To both Plato and Aristotle democracy meant mob rule. If you doubt that they’ve been amply vindicated, just look at Britain now.
Actually, not just Britain and not just now. Look at any Western country and try to find one in which democracy hasn’t degenerated into mobocracy.
Closer to our time, the founders of the United States, supposedly the cradle of modern democracy, detested the very concept almost to a man.
Even the most democratically minded among them, Thomas Jefferson, believed in the rule of what he called ‘natural aristocracy’: “May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides most efficiently for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?”
Last time I looked, I discerned no such ‘natural aristoi’ anywhere in any ‘democratic’ government, including American or our own. Over the last 200 years Americans have let Jefferson down, wouldn’t you say? And not only him.
Alexander Hamilton and James Madison both detested majority rule and attacked it passionately every chance they got. And in 1806 Adams wrote, “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they had made it… a democracy.”
Hence when the neocons and other cardsharps at our post-truth, post-reason table invoke those sainted names as a justification for their democracy worship, they commit an act of historical, intellectual and moral larceny.
Precious few people are able or willing to call them to task, to point out the fundamental difference between democracy and republicanism. The former is majority rule, with 50 per cent plus one able to impose their dictatorial will on the remaining 50 per cent minus one. In the latter, people elect the best person among them to govern according to their interests but not necessarily their wishes.
Edmund Burke went to great lengths explaining that MPs are their constituents’ representatives, not delegates. Once elected, they govern according to their own conscience and understanding of the peoples’ interests.
Today’s lot solve the problem of representatives vs. delegates by being neither. They seek power for its own sake, not to advance public good. And that’s where the prescience of those wise Anglophone thinkers failed them.
They didn’t realise that any constitution, written or unwritten, is fluid. They all develop, and one form of government can easily morph into another – possibly something better, more usually something worse.
A successful republic can only be sustained over centuries given an uninterrupted supply of brilliant, selfless, courageous statesmen. That supply has been dwindling – steadily and predictably. In proclaiming new virtues those thinkers didn’t account for original sin. Hence they didn’t realise that a republic is bound to degenerate into a democracy, and the latter into mob rule.
Modern, which is to say post-1688, Britain was constituted as a republican monarchy, with a heavy accent on the modifier. However, our government has become neither republican nor monarchical. It’s a toxic cocktail of spivocracy and mobocracy.
Witness the weathervane job being performed by the panic-stricken Tory government. Only those who don’t understand political taxonomy can describe it as either democratic or republican (forget about monarchical – that adjective has fallen into disuse since 1688).
If HMG were democratic, it would clearly communicate its political credo, how it’s to be implemented and what the expected effect will be.
Since the ruling party calls itself Conservative, one would expect such a credo to include conservative policies: an accent on individual responsibility rather than collective security, fiscal frugality, commitment to defending the people against internal and external threats, low taxation and public spending, social justice in the sense of everyone getting his just deserts, respect for hierarchies, upholding traditional morality.
A democratic government would then say to the people: “This is what we believe will serve your interests much better than the opposite policies advocated by the other party. If you agree, support us. If you disagree, support them. The choice is yours.”
A republican government would deliver a different message: “You’ve elected us to act in your best interests, as we understand them. You’ve had your say, and you won’t have another until the next general election. By all means, let us know, in a civilised and orderly fashion, what you think, and we’ll give your concerns proper consideration. But we shan’t be obligated to do what you want – that’s not what you elected us for.”
It doesn’t take an eagle eye to see that Mrs May’s government adheres to neither model. In the run-up to the election it didn’t give the electorate a choice between conservatism and socialism. The choice was between Labour Lite and Labour Full-strength.
Labour Lite won a pathetically narrow victory, but Labour Full-strength wouldn’t take it lying down. Led by a revolting hybrid of Trotsky and Hitler, it has set to vindicate my belief that democracy’s rich potential for degenerating into mobocracy has been realised.
Pre-pubescent cretins have come out screaming seditious, mendacious, communist slogans to the effect that they want Labour Full-strength in power, election or no election. They demand an end to austerity, meaning that HMG should spend more than the 10 per cent over its income that it currently spends.
But what their specific demands are doesn’t matter. They are anomic, which is to say destructive. If putting the revolting hybrid of Trotsky and Hitler into power demanded a call for the slaughter of every first-born child, that’s what they’d be screaming.
And the government’s response to mob action? Effectively it’s saying: “Please keep us in power, and we’ll do what you say. You don’t need to oust us to get Labour Full-strength. We can be it – or anything else you desire.”
No tuition fees? Done. No cap on public sector pay? Splendid. No grammar schools? But of course. More social spending? Sorted. More spending on the NHS? Agreed. Abortion up until delivery? Wonderful idea.
Lowering the voting age to 16? You only need to ask. Didn’t Comrade Trotsky explain that “the youth is the barometer of the whole nation”? Of course he did. So the more youthful our electorate, the better. Just look how well those young Red Guards performed in China and Cambodia. If that’s what you want, you only need to ask.
A government that can stay in power only by pandering to the mob is neither a republic nor a democracy nor, God forbid, a monarchy. It’s a mobocracy. It’s the government we have – the only government we’ll ever have until we have none or, more likely, an outright despotism.
Plato and Aristotle warned us. We didn’t listen.