Beware of Greeks bearing truth

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.



5 thoughts on “Beware of Greeks bearing truth”

  1. The ancient Greeks had the concept of democracy but only about 5 % of the populace could vote and probably less than the 5 % ever voted.

  2. Representative democracy fails when the educational level of the electorate falls below a certain level. 13 million or so of our fellow voters were quite happy to see Corbyn in No 10, McDonnell in The Treasury and Abbott in The Home Office. What does one do when faced with ‘representatives’ such as these? They certainly don’t qualify as Burke’s ‘better educated and informed’ class who we can allow to exercise judgement on our behalf. What does one do when our representatives give away the sovereignty that must be returned to us entire at every General Election?

    More direct democracy could work – look at Switzerland for example. The key to the success of any system of democracy has to lie in the educational standards of the electorate, both to inform direct decisions and the election of statesmen.

    Personally, I think that our system is broken. Our executive has lost its right to govern and our parliament has lost its right to the sovereignty we lend it.

    1. I agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly. I don’t know if you’ve read my book Democracy as a Neocon Trick, but it’s all about that. But I have a problem with more direct democracy. Don’t you think it would suffer even more from the low quality of the electorate than the representative kind? That sort of thing can work in a small and homogeneous community, where everyone knows everyone, but not in a nation of millions. Switzerland is really a unique case. Some kind of direct democracy has been practised there, especially in the Alpine cantons, since the Middle Ages. The population there was rural and not especially hierarchical. The situation in their big cities is more complicated, but the system does work, after a fashion. However, I’m not sure I’d like to go a polling station every time the pay of the local rubbish collectors is being discussed.

  3. It seems reasonable to suggest that Plato determined to be on the right side of his rulers after seeing what they did to Socrates. Those in charge of things have usually been reluctant to hand the job over to the great unwashed. The American founding fathers (parents?) among others were adamant about this and referred to Plato for justification. This Plato-con trick was subverted over time as rivals for leadership tried to outbid each other by rabble rousing. The rabble were given the vote but were kept a safe distance from the levers of power. Thus their form of democracy was a con trick as some noble authors have pointed out. Things followed much the same path in Britain. In both cases the levers of power were slowly taken from the elected representatives by the ‘deep state’. It was only in his final public speech did Dwight Eisenhower dare to complain about the ‘military industrial complex’ (MIC). Edward Heath, as Tory leader, made the mistake of mentioning the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’ and was soon removed (albeit after losing government). The rabble was roused by Trump but the MIC seems to be trumping him in return. With globalization, it has a branch office in Britain and those parliamentary aspirants on the trotcom spectrum have as much chance of delivering on their promises as TM.

  4. “To both Plato and Aristotle democracy meant mob rule”; however, to most “Westerners” it would seem to me that their definition of democracy, at least since WWII Soviet expansion, is an anticommunist political state. Most people seem to only see jet-black or snow-white without the subtle numerous grey’s in-between. “We are democratic because we’re not red commo’s”.

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