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When Does Democracy Fall?


There has been a lot of talk lately about the impending demise of liberal democracy and if anything can be done to save it.  Yes, things look bleak, and men of good will everywhere must act before it is too late.  But what should we do?  To answer that question we must first know what we are up against; for we can fight effectively only if we know what we are fighting against.  Michael Anton provides the answer.  He writes in the latest edition of the Claremont Review of Books that absent cataclysm or conquest, all regimes:

are felled by the inevitable radicalization of their core principle.  Democracy, then, falls when its core principles of liberty and equality are perverted into license and leveling.


An interesting and important discussion here. The topic of liberty has become a passion with me, and I have recently written and published a book on the topic. I think my approach is somewhat unique, and would appreciate some critique on the book, both here at UD, and also within the Amazon book site as well. As a teaser, the general flow is as follows: Liberty – what is it? Liberty – its rarity. Liberty – we yearn for it. Liberty – we fight for it. Liberty – its price. Liberty – its value. Liberty – remembrance. Liberty – can we learn? https://www.amazon.com/Yearning-Liberty-Donald-L-Johnson/dp/1983209228/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 also an ebook at https://www.amazon.com/Yearning-Liberty-Donald-L-Johnson-ebook/dp/B07DWBVS32/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 ayearningforpublius
VM, the fear of rule by the ignorant and irresponsible mob is clear from the ship of state parable. Athens and several other states were democracies, in Athens' case the participants were men of military age and contribution, who obviously literally had skin in the game. Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian war, and before that the rise of empire from what had been a league of mutual protection are reason enough for Plato's critique (and just maybe, Socrates is behind it). Post reformation, with the rise of print, widespread literacy and newspapers etc, modern representative government became possible, and the US became the first case of a constitutional republic of democratic character. The mob rule challenge still obtains, as does that of power-hungry manipulators. Where, education in disciplines relevant to statecraft have no track record that gives us hope to break out of Plato's admission. We hope that enough of a coalition of the concerned will arise to save us from our folly, but that is no guarantee. Not even close. KF kairosfocus
Amongst the Ancient Greeks, "demo-cracy", rule literally by "the people", was the most DESPISED form of government because it meant "mob rule". That is, once the large lower class came to understand that it could have ANYTHING it wanted simply by voting to have it (e.g., free food), society would collapse. And in all cases of government by the lower class, societies do in fact collapse. This is usually followed by a dictatorship, since putting functioning business and legal systems back together can't abide much in the way of debate. The Founding Fathers of the United States believed that there was hope for REPRESENTATIVE government (NOT democracy) because of the broad common ENGLISH PROTESTANT background of the Colonists. Minorities, such as Catholic Irish, were expected to cooperate with the majority of VOTERS. And most States set a rather high financial worth to qualify as a "voter". (Um, own property valued at 50 pounds sterling or more, back when 50 pounds was a HUGE amount of money.) I doubt that the Founding Fathers (no women need apply) would have thought Democracy to be an appropriate government for 21st Century America. vmahuna
Ship of state: https://intotheclarities.com/2017/01/13/excerpt-11-platos-ship-of-state/ >>[194] And Adeimantus said, “No one can gainsay you in this, Socrates. Still, when you talk this way, your hearers are often affected somewhat like this: they believe that through inexperience in question and answer, they are little by [195] little led astray by the argument at every question, and when the little mistakes are collected at the end, they turn out to be a big slip and opposite to what was said at first. Just as less skillful players at backgammon are finally shut out by clever ones and can’t make a move, so also they themselves are finally shut out in this other kind of game where the counters are not pebbles but words, and don’t have a thing to say — though it’s not at all the more true for being that way. I speak with a view to the present argument. For as it is, someone might say that he cannot oppose you on any given question in word, but he sees in deed, among those who turn to philosophy and continue in it too long instead of taking it up to complete their education while young and then dropping it, that the greater part become very strange, not to say rotten, and even those who seem best nevertheless become useless to their cities as an effect of the study you praise.” [Socrates:] And I listened and said, “Well, do you think those who say this are mistaken?” “I don’t know”, [Adeimantus] replied. “I’d gladly hear what you think.” [Socrates:] “You would hear that they appear to me to tell the truth.” “Then how can it be proper”, [Adeimantus] said, “to claim that cities will find no surcease from evils until philosophers –whom we agree are useless to them– rule in them?” [Socrates:] “You ask a question”, I replied, “which needs an answer stated through an image.” “I think you are not unaccustomed to speak through images”, [Adeimantus] said. [Socrates:] “Well, well”, I replied. “You poke fun at me, after throwing me into an argument so hard to prove? Then hear the image, so that you may still better see how hard I strain to draw it. The experience of the best sort of men in relation to their cities is so difficult that nothing else is like it; to defend them by offering an image, one must collect it from many sources, as painters mix things up to draw goat-stags and such. Conceive this then as happening on many ships or one. A shipmaster is big and strong beyond everyone [196] else on board, but also a bit deaf and somewhat near-sighted; and his knowledge of navigation is like that too [--> the people are natural owners of the state but have limited governance capability]. The sailors quarrel with each other over the helm [--> ambitious and ruthlessly manipulative pols who lack genuine wisdom]; each thinks he ought to steer though he has never learned the art and cannot point to a teacher or a time in which he learned. They claim in addition that navigation cannot be taught [--> born leaders], and they are ready to cut to pieces anyone who claims it can. They crowd around the shipmaster, begging him, prepared to do anything if only he will turn the rudder over to them. Sometimes, if they do not persuade him, but others do, they kill them or throw them overboard and banish them. [--> a big problem in Athens, it wasn't just Socrates] Using drugs or drink or something else, they bind the noble shipmaster hand and foot, seize the ship, plunder its stores, and sail on as one might expect, drinking and feasting. In addition, they praise and call a man a navigator, a pilot, and a master of seamanship if only he is clever at persuading or compelling the shipmaster to let them govern [-> deceit promoting incompetence]; anyone not like that they condemn as useless. They do not realize that a genuine pilot must be concerned with the year and its seasons, with sky and stars and winds and all that belongs to his art, if he really intends to be governor of a ship. Neither do they suppose that there is an art or study of steering, whether one wishes it so or not, nor that it is possible to grasp it and therewith the art of the pilot. When things like this occur, don’t you believe that sailors on ships managed this way will call the true pilot really a stargazer and an idle babbler, and useless to them?” [--> dismissiveness to genuine knowledge] “Indeed”, said Adeimantus. [Socrates:] “Then you understand what I mean”, I replied. “I doubt you need examine the image further to see that it is like the disposition of cities toward genuine philosophers.” “Yes”, [Adeimantus] said. [Socrates:] “Then first teach this image to anyone who is surprised that philosophers are not honored in their cities, and try to persuade him that it would be much more surprising if they were.” [197] “Why, I will teach it”, [Adeimantus] said. [Socrates:] “And further, that he is right to claim that the best among those in philosophy are useless to the multitude. However, he is not to blame good men for their uselessness, but rather those who make no use of them. For it is not natural that a pilot should beg sailors to be governed by himself, or for the wise to go to the doors of the rich; whoever invented that bit of cleverness was wrong. The actual truth is that, rich or poor, a sick man must go to the doors of doctors, and all who need to be ruled to the doors of someone capable of ruling; it is not for the ruler to beg those who need ruling to submit to being ruled, if he in truth confers a benefit. But you will not be mistaken in comparing present-day political rulers to the sailors we just described, and those whom they call useless babbling stargazers to true pilots.” “Quite right”, [Adeimantus] said. [Socrates:] “In consequence then, and under these conditions, the most noble pursuit is not easily held in high esteem by those who practice occupations opposed to it. But by far the greatest and strongest prejudice against philosophy arises through those who claim to practice it. The accuser of philosophy, you say, claims that most of those who go to her are thoroughly bad, and the best sort useless. And I conceded that is true, did I not?” [Adeimantus:] “Yes.” [Socrates:] “Then we have explained the cause of uselessness of the better sort?” [Adeimantus:] “Indeed.”>> Sobering. KF kairosfocus
A maybe read on the failure of Athens: http://dc.ewu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1178&context=theses Perhaps, a start on why democracies can fail. Perhaps, the parable of the mutinous ship of state can teach us, and certainly Luke's pointed real-world echo in Ac 27. We should ponder what happens when moral foundations are undermined. KF kairosfocus
"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…" -- Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947 Those who highlight the failings of democracy - usually those who live in one but casually dismiss the benefits they enjoy - should first experience life under one of the alternatives, mostly secular or religious tyrannies, to see which they really prefer. Democracies can fall like any other regime when people lose faith in them or ore persuaded to abandon faith in them by those with pernicious ulterior motives. Seversky
Some of America’s founding fathers were quite cautious of democracy. They saw the danger of subversive “factions” illegitimately seizing power and destabilizing the government. That is one of the reasons they designed so-called checks and balances in the constitution so it would be difficult to seize power. Kevin Williamson who writes for The National Review for example points out:
John Adams hated democracy and he feared what was known in the language of the time as ‘passion.’ Adams’s famous assessment: ‘I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.’ Democracy, he wrote, ‘never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.’
https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/03/donald-trump-populist-demagogue-john-adams-anticipated/ Adams goes on to warn us,
[that] no government... [is] capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
The difference between then and now? The majority of people living in America at the time believed that moral values and obligations were grounded in a transcendent moral standard (an eternal self-existing Creator and Lawgiver-- God.) Today we live in a society dominated by moral subjectivism and relativism. What value are so-called human rights if they have no grounding in something eternal and transcendent? john_a_designer
Democracies should learn from the failure of Athens. kairosfocus
For those who want to wade through the whole piece, it's online here. Bob O'H

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