Why I Believe in Democracy

I would like to explain in this little essay the reason why I believe in Democracy. To begin with, sometime ago, I was browsing at a bookstore in Penn Station waiting for my Long Island Railroad train. I saw a little book entitled “The Future of Freedom, Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad” by someone named Fareed Zakaria. The book interested me and I bought it. I found the book disturbing. Mr. Zakaria says that over the past decade, elected governments claiming to represent the people have encroached on other elements in society.

At another point, the author speaks of the tyranny of the majority. Mr. Zakaria states that in many developing countries, the experience of democracy has been one in which actual majorities have eroded seperations of power and undermined human rights. Later the author states that the haste to press countries to elections have been counterproductive.

In a later section, Mr. Zakaria points out that when American are asked what public institutions they most respect, they name three bodies, the Supreme Court, the Armed Forces, and the Federal Reserve Systems. Mr. Zakariah states that these three bodies have one thing in common in that they operate undemocratically. Mr. Zakaria states that that Congress, the most democratic of political institutions stands at the bottom of most surveys and he concludes that what we need in politics today is not more democracy but less. Mr. Zakaria concludes that those with immense power in society should lead.

Mr. Zakaria seems to suggest that elected representative democracy as government is troublesome; he objects to the Congress and lauds the Armed Forces, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve System.

I find these statements concerning our democratic system of elected government as unwieldy and that it should give way to rule by unrepresented bodies and that those with power should guide the course because they are uniquely qualified to make the right decisions is an implicit if not explicit rejection of our democratic system. I now argue for democracy and why I believe in this system.

Democracy is a system of political equality in which all citizens above a certain age are empowered and given the opportunity for political participation. This has been misinterpreted to the point that people are actually equal in their talents and abilities. At its best, democracy provides an equal starting point and some equality of opportunity. I know I will never be a concert[ violinist, a nuclear physicist or a leading playwright. Second, the idea that all are equal leads to a second mistake in democratic societies which is that they may develop a cult of mediocrity which rejects any sort of excellence that may distinguish one of us from another. This results in a sort of levelling of our system. This is the second failing, if it can be called so of a democratic system.

Yet, I fully believe in a democratic system of government in which our leaders are subject to the scrutiny of the voting electorate. I do not believe in democracy because people are actually equal since that is not true. The reason I believe in democracy is because I know that if power is concentrated in the few or one person, it will be abused due to a deep-seated corruption in human nature that cannot be escaped or evaded. Where there is unlimited power, there is a chance, if not a good chance, that that power will be abused. To put it bluntly, I believe in democracy because men, if given the chance, are so bad that one man alone can be entrusted with unchecked power over his fellows. I oppose slavery because I fear and oppose masters and I know that men, if given the chance, will allow their egotism and desire to dominate, to rule. Democracy actually states the proposition that men, far from being equal are always prone to the worst. Democracy distributes and checks power and does so by a process of checks and balances and the officials are elected and made accountable.

I believe in democracy not because men are good or because everyone is the same but because it is the only alternative. The rule of the elite or few will and must be subject to the control of the electorate not because the few are particularly bad or evil and the majority are not, but because without controls, this can and will be so.

We have laws to control human nature and without them, we are barbarians. Democracy envisions not a world of total good and perfection but a world that requires a wide dispersal of control and power as much as possible, knowing what we as human beings are capable of.

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, interpreted the election of President Trump as a revolt of the masses, a clearly undemocratic statement referring to the voting electorate. Again, Mr. Mcgurn in the Wall Street Journal, implied that the matter of abortion and same sex marriage had to be taken from the voters and decided by the unelected courts. Once again this statement is a statement against democracy and the ability of the people to make ultimate decisions on these issues. The left ideology with its trust in the elite is an attack not only on democracy but implies that the people are incapable, if not stupid.