The Challenges Facing Haiti’s Democratization Efforts

CRITICISM OF DEMOCRACY

Democracy and its functions have always been subject to criticism. Josiah Ober states, “the legitimate role of democratic critics is difficult to define.” Still, one approach is to categorize critics as “good internal” critics (those who call on the constitutional regime to be true to its highest principles) and “bad external” critics (those who call on the constitutional authority to be true to its lowest principles) (those who reject the values embraced and nurtured by constitutional Democracy).

Democracy has been associated with “rule by the people,” “rule by the majority,” and free selection or election, either through direct participation or elected representation, since classical antiquity and throughout the modern era. Political philosophers have approached critiques of democratic political systems from various angles. It is not always necessary to oppose Democracy by its most basic definition “rule of the people” but rather to question or expand on this popular definition. They distinguish in their work between democratic principles effectively implemented through undemocratic procedures and undemocratic regulations effectively implemented through democratic processes and variations of the same kind. For example, some Democratic critics would agree with Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “Nobody claims that Democracy is perfect or all- powerful. Indeed, it has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government besides all the others that have been tried.” Other critics may be more willing to describe existing democratic regimes as anything other than “people’s rule.”

Jürgen Habermas, Robert A. Dahl, Robert E. Goodin, Bernard Manin, Joseph Schumpeter, James S. Fishkin, Ian Shapiro, Jason Brennan, Hélène Landemore, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe are among the leading contemporary thinkers in critical democratic theory.

Critics of Democracy have frequently attempted to highlight its inconsistencies, paradoxes, and limitations by contrasting it with other forms of government, such as aristocracy, plural voting, or plutocracy. They have identified fascist moments in modern democracies; they have labeled the societies produced by modern democracies as neo- feudal; and others have contrasted Democracy with fascism, anarcho-capitalism, theocracy, and absolute monarchy. 

Plato and the Federalist Papers authors, interested in establishing a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy in the early United States, were among the most well-known critics of Democracy. 

The authors of the Federalist papers explained why the Constitution was based on a particular kind of Democracy known as an American republic or liberal Democracy.

Additional historical figures associated with the critique of Democracy include Aristotle, Plato, Montesquieu, James Harrington, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Martin Heidegger, Hubert Lagardelle, Charles Maurras, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Schmitt, Oswald Spengler, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Nicolás Gómez Dávila, and Elazar Menachem Shach. Some critiques, such as those of Plato and Aristotle, who some scholars believe laid the groundwork for modern constitutional Democracy, have improved Democracy.

HISTORY OF CRITICISM

  1. Classical antiquity

Although the practices of modern Democracy bear only a passing resemblance to the political institutions of classical Greece…Greek democratic ideas have been more influential…[and] what we know of their ideas comes less from the writings and speeches of democratic advocates, of which only fragments survive, and more from their critics.

Aristotle was a moderate critic who “disliked the power that he thought democracy’s expansion necessarily gave to the poor.” Plato was a Democratic opponent who advocated for “government by the best qualified.” Some of these criticisms found their way into modern liberal Democracy. For example, as a young man, James Madison was rigorously trained in ancient learning, and the ideas of ancient authors explain a “facet of Madison’s

recorded attitude on the nature of man.” 

Madison spent months leading up to the Constitutional Convention “studying many centuries of political philosophy and histories of past attempts at republican forms of government,” demonstrating the influence of ancient critiques of Democracy.

According to Dahl, Aristotle and Plato would agree with most supporters of modern Democracy that society’s goal is “to produce good citizens” and that “virtue, justice, and happiness are companions…[in] developing citizens who seek the common good.”

Thucydides, the famous Peloponnesian War historian, witnessed the fall of Athenian Democracy and used scientific history to criticize the democratic government. 

His commentary focused on how Democracy failed “in the pursuit of truth” and how leaders and citizens attempted to “impose their speech-dependent meanings on reality.” Thucydides blamed “public orators” and demagogues for a lack of epistemic knowledge, which led most Athenians to “believe silly things about their past and the institutions of their opponents.” Confucius significantly impacted East Asian societies over time, and political leaders in Singapore and China Today frequently claim that Confucianism provides a more “coherent ideological basis for a well-ordered Asian society than Western notions of individual liberty.” 

