23 Feb 2020

Democracy will always fail

Democracy will always fail - and so will dictatorships and socialism.
February 2020.
 
To set the stage, I first need to quote a few men of note:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. Johan Adams (1814).

Democracy stands between two tyrannies: the one which it has overthrown and the one into which it will develop. Paul Eldridge (1965).

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. H.L.Mencken (1949).


Democracy substitutes the selection by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. George Bernard Shaw (1903).


Democracy is the popular notion that more than half the people are right more than half of the time, but it is silent on the real notion that most of the people are wrong most of the time (on issues of the state). The first gives us a consensus of 25% and the latter a consensus of 0%. In history it has happened often that all the people were wrong most of the time.
My second remark is that the success of any democracy depends largely on the economic system it is linked to.

In reality we find that most of the democracies are incorrectly linked. An authoritarian political system should be linked to capitalism and a true democracy should be linked to a socialistic system for the simple reason that people who have a democratic say in politics should also have a democratic say in its economy, which they mostly do not have in capitalistic systems, because their say over private enterprise is limited in capitalism.
In the case of capitalism: why would or should a rich minority allow the poor majority to spend its money on enriching the poor and impoverishing the rich - an inappropriate concept for the poor if there is not a counter performance?

Again, this is like freedom without responsibility, which is currently the state of things in South Africa. This process impoverishes both groups, but funnily enough, what happens here in reality is that the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, which is against the idea of the constitutional democracy which we have. In our case, democracy has fully and spectacularly failed.
My third remark is a variation on the theme of Socrates. Socrates posited that the rich are corrupt and the poor are feeble and that the middle class should run the democracy, meaning that a democracy will only work when you have a very large middle class - and that is the most revealing and true statement that I have ever heard on democracy.

If we consider this for a moment, then we will see the validity of that statement in our time as well. In the case of Canada with a middle class in excess of 70%, the democracy works perfectly and their system has automatically transformed from a capitalistic system into a hybrid one embracing socialism to a large extent. In my view it is very successful and one of a very few true democracies. It also enforces my view that socialism is the ultimate form in a true democracy as the democratic process leads necessarily to socialism.
That is why the Middle East countries with authoritarian regimes and a very small middle class cannot embrace democracy fully, as it will destroy those countries.

Fortunately many fledgling states coming out of dictatorships have chosen not to go that disastrous route, and there is a growing consensus by political analysts that the new systems should not be democratic.
Back to Plato and his early wisdom, but first, the famous allegorical tale of Socrates as modified by myself. Every student of philosophy knows this allegorical tale well:

Let us conceive of a puppet-show and of prisoners watching it, without knowing what a puppet show is, believing that what they see to be the true life, and without knowing that these puppets are being manipulated by people hiding behind a wall or screen. What a beautiful metaphor for this world we live in. These people watching the puppet show take everything they see as the truth, and base their moral values, hopes and aspirations on this farce. In the example of Socrates, he considered these puppets in the light of a shadow - pun not intended - cast on a dark cave wall lit up by a fire silhouetting these puppets as shadows being thrown on the cave wall.
Let us further say that there are a few persons who have looked behind the scenes, or to those who pull the strings, and know that this is a farce. These are called the enlightened people.

If you look at the Baroque era when the Roman Catholic Church and a large part of the enlightened world staged a puppet show and used the world as a stage to play their opulent show on, you will see the validity of this allegory.
Plato lived at the end of the first and failed democratic era of old Athens, when Athens went down as the vanquished city in the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans – a very undemocratic state. Why was the undemocratic Sparta more successful than the democratic Athens? A failing democracy during and after the time of Pericles must be the answer.

We have seen at the beginning of this article the voices of important or learned people describing democracy as a failing system. It is failing, as in, for instance, the largest democracy in the world - the USA.
Here are the ideas of Plato on democracy some two thousand four hundred years ago (many of these quotes are from the able words of T.Z. Lavine : “From Socrates to Sartre – The Philosophic Quest”):

After Socrates was put to death, Plato was more than ever convinced that a democratic state, a state ruled by the many, is doomed to disaster. The many, he believed, can never know what is good for the state. They lack the necessary level of intelligence and training – they are concerned only with their own immediate pleasure and gratification, and they are swayed by unstable, volatile emotions which render them susceptible to clever demagogues or to mob passions. He believed that a democratic government, run by the many, cannot produce good human beings, and in turn, he believed that good people would find life impossible under such a state.
The Allegory of the cave above may be viewed as a devastating criticism of our everyday lives as being in bondage to superficialities, to shadows (puppets) rather than to substance. Truth is taken to be whatever is known by the senses. A good life is taken to be one in which we satisfy our desires. We are unaware that we are living with illusion, superficial knowledge and false and conflicting ideals. Our lives are dominated by the 'manipulation of truth' by newspaper headlines, by radio broadcasts, by the endless 'shows or shadows' on the television screen and by the echoing voices of opinion makes.

The Allegory may be taken as an equally devastating criticism of the science of our time, with its emphasis upon that which is known by the senses. Science, too, is chained, so that it can see only the 'puppets or shadows'. Its basis is in sensory observation. It does not venture into true causes or into long range consequences. The empirical scientist is not so different from the winner on TV quiz shows who knows 'the answer but not the truth', or from the prisoners watching the shadows on the cave wall.
The life in the cave (or by people watching the puppet-show) is the life of politics. Both the leaders and the public are ignorant and corrupt, without true knowledge of themselves or of the world, motivated by greed, power, and self-gratification. They are chained in bondage to ignorance and passions, to mob hysteria for or against fleeting issues, believing in current ideologies which are the illusions, the shadows on the walls of the cave.

It is also an Allegory of the (enlightened) liberated ones, having made the ascent to know the truth and the good, has a mission to return to the show to bring enlightenment and to bring the good news even though they may be killed for their services. Plato was thinking of Socrates and 'we' of Jesus Christ.
Finally, for us, as for Plato, it is an allegory of despair and hope. Like Plato, we live in a time of loss of meaning and commitment, of crumbling standards of truth and morality, of corruption of political life and decline in personal integrity. This is our despair. But there is hope – the hope of ascending to truth and values which are the best we can know as guides to the good life. For us, the first step is to recognize current illusions for what they are.

 

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