The Democratic Illusion

Democrats live in an illusion. It is that democracy, as an ideal and as a system, is a natural product of human nature, and so history moves us in that direction. Sadly, this is hardly the case and therefore the assumption is wrong and dangerous. Our experience tells that tyranny is a more normal condition of man than is liberty.

The error to assume that, being natural, democracy is predestined to prevail is an understandable one. When a community is formed it will give itself rules to coordinate its members. The resulting development went from freedom to the rule by a person or the chosen few.
Subsequently, responding to technical-economic growth, the successful demanded recognition for their accomplishments and knowledge. During the resulting Enlightenment, democracy’s foundations were laid. Of the ensuing two major experiments, the American one became a success and the new country produced the modern era’s most durable political system. A more radical version of making liberty into a system failed in France.

Varieties of democracy became components of modern political creeds. Globally this idea churned political waters mainly in the Atlantic region. Most of the world did not participate until the last century. To the extent that entities desired to modernize, they limited their primary effort to economic development. The concept excluded its democratic twin; the driving force of belated modernization had been, as is the case in present-day China, a dictatorship. The motive to catch up in the economic area expressed the wish to develop state-of-the-art military power.

This suggests a revealing parallel. Initially, classical liberalism has had a twin, nationalism. As events unfolded, it appeared that, to prevail, one of these “isms” had to be dropped. Typically, the choice favored nationalism. In regions that were not “Western” and modern through their culture, their weakness, expressed by colonialism, prioritized the closing of the developmental gap. This modernization had an economic and a political module. The challenge faced suggested that secondary goals had to be subordinated. In the context of backwardness’ immature society, artificially accelerated growth suggested that democracy, seeking the consent of the “immature”, has to be sacrificed. The Soviet experiment with this approach has failed. China’s effort to build an economically efficient dictatorship is ongoing.

Ideologies that claimed to liberate mankind from the evils that kept it in bondage have produced dictatorial variants. In the case of these world-views, liberty has been a component of the list to be achieved. Yet the uphill struggle suggested that to rise over the hill, the balloon needed to be lightened. The discarded ballast tended to include liberty. National independence movements abandoned the cause of freedom. Socialism, intent to give economic and political freedom to the downtrodden, concluded that personal rights hindered collective salvation. The one-party state of Bolshevism and its reliance on forced labor were the upshot. Similarly, “German Freedom” regressed into the right to follow an absolute ruler who led the duped into a cataclysm. In the case of the de-colonialized world, its liberators confused independence with freedom and with progress. The resulting misguided one-sidedness still controls the deprived lives of suffering millions.

There might be a connecting element between these derailments. Freedom linked to another goal could be kept where circumstances allowed the development to be organic. The more “revolutionary”, that is the more abrupt the movement forward needed to be because of underdevelopment, the less likely it was to achieve its goals while retaining liberty.

Connected to the foregoing is a logical error. Where freedom was “temporarily” dropped to achieve another key end, it happened because liberty was seen as a tool and not as a goal. A free society is able to pursue and define its goals, an unfree one cannot determine its destiny and is restrained in the choice of the means used. This suggests that liberty must be the paramount goal of a successful society. It must be cognizant that only the free are able to choose their path. No stated goal can legitimize oppression – as was “building Socialism”- and demand servitude to realize the aspirations of the merciless prophets of their own cause.

Due to a manipulative trick of self-appointed leaders, millions were deprived of their life and even more of the right to determine their destiny. Disappointingly for those that hold democracy is a self-evident goal of man, initially the choice to sideline liberty was made with the consent of those who, as a result, lost their autonomy.

The ploy to secure approval to erect a system that, once established, does without further consent, follows a pattern. It begins with a community that does not value freedom sufficiently. Once liberty is negotiable, it can be bartered for the good and easy life promised by politics’ snake-oil salesmen. With that consensual democracy is replaced by a system of obedience which claims to be the precondition of a perfect society by conforming to the notions of the Leaders. Who are these people?

In part the perpetrators are men of words. These scribes create an ”Ersatz” reality on paper that unmasks the error of human development and promises that by eliminating it the perfect society will follow. Their followers, “True Believers”, will convert the Guru’s gospel into a dogma and then into a system. With that a movement of the disciples forms to educate “their” people. Being in possession of the absolute truth, this tribe sees itself as an enlightened Avant Guard. It is determined to create happiness for the dark mass without its consent. In this nascent ideal society, power must be vested in the knowing elite whose plan is to be implemented with the “fist” of the chosen.

Freedom has always been threatened by, and often traded away for the illusion of a bowl of lentils. Nothing suggests that in the future this is about to change. This makes liberty into a fragile treasure that demands constant and alert protection.

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