Democracy

Jesse Washington Lynch Mob

Photo Credit: Fred Gildersleeve (1881-1958)

Why is democracy the ideal form of government?:

Because otherwise — to use the philosopher Montesquieu’s phrase from The Spirit of Laws — “the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control.” (Montesquieu 152)

But democracy is just the form of government.

What is/are the goal(s) of government for society?  And do democracies ensure a greater likelihood of success in achieving these goals?

If a country is struggling with poverty or strife, is having this form of government what will solve those issues?

Since there are people who study those concerns, does a democracy guarantee that the government will listen to those experts, or aren’t we still subject to the whims of the government-elect?

Here is another challenge of democracy in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract:

Suppose the state is made up of ten thousand citizens.  The sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body, but every member as a subject has to be considered as an individual.  Thus the sovereign is to the subject as ten thousand is to one, that is to say, each single member of the state has as his own share only a ten-thousandth part of the sovereign authority, although he submits entirely to it.  Now if the people is increased to a hundred thousand men, the position of each subject is unaltered, for each bears equally with the rest the whole empire of the laws, while as sovereign his share of the suffrage is reduced to one hundred-thousandth, so that he has ten times less influence in the formulation of the laws.  Hence, while the subject remains always one single individual, the ratio of sovereign to subject increases according to the number of citizens.  Whence it follows that the more the state is enlarged, the more freedom is diminished.

(Rousseau 67)

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say, “the more freedom is diminished”, I can certainly feel my lack of influence in the formulation of laws.

That’s why I believe that direct democracy is the only true democracy.

Basel Switzerland RathausEven if most democracies are representative, we should encourage town meetings as a form of direct democratic rule.

Why?

Because this allows citizens to be able to exercise their minds regarding legislation and policy, even if only on a community level, and fosters community involvement.

Why is it that when we participate only by electing officials, there are still so many problems regarding the nation?

Because we have left the thinking up to our representatives while we relieve ourselves of that duty.  And then when they fail we blame them for our problems.

I have been writing about educational and economic reform instead of doing that, but still there is that “lack of influence in the formulation of laws”.

So, while democracy may be the ideal form of government, we should also try to practice the ideal democracy.

And isn’t the ideal democracy one ruled by reason, enlightenment, and virtue?

Allegory of ReasonPhoto Credit: Vitold Muratov

Sources:

Baron de Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat. The Spirit of Laws. New York: Prometheus Books, 1900

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. USA: Penguin Books, 2006

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