Amid recent political unrest, the importance of democracy has quickly moved to the forefront of our country’s collective mind. However, the protection of democracy is more than just a political issue; it is also an economic one. According to Andrew Wilson, executive director of CIPE, business and democracy each need the other to thrive.
This view has been shaped by the mission of CIPE, which strives to strengthen democracy around the world through private enterprise and market reform. Rather than focusing solely on spreading the American model of democracy, CIPE strives to strengthen the foundational pillars of democracy. These touchstones include the “four freedoms” — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — as well as respect for property rights and the rule of law.
In his years with CIPE, Wilson has learned that “business needs democracy and democracy needs business.” He explained that democracy gives enterprises the best possible environment of freedom to compete and innovate, while also providing accountable and transparent government and governance. Additionally, democracies offer businesses the opportunity to partner with policymakers and the community alike, which helps to drive solutions for society’s economic and social challenges.
Citizens and Businesses Must Also Contribute to Democratic Processes
Although democracy can offer the foundations of economic growth, the long-term success of any democracy lies on its citizens taking part in it.
“[Democracy] requires people not only to vote and to do jury duty and to pay their taxes,” Wilson said. “It also means they need to participate in their communities and their civil societies, and they have to transmit their values to others.”
He noted that for people to undertake the work of democracy, they need to see its benefits. When implemented correctly, a democratic society sets the foundation for economic prosperity, sustained employment and overall improved quality of life. When these are achieved, democracy can sustain itself and citizens will continue to contribute to it.
Wilson added that democracy is not just about political leadership, but leadership across the board, including that of business.
“[Business leadership] goes there with the political parties, with civil society, with media and with labor,” Wilson said. “We really do need to make sure that business plays its voice of leadership within a democratic society, to make sure that we have a balanced collection of views and priorities when we’re trying to make policies.”