Skip to comments.Democracy Is Not the Answer
Posted on 03/16/2013 2:11:08 PM PDT by rmlew
To understand how we got to the point that spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support a government run by people who have been at war with us for almost a century is a policy that most foreign policy experts endorse, it helps to take a brief trip back in time.
In the last century, our big three wars, the two we fought and the one we didn’t, were against enemies who were seen as being distinguished by a lack of democracy, with the Kaiser, the Fuhrer and the Commissar embodying the antithesis of the American system.
The Democratic Party, which stood at the helm during both hot wars, was able to link its brand to the wars by defining them as struggles for democracy. The process of de-nationalizing war from a conflict between nations and ethnic groups was only partly realized in WW1, but was largely achieved in WW2, and made post-war reconstruction and alliance easier. National and ethnic grudges were replaced by ideological platforms. If the trouble was a lack of democracy, then all we needed to do was defeat the tyrant’s armies, inject democracy and stand back.
Democracy also made it easier to turn liberals against the Soviet Union. The liberals who had believed in a war for democracy in Europe had difficulty tossing it aside after the war was over. And that emphasis on democracy helped make a national defense coalition between conservatives and liberals possible.
This strategy was effective enough against existing totalitarian systems, but suffered from a major weakness because it could not account for a totalitarian ideology taking power through the ballot box.
The assumption that because the Nazis and the Communists rejected open elections that they could not win open elections was wrong. Democracy of that kind is populism and totalitarian movements can be quite popular. The Nazis did fairly well in the 1932 elections and the radical left gobbled up much of the Russian First Duma. The modern Russian Communist Party is the second largest party in the Duma today.
Democratic elections do not necessarily lead to democratic outcomes, but the linkage of democracy to progress made that hard to see. The assumption that democracy is progressive and leads to more progress had been adopted even by many conservatives. That fixed notion of history led to total disaster in the Arab Spring.
Cold War America knew better than to endorse universal democracy. Open elections everywhere would have given the Soviet Union more allies than the United States. The left attacked Eisenhower and Kennedy as hypocrites, but both men were correct in understanding that there was no virtue in overthrowing an authoritarian government only to replace it with an even more authoritarian government; whether through violence or the ballot box.
As time went on, Americans were assailed with two interrelated arguments. The left warned that the denial of democracy was fueling Third World rage against the United States. And on the right we heard that tyranny was warping Third World societies into malignant forms. The left’s version of the argument directed more blame at America, but both versions of the argument treated democracy as a cure for hostility.
The argument that democracy had made the Muslim world dysfunctional was always chancy. The best counterargument to it was that second and third-generation Muslims in Europe were often more radical than their immigrant parents. If democracy were a cure for Islamism, it was working very poorly in London, Oslo and Paris.
The assumption of the argument was that the tyranny that a people were living under was unnatural while the outcome of a democratic election would be natural. And yet, if a people have been warped for a thousand years by not living under a democracy, how could they be expected to choose a form of government that would not be warped? Was there any reason to expect that such efforts at democracy would not lead to tyranny?
The Arab Spring has taught us to question the idea that democracy is an absolute good. Initially the outcome of the Palestinian Arab elections that rewarded Hamas was thought not to apply to the wider region. That assumption proved to be wrong. We now know that Hamas’ victory foreshadowed the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory. And we know that Islamists have the inside track in elections because they represent a familiar ideology that has not been discredited in the minds of a majority of Muslims.
We can no longer afford to be bound by a Cold War argument against Communism that has outlived its usefulness, especially once liberals turned left and defected from a national security consensus. Universal democracy has proven to be about as universal a panacea as international law or the United Nations.
Classifying ideologies as democratic or undemocratic has blinded us to their content and gives our enemies an easy way to take power while leaving the champions of democracy voiceless. Too many Republicans were flailing after the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Egypt; unable to articulate a reason why the United States should not support a democratically elected government.
Democracy was once viewed, rightly or wrongly, as a form of American Exceptionalism. But reducing that exceptionalism to open elections misses the point. It isn’t open elections that make Americans special; it’s Americans who make open elections special. Instead of looking to systems, we should look to values. Instead of looking to governments, we should look to peoples.
