Democracy and Freedom in Canada and the Rest of the World

As a Canadian-born citizen living in Montreal, Quebec, I am incredibly privileged. I was born in a small rural town in Northern Quebec in the 1970s. The benefits of living in Canada are so vast that we seem to fail to see them, much less fully appreciate them for their incredible value. This goes for all democracies.

Here are the only 20 countries out of 167 that are rated as “full democracies”, from “highest democracy” and on:

Norway, NZ, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Taiwan, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Canada (number 12), Uruguay, Luxemburg, Germany, South Korea, Japan, UK, Austria, Costa Rica.

Note the absence in the list of “fully functional democracies”: France, Israel, Spain, Chile, USA, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and the MANY others. Out of the 167 rated countries, 45 have a score above 7/10, which is typically the cutoff for relatively OK democracies. Hence 122 countries are either bad, really bad, or a hell of repression and authoritarianism.

What IS “Democracy”?

I hear and read lots of people saying “it makes no difference, because in the end you just live your life, work, and none of that “repression / oppression” really makes a difference in your daily life.”

People who think like this have a very poor understanding and appreciation of WHAT “democracy” is and what are its benefits.

China has a democracy ranking of 148 out of 167, with a score of 2.2/10. Russia sits at position 124 out of 167 with a score of 3.2/10, while Iran has a score of 1.95/10 and North Korea has a score of 1.1/10. For comparison, my country (Canada) has a score of 8.9 and the USA has a score of 7.9, while the top spot is Norway with 9.8.

I am sure the average person in China may not “see” their lack of freedom on a daily basis, in the sense that they “just go to work and live their normal life.” This is precisely what authoritarian regimes WANT: work, stay under the radar, don’t criticize or “ask” anything, and everything will be just FINE. This is true: if you totally “fit in”, you work, and you don’t criticize the State OR suggest changes in the ways things are done, you will be fine. You can also generally indulge in all the “fun” you want… you can “party and have fun” in many very authoritarian regimes, such as Russia or China, for example.

So what’s the problem?

Freedom and democracy is like health and vitality: you tend to underestimate their value until you don’t have them.

All democracies have major flaws OR “blame to carry” about past or present atrocities and injustices. I could write a book about the “historical burden” my own country carries, and we all know the very long list of blame to put on the USA, the UK, France, and all other modern democracies. But still, we do have merits and strenghts. Lets focus on the benefits of freedom and democracy for this text… Here are aspects of Canadian life and politics that might not seem like a big deal, but are a big deal in most countries of the world:

  1. There are opposing political parties that propose very different ways of organizing life: how much and how to tax and spend State funds, the extent of State power and intervention, “redistributive” policies, etc. The competition between parties is real. Politicians answer to the public every 4 years, and if the majority of the population finds that politicians are streering the country in the wrong direction, they may well get kicked out.

Most of these aspects of democracy “go under the radar” and tend to be under appreciated. Each one individually may not be that much of a big deal, but the WHOLE PACKAGE IS A VEEEERY BIG DEAL. The whole package often means prosperity, freedom to be who you want to be, to do what you want to do, to grow, to express yourself, to criticize, to change things that you find unacceptable, to influence, and to be part of a society that grows towards “better” in the long run. Can any of this be said of the brave and honest citizens stuck in low-democracy places like Russia, China, Iran, and the 100+ others that do NOT have these aspects of democratic life and culture?

But democracy is hard work and may not be our natural state, but we MUST fight for it. OPEN YOUR EYES to the extreme value and fragility of democracy and freedom. SEE IT. Defend it. Nurture it. Study History. Read. Debate.

How do you LOSE democracy? Generally, democracy does not “just disappear” overnight. It starts to crumble little by little. The points mentioned above start to lose their vitality. Voting rights or voting processes erode. Trust in information erodes. Truth, facts, and science get overshadowed by conspiracy theories and parallel realities that are disconnected from reality or facts. Corruption creeps in. Nepotism advances. Equality of opportunity gradually decreases. Fake news take hold of large swaths of the population. Social division becomes more and more intense. Scientists are denigrated, people start feeling they’d rather have one beloved dictator than all this complicated self-education and responsibility, and on and on and on.

Don’t undervalue Freedom and Democracy.

Pascal Bedard

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Pascal Bedard

Sharing thoughts on economics, finance, business, trading, and life lessons. Founder of www.PascalBedard.com