Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Against democracy

with one comment

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

If brazen narcissism like the above quotation, a pithy Churchill-ism, is the most critical view on democracy that you are accustomed to; or if you respond with disbelief when you read that most Libyans aren’t too keen on democracy, then you should—for the sake of sobriety—peruse this substantial collection of anti-democratic sentiments from the desk of the inimitable “Julian Felsenburgh, Esq.”

I particularly recommend a thorough reading of section XXVIII from Carl Schmitt, which very ably characterizes some historical challenges to Turkish democracy.

Here is a (comparatively brief) sampling of the quoted authors:


{The Republic}

And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.

Yes, he said, that is the nature of democracy, whether the revolution has been effected by arms, or whether fear has caused the opposite party to withdraw.

Consider now, I said, what manner of man the individual is, or rather consider, as in the case of the State, how he comes into being.

Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true word of advice; if any one says to him that some pleasures are the satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he ought to use and honour some and chastise and master the others –whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.

Yes, he said; that is the way with him.

Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.


{Reflections on the Revolution in France}

If I recollect rightly, Aristotle observes, that a democracy has many striking points of resemblance with a tyranny. Of this I am certain, that in a democracy the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority, whenever strong divisions prevail in that kind of polity, as they often must, — and that oppression of the minority will extend to far greater numbers, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single scepter. In such a popular persecution, individual sufferers are in a much more deplorable condition than in any other. Under a cruel prince they have the balmy compassion of mankind to assuage the smart of their wounds, they have the plaudits of the people to animate their generous constancy under their sufferings: but those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes are deprived of all external consolation; they seem deserted by mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of their whole species.


{Study on Sovereignty}

In democracies, justice is sometimes weak and sometimes impassioned. It is said that, under these governments, no head can resist the sword of the law. This means that, the punishment of an illustrious criminal or accused person being a real joy for the plebs who by this console themselves for the inevitable superiority of the aristocracy, public opinion strongly favors this kind of sentence; but if the criminal is obscure, or in general if the crime wounds neither the pride nor the immediate interests of the majority of individuals, this same opinion resists the action of justice and paralyzes it.


{Letters to John Taylor}

It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.


{Reflections of a Russian Statesman}

In a Democracy, the real rulers are the dexterous manipulators of votes, with their place-men, the mechanics who so skillfully operate the hidden springs which move the puppets in the arena of democratic elections. Men of this kind are ever ready with loud speeches lauding equality; in reality, they rule the people as any despot or military dictator might rule it.



…but it is quite feasible to introduce democratic forms by an over-hasty revolution, even into countries where manners and customs present such sharp social contrasts that they can find no natural soil. Once introduced, these democratic forms can persist, because they are very elastic, and an aristocratic element can well accommodate itself to them. This is the case in Berne to-day; or, to take another instance, look at modern France. There, under a purely democratic Constitution, there flourishes in fact a complete plutocracy, an oligarchy of a few big banking houses, who avail themselves silently of democratic forms in order to exploit them for their own ends.


{The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy}

Every actual democracy rests on the principle that not only are equals equal but unequals will not be treated equally. Democracy requires, therefore, first homogeneity and second — if the need arises — elimination or eradication of heterogeneity. To illustrate this principle it is sufficient to name two different examples of modern democracy: contemporary Turkey, with its radical expulsion of the Greeks and its reckless Turkish nationalization of the country, and the Australian commonwealth, which restricts unwanted entrants through its immigration laws, and like other dominions only takes emigrants who conform to the notion of a “right type of settler.” A democracy demonstrates its political power by knowing how to refuse or keep at bay something foreign and unequal that threatens its homogeneity.


{The Conquest of Happiness}

Envy is the basis of democracy. Heraclitus asserts that the citizens of Ephesus ought all to be hanged because they said, ‘there shall be none first among us’. The democratic movement in Greek States must have been almost wholly inspired by this passion. And the same is true of modern democracy. There is, it is true, an idealistic theory according to which democracy is the best form of government. I think myself that this theory is true. But there is no department of practical politics where idealistic theories are strong enough to cause great changes; when great changes occur, the theories which justify them are always a camouflage for passion. And the passion that has given driving force to democratic theories is undoubtedly the passion of envy. Read the memoirs of Madame Roland, who is frequently represented as a noble woman inspired by devotion to the people. You will find that what made her such a vehement democrat was the experience of being shown into the servants’ hall when she had occasion to visit an aristocratic chateau.


{The Heresy of Democracy}

The First and fundamental characteristic of Democracy is that it is an exclusive religion.


{Democracy: The God That Failed}

The selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it practically impossible that any good or harmless person could ever rise to the top.  Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues.  Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government; indeed, as the result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals.

Written by M. James

March 21, 2012 at 12:57 am

One Response

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  1. […] from The Republic, as quoted in a prior post: And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering […]

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