There are many many things that most of us take for granted in the United States. Our democratic system of government is one of them. I get frustrated at our citizens who do not take the time to get familiar with issues and candidates and then exercise their right to vote.

I just returned from a month in Bhutan. This Himalayan Kingdom is nestled between the two giants of the Asian world. China, more properly Tibet, lies to the north and India, lies to the south. The fourth King of Bhutan whose reign began when he was 17 years old in 1972 has mostly been responsible for bringing his country from the Middle Ages into the 21st Century. This is a country that in 1960 had no schools, no paved roads, no cars, no currency and no postal system!

King Jigme Wangchuck is much loved and venerated in Bhutan. There are bumpers stickers everywhere stating boldly – We Love our King. Through his centralized power and his extraordinary vision he has been able to force changes in a country resistant to, what we would call progress. I have witnessed extraordinary transformations in the few years that I have been going to the country. The cell phone service is better in the remotest region of this mountainous country than in West Marin County.

The King has however decided it is time to end the Monarchy. He recognizes that immense power concentrated in one individual could be dangerous. There are no guarantees that his sons or grandsons will be as benevolent as he is. Therefore the country now has a Constitution and has scheduled democratic elections for February 2008. There have been mock elections held throughout the county to help prepare the folks for the historic transition.

Bhutan is a tiny nation, and most everything we think of as modern, from communications to government, is new to it. But it is a shining example of principles that we, in the supposed greatest nation on earth, would do well to reacquaint ourselves with. That too much power in too few hands is dangerous and that a successful democratic government requires two-way trust between office holders and the people they represent.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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August 6, 2009