Nonetheless, East Asian countries use Western-developed political systems such as Democracy and Communism.

The concept of a “well-ordered Asian” society is more compatible with Communism, which China and Vietnam use, both rapidly growing and globalized economies in the twenty-first century, but also by North Korea, which follows isolationism, which impedes the improvement of average citizens’ lives.

  1. Post-classical epoch

From 500 to 1500 AD, philosophers and political leaders worldwide advocated for traditional systems of governing society that was opposed to Democracy.

Thomas Aquinas, an Italian philosopher and theologian advocated for “a mixed government combining elements of Democracy, aristocracy, and kingship is reminiscent of Aristotle’s preference for the mixed government over either Democracy or oligarchy.”

Scholars also consider “the substantial medieval literature in support of the Inquisitions” as opposed to modern democratic ideas.

Democracy existed in a few places, “The medieval Italian city-states were eventually submerged under the imperial or oligarchic rule. The concept of “representation was not invented by democrats, but evolved as a medieval institution of monarchical and aristocratic government” and had its origins in the Middle Ages “Assembly called by a monarch or, in some cases, by the nobles themselves to discuss important matters of state. 

In medieval Europe, the “state of military technology and organization” was “highly unfavorable in its effects” on Democracy.

Plato, Muslim thought, and halakhic concepts influenced medieval Jewish political philosophy, which was a monarchist and inherently anti-democratic. “It is not difficult, of course, to find authoritarian writings within the Asian traditions,” Amartya Sen wrote of traditional Asian societies. But they are not difficult to find in Western classics: one only needs to read Plato or Aquinas to see that devotion to discipline is not a uniquely Asian trait.

Islam has been an essential pillar of society for much of the world since the post-classical period, and some critics have defended this tradition against “Enlightenment secular assumptions” and “uncritical universalism,” which “erodes historical continuity and the sense of community that sustains traditional societies.” People of faith are challenging the idea of “secularism as the only ‘rational’ way to deal with life’s challenges” in many societies Today.

  1. Early modern era

One of the first Enlightenment philosophers, Thomas Hobbes, published Leviathan in 1651 to defend “absolute sovereignty” and supported the royalists in the English Civil War. Hobbes was an outspoken opponent of Democracy, arguing that “the sovereign in a democracy (i.e., the people) can only exercise its power when it is assembled… Only in a monarchy is the power to govern always used. Hobbes also believed that Democracy would result in instability, conflict, glory-seeking, mistrust, and the undermining of the social contract. Later Enlightenment thinkers, such as Madison, who shared Hobbesian concerns about human nature’s “strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses,” would use some of these critiques to improve modern Democracy.

  1. The Romantic period

Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, James Fitzjames Stephen, Henry Maine, and William Lecky were among the Romantic critics of Democracy. Benjamin Evans Lippincott stated in his study that “they opposed democracy fundamentally for the same reason as Plato—that democracy led to disorder.” Their contribution was to criticize Democracy in modern industrial society under capitalism. 

They believed that, unlike Plato, Democracy produced anarchy in the community rather than just anarchy within individuals.

Lippincott proposed their three leading doctrines: “the common man’s inferiority, the title of the few to rule, and authority.” Puritanism, middle-class images of power, and the classical education they received as children were the primary sources of these ideas. Plato’s Republic “most perfectly represented” the three doctrines. Simultaneously, classical history appeared to provide examples of “the common man’s inferiority,” such as in the cases of Athens and Rome, “which showed the populace turning to disorder.” The three doctrines were developed by writers such as John Calvin, Edmund Burke, and David Hume during the Reformation and Enlightenment.

CRITICISM OF PURPOSE

  1. Benefits of a specialized society

Plato thought it was reckless to allow ordinary men to vote because an expert’s vote is equal to an incompetent’s voice. One such argument is that Democracy may jeopardize the benefits of a technological society. 

