There are multiple quantitative measures for a given nation’s degree of democracy, in comparison with that of other nations, but perhaps the best is the job-approval that the nation’s citizens give of the head-of-state. On that measure, Russia is far more of a democracy than is the U.S., and is second only to China worldwide.
On 6 March 2016, the Washington Post bannered, “How to understand Putin’s jaw-droppingly high approval ratings”, and opened, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating.”
It found a way to blame Russian culture for this, because they couldn’t find a way to deny that Putin is extremely favorably viewed by the Russian people, and the WP is rabidly against Russia’s Government; so, blaming Russia’s culture (essentially, blaming Russians) for the findings was the best they were able to do.
Could Russia be a more democratic nation than America is? Could China be the world’s most democratic nation?
An ordinary American with a closed mind would simply ignore these data, not even be puzzled by these persistent findings; but the answer is clearly yes — those countries might be more democratic than is America. A person who isn’t willing to consider that possibility would be merely time-wasting to read any further here.
Another reasonable way to measure democracy is by how low a percentage of the nation’s citizens are in prison. The nation with the world’s highest percentage of its population in prison is the United States. Only tiny Seychelles, whose total population is under 100,000 and which holds other countries’ convicts in its prisons, is technically the worst.
U.S. has 693 prisoners per 100,000 population, whereas Seychelles has 799 per 100,000. Second-highest after U.S. was St. Kitts & Nevis, at 607.
Third-highest is Turkmenistan, at 583. Fourth-highest, U.S. Virgin Islands, at 542. Fifth-highest, El Salvador, at 541. Sixth-highest, Cuba, 510. Seventh-highest, Guam, 469.
Eighth-highest, Russia, 450.
None of these countries would, on this measure, be a “democracy,” but (other than Seychelles) the U.S. would be the most dictatorial — a police-state, on this measure, it’s the very worst nation except perhaps Seychelles.
Another reasonable way of measuring whether a nation is a democracy is the degree of trust that its citizens have in their government.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that 44% of Russians trust their government, and 33% of Americans trust ours. The highest was the 84% of Chinese who trust theirs.
28 nations were ranked: China was #1, Russia #13, U.S. #21. But could China be the world’s most democratic nation? Of course, it could — not by the same means as some of ‘the democratic’ nations use, but more authentically democratic than they — that’s certainly possible. And, as we now see, important data indicate that it is also true.
Another reasonable way to measure democracy is by the population’s happiness (and another common phrase for the population’s happiness is “the general welfare” of the people).
In Gallup’s World Happiness Report 2018, the U.S. ranked #18, Russia #59, and China #86, out of the 156 countries surveyed.
The top 5 nations in order were: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. On the happiness measure, those five, at least, certainly are democracies.
Are those five the world’s most democratic nations? And, even if they might not be, the residents in those countries still could be the most fortunate on the planet, because happiness is a goal everywhere.
By contrast, democracy is usually viewed as being mainly instrumental toward achieving the public’s happiness. As the sovereignty clause — the opening, the Preamble — in America’s Constitution, says:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
It — the statement of the Constitution’s goals — says nothing about “democracy,” but does mention, as a goal, to “promote the general Welfare,” and that’s just another way of saying, to promote happiness.
The sovereignty clause also mentions “Liberty,” “the common defence,” and other things, but nowhere does it even so much as mention “democracy.” But what the sovereignty clause does say that’s the most important thing of all, is its opening seven words, which name what is the sovereign in this country; and, unlike in just about every other legal system, which identifies some god, or some king, as the sovereign, this Constitution was the world’s first which identifies, instead, “We the People of the United States” —- the residents here — as being the sovereign here.
And, in line with that sovereignty, the only happiness that it is at all concerned about is “the general Welfare” and “our Posterity.” Repudiation of any aristocracy is thus implicit even in our Constitution’s opening. Perhaps America’s Founders equated disempowerment of the aristocracy as constituting what we today commonly think of as being“democracy.” But if that is what they thought, then this is no longer their country, and this Constitution is no longer America’s Constitution, and that’s just an empirical fact.
Some people would say that a democracy is a nation that trusts its news-media. Trust in Media is the highest, #1, in China, 71%; and is 42% in #15 U.S.; and is 35% in #20 Russia. (A July 2017 Marist poll however found that only 30% of Americans trust the media.
That’s a stunning 12% lower than the Edelman survey found.) In other words: Chinese people experience that what they encounter in their news-media becomes borne-out in retrospect as having been true, but only half of that percentage of Russians experience this; U.S. scores nearer to Russia than to China on this matter.
Simply based on the facts, Americans shouldn’t trust the nation’s media at all; the trust-level is unrealistically high in America, but the ’news’ media deceive the public to believe otherwise (that Americans trust the media too little, instead of too much).
