Thursday, September 07, 2006

 

Democracy

I was reading the Author's Introduction of Alexis DeTocqueville's Democracy in America last night and I felt he had some interesting things to say:

To attempt to check democracy would be in that case to resist the will of God.

The consequence has been, that the democratic revolution has taken place in the body of society, without that concomitant change in the laws, ideas, customs, and manners, which was necessary to render such a revolution beneficial. Thus we have a democracy, without anything to lessen its vices and bring out its natural advantages; and although we already perceive the evils it brings, we are ignorant of the benefits it may confer.

Custom and the manners of the time, moreover, had established certain limits to oppression, and put a sort of legal restraint upon violence.

The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions, without understanding the science that puts it to use; and his selfishness is no less blind than was formerly his devotedness to others.

If society is tranquil, it is not because it is conscious of its strength and its well-being, but because it fears its weakness and its infirmities; a single effort may cost it its life.

The religionists are the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty attack religion; the high-minded and noble advocate bondage, and the meanest and most servile preach independence; honest and enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men without patriotism and without principle put themselves forward as apostles of civilization and intelligence....


Although, some of these quotations are beyond the scope of my initial post, I enjoy the prose and potential agent for discussion in other areas -- so they made it up. Alexis dT is making the case for democracy where there has been little more than tyranny for centuries of man's history. Notably, there have been few periods of "enlightened" government in the history of man like the great Republic and the early days of America. But for what reason, if any, should we continue to value democracy?

Why do so many put such great value in democracy? Is government "by the people" necessarily less coercive than a dictatorship? Why should we support a democracy at all?

Comments:
Representative republics with democratically elected representatives are better than dictatorships because they allow for peaceful revolutions every election cycle. Coercive politicians can at least be removed, although it seems they are usually replaced by someone just as bad.

Good question, Chris.
 
Where is Jenna when we finally get on her subject?
 
I definitely agree that Democracy is better than dictatorship (for the reasons Travis stated), but it's definitely not enough to ensure individual liberties.

Strong protections for individual rights are just as necessary in a Democracy than in a Dictatorship. After all, without a guarantee of individual rights, "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch."

So, democracy, on its own can only ensure that fewer than 50% of the people are oppressed at any given time (which is obviously better than a dictatorship where almost everyone can be oppressed). But, in the long run, limited government and individual liberties are more important democracy.
 
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