Defending Democracy

In his article “Why Democracy is Wrong”:

The author writes:

“It is for the supporters of democracy to demonstrate explicitly, what they claim implicitly – that a democracy is the only structure which generates consent of the governed.”

This is an unfair demand. Every structure that is not overthrown generates consent of the governed. The most painful and disgusting part of the second world war, is that even within concentration camps, there was a form of consent of the governed, %99.99 of whom were about to be murdered. When you are physically absolutely prevented from any kind of resistance, and any resistance in a moment of opportunity is punished by unimaginable cruelty, then consent is formed, but the costs are infinite (total death). That is even the ghettos were dying in complete genocide, albeit a bit slower, and this was just as much by conscious design. If the war had gone on, the Warsaw ghetto would have been empty due to starvation and disease (though the Nazis did not hesitate to murder anyone at all, whenever they felt like it).

The question is not whether the structure can generate consent of the governed! The question is at what cost? Democracies kill the fewest number of people. At least directly. This is clear if one looks at the history since world war 2. I don’t think that the total of people killed through wars (anywhere) and political repression within the democracies would add up to the numbers for WW2. Even if we include political repression within non-democracies that were supported by democracies, I don’t think we’d get there.


I see that I was totally wrong in what I wrote above. I see that sometimes there is rule by opinion where consent means something, but then again a lot of times there is rule by force, where the is no option to resist or defy orders. I didn’t in any way doubt that a concentration camp is ruled by force alone, and not by opinion. I just used the word consent, when it in no way applied. I am sorry. I mean maybe one can call choosing quick and painful over slow and painful, a choice. But that’s a long way from consent… However my mistake doesn’t change my argument that democracies have needed to use less force! So I won’t delete the post entirely nor backspace the mistake, but explain it here. Again I am sorry for any offence.

If you want to read about the account of an actual survivor I suggest Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Yes there was a daily struggle:
“It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners. This was an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life itself, for one’s own sake or for that of a good friend.”

This is an important point to consider. The Vietnam war was one of the most murderous conflicts since WW2, but it took place in an America that was much less democratic. Today we might call it a Fascist state. The major unions thought that the war was good for American workers. Today the government could not fight such a war. Indeed they are fighting two wars right now: Afghanistan and Iraq. We should oppose those wars and stop them too. But the reality is much different, as are the results.

Now as to the indirect cost… Maybe here things are worse. Because there are millions of preventable deaths (famine and easily cured diseases) that happen every year, which we could prevent, but we in the democracies choose to ignore because they are foreign problems. Here we should do our best to fix the situation.

The interesting part is that the problem here is a failure of democracy. That is most people would accept that we should spend 1% or 2% of our economic output to eliminate poverty, but they think we already do, and that the costs would be much larger. They think well there’s more poor people in the world than there are rich people, so if we made things equal we’d all be poor. What we don’t realize is that we don’t need to make things equal to eliminate famine and disease, not by a long shot.

But in any case democracy works very well for us. Those of us who have it. And almost everyone who doesn’t have it, wants to have it and is fighting bitterly to get it. It is unfortunate that they are often fighting against us, because we are trying to deny them democracy and self-government. But that’s our problem. We shouldn’t try to deny them democracy.

In the end it is the job of those who oppose democracy to convince us that their proposal is better and will result in better results. This sounds impossible and in fact we claim that it is impossible, but we are willing to listen. Having an open mind and an open dialogue is an important part of democracy.

But before we go let us think about what getting rid of democracy would actually mean and imply. It would mean by definition, the suppression of the rights of the population, probably the majority of the population. It is true that some people could benefit from this, but could there ever be a case where society as a whole could benefit? It is an interesting thought experiment, but I doubt it has anything to do with the real world.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Leave a Reply