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Democracy - utopia or opiate?

"The real safeguard of democracy is education." - Franklin D Roosevelt

After a few hours of following debates between Republican candidates for the US presidency, I couldn't help thinking that "democracy" delivers much less than promised.

The US is touted as having a great democracy. Everything good, either real or imagined, is supposedly due to their principles of democracy.

But seldom do American politicians or members of the public define or clarify what those principles include.

America's founding fathers, who were familiar with the democracies of the classical Greeks, distrusted democracy.

John Adams, second US President, wrote: "Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy.

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

In his book What's Wrong with Democracy, professor of classical studies Loren J Samons provides ample justification for distrusting democracy, a form of government that America's founding fathers scorned precisely because of their familiarity with classical Athens.

Americans have come to embrace "democracy" in its modern form with many of the beliefs we hold dear but seldom question - like the popular idea that majority rule leads to good government.

Samons finds that: "Democracy has begun to function like an unacknowledged religion in our culture, immune from criticism and dissent."

How can it be a democracy when shadowy figures control events?

A classic example of this is the invasion of Iraq, cooked up and conditioned in the media by their secret rulers.

They even admit now that Iraq was a war based on false information, but so brainwashed are they that they are unable to ferret out the designers of the scenario and try them in criminal courts.

How is it a democracy when the public has no say in who will decide the country's fate?

Either George W Bush is responsible and ought to be punished, or others made the decision that should have been his.

If others were responsible for the deaths of 4,801 Americans and over a million and a half Iraqis, they should - in a democracy - be held accountable.

Mindless mobs in Egypt have been crying out for democracy. Not only are they degrading the economy of their country, but they delude themselves into believing that a democracy will cure that too.

Do Egypt's demonstrators believe for a minute that a popular democracy there would free up funds from their army's payroll to provide money for the general populace?

As war correspondent Eric Margolis pointed out: "It's difficult to see Egypt's plutocratic military easily giving up all of its political and economic power to a rowdy civilian parliament, particularly when the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France and Israel are all quietly backing the military regime."

Egypt's Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz noted realistically that: "In Egypt today most people are concerned with getting bread to eat. Only some of the educated understand how democracy works."

Meanwhile, historian Alexander Fraser Tyler suggests any democracy is destined to implode due to its very nature.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government," he argues.

"It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

"From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."

Thus the utopian promise of a perfect society in a democracy turns out to be little more than a dream born of an opiate.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Feb 4, 2012
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