Ordinary citizens are encouraged to participate in the political life of their country, and they have the power to directly influence the outcome of government policies through democratic procedures such as voting, campaigning, and the use of the press. 

As a result, non-specialist opinions may significantly influence government policies, compromising their effectiveness, especially if an approach is technically sophisticated and the general public needs to be better informed. 

There is no guarantee, for example, that those who campaign on the government’s economic policies are professional economists or academically competent in this particular discipline, regardless of their level of education. 

A democratic government may not provide the best for the most significant number of people. 

However, some argue that this should not be the goal of democracies because it could lead to severe mistreatment of minorities.

  1. The aristocratic rule
  • Manin

The fundamental difference between ancient democracies and modern republics lies, according to Madison, in “the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity from any share in the latter, and not in the complete exclusion of the representatives of the people from the administration of the former.

Bernard Manin is fascinated by the distinction between modern representative republics like the United States and ancient direct democracies like Athens. Manin believes that while both aspire to “people’s rule,” the nature of modern representative republics leads to “aristocratic rule.” Manin explains that in ancient democracies, nearly every Citizen had the opportunity to be elected to the

government. Even so, only elites can be selected in modern republics. He does not defend the phenomenon but instead attempts to describe it.

Manin draws on the works of James Harrington, Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to argue that the dominant form of government, representative rather than direct, is effectively aristocratic. He proposes that modern representative governments exercise political power through aristocratic elections, which calls Democracy’s “rule of the people” principle into question. Elections, according to Montesquieu, favor the “best” citizens, who, as Manin points out, tend to be wealthy and upper-class. Elections, according to Rousseau, favor incumbent government officials or citizens with the strongest personalities, resulting in hereditary aristocracy. Manin further demonstrates the aristocratic nature of representative governments by contrasting them with the ancient style of lot selection. 

Manin points out that Montesquieu believed that lotteries prevent jealousy and equalize office distribution (among citizens from different ranks). Lotteries, on the other hand, Rousseau believed, choose indifferently, preventing self-interest and partiality from polluting the Citizen’s choice (and thus preventing hereditary aristocracy).

Manin, on the other hand, criticizes direct Democracy and lotteries. Manin considers Montesquieu’s inquiry into the degree to which Athenian direct Democracy was straightforward. Montesquieu discovers that citizens who fear being accused of being “unworthy of selection” withhold their names from the lottery, making a lottery selection vulnerable to self-selection bias and, thus, aristocracy. Manin does not dwell on the potentially noble elements of direct Democracy, perhaps because he shares Montesquieu’s belief that nothing is alarming about the exclusion of citizens who may be incompetent; this exclusion may be inevitable in any method of selection.

Manin is also interested in explaining the disparity between the declaration of “equality of all citizens” by 18th-century American and French revolutionaries and the implementation of (aristocratic) elections in their respective democratic experiments. Manin proposes that the disparity can be explained by the revolutionaries’ current preoccupation with one type of equality over another. The revolutionaries prioritized gaining the equal right to consent to their preferred government (even if that government was potentially aristocratic) over achieving the equal right to be the face of that Democracy. And elections, a small number of them, give citizens more opportunities to consent. Citizens agree to the election procedure and the results of the polls during elections (even if they produce the election of elites). Citizens consent only to the process of lots in lotteries, not to the product of the lots (even if they have the election of the average person). Suppose the revolutionaries chose elections over lotteries because they valued consent to be governed more than equal opportunity to serve as governor. In that case, their choice of elections over lotteries makes sense.

  • Michels

German-Italian political scientist Robert Michels, who developed the mainstream political science theory of the iron law of oligarchy in 1911, launched a major scholarly attack based on Democracy. According to Michels, oligarchy is unavoidable as an “iron law” within any organization due to “tactical and technical necessities.” Michels stated on the subject of Democracy: 

“It is the organization that gives rise to the power of the elected over the electors, the mandataries over the mandators, and the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy” and went on to state, “Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy.” Michels stated that the official goal of Democracy, which is to eliminate the elite rule, is impossible and that Democracy is a sham that legitimizes the authority of a specific elite. 

