Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Liberty, More to be Preferred than Democracy

Fran Porretto at Eternity road makes a very appropriate distinction between "democracy" and a constitutional republic. The early democracies decided ALL issues by votes in the "ΑΓΟΡΑ" (agora). Generals in wartime were elected and occasionally even executed at the pleasure of the mob. Democracy was not suitable and indeed did not survive with the development of larger political entities hence the emergence of Republics, Empires and the larger kingdoms.
Read the whole thing.

The early Greek city-state democracies were true democracies. Popular sentiment was sufficient to make laws on any subject whatsoever, without limits. The form proved unsustainable, and survives nowhere in our time.

The United States, though often called a “democracy,” is actually a constitutional federal republic, some of whose corrective mechanisms—regular elections—have a democratic flavor. The mere existence of our Constitution, particularly its many guarantees of individual rights and denials of power to various levels of government, saves our government from being a democracy. All Western countries currently called “democracies” have constraints of this sort, though in several cases they’re not formally written out.

But even in the modern meaning of the term, where the popular will is well hedged about by constitutional and traditional constraints on the exercise of power, there are legitimate questions about whether democracy conduces toward the improvement of a polity. Certainly such questions are entertained regularly in the United States; when the subject is the Islamic Middle East, or the effect of Islamic penetration of Western nations, they should receive even sharper attention.

The most prominent current case study is, of course, Iraq. Despite its recently approved constitution and the governmental structure it has adopted, that nation is in fearful danger of being ripped asunder by sectionalism and sectarian strife.

The debate as to persevere in the establishment of consensual government in the middle east is a legitimate one and will rage on for the time being. The serious situation in Europe is another issue again.


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