Do they understand democracy? Or: Does it matter?

I was asked whether I believe that Egyptian politicians understand democracy.

The context to such concerns is -at least to a German- the lingering assertion / diagnosis that the Weimar Republic was a 'Republic without Republicans'; without enough people who were pro-democracy in their heart and willing to support and protect necessary institutions of a Republic.

I don't think it's really about whether people understand democracy.

There are three different views of a state and country:

(1) The currently dominant (public) Western view; the state as an organisation which serves its citizens with public goods.

(2) The state-as-a-prize view as seen in Greece, most of Africa, Arabian countries and much of Latin America. Such countries have internal power struggles in all-or-nothing contests, and the winner gets to rule and exploit the country, favouring/bribing his political supporters.

(3) The state-as-a-tool-for-ambitions view, where the state's power is a tool to pursue ambitions such as domination, conquest, torment disliked minorities or simply putting the women back in the kitchen.
This view was shared by Fascists, Bolshevists, Neocons, Imperial Japanese, Ayatollahs, medieval rulers et cetera.

The point isn't whether these people understand democracy (unless they want to set up and maintain one in the first place). The first and most important question is what's their view of a state. 

You can educate an Arabian prince to a Master in law at Cambridge - but upon his arrival back home he'll be part of an organised crime regime which loots natural resources and distributes the spoils among its supporters in a feudal style.


P.S.: (1) and (2) have some commonalities. Income redistribution from poor to rich (Republicans in the USA)) or from rich to poor (socialists) is one example, power-hungry politicians without real policy agenda other than their thirst for power (Merkel) are another. 
The important difference is that in (2) the "against each other" aspect dominates over the "same rule for all" or "national solidarity" aspects. Examples for this are African countries with tribes instead of ideologies vying for power. I added Greece to the list of examples because the obvious disregard for common good or efficiency and because of the obvious preference for rigging in favour of supporters there.


  1. The state-as-a-prize is about the lowest lying grapes with the least cooperative effort. Transforming Greece will give much insight into the bigger challenges of the EU-Mediterranean Union of which Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt are members. Part of the problem might be the low grapes of oil, tourism and subsidies.

  2. The problem with the government takes care of everyone is that they soon run out of money to steal from those that work. And after enough time in a system like that those that don't work get to where it becomes a RIGHT to have free whatever. Everyone agrees to a certain amount of helping those that need it. But the problem arises when you help everyone needed or not. When the government goes looking for those in need rather that being there for them if needed. The government becomes a ambulance chaser.