News & Articles观点郭晓明博士专栏

Democracy and the principle of equal rights and responsibility

Xiaoming Guo


The principle of parity of powers and responsibilities is the principle that the powers held by managers in an organization should be commensurate with the responsibilities they bear. This is a very important management principle in a company or government department. Organizations range from large to small, from a family to a world. Human society is an organization. The principle of reciprocity of powers and responsibilities also applies to national governance and global governance.

In a democratic country, the people empower the government, and the government has responsibilities to the people. This is the equality of power and responsibility. For example, there are many homeless people in the United States. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Urban Construction and Housing, there are 582,000 homeless people in the United States in 2022, accounting for 0.18% of the population. This is of course the responsibility of the US government. But homelessness in the United States is now a long-standing and intractable problem. Judging from the U.S. government’s assistance in the Ukrainian war and the Palestinian-Israeli war, the United States has sufficient financial resources to solve the problem of homelessness. However, homelessness is still a social phenomenon that is difficult to eliminate in the United States. For this reason, the empowering process of Western democracy is an electoral process, and homeless people account for a limited number of votes and are likely to be people who do not vote. Voting is a serious process. Ballots are only issued to people with addresses. People without addresses cannot get ballots. It is these homeless people who have not voted to authorize government power, and the government has no incentive to solve employment and housing problems for homeless people. So, homeless people had a home and the right to vote before they became homeless, so why can’t they control their destiny? Homeless people are marginalized people in society. Even if they once had a place to live and the right to vote, due to tight life conditions, they may not have time to vote, nor do they usually have time to pay attention to which politicians can voice their voice in Congress.

The United States’ defense spending in 2022 is 877 billion, which is more than the combined total of China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan, and Ukraine. American elections are money talks. Which candidate raises more political donations has a greater chance of winning. Western elections are a costly game. In 2022, the military-industrial complex’s political donations reached tens of millions. Moreover, the military-industrial complex has colluded with the mainstream media to manipulate public opinion, causing the U.S. ruling party and the opposition parties to confront each other on all issues, except for the highly consistent and generous military spending. When one party proposed a military spending bill,  the other party not only did not oppose it but also added even more. The power of the US government is virtually authorized by the military-industrial complex, and the US government is only responsible for the profits of the military complex.

This results in the U.S. government having great power to rule the people, but being irresponsible to the American people. A popular view is that Western democracies have universal suffrage, and the ruling party will step down in the next election if its performance is poor. This is a myth. Taking the United States as an example, gun advocates will always vote for the Republican Party, regardless of the Republican Party’s political performance; those who support abortion will always vote for the Democratic Party, regardless of the Democratic Party’s political performance. This is a common phenomenon of identity politics in the West. People who identify as Republican only vote Republican. However, no matter which party is in power, the issues of gun ownership and abortion will never be resolved, and both parties will always have their own strong support base. To take a step back, even if the current president cannot be re-elected next time, it is not a great “accountability”. If he loses the election, there will still be lucrative jobs in major companies or groups waiting for him. He is the best lobbying resource. There are good connections in Congress, and companies or groups can use him to “go through the back door.” This is the infamous revolving door phenomenon. Among the groups that hired the defeated president, one example is the military-industrial group, another is the pharmaceutical group, and another is the financial monopoly group. Even if he does not hold any position, he is still a celebrity. He can make a fortune by writing an autobiography. He can earn tens of thousands from being asked to give a speech. His failure to be elected will not affect his romantic life in the celebrity society. Therefore, although the president’s dereliction of duty is a bad thing for the people, it is not a bad thing for the president, but a good thing, because his dereliction of duty is protecting the interests of a certain interest group and is self-stealing. Even if he loses the election, he still is guaranteed a lifetime of glory.

The most important thing is that Western “democratic” governments, with their financial monopoly and military superiority, have great power over developing countries without taking any responsibility. This is the greatest asymmetry of power and responsibility in global governance. The West says that the Libyan people have no freedom and human rights, and bombards Libya, the country with the highest human development index in Africa, into the most miserable country in Africa. The West has the military power and even the economic power to overthrow the government of a developing country, but it has no responsibility to the people of the developing country. The Libyan people originally enjoyed free medical care, free housing, and free education. Western countries said that it was not democratic and had no human rights, so they bombed Libya into a refugee disaster and even a slave market, and bombed it into a failed country where terrorist organizations were rampant. Why does the West have the power to overthrow the governments of other countries but is irresponsible to its people? This is imperialism disguised as “democracy, freedom, and human rights”.

A government’s responsibility to its people is the basis of its legitimacy. The responsibilities of various governments to their respective citizens are the boundary of each sovereign country. This is one of the principles of the United Nations Charter. The U.S. government’s legislation for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang is ultra vires and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty. The affairs of the Chinese people are not the US’ responsibility, and it has no power to interfere in China’s internal affairs. NATO is petitioning for the Libyan people, petitioning for the Libyan people’s democracy and human rights. After overthrowing the Libyan government, why not allow the Libyan people to have the right to vote in US elections? If the President of the United States has the power to overthrow the Iraqi and Afghan regimes, why does the United States not allow the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to have the right to vote in the United States? Wasn’t it said that good elections can hold the government accountable? If the US government is not responsible to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, it should not have the power to overthrow the Iraqi government and the Afghan government.

Having power but being irresponsible is the root cause of power corruption. The United States has de facto power over global governance with its financial monopoly and absolute military superiority, but it will not take responsibility for world peace and economic prosperity. This is power corruption. The U.S. financial monopoly power and absolute military superiority have no other power to check and balance. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. A multipolar society is a power ecology in which various forces around the world check and balance each other. It is a more reasonable and democratic global governance model than the sole polar society of the United States hegemony. It can better implement the organizational principle of equality of power and responsibility in global governance. The international relations norm of mutual respect, mutual benefit, and win-win results can best implement the UN Charter principle that national sovereignty is inviolable. The United States and NATO interfered in Libya, Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan on the grounds of democracy and human rights, but they have not brought peace and prosperity to the people of these countries. What qualifications and credibility do they have to interfere in the internal affairs of China,  about Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet on the grounds of “democracy and human rights”? If the West bombed Libya for the sake of the democracy and freedom of the Libyan people, then the West has the responsibility to build Libya into a developed country, as developed as Europe and the United States. This is in line with the principle of equality of power and responsibility. When Western countries use the words “democracy versus totalitarianism” to interfere in the affairs of other countries, they only want power but do not assume any responsibility. Therefore, they can risk war and only cause chaos to other countries. They will only gain benefits without taking any responsibility. Grasping power without taking responsibility is the root cause of wars and turmoil in today’s world. What Western countries want is their imperialist power to dominate the world, but they do not want to take responsibility for the people of all countries in the world. This is the biggest reaction to democratic politics.

Symmetry of responsibilities and power should be the second golden law after “Don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you” and should be one of the moral foundations of human society. Wanting power without responsibility is immoral and leads to corruption.