Democracy sounded good to Romanians in 1990, but tastes pretty sour today. Over seventy billion dollars of State assets stolen, personal savings wiped out by inflation, factories shut-down, stifling bureaucracy, incomprehensible laws, jail terms for the little guy, criminal amnesty for politicians, declining public education, wretched healthcare systems, environmental devastation, massive exodus of the young generation, lonely old people living in poverty, and a rapidly declining population.
It is fair for Romanians to ask, “What is so great about Democracy?”
The answer is on the list below of the countries with the highest median household income. Each country has a red mark if they are in the top 25 of the 2014 Global Democracy Ranking and a yellow mark if they are top 25 of 2014 Transparency International Corruption Rankings.
If you want to raise your family in country were you have a good income, good education, and good healthcare: you want to live in a strong democracy with low corruption. For Romanians, these are the countries your friends have moved to.
Notice who is not on the list: China, Russia, India and Brazil. Authoritarian states serve the few, Democratic nations build prosperity for the many.
The question to be asked is: What is a democracy? How does it apply to my daily life? What is my responsibility?
This blog is about my ten years in the trenches of Romania trying to help people build a better future. Since I grew up in generation of Americans that knows little about the democracy building efforts of our forefathers, I needed learn, before I could teach. Ironically, the more I teach Romanians, the more I learn how America’s democracy can be purified and strengthened.
Romanians have been both my students and my teachers. I have learned equally from brilliant professors, poor peasants and corrupt politicians. Each offered thoughtful perspectives I had never considered.
In the end, Democracy works because it unleashes the two most powerful forces on earth: truth and the human spirit. I have seen these powers unleashed in post-war Germany and modern day South Korea. And they are sprouting like springtime flowers in one of the world’s best-kept secrets: Romania.