While democratic regimes struggle with gridlock and stagnation, single-party governments (like those found in China, Singapore, and also Russia) are proving more amenable to swift and decisive decision-making and a capacity for managed economic growth and development. Their perceived success challenges the moral privilege often accorded to democratic regimes, according to which democracy is validated by its moral features: a shared commitment to equal deliberation, constitutional limitations on coercion, and the ethical premise that each should count for one, and no one should count for more than one. Is democracy’s moral privilege deserved? How do democratic societies foster shared values and hold leaders to account? To address these questions, in April 2015, Carnegie Council and Global Thinkers Forum will partner to organize an international conference in Athens, Greece. The conference will include speakers from Carnegie Council’s Global Ethics Network and draw on Greece’s rich Hellenic culture and philosophical tradition to help professionals and the public better understand and tackle contemporary democratic challenges. In addition, Carnegie Council aims to send a delegation from its Board and senior staff to participate in the event and to meet with local partners.
Why Athens, Greece?
Although determined by country-specific structural causes, the crisis in Greece is reflective of a wider set of phenomena, of which Greece is a part and to which it also contributes. Economically-inclined commentaries focus on fiscal consolidation, the harsh austerity program and reform processes. Other experts raise questions of democracy, solidarity, sovereignty, popular discontent and absence of a shared vision. Thus the crisis in Greece brings together a number of narratives that are only superficially distinct from each other and invites analysis not only about the Greek economy, society, and political scene but also about the EU and, furthermore, the need for better leadership in the wider region. For example the forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings made clear to decision makers across Europe and the Arab World that there’s is an urgent need to address inherent political and social challenges and translate the unique momentum created into concrete positive outcomes for citizens by unleashing the huge growth potential of both regions.
The great Greek philosopher Aristotle had based his ethics on a psychological theory of human nature, insisting that humans are naturally virtuous, rational, social and happiness-seeking. If leaders create tasks that people find meaningful and morally worthwhile then they will work harder to achieve these goals. It is critically important for the wider stability of the region and also the prosperity of our societies to listen to people’s messages, create new pathways for collaboration and operate under a framework of shared leadership values if we want to achieve stability, progress and development.
Theodoros Karatzas Building of the National Bank of Greece, 82-84 Aeolou, Athens