When the Right to Vote Is Imposed on a Culture of Intolerance

(Times-UK) Gerard Baker - The victory of Hamas last week, coming on top of advances by Islamists in Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt, has posed the question: can you lay the basic institutions of political openness, such as the right to vote, on top of societies twisted into their current abysmal state by a history of repression and a culture of intolerance? Or do you have to reform the cultural and social base first in order to get favorable democratic outcomes? We know by now that elections are a necessary but certainly not sufficient condition for producing free, stable societies. If you were to let a classroom of seven-year-olds vote on how they should be allowed to run their lives, they would end school and legislate for compulsory chocolate and ice cream. If you give the vote to a few million Palestinians in their current state, they will vote for the equivalent of chocolate and ice cream. They will endorse the annihilation of Israel, the mass murder of Americans, and a holy war against infidels everywhere. Our job in the West is to make clear by ostracizing the lunatics of Hamas and Tehran that there is no future for them and the people they purport to lead in their hateful and distorted ideology. Giving the vote to people who have been acculturated to an ideology of intolerance and hatred will not, on its own, usher in a new era of peace and stability. The risk is it will do the opposite.

2006-02-03 00:00:00

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