Thursday, 1 March 2007

Decency and Democracy

One often hears the call for a purer democracy, as if more of the disease would abate the symptoms; and of those symptoms one is meant not to be ashamed, but rather to be boastful, as though they were the bravely-taken pains of progress.
[I]t’s still dispiriting that the face we show the world, via America, is so often the one of aristocracy and deference, with barely a nod to the diverse, churning society we actually live in. [1]
Perhaps some still have the decency to be embarrassed by the reality of the “diverse, churning society” in which we live.
The reactionaries of the 19th century . . . feared the accrued wisdom of the ages would be lost if the vulgar mob were allowed a vote, believing that Britain was best governed by a class of experts. Theirs is not some dispute about procedure or constitutional mechanics. It is an argument against democracy itself. [2]
Looking in vain for a trace of the wisdom of the ages in the present government is forsooth a damned good argument against democracy. It is not true, however, that our democracy is the rule of the mob; such is direct democracy. Ours is a representative democracy, that is to say, the rule of the representatives of that mob.
[1] Jonathan Freedland, “We lecture the world on democracy, but still don't elect our upper house”, The Guardian, 28th February 2007.
[2] Ibid.


Anonymous said...

Many of the wisest people have opposed democracy. It seems to be the case that a country cannot be a democracy if it is engaged in a war. Military decisions can't be made by polls and popularity contests. During the Peloponnesian War, Sparta easily defeated democratic Athens.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Whenever I hear people talking about a "purer democracy", I tell them you don't put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it.