That elite rule, which he calls oligarchy, is unavoidable. Michels was a former Marxist who became drawn to the syndicalism of Sorel, Eduoard Berth, Arturo Labriola, and Enrico Leone and vehemently opposed Social Democracy’s parliamentarian, legalistic, and bureaucratic socialism in favor of an activist, voluntarist, anti- parliamentarian socialism. Michels would later become a fascist supporter after Mussolini’s rise to power in 1922, sympathetic to fascism’s goal of destroying liberal Democracy.

  • Maurras

In a famous dictum, Charles Maurras, an FRS member of the Action française movement, stated, “Democracy is evil, democracy is death.” Maurras’ concept of politique naturelle declared recognition of inescapable biological inequality and, thus, natural hierarchies, and claimed that the individual is naturally subordinated to social collectivities such as the family, society, and state, which he claims are doomed to failure if founded on the “myth of equality” or “abstract liberty.”

Maurras criticized Democracy as a “government by numbers” that prioritizes quantity over quality and prefers the worst over the best. Maurras criticized the liberalism principles described in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract and in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as being based on the false assumption of liberty and the false premise of equality. He claimed that the parliamentary system subordinates the national interest, or common good, to the private interests of Parliament’s representatives, where only individuals’ short- term interests prevail.

  • Brennan

Contemporary American philosopher Jason Brennan has leveled critics of democratic governments. Brennan’s main argument against democracies is voter illiteracy and irrationality. According to Brennan, “the democratic system incentivizes them to be ignorant (or, more precisely, fails to incentivize them to be informed).” Throughout Brennan’s book, Against Democracy, he discusses the

various problems associated with voter incompetence and proposes an alternative government system known as an aristocracy.

  • Lagardelle

Hubert Lagardelle, a French revolutionary syndicalist, claimed that French revolutionary syndicalism arose due to “the proletariat’s reaction against erotic democracy,” which he defined as “the popular form of bourgeois dominance.” Lagardelle opposed Democracy because of its universalism and believed that class separation of the proletariat and bourgeoisie was necessary because Democracy did not recognize the social differences between them.

Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach, an Israeli politician, promoted Judaic law as the natural governance for Jews and condemned “Democracy as a machinery of lies, false notions, the pursuit of narrow interests, and deceit – as opposed to the Torah regime, which is based on seeking the ultimate truth.” Shach criticized Democracy for having no real goals, saying, “The whole point of Democracy is money. The one does what the other wants him to do in pursuit of his interest, to be given what he wants, and the whole point of the transaction is that each gets what they want.”

PROCESS CRITICISM

  • Instability In Politics

Democracy has recently been chastised for failing to provide adequate political stability. Because governments are frequently elected on and off, democratic countries’ domestic and international policies often change. Even if a political party retains power, vociferous, headline-grabbing protests, and harsh media criticism are frequently enough to force abrupt, unexpected political change. Frequent policy changes affecting business and immigration will likely discourage investment and impede economic growth. As a result, many people argue that

Democracy is unsuitable for a developing country whose top priorities are economic growth and poverty reduction. However, Anthony Downs argued that the political market functions similarly to the financial market and that the democratic process may result in a systemic equilibrium. However, he eventually argued that politicians’ and voters’ imperfect knowledge prevented them from reaching that equilibrium.

  • Short-termism

Democracy is also chastised for holding frequent elections as a result of the instability of coalition governments. Coalitions are frequently formed after elections in many countries (for example, India), and the alliance’s primary goal is to enable a viable majority rather than ideological agreement.

This opportunistic alliance not only suffers from the disadvantage of having to cater to too many ideologically opposing factions, but it is usually short-lived because any perceived or actual imbalance in the treatment of coalition partners or changes in coalition partner leadership can very quickly result in the coalition partner withdrawing its support from the government. To resolve an issue, democratic institutions seek consensus, which usually takes longer than a unilateral decision.

Democracy, according to M. S. Golwalkar in his book Bunch of Thoughts, “is to a considerable extent only a myth in practice. The lofty concept of ‘individual freedom’ merely referred to the ability of a select few to exploit the rest.

