Democracy is predicated on the existence of what is known as free will. The reason for this is that if free will does not exist, there can be no such thing as personal freedom, which we require to make the many different decisions about how to govern ourselves.

This raises the question: what about societies that implicitly reject the existence of free will and instead believe that life is to a great degree determined? Can they implement democracy? Successfully?

For example, throughout the Middle East and Asia there are many national dictatorships. The people in these countries want freedom, which they view in terms of freedom from government oppression, and its associated freedom of action. But these societies also tend to be deeply fatalistic, believing in such things as God’s will, karma, and natural spirits. The people do not recognize that there is an implicit contradiction in this.

To have freedom of action you must first accept the existence of a deeper and basic freedom of choice: free will. If there is no such thing, then your freedom of action is a mirage – it does not really exist.

The people in these societies need to understand that there is a conflict between their goal, freedom and democracy, and the social conditions that they have in place to support it. In a sense, they are not ready. Only when they have made deeper structural changes, by moving away from such deterministic belief systems, will they truly be prepared for democracy, and to be free.