Is democracy a viable form of government?
  • Transcript


I remember a book that was written by a Frenchman named Jean-Francois Revel. And it was entitled, “Why Democracies Perish”. And his theory was that in this great contest between democratic institutions like our own and fledgling democracies across the world, that communist, totalitarian systems like Russia would prevail. The Soviet Union was destined to win. His theory was that because the Soviet Union could control information, it controlled what people knew and what they . . . what they read, and what they saw, and what they . . . and what they could have available to them by way of information and knowledge. But they could always succeed. They could spin the news. They could create impressions. They could create stories that people would believe. Whereas on the other hand, as democracies, we would have to deal with Watergate scandals, and mistakes, and bumps in the road, and disillusionment, and turmoil, and political partisanism, and all the things that sometimes look like they’re about to tear democracies apart. He was wrong. He believed that the Soviet Union would continue to be expansionist. It had to keep pushing the Berlin Wall out, because as more and more people looked across the wall they might see the truth. So you had to keep expanding. That was his theory. And that they would – they would win. He was wrong. The Berlin Wall came down. A lot of credit is always given to Ronald Reagan and the pressure he put on the Soviet Union militarily. I give more credit to satellite television. You see a wall only works if you can’t look over it, through it or something. Satellite television created an opportunity for folks in the Soviet Union to look over the wall. And when they would go to a supermarket and there was no pork, and no beef – you know only a few bad cabbages – and go home and see a supermarket full of food in Houston, Texas, their human inclination was to say, “I want that.” When they could look across that wall and see what freedom looked like, their human spirit said, “I gotta have that,” and the wall had to come down. And if you look at the . . . the greatest, I think, movement in terms of mankind’s advancement over our lifetime, it’s been a . . . it’s been there in the . . . in the expansiveness of access to knowledge; in the way in which people have been able to look around all the corners that have been erected by governments, and totalitarian regimes, and institutions and other roadblocks, they’ve been able to see around them, and through them; and they’ve been able to get a sense of what’s possible for their lives, for their country, for their community, for their personal lives. And their human spirit said, “I gotta have that. I wanna be a part of that.” And it’s that insatiable demand for knowledge, and information, and possibilities, and human lives that I think drives the advance of human civilization. And so the Internet arrived, and all of a sudden we’ve got a great new corridor for information to be exchanged; for people to have access to the possibilities of their lives. And that’s gonna continue to . . . to . . . to . . . to beat against whatever dictator arises, whether he’s in Iran today, or in Korea, or anywhere else in this world. And to make it more difficult for them to (35:00) turn the clock back and to go back to institutions that repressed human beings. And eventually if we . . . If we don’t end up in some horrible nuclear Armageddon in the meantime because we stumble our way into it, eventually humankind is going to find its way into some full realization that we’re all entitled to that basic quest for possibilities; and that all of us on this planet are entitled to the same opportunities to seek them. Recorded on: 9/11/07