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Political Democracy is Just One Type of Democracy

We’ve concluded that the state cannot be changed just by shuffling around governments, since the quality of rulership is decided by the nature of the population.
Russians, for instance have always had autocratic, brutal, corrupt governments no matter if it’s a monarchy, communist dictatorship, or a democracy.  The English on the other hand had strong councils of representatives whether there was a monarch, a theocratic dictator, constitutional monarch, or a democracy.  The French defaulted to an order of centralized semi-autocracy, never quite leaving behind the authoritarian ways of their old monarchy, whether under Robespierre, Napoleon, Napoleon III, or DeGaulle.  How important then is the label?

Since government merely reflects the nature of its people, it becomes clear if we want to change a state, first we have to produce a change in its people.
But it’s impossible to produce any rapid change in the nature of a population.  We should sooner try to cool down the ocean by throwing in ice cubes.  This is the hard truth that every victorious revolutionary, political reformer, or activist soon discovers.

The most obvious way we might control the expression of a population is not to change it, but to distort its expression.  To accomplish this, we decide who to enfranchise the most to bring about the best results a people is capable of supplying.  In the process of politics then, we make sure those most inimical to an effective state have no vote at all, those of middling character get one vote, and the best of the race, a single vote that outweighs many lesser votes.
This after all, is the proposition made by a classical republic.  In the Roman Republic, the groups of people voted in “tribes” not at all equal in representation.  Plebeians despite their greater number were outweighed by the clout of the patrician classes in a vote.
In the early American republic, only those who owned sufficient property, giving them a real stake in the system of governance, were allowed to cast votes concerning the government.
Only by the 1820s was America well along the path to its transformation into a popular democracy.
However, no truly pure democracy has ever existed.
In Ancient Athens only an elite class granted the title of ‘citizen’ had the vote.
In America, several methods of strategic distortion of the popular will persist to this day.  The bicameral system that distorts the clout of representatives numbered according to population by the addition of senators who are equal in number and power, even if they are sent to the capital from sparsely populated mountains, desert, or tundra.  And of course, the electoral college that simplifies the popular vote into a winner-takes-all system.  Not to mention a great many who are only appointed by elected officials, elected by proxy, such as the entire judicial branch.
Even the American popular democracy is imbued with an inherent distrust of the unalloyed popular will built into it by its founders and reinforced by three centuries of their successors.
So the question is not whether to distort the popular will, but how it should best be done.

But…I began this entry commenting that governments alone cannot achieve the greater purpose.

Our first step is to observe that government is just one sort of democracy decided by the people in aggregate.  We can think of several great democracies, of which government is by far the least significant.

Political democracy – Every vote elects a representative.

Economic democracy – Every purchase is a vote that elects a product.

Social democracy – Every value someone holds is a vote that elects a society.

Biological democracy – Every child conceived is a vote that elects a people.

I will hope to discuss each in turn.

Democracy At Its Worst: Why Athens Fell

For years, Athens had two dominant men, the conservative Nicias and the flamboyant Alcibiades who countered each other’s designs at every turn.

Nicias wanted to mostly focus on defending Athenian territories and ending war with the Spartan alliance if possible.

Alcibiades wanted to take the fight to the Spartans.

Had either of these men gotten their way, it seems likely that Athens would have survived.

The combination of both fighting for power at every turn destroyed Athens.

When Nicias succeeded in making peace with the Spartans, Alcibiades sabotaged the peace.

When Alcibiades wanted to fight in Sicily, Nicias tried to sabotage him.

The ultimate worst case scenario of democracy followed:

Nicias made a public speech in which he proposed an absurd force both in size and composition that would be required to invade Sicily.
His intent was to discourage the public from supporting the expedition.

Instead: the masses loved his idea. They loved it so much that his absurd proposition became the actual Athenian force.
Nicias, who wanted to halt the entire operation was elected to be one of the generals commanding the expedition against his will.

Things could still have turned out alright.

But even as the invasion fleet was headed for Sicily, Alcibiades was recalled to Athens for accusations of treason and sacrilege.

They were still arguing over who was in command and sabotaging one another while on the way to battle!

Alcibiades had to go back home to stand trial: he was the guy who had wanted a Sicilian Expedition in the first place!
And Nicias was now commanding an expedition he had actively opposed!!

Knowing he would likely face death and disgrace back at home, Alcibiades escaped and actually defected to the Spartans.

Now not only was the huge Athenian invasion force already a confused mess, Alcibiades was in Sparta giving the Spartans valuable military intelligence and advising them to send their own expedition to counter the Athenians in Sicily.

Even now things might not have been a total disaster but bad decisions continued to combine to create the perfect storm.

Not only did the Athenian invasion force fail: it was wiped out.

And so an enormous amount of wealth and a large portion of the entire male population of Athens had just been flushed down the toilet.

Athens was doomed.

LINK

Also most of what I’ve written here I got from reading Donald Kagan’s Peloponnesian War.

Nicias

alcibiades

Alcibiades

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