There is a lament, particularly heard in our neighboring Caribbean and Latin American countries on the failures of democracy to work. There are many variations on democratic government, so as is true of all generalisms, one cannot paint them all with the same brush. Nevertheless, having studied the matter for some 20 years, I think I can put my finger on a relative generalism that points to the successes and failures of democracy around the world.
Essentially, it boils down to European style democracy versus that of Switzerland and the USA. True! There are variations on European style democracy and they are not all truly the same, but essentially in the basics they are.
Democracy is touted to be the transfer of power, peacefully, from one government to another. But is that all democracy is? Not at all! Democracy and the variations is much more than that.
In general, those countries applying European style democracy have flaws in their operating characteristics. European style inherited democracies only have one aspect that is democratic. That is the peaceful transfer of power from one group to another group. After that, they fail miserably.
Again, using generalisms. European style democracy, means that the people of a country are 'subjects' of the government. They are owned by the country. The country, or government is owned by a single political party in a hieracheal structure from the top down distribution. The people do not own their government, or lower level governments. The people are basically feudal serfs, still owned by the state. The state is owned by a winning political party and the party is owned by a small clique, or handful of mafia within the political party. England with which Belizeans are familiar and copied their government has this same model. As do most of the Caribbean countries and the Latin countries of our American continent as they also follow a similar model of Spanish feudal origin.
This system fails in comparison to the economic successes of Switzerland and the USA. Why? At root is the fact that both of these countries fought for their independence from monarchist feudal rule. They designed their constitutions to prevent such concentrations of power and distribution method from happening ever again in a hieracheal top down control methodology.
Both the Swiss and the USA models of democracy are different from all other European inherited style democracies. The basic difference is that the people own the government, or lower level governments, whereas European democracies share the fact, that their governments own their people. The government does not own the people in a successful democracy. How is this difference achieved?
It changes from place to place, from US state to USA state, or Swiss Canton to Swiss Canton. But basically, the people own their government. In these two nationalistic models that have been so economically and socially successful, the difference is that there are many multiple layers of independent governments within the major national country government. These two countries practice federalism. There are governments within governments within governments, within governments in these two countries and each layered level is owned by the lower level government. Power flows from the broad base of people at the bottom to the top of the governing pyramid. This creates a sense of ownership by the people and a government of ever changing consensus, versus European style of mafia small political party mandated rule by a small group, or clique.
In the European democratic system; power is concentrated at the top and flows downward through the pyramid of power, decision and policy making.
Successful democracy then, is more than simply the peaceful transfer of power from one group to another. It must be accompanied by federalism, and multiple layered levels of independent governments in which the structure of power and authority flows from the broad based people owned governments at the bottom of the pyramid to the small peak of the pyramid at the top. The bottom governments must own the higher levels of government. This provides an ever changing dynamic fluid of concensus by the masses.
So, when we lament about the problems of Jamaica, Belize, Colombia, Peru and those places and say that democracy is failing. When their people cry they need a strong man leader, ruler, dictator. It is simply that democracy has not gone deep enough in these countries. They are practicising the wrong democracy. They are practicing monarchist feudal style democracy, where the people are owned by one clique, within one political party at the top of the pyramid of government and the only aspect of true successful democracy that is done; is the exchange of political power at the top of the pyramid governing structure from one small power group to another. Democracy is more than that to be successful. All democracies in the world are not equal!