  • Corruption

The government’s inability to deal effectively with corruption is causing a global democratic crisis. While countries with high levels of Democracy tend to have low levels of various forms of crime, it is also clear that countries with moderate levels of Democracy have high corruption, as do countries with no democracy. 

Different types of democratic policies reduce corrosion, but only high levels of and a variety of democratic institutions, such as open and free elections combined with judicial and legislative constraints, effectively minimize corruption. The electoral process is an essential internal component of Democracy that can be easily corrupted. For example, in a democracy, free and fair elections are not a given. Bribery, the threat or use of violence, treatment, and impersonation are common ways for the electoral process to be corrupted, indicating that Democracy is not impenetrable to external problems and can be criticized for allowing it to occur.

  • Ignorance Among Voters

Jason Brennan believes voter illiteracy is a significant issue in America and the main reason people oppose democracies. Brennan states that “less than 30% of Americans can name two or more of the rights listed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights”. Naturally, this causes a problem because an ignorant vote has the same weight as an informed vote. According to Brennan, to be an informed voter, one must be well-versed in the candidate’s current and previous political beliefs/tendencies. Furthermore, Brennan would argue that to be a truly informed voter, and one must be educated in subjects other than politics, such as history and economics. Brennan holds voters to a high standard; understandably, most Americans must meet these expectations.

While most Americans fall short of these expectations, voter ignorance is not due to a lack of intelligence. Instead, voters need to be more rationally literate and rationally irrational. To begin with, rational ignorance implies that voters are logical and reasonable in remaining uninformed about politics. This is because, by Brennan’s standards, becoming an informed voter would be prohibitively expensive for the individual. It would take an enormous time to become well- informed and stay current on current political events. After performing a cost- benefit analysis, most people would conclude that becoming informed is not worth their time. Other options would be more worthwhile for the individual’s time and effort. 

As a result, people are thought to be rational for choosing not to be informed. Second, rational irrationality refers to the fact that cognitive biases resulting from irrational beliefs are logical. The cost-benefit analysis for correcting cognitive biases is not in favor of the informed voter, similar to why it is rational for voters to be ignorant. “Just as it is instrumentally rational for most people to remain ignorant about politics, it is instrumentally rational for most of them to indulge their biases,” Brennan claims.

The costs outweigh the benefits because finding neutral/fair information and correcting biases would require excessive effort. In both cases, voters remain irrational and ignorant because the benefits outweigh the costs of becoming an impartial, informed voter. A knowledgeable vote has no effect. A single voice is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 

The chances of one’s vote being the deciding factor in the election are slim; thus, why would one take the time to educate themselves for such a small reward? One could spend much time becoming informed and rational only to get the same result.

  • Possibility of incompatibility with previous politics

The establishment of democratic institutions in countries where the associated practices are still uncommon or culturally unacceptable can result in institutions that are not long-term sustainable. 

One circumstance that may support this outcome is when the general public believes that the institutions were established directly due to foreign pressure.

Sustained regular inspection by democratic countries, no matter how diligent and well-intentioned is usually insufficient to prevent the erosion of democratic practices. Corruption persists in several African countries despite democratically elected governments, as one of the most extreme examples, Zimbabwe, is widely perceived to have backfired into outright militarism.

  • The system’s effectiveness

Economists such as Meltzer and Richard have added that as industrial activity grows in a democracy, so make people’s demands for government subsidies and assistance. According to the median voter theorem, only a few people hold the balance of power in the country, and many may be dissatisfied with their decisions. Democracies, they argue, are inefficient in this way.

A system like this could lead to wealth disparities or racial discrimination. According to Fierlbeck (1998), such a result is not necessarily the result of a flaw in the democratic process but rather “because democracy is responsive to the desires of a large middle class increasingly willing to disregard the muffled voices of economically marginalized groups within its borders.” The democratic majority’s will is not always in the best interests of all citizens.