(And, then, to top it off, the major media, which had deceived Americans into invading Iraq in 2003, and invading Libya in 2011, etc., allege that the only media which pump fake ‘news’ are small or ‘alternative’ ones, and that the major ‘news’ media — which clearly did it, when it counted the most and so produced those evil horrendous invasions — don’t do it, at all.
That’s the biggest lie, of all, incredibly counter-factual: the lie that the major media aren’t the real and most viciously dangerous problem of fake ‘news’ in America.)
A recent poll of Americans showed that “74% think America is a dictatorship; only 21% think it’s not.” Perhaps Americans are more realistic about the government than about the ‘news’ media.
Although one can reasonably debate the degree to which any nation is a democracy, the United States certainly stands rather low on that factor, and stands well below China, and perhaps is lower than Russia, but none of these countries is among the world’s worst — except, perhaps, the U.S., for its having the highest percentage of its people in prison.
The percentage of the residents who are in prison is probably the best single commonly available measure of the extent to which a given nation isn’t a democracy. How could it even conceivably be ‘the land of the free’ if it’s got the world’s highest percentage of its people behind bars?
The very idea that America is a democracy is, thus, simply ludicrous — on the basis of the data. And, the U.S. is, furthermore, the only country in the entire world where the hypothesis that the nation is a democracy was scientifically investigated and analyzed — and it was found definitely to be false here.
Consequently, whenever the U.S. Government condemns some other country for its ‘dictatorship’ or for its mistreatment of journalists, a pot is calling a kettle black, the statement is pure propaganda, unless the U.S. Government simultaneously admits that it’s a dictatorship — which the U.S. Government certainly is(the only nation that has been scientifically proven to be a dictatorship)
Some people say that Russia cannot possibly be more democratic than is the U.S., because in Russia, investigative journalists and whistleblowers are suppressed if not killed.
Gary Webb was a great American investigative journalist who was shot dead and the ‘news’media slammed and basically smeared him. He had exposed a CIA drug-running operation. His murderer was never identified. The ‘news’media do not honor him.
Phillip Marshal was a great American investigative journalist whose entire family (including himself) was shot dead, and this killing stopped his ongoing deep investigation into the people behind the 9/11 attacks. His murderer(s) was/were never identified. The ‘news’media do not honor him.
The greatest whistleblowers and investigative journalists are treated by the U.S. Government as mega-criminals: prominent examples of this are Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning.
The U.S. Government has now caused Assange to be not only in solitary confinement but held entirely incommunicado, blocked from being able to communicate with the public in any way; his Wikileaks is now incapacitated except as its pre-existing online archive. If that’s not a regime which aspires to spread its dictatorship throughout all countries, then what is?
How appropriate, then, is it, that this same Government places the world’s highest percentage of its own citizens into prison? And how appropriate is it that this Government furthermore proclaims itself to be the world’s model of ‘democracy’?
JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) was a U.S. President who started turning against the military-industrial complex and was shot dead in a conspiracy in which Lee Harvey Oswald — someone who might have been a trigger-man in the assassination — got framed for the entire operation, as a ‘lone gunman’.
MLK (Martin Luther King) was America’s greatest orator and ethical leader, and was hated by the bigoted FBI Director, so got shot dead, and the FBI said that a lone gunman James Earl Ray did it, but MLK’s family and supporters believed that the FBI itself did it, perhaps with other government enforcers being involved.
Of course, there have been similar mysteries in Russia. Anna Politkovskaya was a great investigative journalist in Russia, who got murdered, but after many trials, no one has been convicted for it. And there are other instances (just as there are in America).
Unlike in America, no Russian head-of-state has been assassinated since Tzar Nicholas in 1917, when the communists took over Russia. And unlike JFK, who had the legitimacy of being elected to his post, the Tzar did not. Today’s Russian heads-of-state do have to explain themselves to the public and compete in elections, and none has yet been murdered, such as in the United States.
No scientific study has ever been published regarding whether or not Russia is authentically a democracy, nor of whether China is, but there has been one — and only one — scientific study of whether the U.S. is a democracy; and it established that, definitely, the U.S. is not a democracy.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once even had the courage and honesty to say as much, but the myth goes on because the ‘news’ and ‘history’ about the matter continue to lie, so as to spread the myth — instead of to spread the news and the history — regarding this question, about the American Government, and about its stenographic ‘news’ media.
For the U.S. Government to pontificate to the world about ‘democracy’ is an atrocity, because the U.S. itself definitely isn’t one. Americans have simply been deceived. And wherever the public have been deceived, democracy is impossible; only ‘democracy’ can result.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.