Democracy and the Rule of Law

Final Explorations: The Rule of Law in Liberal Democracies Today

1. There are many semi-independent government organisations that contribute a functioning society. Examples include:
• the CRTC oversees the regulation of Canada’s telecommunications sector
• the Bank of Canada helps regulate the Canadian economy
• Elections Canada oversees federal elections in Canada
• each province has a security regulator to help oversee banks and financial markets

Look into these or other government agencies. What is the organisation’s core function? How does it help keep Canada a country of peace, order, and good governance? In what ways could it be improved?

2. Political parties opposed to liberalism are on the rise across the world. Illiberal political movements have even taken hold of governments in countries such as Hungary, Poland, and the Philippines.

Look into political movements opposed to liberal democracy. What is fuelling their popularity? Are any of their critiques of liberalism valid? As a whole, are these movements good for society or do they risk setting back social progress?

3. Liberal democracies continue to advance rights. For example, Ireland recently legalised same-sex marriage and expanded abortion rights. In Canada, the legalisation of cannabis can be seen as a liberal advance.

Look into how rights have been advancing in liberal democracies. How do the country’s institutions and citizens help bring forward rights? Have these changes come quickly enough? Too quickly? What other changes are needed?

4. Are you involved in a group pushing for social change? How does that group fight for change using accepted norms of liberal democracy? How does it use reason to help push forward change? Are there areas where it could do a better job?

5. Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, said this about democracy and the rule of law:

I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on the rule of law if we do not at the same time build a state that is—regardless of how unscientific this may sound to the ears of a political scientist—humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural. The best laws and best-conceived democratic mechanisms will not in themselves guarantee legality or freedom or human rights—anything, in short, for which they were intended—if they are not underpinned by certain human and social values.... The dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human co-existence.

How does individual decency and goodwill contribute to a functioning democracy?

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