The assumption that exporting democracy also exports our values is clearly wrong. It isn’t democracy that makes free people; it’s individual responsibility. Democracy with individual responsibility makes for a free nation. Democracy without individual responsibility is only another name for tyranny.
We have spent too much time looking at systems, when we should have been looking at values. We have wrongly assumed that all religions and all peoples share the same basic values that democracy can unleash for the betterment of all. That has clearly been proven to be wrong.
If we had looked instead at a poll which showed that 4 out of 5 Egyptians believe that adulterers should be stoned and thieves should have their hands cut off, we would have known how this democracy experiment was going to end and how much damage it would do to our national interests.
It’s time to stop putting our faith in democracy. Democracy for all is not the answer. Responsibility for all is. Our responsibility is not to agnostically empower other people to make the choices that will destroy our way of life, but to make those choices that will keep our way of life alive.
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I believe the author is more accurately disparaging mob rule.
As P.J. O’Rourke once said, in a true democracy, every pair of pants would be acid-washed jeans, and every meal a pizza.
We have seen above that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class; to win the battle of democracy.Even though Marx and Engels were famous for their advocation of violent revolution, they knew there were other paths for their ideology to take in order to seize power.
Moslems are not interested in peace, but rather world domination. The only kind of government suitable for them, regardless of structure, is a demilitarized one.
The rogue elements need to be carefully observed and occasionally "demotivated".
That is why this country is theoretically a representative republic.
Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.
“If we had looked instead at a poll which showed that 4 out of 5 Egyptians believe that adulterers should be stoned and thieves should have their hands cut off, we would have known how this democracy experiment was going to end and how much damage it would do to our national interests.”
I can’t say I remember that, but I DEFINITELY DO REMEMBER the polls that said the Brotherhood would walk away with any election and would turn Egypt into another Iran. It wasn’t even close. Egypt was SEETHING, ready to become the next Islamic state in the Middle East, with only Sadat and then Mubarak stopping that. It WAS NOT a state secret - if this little twerp blogger from Texas knew what was in store, then Hillary certainly did too.
I remember getting angry at reading something in a geography book (during junior high, I think) that said some countries simply aren’t ready for democracy - I was wrong (then), and they were right. Unfortunately Democrat leaders and most Republican leaders are still stuck in that classroom, thinking as I did. You’d think they could learn, if not from the Palestinians, then from Iraq, or Afghanistan. Or maybe...more likely...this has ALWAYS been their objectives.
I look at Obama and Biden and Reid and Pelosi and I don’t see hearts beating for Democracy. I see hands itching for money. We’re never going to get anywhere if we keep attributing noble thoughts to this bunch of thieves. They are out to make money for themselves and their buddies. Is there anyone, anyone who thinks these thieves helped kill Qaddafi because they wanted a Democratic Libya? Does anyone here think the Democrats are killing the Syrian Soldiers because the Democrats think that will bring Democracy to Syria? It’s all about money.
No, it is not a representative republic, it is a Constitutional republic. The purpose of the Constitution is to put some things outside the reach of democratic majorities, representative or direct.
The problem with democracy is that the people who create businesses and wealth will always be a small minority of the population, and will thus be a tempting target for robbery via government. Self-rule only survives as long as the majority of the people are moral enough to not want to steal other people's property.
In the Arab world, democracy does not work because the majority does not have the necessary mind-set to make it work.
Corrupt Representation has brought
us to a state of “Dumbacracity.”
Dictators know how to do this.
I am claiming the phrase as my own.
I meant “ Dumbacrisy”
Always looking for talking points.
There is no drought of historical lessons showing that this is true, but leftists never learn from history. I think all egalitarian movements entail collective illusions of its adherents and proponents, and it ensues from deception and naturally glides inevitably toward totalitarianism. Again- history teaches it. It's good to see someone setting the record straight on Democracy and let's hope we see it hammered on more and more.
