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Why Democracy?

Having grown up as a good adherent of representative government, who earnestly believed that empowering the general population would hold in check the concentration of power, guard against power’s corrupting influence and prevent the rise of tyranny, it did not occur to me for some time that theoretically dispersing political power among the many has just as much potential to corrupt the many as it does to guard against the abuses of a few.

Today, we have the same abuses of power that ever occurred under the old order, but ‘we’ have become complicit in all of them. Rather than having abuses that might be corrected by the removal of a ministry or public outrage at misrule, we have abuses of power that become rallying points for entire sections of the country. Democracy on a large scale is nothing other than the organisation of apologists for different bands of tyrants. This is not even the degeneration or ‘inevitable’ fate of democracy in a Platonic sense, but its natural and original character that it possesses from its first day until its last.

Political allegiances, nurtured by the incessant political consciousness of a democratic people, direct people to defend the crimes of ‘their’ tyrants, as if the rule of one’s faction were more important than checking the abuses of power that the enfranchisement of the mob was supposed to achieve. Today we are more keenly aware of the Republican willingness to excuse torture, murder and aggression with their precious word ‘freedom’, but the apologists were just the same under the previous administration and used equally appalling euphemisms (“human rights” and “justice”) for the injustice and bloodshed their man loosed upon the world.

Such are they whom ‘the people’ have chosen in the past four elections–we should not pretend any longer that the awful fruits of the last three years and democracy are somehow unrelated. Democracy gave birth to them, because ‘the people’ and the mentality of ‘we’ it entails have spoken. Whether Mr. Bush’s re-election was an endorsement of his foreign policy as such or not (I happen to believe that Americans really do not favour it at some level), the electorate nonetheless failed in its duty to dethrone a tyrant. In this sense, Mr. Bush was right about the “accountability moment,” disgusting as his attitude is, and the majority let him off the hook. Such a majority deserves what it gets.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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