Feb 28, 2014

The Rise and Failure of Democracies

Go here to read a superb essay in The Economist about the failure of the democratic "revolutions" of Eastern Europe in 1989, the "liberation" of Iraq in 2003, and the Arab Spring of 2011. But for the failure of The Economist to address a profoundly fundamental question, I agree with virtually all of the essay's insights and urge it upon all my readers.

Given The Economist's relentlessly truncated view of reality including human nature--to the material world of individuals--it's not surprising that it mistakes democracy as an end rather than a means. Many of the problems with democracy identified in the essay can better be understood in terms of the larger perspective of the purpose of civil government. If the role of government is to bring prosperity, an ever-higher standard of living, and opportunity to exercise as much personal autonomy as possible, then democracy is doomed to collapse from its internal contradictions. The world's resources are limited and human beings actually have a nature--an end or purpose--that we deny to our peril.

What so many fail to observe is that the purpose of civil government is to implement the rule of law. In other words, there is "law" that really exists outside of us (a phenomenon inexplicable in a materialist metaphysics) and that there is "law" that really exists inside of us (a contention incomprehensible in a materialist anthropology). The rule of law calls upon civil government, whether democratically elected, inherited, or even self-appointed, to conform its laws as closely as possible to Law.

Identifying Law is virtually impossible in a relentlessly secular world, one which passionately denies that reality is more than matter in motion and even more passionately denies that human beings have a nature. Democracy is no solution to the problems of This Secular Age; indeed, it may actually compound them.

We should not be surprised that civil governments fail when they do not believe that Law exists. Merely adding a democratic substructure to an otherwise willfully blind superstructure will not make matters better. Thus, instead of the rule of law, moderns democracies are implementing rule by law. The will of many people who affirmatively disbelieve in Law is no better than the will of a small group who likewise see law as a means to some subjectively preferred end. That democracies are failing is clear. That The Economist's suggested cures will do more than palliate the problem is not.


  1. The failure of democratic revolutions is nothing new (see the French and the Russian revolutions versus the American revolution). Democracy is a terrible form of gov't, especially in non-homogenous societies.

    But I take umbrage with your blanket assertion that a gov't exists to do rule of law. I hear that a lot in int'l law circles, that the best gov't is the one that most efficiently administers human rights norms. If that's the case, then, as with your assertion about rule of law, gov'ts are fungible structures that can be strewn about the planet like so many widgets without regard for the human populations they represent.

    A definition of gov't, it seems, has to recognize that the role of the state as a collective rep of its people. I think that better conforms to biblical references yo states as corporate structures.

    A corporate structure divided, as democracy entails, is the psych ward equivalent of a shambling schitzophrenic.

    The only question in my mind is whether that was a bug or a feature to those responsible for initiating these so-called democratic revolutions?

  2. Democracy is their only Law. It devours all others. Perhaps, another way of stating Lucius' point is that, ironically, democracy of the 50.00001% becomes an enemy of the natural People as well.