Posted by: martinworster | December 10, 2008


_dsc0098After the Mumbai terrorist attacks President ‘now-not’ Elect George Bush made a speech in solidarity with India. Bush said; “As the people of the world’s largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the world’s oldest democracy to stand by their side.”

He was right – at 1.1 billion people India is the world’s largest democracy. He was wrong – America is not the world’s oldest democracy. I find it gobsmacking that Bush is standing on the world stage, making a speech about a global catastrophe and he cannot even get basic facts right. But then maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised as the invasion of Iraq was instigated on un-truths. His grasp of facts was always slippery. Who writes his speeches? What sort of fact checking do they have in order? Clearly none.

My dad was over visiting when he made this speech and initially flagged it up for attention. Of course, he believed England was the oldest democracy. At school I was also taught that we (England) had the mother of all parliaments. Upon further investigation this may not be the case. Nationalism is great at creating narratives that you want to hear. Maybe competitions about who has the oldest democracy are pointless excercises. But it’s great to prove Bush wrong.

Britain cannot claim to have the world’s oldest democracy as it has only existed since, at its earliest, 1707 (still over 70 years older than the US date of independence in 1776). The Isle of Man has the oldest continuous parliament (formed 979) in the world. The Althing, the Icelandic parliament (formed 930), is older, but it did not function for a number of years, so it is not the oldest continuous government.

Other complexities include universal suffrage – and if we use this as an indicator the Isle of Man was the first to introduce it in 1881. But can we really consider the Isle Of Man a country? If not, then New Zealand was the next to allow woman to vote in 1893.

Then of course figure in that blacks couldn’t vote in the US till the 60s, America is a Republic and that President Gerald Ford was not elected. American is clearly not the world’s oldest democracy – by a very long shot.  Bush get your facts right. That seems like a pointless sentence.



  1. Hi Martin,

    Hope Thanksgiving was good, have a great Christmas and New Year. Nice images by the way.


  2. Hi Martin,

    I’m just getting into your blog here. Good stuff.

    Just a sidenote- following the Civil War, the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 which stated it was unlawful to deny men the right to vote on the basis of race. Therefore, black men were granted their right then.

    Yet, over the next few decades, Southern states made it very difficult if not impossible for Blacks to exercise that right in the fom of literacy tests, a poll tax and the like.

    In the 1960’s, these mean-spirited tactics were finally done away with, and Blacks cast their ballots from then on in relative peace.

    All the best. S x

    • glad you’re reading it and thanks for your erudition. How did you find it? Hope all is well in Blighty, will be over soon

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