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The transparency delusion

February 7, 2013

Disillusionment with democracy founded on mistrust of business and political elites has prompted a popular obsession with transparency. But the management of mistrust cannot remedy voters’ loss of power and may spell the end for democratic reform.

There is strong shadow where there is much light. Goethe

A well-known French engraving of 1848, the year French citizens received the universal right to vote, epitomizes the dilemmas of European democracies at their birth. The engraving pictures a worker with a rifle in one hand and a ballot in the other. The message is clear: bullets for the nation’s enemies and ballots for the class enemies. Elections were meant to be the instrument for inclusion and nation building. They integrated workers into the nation by sharing power with them. The man with a rifle in one hand and the ballot in the other symbolized the arrival of democracy in France because he was, at once, both a Frenchman and a worker, a representative of a nation and a social position absorbed in class struggle. He understood that the person who would stand beside him on the barricades would also be a worker and a Frenchman with a clear idea who the enemy was. His rifle was not only a symbol of his constitutional rights, it was evidence that the new democratic citizen was prepared to defend both his fatherland and his class interest. He knew that the power of his vote was dependent on the firepower of his gun. The ballot was an additional weapon because elections were a civilized form of civil war. They were not simply mechanisms for changing governments. They were tools for remaking the world.

Excerpt from an article written by Ivan Krastev. Continue HERE

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