Maxims on Modern Democracy

A citizenry proves itself untrustworthy with power, even essentially unworthy of self-government, to the extent that they are collectively sanguine, let alone enthusiastic, about the kind of people they are invariably asked to vote for.

To be successful at the highest levels of democratic politics is to expose oneself as the kind of character who overvalues short-term gain, who is always prepared to bend to the will of the crowd, who conflates popularity with representation, and who has amply, repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice the public interest to the immediate needs of his own ego.

Socrates: The good ruler would be he who sees no personal advantage in ruling, and would therefore never voluntarily seek to rule, but would rather have to be forced to accept power against his will, which is to say in painful contradiction of his own perceived interests.

This is the clearest refutation of the democratic premise, which depends entirely on good men “stepping forward” to pursue power, which the best men would never do. It is thus also the strongest prudential case for limited government. An actual statesman would therefore be a decent though deeply compromised man who, knowing that by virtue of desiring power he is already corrupted in his soul, at least has the honor to stand uncompromisingly against expanding the range of government authority. Where are such statesmen today? Are there any? Or has democracy killed them all?

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