Freedom is the goal, and democracy merely a means of trying to attain it. Democracy without respect for the rights of the individual does not advance the cause of freedom. Whatever their form, governments that don’t secure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are oppressive.
I do believe, though — along with the writers of the Declaration of Independence — that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed”. I won’t deny that in general dictatorships that rule in opposition to the will of the people are an evil.
In some instances, though, democracies impose a harmful tyranny of the majority that can be even more oppressive. At some times and places we have to face the fact that both of the given alternatives are bad, and choose the lesser of two evils. Democracies (including representative democracies, republics such as our own) aren’t foolproof.
> What is never mentioned is the fact that the more democracy we have the less personal liberty we retain.
Interesting the way you phrased that. I agree that we don’t want the group as a whole making decisions for us as individuals — and the more they do the less personal freedom we have (I’ve never thought about that in quite those terms). On the other hand, we don’t want some individual (a dictator) making all the decisions for us or for other individuals either. Both are forms of tyranny that suppress individual freedom.
Ideally we as individuals would do as we please in every situation, but because our actions often affect others, there must be some limitations on them (laws against crimes that seriously harm others, and so forth). I don’t want government intruding into our personal affairs any more than is necessary, though (to maintain a reasonable level of safety for the people as a whole).
In most situations I support limited government — rule by the majority (that is, a representative democracy) but with strong guarantees for the rights of the individual.
It's important to make the distinction-- and I don't want to put words in your mouth or infer incorrectly-- between a political process, where a majority of votes carries more weight than the minority, and dominion. Our founders foresaw wisely that we could only protect and ensure liberty through the rule of law- not whims of the mob (majority).
I'm guessing you meant that but it wasn't clear.
Sorry, but I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Do you mean by ‘dominion’ control by the majority that goes so far as to oppress the individual? If so, I oppose it. The majority of the voters, though, indirectly determine the law (and if that majority is large enough, they can legally change even the Constitution itself). We’re ultimately dependent upon their tolerance, or apathy (except to the degree that we have the power, irrespective of law, to resist them).
In the Arab world, democracy does not work because the majority does not have the necessary mind-set to make it work.
They had better voting procedures than we do (inked finger when they voted), but ... Shia voted for Shia representatives, and then all of the Shia representatives voted together. They would have been better off dividing up the country by sect.
Meanwhile ... all of the Christians and other minorities were systematically killed off.
Dominion in the sense of rule, control; I was alluding to an undesdirable politcal structure where majorites impose their will directly without protections in place for the indivdual. When that occurs the indvidual gets negated and any such system always becomes oppressive as he is swallowed up in the collective.
The majority of the voters, though, indirectly determine the law (and if that majority is large enough, they can legally change even the Constitution itself).
Again- process vs rule.
The amendment process is provided for under the rule of law; and a large enough majority can indeed effect some changes but if they do so, they are acting consistent with the Constitution. That is a political process under the rule law which still guarantees personal liberty. It is not surrendered pursuant to the majority- that's the crux of our misunderstaning, I think. The only thing standing between mob rule and liberty is the Constitution and our will to preserve it. Notice has much liberty has eroded consequent of not adhering and protecting it.
[Sorry for the length of this multi-post response]
I think we are 90% in agreement about this, maybe completely about what you just said. I just want to emphasize, though, that neither the law nor the Constitution can be much better than the people themselves. There’s no foolproof form of government. If enough people want it here (as apparently the Muslim Brotherhood do in Egypt), every amendment of the Bill of Rights can be legally revoked by subsequent amendments.
[We may disagree about part of what I’m about to say.]
If most of the people want tyranny, then it’s going to be hard to prevent. On the whole, though, I think that representative democracies are what we should promote, with realistic guarantees for the rights of the individual — that is, in situations in which they stand a good chance of surviving (perhaps not in some Muslim countries, though I wouldn’t write them all off indefinitely. The West too was once about as intolerant as they are, and was mostly ruled by authoritarian regimes.)
Both the Germans and the Japanese seem to have changed very quickly after World War II, even though some persons suggested at the time that the peoples themselves were innately authoritarian, and that free institutions couldn’t survive among them for very long. (Of course, one major difference is that after the devastation of the war, their previous regimes were to a great degree discredited, in contrast with the Muslim world in which authoritarianism is still strongly connected to their religion, and still continues to receive widespread support.)
