Monday, July 24, 2006

Has Democracy become an Idol?

I wonder if we have too much faith in democracy. We believe if we only democratic the world that it can solve all our problems, usher in a world of peace and prosperity. But the violence in the Middle East is taking place in democracies. Israel is a democracy, Lebanon a democracy, the Palestinian territories democratically elected Hamas, and Iraq for that matter is a democracy. (Hell, North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.) Democracies aren't supposed to attack fellow democracies! Some body needs to tell them about the Democratic Peace Theory.

So why doesn't democracy work everywhere? Russell Kirk said in his book "The Politics of Prudence," (which I would recommend to conservatives out there) that "A society in which men and women are governed by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society-whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society- no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be." Thus, democracy will only succeed where the people are ready for it. If too many of the people prescibe to radicalism then a "tyranny of the majority," in the words of Tocqueville, will ensue and we'll be no better off. If security is what we wanted in the Middle East, we may have been better of leaving Saddam in power. The United States thrusting democracy onto the whole world or any part thereof when its not ready won't do any good, and indeed do much harm.

It seems that many people put so much trust in democracy because they believe people are ultimately good. I share no such illusions. Man is naturally sinful, and no government can stop this, only restrain it. Just look at the world, its messed up. We seem to think we're progressing and that eventually we will be able to progress into world peace and prosperity. But we still have wars. What we have actually progressed in over the years is in killing more efficiently. Take the Soviet Union, its founding fathers thought mankind could establish a utopia, an Earthly Heaven, but they failed and instead brought about a Terrestrial Hell, the effects of which people are still suffering from. The results for a democratic utopia has no more chance than a communist utopia.

However, I'm not against democracy. It's because of man's sinfulness, not man's goodness, that I would agree with Winston Churchill, that "democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others." Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's why it is generally better to put that power in the hands of many instead of just one or a handful of people. And that's why it's good to have systems of checks and balances and separation of power. But I'm only for democracy where the soil, the people, will allow a healthy version to take root and grow.

We can idolize just about anything in this world, including democracy.

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Blogger Rich Clark said...

I agree. This is good stuff.

Wed Jul 26, 10:07:00 AM EDT  

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