Advancing democracy

Advancing democracy

: Thanks to PubliusPundit, I took a read of the Advance Democracy bill introduced in the Senate and House about a week ago. It would make it U.S. policy to advance democracy in the world. I hope no one can argue with that notion. Or to put it another way: If North Korea doesn’t like it, it must be good.

There is some good and stirring language worth flying on the flagpole in the bill (which you can find by going to and searching on “advance demoracy”; sadly, I can’t figure out how to get permalinks out of Thomas). A few excerpts:

It shall be the policy of the United States —

(1) to promote freedom and democracy in foreign countries as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy;

(2) to affirm fundamental freedoms and human rights in foreign countries and to condemn offenses against those freedoms and rights as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy;

(3) to use all instruments of United States influence to support, promote, and strengthen democratic principles, practices, and values in foreign countries, including the right to free, fair, and open elections, secret balloting, and universal suffrage;

(4) to protect and promote fundamental political, social, and economic freedoms and rights, including the freedom of association, of expression, of the press, and of religion, and the right to own private property;

(5) to protect and promote respect for and adherence to the rule of law in foreign countries;

(6) to provide appropriate support to organizations, individuals, and movements located in nondemocratic countries that aspire to live in freedom and establish full democracy in such countries;

(7) to provide, political, economic, and other support to foreign countries that are willingly undertaking a transition to democracy ;

(8) to commit United States foreign policy to the long-term challenge of promoting universal democracy ; and

(9) to strengthen alliances and relationships with other democratic countries in order to better promote and defend shared values and ideals.

One could argue that that has been our policy for a long time and that we don’t need an act of Congress to make it so. But perhaps we do.

And the bill does take some action that I hope is more than adding to bureacracy. It calls for the creation of an Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs to monitor and nudge (my legislative term) democracy and also for a special assistant to the President who’ll watch over this. It calls for annual reports on the state of democracy in the world. It creates an internet site devoted to spreading the word. And there’s this golden nugget:

It is the sense of Congress that establishing a more formal structure for the Community of Democracies may eventually be necessary in the future, at which time the United States should guide and strongly support such a development. It is the sense of Congress that, if properly funded and supported, the Community of Democracies can achieve great success toward the global promotion of democratic principles, practices, and values.


Also of interest is the definition of undemocratic:

The Secretary shall categorize a country as nondemocratic if such country fails to satisfy any of the following requirements:

(aa) All citizens of such country have the right to, and are not restricted in practice from, fully and freely participating in the political life of such country regardless of gender, race, language, religion, or beliefs.

(bb) The national legislative body of such country and, if directly elected, the head of government of such country, are chosen by free, fair, open, and periodic elections, by universal and equal suffrage, and by secret ballot.

(cc) More than one political party in such country has candidates who seek elected office at the national level and such parties are not restricted in their political activities or their process for selecting such candidates except for reasonable administrative requirements commonly applied in countries categorized as fully democratic.

(dd) All citizens in such country have a right to, and are not restricted in practice from, fully exercising the freedoms of thought, conscience, belief, peaceful assembly and association, speech, opinion, and expression, and such country has a free, independent, and pluralistic media.

(ee) The current government of such country did not come to power in a manner contrary to the rule of law.

(ff) Such country possesses an independent judiciary and the government of such country generally respects the rule of law.

Of course, it will be troubling to see which of our current allies do not meet these criteria.

I leave you with the first two of many points made at the start of the bill:

(1) All human beings are created equal and possess certain rights and freedoms, including the fundamental right to participate in the political life and government of their respective countries. These inalienable rights are recognized in the Declaration of Independence of the United States and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.

(2) Political legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed, whether expressed directly or through representatives chosen by free, fair, and open elections.

Yes, sure, this comes out of Bush’s recent speeches. But I hope that in this democracy, we can all agree at least that democracy and self-government are the right of every human being on earth.

: UPDATE: Thanks to a commenter, here’s a permalink to the legislation.