Almost all our enemies in the past couple of hundred years have been dictatorships of one kind of another. Though the Communist regimes claimed to be democracies, they were really dictatorships. Hitler too came to power with minority support, having actually lost seats in the previous election (by an irregular action of Hindenburg, of doubtful constitutional validity). At the height of his success Hitler probably did have the support of the majority of the German people, but by that time he was ruling as a dictator and not allowing dissent. When things started to go wrong, there was no easy way to remove him.
I haven’t given up on the ideal of promoting free elections, but I think it has to be pursued prudently, and with an emphasis on guarantees for the rights of the individual.
The people, however much we may glorify them, aren’t very smart (after all about 50% are below average :-), but they do know when they’re suffering. A single person or a governing elite can be wiser, but power corrupts, and I don’t think we can trust any kind of authoritarian ruler to look out for our interests, not for very long anyway. Representative democracies (the United States, the ones in Europe, and scattered around the world) are admittedly pretty bad at times, but on the average they’re better than dictatorships.
I tried but I can't let that go. We have a Representative Republic, not Representative Democracy. There is no such thing as the latter, because true Democracies serve and protect and advance the interests of the prevailing majority only, through mob action. If it wills it it is done. Thus not representative of all.
Our Representative Republic safeguards the rights and interests of all its citizens, not just the majority, and is founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, with elections providing the opportunity for change via the political process.
I can't respond to all your points but would point out that, interestingly, archaic political and societal structures allowed for more personal liberty than any collective forms since.
> We have a Representative Republic...
But representative of what? Of the people. That’s what I mean when I say ‘representative democracy’ (as opposed to a ‘pure democracy’ in which the people directly decide things, and which can only exist on a very small scale).
It’s a matter of how we define the words, and apparently you wish to use ‘democracy’ for something necessarily bad. I previously agreed that if the people decide everything (including what should be decided by individuals) then, yes, it’s bad. But when the people exercise their power with restraint (and respecting the rights of the individual), I don’t consider democracy — that is, limited, representative democracy — necessarily bad.
Then there's the Preamble to the Constitution, "We the People of the United States..." It's as representatives of the people that the Constitutional Convention wrote the Constitution, and it had to be ratified by their representatives in the States. ("We the People" was written in very large letters.)
Also note Lincoln's words at Gettysburg in the most famous speech in American history, "...we here highly resolve that...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Sounds like some kind of democracy to me :-) -- but with protection for individual rights (and we agree in emphasizing that).
Their hands aren't itching for money.
Their hands are itching for absolute power, the power to rule over every single aspect of your life, to tell you when to get up in the morning, to tell you where to go to work, to tell you how much you get paid, to tell you what to eat and drink, and, ultimately, to tell you that you've outlived your usefulness and it's time to attend to your session at the Center for Repose.
Doesn't say much for diversity does it?
If we want to be precise we would call that what we have which is a Constitutional Republic formed specifically to temper democracy in favor of individual liberty. In the Constitution's preamble "We the people" begins and refers of course to a nation of people, but the Constitution goes on to enumerate individual rights and defines personal liberty within that context. The main disagreement we have here is one of nomenclature. However, it wouldn't be hard to verify my claim in this regard.
Also note Lincoln's words at Gettysburg in the most famous speech in American history, "...we here highly resolve that...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Sounds like some kind of democracy to me :-) -- but with protection for individual rights...
As for Lincoln, he was no friend of either individual liberty or founding principle of Federalism. He was a champion of centralized, collective and authoritative government, obviously, and could only advance his vision by acting against the Constitution and the Republic for which it stands-- this is inline with a Democracy where might makes right so citing Lincoln is accurate in support of that political structure...
... A Republic, if you can keep it
I don’t miss too many DG articles as it is, and I thought I was on your list, but apparently not. Please add me, and thanks.
The Balkans have got diversity.
Fat lot of good it does them.
You were not on the list - I’ve added you.
