Mon, Jan 31, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The systemization of democracy

By Lee Yeau-tarn Hsu Heng-chen 李酉潭,許恒禎

The recent furor over the 18 percent preferential interest rate for retired military personnel, public servants and public school teachers has been very divisive. Many people who do not fully understand the situation would prefer that the pan-blue and pan-green camps stop their incessant wrangling over issues like this one.

In fact, this issue has little to do with pan-blue or pan-green politics and nothing to do with the struggle between pro-unification and pro-independence elements. This is a serious issue involving social justice and fairness, intimately related to the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Despite the fact that Taiwan has been regarded as a free, democratic country ever since the first direct presidential elections in 1996, one should bear in mind that it is still just a fledgling democracy. We believe that the consolidation of Taiwanese democracy can be divided into two stages.

The first of these is the establishment of a political system capable of maintaining the freedom and human rights of the individual and the second is the creation of a society based on the rule of law and founded on the principles of fairness and justice.

During these stages, all of the fighting between the so-called pan-blue and pan-green camps, and what many perceive as political clashes are, in fact, necessary evils in the process of striving for fairness and justice.

Concrete examples of this can be seen in the debates over the 18 percent preferential interest rate, the seniority debate resulting from allowing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials to add the years served as a party official to their years served as a civil servant, the second-generation health insurance and amendments to tax law resulting in the removal of the tax exemption for military personnel and teachers. Of these, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) argued most vigorously about the inherent unfairness of the seniority issue.

In fact, we are not opposed to giving the same retirement benefits civil servants receive to KMT officials who worked under the former party-state system.

Given the special background of that time, KMT employees simply did not know that their career choice was any difference from that of a civil servant. What would they do if they were now not given retirement benefits?

However, the party should pay for those benefits by selling its assets. If it is still unable to cover all the expenses after doing so, then perhaps the government could cover the rest.

By taking sentiment, reason and law into consideration, we believe that this is a more appropriate method for resolving the problem fairly and justly.

Lastly, we must say that all disputes should be finally decided based on the consideration of building a fair and just society. The key to the problem lies in systematic reform. This is in line with the neutral definition of “democratic consolidation” proposed by Andreas Schedler, an academic studying democratization: “organizational democracy,” or, in other words, the systemization of democracy.

To sum up, Taiwan’s democratization must, on the one hand, maintain our free democratic system, while, on the other hand, it requires that we all use our own freedom and rights to create a society of rule of law based on the principle of fairness and justice. The most important examination standard in this process is to make sure that different people and different parties behave in the same way and receive the same treatment.

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