Sunday, April 22, 2007

The essence of democracy

At Gates of Vienna, Asger answered my post Democracy favours those who breed faster, by writing "Well this is why we should rejuvenate the ideas of classic Athenian democracy". To which I answer:

The Athenian democracy was a horrible Rousseau style system. Among other things, it sent Socrates to death. There were very good reasons for intelligent people as Plato and Aristotle to oppose this system. There were no elections, officials were appointed by lottery. This is the consequence of the core dogma of democracy. Since everybody is equal, why have a selection procedure to find the most appropriate?

And we see how today's modern democracies are converging towards this point; it's bound to, since this is the nature of democracy. Modern democracy still superficially has the semblance of a traditional republic. The traditional republic being firmly rooted in European political tradition, a tradition that has served us well for so many centuries in creating prosperity and freedom. A system based on elections, elections based on the meritocratic idea of having the best to rule us. The idea of peaceful transition of power, in a way making real political change possible. The "golden era" of modern democracy, up until the '70s, is comparable to the "golden era" of the Islamic empire, in the sense that what was successful and civil was what was still remaining of the previous system and had not yet been steamrolled by the new ideology. But modern democracy, who claims to be a heir of and an improvement upon the traditional republic(1), is constantly converging towards pure democracy. The electoral process is today an empty gesture of symbolism that changes nothing in Western countries. So the peaceful transition of power, providing real political change is no longer possible. Furthermore, it's converging towards lottery. The discussion of whether women, blacks and Muslims have enough representation more and more overshadows the debate of who's the best candidate. The meritocratic aspect of elections is being hollowed out. This is merely one example of how the system of elections, in modern democracy, has been hollowed out and essentially lost its meaning.

In the Athenian democracy, the only time they voted were in the procedure of ostracism. The citizens met to decide who was the most hated citizen. They wrote the name on a piece of broken pottery (ostraka), and he who got the highest number of votes was expelled from Athens for ten years, under the treat of death penalty. We see how this way of providing a platform for demagogues arousing the mob to bully freethinkers, etc., is nothing new, but has been part of democracy since the very beginning.

(1) Not only that. Modern democracy is presumptuous enough to claim that its' the only legitimate form of traditional republic. And that all other forms of traditional European governments amount to dictatorship--the modern word for tyranny.

1 comment:

xlbrl said...

'Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run, and out of which they grow. It shapes the way we think, determines what we can think about, or if we can think at all.'

'Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.'

'To know how to be free is not given equally to all people and all nations.'

'To include freedom in the very definition of democracy is to define a process not by it's actual characteristics but by it's desired results. This blinds us to unwanted consequences of the process.'

'It is worth remembering that one-man one-vote democracy is perfectly compatable to the greatest crimes known to man.'

'You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy to establish a revolution.'

'Success is never final.'

Holmes, Whorf, Plato, Valery, Sowell, Dalrymple, Chesterson, Churchill