Winston Churchill may have been right about democracy’s being the worst form of government except for all the others, but he probably wouldn’t have guessed that the bar would fall so low. In his sweeping review of contemporary moral and political life, Kenneth Minogue contends that, as currently practised, democracy may not be compatible with the moral life as it has been traditionally understood in the West. Minogue, an emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and a pre-eminent political thinker, acknowledges an ambivalence about democracy. It has been the cause of many improvements, he observes, but its flaws are increasingly evident. Democracy is prone to corruption: the immense amount of regulation and bureaucracy it requires to function opens limitless opportunities for abuse. Further, democracy’s inner workings compel it, paradoxically, to undemocratic results. The push for equality and ever more rights—two of its basic principles—requires a ruling class to govern competing claims; thus the rise of the undemocratic judiciary as the arbiter of many aspects of public life, and of bureaucracies that issue rules far removed from the democratic process. Should this trend continue, Minogue foresees widespread servility replacing the tradition of free government.
A long time ago (before 2005, when this blog began its transition from a static website to a blog) I made a statement in the introductory page that democracy was dying in the places where became viable in modern times. Evidently I’m not the only one to think so.
The core problem with a system with occasional recourse to the electoral process is that those in power spend as much if not more time manipulating (and coercing when the occasion calls for it) the public and its idea than actually governing. That turns the whole process into a self-defeating cycle. That’s where we’re headed.
And, as the quote above implies, we should take a more jaded opinion about all of these “rights” and “equality” campaigns we see in our society.