Thursday 8 January 2004

Down with democracy

John Thorpe is correct to say in his letter that polluters don't have the right to infringe on the rights of others, but I get worried when he makes this statement:
Democracy does not mean the individual has the right to do exactly as he pleases. The will of the majority prevails, and, like it or lump it, the individual must accept that.
It's not that his definition of democracy is wrong; it isn't. What's worrying is that Mr Thorpe doesn't seem to understand what's evil about an unlimited democracy. The majority votes to execute all redheads. Under Mr Thorpe's democracy that's perfectly fine. Kill all coloured folk - OK if there's enough votes in it. Imprison those who go to the wrong church - why not?

An unlimited democracy is wrong. That's why the founding fathers of the USA created a constitutional republic whose Constitution was all about limiting the power of the state and not one that established an unlimited democracy. It's a tragedy that America threw away its republic and such a pity that so few in this country even know what the word means.


By an extraordinary coincidence I have just come across this post on the Discussion Board on the Daily Reckoning website:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."...."The average of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back to bondage."

The quote was attributed (to the best of my knowledge) by John Bagot Glubb in 1973 to Alexander Frasier Tytler. Others have sourced this quote arising from Tytler's book "The rise and fall of the Athenian Republic" 1776. Tytler certainly lived 1747-1813, becoming Lord Woodhoouselee in 1792. He was a Scottish lawyer and scholar, admitted to the Edinburgh bar in 1770, was a Edinburgh University professor from 1780 and became a judge in 1802. I personally believe the quote is taken out of some pamphlets in connection with his history courses at Edinburgh University, not any book. (There is no evidence in Edinburgh Univ or the British Library that any book entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Athenian Republic" or similar was ever published.)

To consider that this concept existed at the time of the founding of the US, is not surprising. The founding fathers tried very hard NOT to make the US a democracy, but rather a Republic with limitations imposed on its branches. It is most unfortunate in my opinion that the Supreme Court has failed to uphold the limitations of power clearly written into the Constitution. The US has tragically for all intents and purposes become a democracy, and, alas, probably will suffer the fate described by Tytler.