The essence of democracy

Gerry Neal writes

The simple fact of the matter is that modern democracy is a form of “might makes right” of the imposition of the will through force.

Imagine you were walking down the street and someone came up to you and pulled out a shillelagh and said “you are now my slave, you will do everything I say, or I will bash your head in”. Would the fact that this person is armed and capable of following through on his threat mean that he has the right to boss you around?

Of course not. The use of force – or the credible threat of force – does not confer legitimate authority upon anyone. We have a word for the person who relies upon weapons and the threat of violent force to make others obey his will. That word is “tyrant”.

Lets alter the situation somewhat. This time you are walking down the street and someone comes up to you and says “you are now my slave, you will do everything I say”. This time he does not produce a weapon. You say “No way am I going to be taking orders from you”. He responds with “I will make you”. To which you answer “Oh yeah, you and what army”, at which point he says “This one” and a gang of thugs steps out from the back alley and surrounds you. You are hopelessly outnumbered. This time around would you say that the gang boss has the right to give you orders?

Of course you would not. The two situations are virtually identical. All that has changed is mode of force. The first would-be-tyrant relies upon a cudgel the second upon a gang of thugs. The force you are threatened with in the second situation is the force of numbers.

There is also, however, no substantial difference between the thinking of the second would-be-tyrant and the theory of modern democracy. The theory of modern democracy asserts that having a large enough number of supporters – a majority of the population – makes a government and its policies legitimate and just. This, like the thinking of the thugs in the hypothetical situations above, is a variation of the idea “might makes right”. Modern democracy – democracy as the theory of popular sovereignty and majority rule – is an inherently violent form of government.

One Response

  1. Pascal observes

    “It is right that what is just should be obeyed; it is necessary that what is strongest should be obeyed. Justice without might is helpless; might without justice is tyrannical. Justice without might is gainsaid, because there are always offenders; might without justice is condemned. We must then combine justice and might and, for this end, make what is just strong, or what is strong just.

    Justice is subject to dispute; might is easily recognised and is not disputed. So we cannot give might to justice, because might has gainsaid justice and has declared that it is she herself who is just. And thus, being unable to make what is just strong, we have made what is strong just.”

    And again

    “How rightly do we distinguish men by external appearances rather than by internal qualities! Which of us two shall have precedence? Who will give place to the other? The least clever. But I am as clever as he. We should have to fight over this. He has four lackeys, and I have only one. This can be seen; we have only to count. It falls to me to yield, and I am a fool if I contest the matter. By this means we are at peace, which is the greatest of boons.”

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