate check and control in democratic countries,  vested interests also join in the protest with ulterior motives and cause unrest and public disturbance. These conditions make discerning observers conclude that excessive freedom for people could be an undesirable scenario. 

Judiciary as a corrective force?

In such circumstances, some sections of people seem to think that a strong and fair judiciary can correct the inadequacies of democracy.

The ground reality is that the judiciary is becoming more powerful than the elected representatives of the people (politicians in democracies). This has become so, since with the politicians rapidly losing respect and credibility in the society and with the widespread feeling that they need to be controlled and disciplined, people tend to support the judiciary, viewing it as corrective  force.

The recent happening in Nepal where the judiciary has overruled the decision of the Prime Minister to dissolve the parliament and President signing the document, is an indication how the judiciary has become so powerful that even the democratically elected Prime Minister could be overruled.

While people’s expectations from the judiciary being what it is, the actual scenario is that the judges are appointed by the politicians, whose credibility is suspect. Inevitably, some people have started thinking that judges may not remain without bias all the time and judgements could be motivated and flawed on occasions, since judges may feel indebted to politicians, who facilitated their appointments.

The criticism against the judiciary and the behavior of the judges is becoming too evident to be ignored anymore.  Judges try to enforce their powers by demanding that they should not be criticized and their judgements accepted in toto. This has made people, who thought that judiciary could be the corrective force in democracies to achieve fair governance, to feel disappointed.

The net result of this scenario is that the judiciary controlled democracies could also become a matter of disappointment in the coming days.

Now, there is genuine doubt as to whether absolutely fair governance is possible at all in any country in the world.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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