Recent amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have caused a lot of commotion between the government and other parties, and there was opposition to both amending the act and to not amending it. It is very confusing to anyone trying to follow the situation.
There is very little room left for rational discussion, and there is a lot of opposition simply for the sake of opposition. To make the situation even worse, neither the ruling party nor the other parties wanted to debate the amendments, but rather focused on occupying the legislative chamber and the speaker’s podium.
This kind of vicious competition between political parties is no different from what went on during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) presidency.
In all fairness, labor issues have always been a sore spot in the capitalist system, and government and opposition parties should make an effort to formulate policies that truly protect workers’ rights, while finding a balance between ideals and practical implementation. Vicious fighting between political parties will only halt rational decisionmaking.
Democracy has been achieved because of countless painful sacrifices and contributions made by Taiwanese, and it is useful for international relations. Moreover, it is a core value for consolidating the public and safeguarding Taiwan’s free way of life against China’s suppression.
On the other hand, democracy thrives on diversity: People have differing opinions, and political parties and organizations have different standpoints. Mutual interaction creates a dynamic system full of complexity and even opposing views.
This is precisely why the question of how to appropriately integrate and maintain social balance and stability is of vital importance.
Democracy can encourage positive competition, which helps eliminate defects and brings about general welfare. However, it can also get stuck in a vicious cycle, as the diversity of opinions can block progress and cause administrative impairment.
When a liberal democracy lacks integrative forces and if there is no central force to consolidate opposing opinions, not only will the government fail, but there will also be social division.
Perhaps it is common in a democracy to see political parties disregard the principle of loyal opposition and expose one another’s faults to promote their own interests, but placing one’s own interests above those of the nation is not the true essence of democracy.
Today’s world is dominated by strongman politics and radical populism. As an emerging democracy, Taiwan must find ways to display the advantages of democracy through rational public policy and avoid a situation where diversity deteriorates into division and facilitates the rise of strongman politics.
As cross-strait relations get more tense, the government is focusing its strategic planning on regional safety by enhancing its defensive military capabilities and establishing closer ties with other democratic allies.
No matter how solid and substantial Taiwan’s external defenses are, there will be domestic trouble if there is a lack of social integration and consolidation.
Finding ways to use democratic mechanisms to alleviate social division and boost domestic integration and consolidation will not only help improve national governance, it is also one of the most urgent tasks facing the government as it works to strengthen national security.
Ho Hsin-chuan is a professor at National Chengchi University’s Department of Philosophy.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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