Why does democracy work only in Western countries?

A viewer asked this question on 5/18/2000:

Why Democracy did not take of outside the western countries? Is that because of industrial progress or there are other reasons we are not aware of? Please note this is not a race issue.

madpol gave this response on 5/18/2000:

The basic reason is cultural military strategies and weapons.

You find democracies arising where military power requires cooperation in a citizen army.
The Greek phalanx, the Roman sword square, the Welsh longbow, the Swiss pike formations all require relatively independent small holders and artisans to sustain military power. Large numbers of cheap weapons, require large numbers of people and diffuse military and political power.

Expensive weapons requiring extensive training, give rise to hereditary military castes. Concentration of military power leads to government by ruling elites.

That this happened in the west rather than the East is largely a matter of accident. The rise of the armored knight in Europe effectively suppressed Democracy until new weapons were able to counter it.

The Mongols might have brought Democracy to the East, but their relatively small numbers led to their simply becoming the military caste of China.

Central and South Africa's harsh climate prevented the formation of sufficiently large societies to give rise to democratic city states.

North Africa had pretty much the same experiences as Europe, at different times.

JesseGordon responded:


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