New Form of Democracy?
ancient Greece, philosophers speculated on what type of government
would be best. One such idea was the oligarchy, which
embraced rule by a small group of people who were distinguished
by their virtue, intelligence, and leadership abilities. It was
believed that they would be loyal to justice and the good of the
people through their own sense of personal honor, which would guide
their decisions and prevent corruption. Honor was the central focus.
Another kind of government that they discussed,
among others, was democracy, which was generally disparaged
by such notables as Plato. It was thought that democracy
was synonymous to mob rule, or the tyranny of the majority. The
founders of the United States were very cognizant of this warning,
and devised a republic instead consisting of checks and balances
and a constitutional bill of rights to avoid those results. As time
went on, this government drifted toward the model of democracy,
however, extending the franchise and allowing popular vote for high
We tend to think of Western democracy as being
the best form of government, or at least the best among many poor
choices. Let the people decide for themselves according to majority
opinion, within the protective guidelines of a constitution. The
people in aggregate, it is thought, are smarter than politicians.
Of course, this smartness comes under scrutiny when the people vote
into office the very politicians that they do not trust, but that
is another matter. The important point here is the general reliance
upon aggregate wisdom, the faith in majority opinion.
Under this system, of course, mistakes are made
and partisanship handicaps necessary progress and much needed reform.
These are considered acceptable risks. After all, what alternative
is better? Monarchy? Dictatorship? Oligarchy?
Democracy, however, is only as good as the people
who partake in it. Not every culture or group of people can make
it work properly. A respect for law and the rules of play are paramount
in this. An educated populace who respect what is true is of vital
importance. Handing democracy to a culture that is not ready for
it is setting those people up for failure. Even educated societies
with a history of democracy sometimes vote people into office for
the wrong reasons, and suffer for it later.
What the ancients never seemed to question why
democracy had to be something akin to mob rule. They assumed that
the rule of a selected few, as a noble oligarchy, would be based
on a system of honor, but that code of honor is ignored for the
general population. It is assumed that other forces would be in
play, such as competing self-interest, ignorance and partisanship.
In effect, people are looked down upon as selfish children incapable
of acting honorably. A system that does such a thing invariably
creates what it disdains. It sets the rules and expectations and
asks for nothing more.
If honor is something we respect and would like
to propagate in our culture, society and governmental system, we
should not circumvent it by assuming the worst from people, thus
setting the system up to fail.
If we look upon democracy as something necessarily
akin to mob rule, then the type of political strategy we witness
today is justifiable. It becomes acceptable to lie and use fear
and anger instead of reasonable discourse and constructive debate.
The people, it is assumed, are meant to be manipulated by the few
for their vote and monetary support. Truth becomes meaningless.
Patriotism is redefined according to the speaker's goals. Ideology
replaces cooperation and common sense. The loudest complaints, no
matter how nonsensical, take the floor. Rule of law is threatened
by violence. Citizens are shouted down at town meetings. Paranoia
becomes a vehicle for political influence.
We see all of this today, in the 21st century,
and it is the grossest insult to us all.
But what of honor? What of all the virtues that
our founders were so hopeful to propagate? Should we expect only
the worst from people? Or instead, by expecting the very best, encourage
the nobility that human nature is capable of?
It is a given that the success of democracy depends
on the people engaged in it. There is no magic about this, no guarantee
for success. Democracy depends upon truth and must reject political
manipulation if it is going to survive. It does not allow an oligarchy
of hidden elite to coerce our values and place the world in jeopardy
to satisfy their greed.
we do not trust our government, then we need to ask ourselves why
and then work hard to make it trustworthy. Rejecting it outright
leads nowhere at this point. Why throw out the good with the bad?
We need to remember that this government, this democracy, is
ours. We have to make it work, rather than be duped by those
who would manipulate us for their own gain.
does not matter how technologically advanced we are, or how powerful
our military is, or the influence of our economic on the rest of
the world. Without virtue, without honor, we are nothing. Worse
than nothing. We have taken the blessings handed down to us from
the past and trampled them underfoot. This is cause for shame, not
is not too late. It is possible for us to start anew, first with
ourselves, and then with the world around us. We can, with merely
a choice followed by commitment, call forth what is precious in
life, and turn our backs on falsehood and illusion. We can use our
minds for good no matter how temptation says otherwise.
is not enough that our founders formed a democratic republic. It
is up to us to continue in their footsteps and make it work.