Outbreaks of Democracy

Blaug, Ricardo
http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5739

Publisher:  Socialist Register
Year Published:  2000  
Pages:  16pp  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX12589

For most of its history, democracy was seen as a degenerate mode of politics, much feared for its reliance on a populace seen as foolish and volatile. Yet since the adoption of representation in the eighteenth century, and the provision of an institutional place for democracy at the level of the state, we have laid to rest those dangerous images of noisy and volatile mobs, constant mass assemblies and endless inefficient talk. With the people being ruled by proxy, and periodically consenting to elite rule in elections, we have found a way to combine legitimacy with decency and viability.

Abstract:  Nowadays, everyone's a democrat. Everyone believes that authority rests on the consent of the governed. Even dictators hold elections, and claim they represent the will of the people. Democracy boasts a moral superiority as well as a unique performance. As the safest, most decent and most effective method of government, it has at last triumphed over its enemies, and now claims to be the only legitimate and viable political form. This has been a remarkable rehabilitation. For most of its history, democracy was seen as a degenerate mode of politics, much feared for its reliance on a populace seen as foolish and volatile. Yet since the adoption of representation in the eighteenth century, and the provision of an institutional place for democracy at the level of the state, we have laid to rest those dangerous images of noisy and volatile mobs, constant mass assemblies and endless inefficient talk. With the people being ruled by proxy, and periodically consenting to elite rule in elections, we have found a way to combine legitimacy with decency and viability. Now, modern representative forms provide enough participatory input to be legitimate, yet not so much as to damage their viability. As such, it's easy to see why the democratic club is one that everyone wants to join.

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