(Jim Clark) – Winston Churchill once famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government . . . except all others.” Was he right?
An oft-circulated email purports to quote University of Edinburgh Professor Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747 – 1813) as saying: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy which is always followed by a dictatorship.”
Research indicates that he may never have said that (although he was famously cynical about democracy), but it’s hard to quarrel with the thrust of the statement. Bibliographers say that the earliest documented expression of that concept was by American industrialist H. W. Prentis, Jr. who, in a speech to the National Conference Board given in New York in 1943, said: “. . . the release of initiative and enterprise made possible by popular self-government ultimately generates disintegrating forces from within. Again and again after freedom has brought opportunity and some degree of plenty, the competent become selfish, luxury-loving and complacent; the incompetent and the unfortunate grow envious and covetous, and all three groups turn aside from the hard road of freedom to worship the Golden Calf of economic security. The historical cycle seems to be: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.”
(Note that the last part of the quote can pretty much be said to trace the history of America although we have not yet reverted to being British colonies.)
In a 2012 article titled “Democracies Always Fail,” David Cohen wrote: “The democratic process relies on the assumption that (a majority of) citizens can recognize the best political candidate or best policy when they see it. (But) research . . . at Cornell University shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people or the quality of those people’s ideas . . . party allegiance and voting have become primarily emotional processes.”
So is democracy doomed? I didn’t think so until I saw the results of an October 29, 2015 Rasmussen poll. In a survey of 1,000 likely voters with a cross-section of political persuasions, the Rasmussen organization found that 56 per cent of Democrats view Socialism favorably. By comparison the study found that just 12 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Socialism while 80 percent embrace Capitalism. On a more encouraging note 66 percent of the Democrats polled also viewed Capitalism favorably which infers a conclusion that a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans might have been the “incompetent” voters studied by Cornell University.
How could anyone favor both Capitalism, where the factors of production are owned by individuals, and Socialism where they are owned by the government? Are a majority of Democrats “feeling the Bern”? Has Hillary’s tilt to the left influenced “incompetent” voters involved in a “primarily emotional process”?
An August, 2015, an article titled “Democrats: They’re all Socialists now” reported that MSNBC Hardball’s Chris Matthews asked Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist?” Shultz began to explain the difference between a Democrat and a Republican but Matthews cut her off and repeated his question. She did not answer. Can this great nation survive or we headed for bondage. We’ll find out in a year.
Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.