The Weekly Winston: Democracy and Its Discontents

While we carry on with the favorite pastime of pundits—handwringing about “gridlock” in Washington—let’s recur to Churchill’s comments on the defects of democracy in his 1931 essay “Fifty Years Hence,” which fit the Age of Obama quite well:

Democracy as a guide or motive to progress has long been known to be incompetent.  None of the legislative assemblies of the great modern states represents in universal suffrage even a fraction of the strength or wisdom of the community.  Great nations are no longer led by their ablest men, or by those who know most about their immediate affairs, or even by those who have a coherent doctrine.

Democratic governments drift along by the line of least resistance, taking short views, paying their way with sops and doles, and smoothing their path with pleasant-sounding platitudes.  Never was there less continuity or design in their affairs, and yet toward them are coming swiftly changes which will revolutionize for good or ill not only the whole economic structure of the world but the social habits and moral outlook of every family.

Keep in mind also Churchill’s famous axiom that democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others ever tried.


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