Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unlimited Democracy

The true value of democracy is to serve as a sanitary precaution protecting us against an abuse of power.  It enables us to get rid of a government and try to replace it by a better one.  Or, to put it differently, it is the only convention we have yet discovered to make peaceful change possible. . . . In its present unlimited form democracy has today largely lost the capacity of serving as a protection against arbitrary power.  It has ceased to be a safeguard of personal liberty, a restraint on the abuse of governmental power which it was hoped it would prove to be when it was naively believed that, when all power was made subject to democratic control, all the other restraints on government power could be dispensed with.  It has, on the contrary, become the main cause of a progressive and accelerating increase of the power and weight of the administrative machine. . . . As everything tends to become a political issue for which the interference of the coercive powers of government can be invoked, an ever larger part of human activity is diverted from productive into political efforts . . . . In other words, we have under the false name of democracy created a machinery in which not the majority decides, but each member of the majority has to consent to make bribes to get majority support for his own special demands. [The Political Order of a Free People, 137-138]

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