In order to answer the above question it is both important and neccessary to look at both the cultural and economic differences between the developed and developing countries. This question is trying to determine if a liberal democracy is only possible within a developed country. By doing this we will get a sense of how a liberal democracy is seen as a luxury, and if it is only possible for those developed to experience this type of society. This will lead us to the answer of, if it is only likely to have liberal democracies within affluent (developed) society and why.
Liberal democracy is a type of rule that balances both limited government and popular consent. The government is limited by a system of internal and external checks that protect citizens against the state and guarantees their liberty. Popular consent is attained through regular and competitive elections. There are a number of other characteristics that define a liberal democratic rule, such as, a constitutional government, the guarantee of civil liberties and individual rights, party competition, the independence of organised groups from government and importantly free trade.
Liberalism first arose in the early nineteenth century and was a result of a relapse of feudalism, which was substituted by a market or capitalist society, early liberalism was highly influenced by the industrial middle class. Therefore liberalism is frequently seen along with capitalism. From the late nineteenth century liberalism began to look more kindly on social aspects such as welfare reform and economic intervention. John Locke is a key thinker of liberalism in the early nineteenth century. He developed many of his ideas during the english revolution, he has been seen as defending the ‘Glorious revolution’ of 1688.
It was this that concluded the absolutist rule and achieved the constitutional monarch in Britain. Locke highlighted the ‘natural rights’ of the individual; life, liberty and property. He was extremely supportive of a representative government and his theorys had a huge influence in the american revolution. There are many aspects of liberalism such as; individualism, freedom, reason, equality, consent, toleration and constitutionalism. The two core elements of a liberal democracy are, individualism and freedom. Freedom is rated over equality, justice and authority.
Liberal democracy operate a ‘freedom under the law’ system, as one persons freedom may be a threat to the freedom of others. Liberalists believe that the main concern of the state is the individual, they believe that each individual is of equal worth and that each hold unique identities. They beleive that individuals have the capacity to make educated judgements for themselves in moral situations. It is beleived that through tolerance and the allowance of free speech, the individual will be guarenteed liberty and social enrichment.
Liberalism is morally neutral in that it allows each individual the opportunity to make their own moral decisions. Liberal internationalism is based on individualism. This is reflected in the liberal belief that universal human rights are possible and that all individuals require a number of basic needs to be met. The UNDP have identified these as; safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient nutrition, primary health care, basic education and family planning for all those willing. Unless these basic needs are met it is difficult to develop to anything else.
Within a liberal democracy it is possible to see that all these needs have been met, with added extras. Not only are basic needs met within democracies but the wants of the people are met too. Karl Marx predicted that history would end with a communist utopia, we have now seen the collapse of communism. Fukuyama (1989) has since argued that it will end with a liberal democratic utopia. Fukuyama argued in his thesis, ‘The end of history’ that the end of communist regimes has brought on the success of liberal democracies over all systems of rule.
Fukuyama maintains that liberal democracy and the open market economy is extending world wide and is discrediting various other economies and dictatorial governments. He believes that liberal democracy is free of fundamental internal contradictions and that it has answered the deepest of human longings. He adds that it has sealed the end of social evolution. ‘The triumph of the west…. an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism…. (and) the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western (neo) liberalism. ‘ (Fukuyama 1989:3) Although highly respected, ‘The end of history’ has also been highly criticised.