Democracies are bad things.
Democracy is the rule of the mob and the howling of envious and power-hungry demagogues. They are not peaceful or well governed.
Only the buffer of a Republic has allowed the United States as long as it has, and the deeper we sink into “Democracy” the closer we come to the end.
One problem I have with the Williams account — besides his ignoring phrases such as “consent of the governed” and “We the People...” — is that he and nearly everybody at the site are reading all kinds of positive/negative concepts into ‘republic’/’democracy’ that aren’t present in the basic concepts themselves.
A ‘republic’ in its basic form merely implies that the public is somehow involved in the ‘res’ (Latin ‘thing’, in this case government), as opposed to a private fiefdom ruled by a single person or small group. It doesn’t say a thing about individual rights. Neither does ‘democracy’. It’s the modifiers that determine what kind of republic or democracy it is, and the specifics of how they are implemented.
Our Founders produced a Constitutional republic with provisions for representation of the people (in the House of “Representatives”) as well as protections for individual rights (and for the various regions, i.e., states — two Senators per state, whatever the population). If you substitute ‘democracy’ for ‘republic’ in the previous sentence, the result is the same. It’s not a pure, direct democracy, but in my opinion it doesn’t have to be to qualify as a kind of democracy.
” - - - Democracy is rule of the mob. - - - “
Yup. That is why Ben Franklin and others gave us a Republic NOT a Democratic form of Governance.
A minor point, but Franklin was distinguishing it from a monarchy, not a democracy. [Original lack of punctuation retained] "A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it." [From the notes of Dr. James McHenry, delegate to the Convention]
> If we want to be precise we would call that what we have which is a Constitutional Republic formed specifically to temper democracy in favor of individual liberty.
I agree, and I’m in favor of that (but it’s tempering the representative democracy that’s present in the government itself).
I don’t think it’s a good idea for the right to let the left have exclusive possession of the word ‘democracy’ (which I’m sure has favorable connotations for most Americans). I prefer to use such terms as ‘tyranny of the majority’ for the oppressive intrusion of the majority into the affairs of the individual, and to use ‘representative democracy with protections for individual rights’ as a good term.
I have no problem with the term ‘Constitutional Republic’ either because that’s the form it takes, but if people on the right start out by saying they’re against democracy, in the eyes of most persons they already have two strikes against them. Then they have to talk their way out of that hole. It’s easier just to say I support democracy, but a democracy with provisions to protect the rights of the individual (a Constitutional republic with a bill of rights). Without those rights, a democracy can become a tyranny of the majority. People can easily understand that.
Democracy in theory isnt negative or intentionally and ultimately oppressive. It is in practice. Individual rights are enumerated in the Constitution of course as already mentioned. And still a Constitutional Republic is distinct from a Democracy, even as they share some commonality in political process and representative govt. Rule of law checks Democracy and administrates governance via the spectacular framework of Federalism, so it is a distinct form. Nice chat, but tapping on this tablet is unwieldy...
>Democracy is the road to socialism— Karl Marx
That line has not been found in any published work by Marx. Marx opposed “liberal democracy” (that is, the conservative limited-government democracy of the time). Later Communist regimes were dictatorships of a small elite, and merely used the term “’democracy” as a cloak to cover what was really going on (also “People’s Republic” — there’s that word ‘republic’ again :-).
Both ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’ are used loosely by different groups to mean all kinds of things. Only the specifics determine what’s really meant.
> tapping on this tablet is unwieldy
OK, I’ll slack off for a while, and quit flooding you with words. :-)
The main take-away is that democracy as a pure value can be quite destructive if exported without all the trimmings and qualifications our system placed upon it.
In fact, our Founders correctly recognized that unbridled democracy would destroy our republic. And to the extent that the low-information voters have as much say in elections as conscientious, taxpaying citizens with a stake in ownership of our land and responsibility for the maintenance of what they own, it’s undeniably true.
Passage of the 16th and 17th amendments killed the Republic, a process started by Abe Lincoln, finished by the progressives.
I must agree; the civil war did not really solve the constitutional problems.