Now that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, the media, analysts, politicians, and just about everybody else is calling for democracy in Egypt. For example:
- Marketwatch: Real democracy has a chance in Cairo
- CTV: Will U.S. help Egypt transition to democracy?
- Washington Post: U.S. must take the walk to democracy with Egypt
- Joe Biden: “The transition that’s taking place must be an irreversible change in a negotiated path toward democracy.”
I believe these calls for democracy are made out of ignorance of the word’s real meaning. While we want a democratic system over there, we don’t want true democracy. Alexander Hamilton said at the Constitutional Convention:
“We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism, nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”
Here are some more quotes about the evils of democracy:
“Now the first of these to come into being is monarchy, its growth being natural and unaided; and next arises kingship derived from monarchy by the aid of art and by the correction of defects. Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series.” [Polybius, The Histories 6.4.7-13.]
“And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”[Polybius, The Histories 6.9.7-9.]
“And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”[Plato, Republic 557a.]
“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” [James Madison, Federalist No. 10.]
“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.” [John Adams letter to John Taylor, 1814]
“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” [Lord Acton]
I for one shall hope that Egypt forms a republican and moderate government, just as Alexander Hamilton recommended for our own country more than 220 years ago.