Tag Archives: Politics

The evils of democracy and the mob: Quotes from some of the greatest minds in history.

Fisher Ames: “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way.”

John Jay: “Pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.”

Lord Acton: “The one prevailing evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

George Washington: “It is one of the evils of democratical governments, that the people, not always seeing and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act.”

Alexander Hamilton: “If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy.”

Alexander Hamilton: “Real liberty is neither found in despotism, nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

James Madison: “Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure.”

James Madison: “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.”

Alexis de Tocqueville: “The will of the nation is one of those phrases most widely abused by schemers and tyrants of all ages.”

Cicero: “No tempest or conflagration, however great, is harder to quell than mob carried away by the novelty of power.”

Cicero: “This excessive licence, which the anarchists think is the only true freedom, provides the stock, as it were, from which a tyrant grows.”

Plato: “Is it not the excess and greed of this and the neglect of all other things that revolutionizes this constitution too and prepares the way for the necessity of a dictatorship?”

Plato: “And is it not true that in like manner a leader of the people who, getting control of a docile mob, does not withhold his hand from the shedding of tribal blood, but by the customary unjust accusations brings a citizen into court and assassinates him, blotting out a human life, and with unhallowed tongue and lips that have tasted kindred blood, banishes and slays and hints at the abolition of debts and the partition of lands.”

Plato: “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 called democracy “a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”

Polybius: “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.”

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Tocqueville on why people demand equality over freedom

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (page 585 in my edition):

The advantages of liberty become visible only in the long term and it is always easy to mistake the cause which brought them about. The advantages of equality are felt immediately and you can observe where they come from daily.

Democrats adopt the Monty Python strategy: Running Away

The Washington Post reports:

Democratic legislators embracing tactic to gain leverage: Fleeing

Yes, that’s the actual headline. So what does this remind me of?

Brave Sir Robin [Fleeing begins at 2:30] (HT Instapundit):

Attacking a French Castle [Fleeing begins at 3:07]:

Killer bunny [Fleeing begins at 1:55]:

The end of that clip omits the most important part. It’s leaves off the Democrats’ strategy:

ROBIN: Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?

ARTHUR: Oh, shut up and go and change your armor.

GALAHAD: Let us taunt it! It may become so cross that it will make a mistake.

And there is the strategy of the Democrats. Run away to confuse people and taunt their enemies hoping they’ll make a mistake. Hey, it’s easier than learning how to govern.

Again, Hat Tip to Instapundit.

Thoughts on Governance

Writing for What Would The Founders Think?

In this post, Michael Newton tries to restore precision to our language. The American experiment was conceived as a republic, not a democracy. Present day efforts to conflate the terms not withstanding, the Founders were wary of democracies and they had good reason.

Read the rest of this entry »

We don’t want democracy in Egypt! We want republicanism.

Now that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, the media, analysts, politicians, and just about everybody else is calling for democracy in Egypt. For example:

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.

FuturePundit asks: “Why Not Philanthropic Book Buying?”

FuturePundit writes:

Say you are reading a book you really like and want others to read it too. Maybe you just one certain friend to read it. Maybe you want to try to influence millions of people you do not even know. Or somewhere in between. It should be possible to easily buy restricted or unrestricted book distribution rights.

For example, imagine some wealthy guy with an interest in some policy area, someone who already might now be donating to think tanks like, say, the Manhattan Institute (and I happen to know such people in that specific case). They come across a book that delivers some message (could be about health care, banking reform, immigration, etc) they so enthusiastically agree with that they want to see it reach a much wider audience. It ought to be possible to go to a web interface of an online bookstore or publisher and bid for the right to make the next 10,000 copies of the book free to download. Or bid for the right to make the book freely downloadable for the next 3 days or the next month. Or make it free to download only in one geographic area (e.g. where a measure is on a ballot and you want people to read a relevant book).

Continue here….

If any philanthropists would like to “subsidize” the sale of The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny, let me know and we’ll work something out.

Arabs waking up? We shall see.

One political analyst told AP:

Arab peoples used to fear their authoritarian regimes. Things have changed and now Arab leaders fear their peoples.

Reminds me of a famous, often misattributed, quote by John Basil Barnhill:

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.

Let us hope and pray these authoritarian regimes are replaced by something better. As I write in The Path to Tyranny:

Furthermore, once tyranny is established, it is difficult to abandon. Most often, upon the death or overthrow of one tyrant, another tyrant takes his place. Aristotle points out that “a tyranny often changes into a tyranny, as that at Sicyon changed from the tyranny of Myron into that of Cleisthenes.” Sian Lewis gives an even more impressive example: “When one looks before a tyrant such as Pittacus or Cypselus to see what kind of government they replaced, one tends to find not aristocracies or monarchies, but an infinite regress of tyrants, each apparently overthrown by a successor in the name of liberty: at Mytilene, for instance, Pittacus overthrew the tyrant Myrsilus, who had in turn overthrown Melanchrus, and before Melanchrus we hear of Megacles, who put down the rule of the club-wielding Penthelidai.”

This succession of one tyrant followed by another makes it all the more important to avoid the first tyrant. Plutarch reports that Solon “uttered the famous saying, that earlier it had been easier for them to hinder the tyranny, while it was in preparation; but now it was a greater and more glorious task to uproot and destroy it when it had been already planted and was grown.”

Overthrowing authoritarianism and replacing it with republicanism will not be an easy task. But for the first time in recent history, it appears that the Arabs desire and are willing to fight for true freedom.