Democracy is overrated

By admin
5 Min Read

Democracy is not a good system of government for four reasons.

First of all, the majority isn’t always right. In fact, it is often mistaken — not only regarding moral issues but also in regard to long-term interests and health.

Second, that majority is changeable over time. It moves from right to left and back. Third, it is susceptible to manipulation. And last but not least, the balance of views is often equal and therefore arguments are settled by those who do not have strong views either way or non-knowledge on the subject they are voting on. This at least often prevents politicians from risking referendums.

In any case, we do not live in a state of democracy anyway.

There are two reasons for this. First of all, the media wields enormous influence on those in power and those who vote. They can escalate or stop protests as well as decide which voices are heard. Whoever wants to stay in power must either work with them or find ways to diffuse or outplay them. Any fighting with them is always like fighting Goliath.

This reality was very much in evidence in Poland last week when big media outlets showed they could afford to black out their news programs and shows for a day in protest over a new advertising tax in Poland, thus advertising themselves in the process. It was a show of force, not weakness.

The second sign that we are not living in a real democracy is the existence of formal and informal elites. They are not an evil in themselves, but the unclear way in which informal elites come into positions of power and their increasing intellectual poverty is a cause for concern. This group of elites were once made up of intellectuals, but today, they are mainly celebrities. As for formal elites, they have been narrowed down to the legal profession. They have become decisive not only in courts but in every walk of life.

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle used to say that it is not important whether we are ruled by one, a majority or a minority as long as we are being ruled wisely. This is why the best system of government is one which ensures that it is the best people who are selected to rule. The trouble with democracy is that it does not guarantee such selection and usually ends with a government of knaves or fools.

So, what is to be done?

I would opt for a mixed system in which there is an institution that is above the party fray that can veto decisions taken by democratically controlled bodies. It may still function in a democratic manner, but candidates to serve in it should fulfill certain moral and intellectual criteria.

Needless to say, that is just a dream. Even if such an idea became popular, it would be destroyed by wrangling over what the criteria for selection would be, leaving the lowest common denominator continuing to rule. So, we must suffer democracy and try to find good and intelligent people while hoping that they will also be cunning. However, it is hard to be a dove, owl, fox, and a hawk all at the same time.

One last comment on the Church.

Some argue that transforming the Church into a democratic institution would help to protect it from scandals. In fact, the opposite holds true. It would be morally far more fallible and its morality would be changed to suit common tastes. There is no prescription for eliminating natural human sin. The only way of containing it is through the existence of moral elites whose only privilege is that more and not less is demanded of them than of the rest. 

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