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Memories of the 28th Century

About Democracy

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Recently, more people have been talking about democracy, but I have gotten the impression that they don't know what democracy is. The word democracy is of Ancient Greek origin, demos cratos, meaning rule by the people. There are several related words of the same origin, including oligarchy, rule by few, aristocracy, rule by the best, monarchy, rule by one. Then there is republican government, in which the voting citizens select people to represent them or their interests in restricted meetings.

As frequently happens, some people try to hijack a word for rhetorical purposes, and that has happen with democracy. Demagogues use it to mean rule by them, because they have the best interests of the people in mind, even though they rule through a group of friends who operate to help the demagogue And there are oligarchs who operate as demagogues do, but they rule through a few people and usually for the benefit of a few.

Republics were invented to try to improve the situation of the demos in an oligarchy. In a republic, the demos elect representatives, and the representatives are supposed to support the best interests of the demos, the citizens. The United States of America was set up as a republic, and the founders thought lowly of democracy, calling it “mob rule”.

It has been found that democracy does not work for governing large populations. While it can work for small, homogeneous populations, it becomes more difficult when the population approaches twenty-five thousand. That was the case in Ancient Greece, and is has also been true with local town meeting government in places where that is used.

Many people use democracy is often used by demagogues to hide their true natures, and that has become so common that some people even think that republics are democracies, but just a marketing ploy. These days, the only democratic governments are New England town meetings, and some features of the governments of the cantons of Switzerland and the federal government there and also in Iceland, but that is also limited in nature. There are small tribal groups in various places that also use democracy, but they usually also have elected executives for carrying out the will of the people.

Many people seem to think that democracy is a superior form of government, because all of the citizens are involved. While that may seem to be a desirable situation, it also means that there are individuals who twist to process to their own purposes, as is done in republics. Before writing the U.S. Constitution, James Madison became thoroughly acquainted with the histories of democracies, and he was confident that democracies become instruments for demagogues, or they degenerate into mob rule. (see related article)

I don't claim to have read thousands of histories about the declines of democracies, but I have read enough to know that they cannot function with a large population, and they usually are taken over by oligarchies. The same may be true of republics, or that is what we have seen in the last few decades. Presidents have attracted enough votes to be elected, and then they ignored the bulk of their supporters in favor of feathering their own nests. But that is getting away from the point. The point is that the United States of America is not now, nor has it ever been a democracy. It is a constitutional, federal republic. Calling it anything else is error, unless one is a demegogue who is trying to make the people think that he is a wonderful agent of the people working for them.