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December 4, 2016 / Congau

Working Democracy

Democracy works. Capitalism works. Absolute monarchy used to work. Chinese communism works. Whatever is, works.

The fact that a system is stable and has lasted for some time proves that it works, but other than that is says nothing about the intrinsic merits of the system.

Yet the stability of Western democracy is often used as a proof of its superiority over any other form of government. (The fact that democracy clearly doesn’t work everywhere is then conveniently disregarded.)

In the Western world today, democracy is probably the best conceivable system simply because it has found a way to respond to a recurring problem of human history: How to accept a government. But other systems have also been able to solve that problem for a while. Absolute monarchy constituted progress compared to its predecessor because it simplified the power structure and limited the danger of rebellion and revolution. It worked, and so it did until it stopped working.

If you want to praise democracy, it doesn’t really amount to much to say that it works. At this particular time and place, democracy (or this specific form of democracy) exists and therefore it may actually be the only thing that could work in these circumstances. If you tried to change the system, it would mean its failure and any other system would not function immediately. So it seems that what you have is the best.

In that case this is all that remains of the glory of democracy: A prosaic and conservative acknowledgment of its functionality.


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