  • Inadequate political education

Voters may lack the necessary education to exercise their democratic rights responsibly. Politicians may exploit voters’ irrationality and compete in public relations and tactics rather than ideology. While advocates of Democracy frequently interpret arguments against Democracy as an attempt to preserve or restore traditional hierarchies and autocratic rule, many extensions have been made to develop the argument further. Lipset discovered that almost all emerging democracies provided a good education in his 1959 essay on the requirements for forming Democracy. However, education alone cannot sustain a democracy, even though Caplan observed in 2005 that as people become more educated, they begin to think more like economists. To support this point, it is frequently stated that German dictator Adolf Hitler rose to power through democratic means.

  • Public opinion manipulation or control

Politicians and special interests have attempted to manipulate public opinion for as long as recorded history, calling democratic government into question. Critics argue that the media shape’s public opinion and can thus be used to “control” Democracy. Pre-election polls have received particular scrutiny. Furthermore, the disclosure of reputation-damaging material near the time of an election could be used to sway public opinion significantly. 

In the United States, the FBI was chastised for announcing just 11 days before the election that it would investigate potentially incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. It has been claimed that misinformation, such as fake news, has become central to global elections. 

The United States intelligence agencies concluded in December 2016 that Russia worked “to undermine public faith in the United States’ democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” including passing material against Democrats to Wikileaks to discredit the election and favor Donald Trump. Social bots and other forms of online propaganda, as well as search engine result algorithms, could all be used to influence voter perception and opinion. 

Andrés Sepulveda revealed in 2016 that he manipulated public opinion to rig Latin American elections. He led a team of hackers who stole campaign strategies, used social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices to help Enrique Pea Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, win the election, according to him. This demonstrates how easily voters can be manipulated, which is a significant criticism of Democracy.

  • Manipulation of the opposing party

There are numerous reasons for eliminating or suppressing political opponents. Methods such as false flags, counterterrorism laws, planting or creating compromising material, and instilling public fear may be used to suppress dissent. 

During the 2016 Turkish purges following a failed coup, over 110,000 people were purged, and nearly 40,000 were imprisoned in Turkey, which is or was considered a democratic nation.

To undermine the opposition, affected parties, phantom political rivals, and “scarecrow” opponents may be used.

  • The Paradox of Information Overload

Too much information, as is standard in Today’s digital age, where people are bombarded with information via newspapers, a daily television, social media, and various other channels, is called information overload. This creates a situation in democracies where people are either too tired or incompetent or unwilling to process all this information intelligently for various reasons.

  • Inadequate responsiveness and representation

Democracies, according to Robert A. Dahl, are government systems that respond nearly fully to every one of their citizens. He then claims that such a fully responsive design only exists Today. This is not to say that partially democratic regimes do not exist; they do. 

Thus, Dahl rejects the dichotomy of Democracy in favor of a democratization spectrum. The question, according to Dahl, is not whether a country is a democracy or not. 

The question is how far a country has progressed toward national democratization. Dahl measures democratization by the country’s acceptance and reception of public debate. 

And polyarchy, or “rule of the many,” is the only existing form of democratic government; that is, democratization can flourish only within polyarchies. Countries do not transform overnight from hegemonies and competitive oligarchies to democracies. Instead, a country that adopts Democracy as its form of government can only claim to have switched to polyarchy, which is conducive to democratization but does not guarantee it. 

Dahl’s polyarchy spectrum concludes when a country achieves full polyarchy at the national level and begins democratizing at the subnational level regarding social and private affairs. 

Dahl is unconcerned about the boundaries of his polyarchy spectrum because he believes that most countries Today have a long way to go before attaining full polyarchy status. According to Dahl, whatever lies beyond full polyarchy is only a possibility, and thus a concern, for advanced countries like Western Europe.

  • Over-reliance on procedural formalities

The Chinese Communist Party’s political concept of the whole process of people’s Democracy criticizes liberal Democracy for relying too heavily on procedural formalities rather than genuinely reflecting the people’s interests. The most important criterion for a democracy, according to this primarily consequentialist view, is whether it can “solve the people’s real problems.” In contrast, a system in which “the people are awakened only for voting” is not genuinely democratic. The Chinese government, for example, criticizes liberal Democracy’s shortcomings in its 2021 white paper China: Democracy that Works, which is based on the principles of the whole process of people’s Democracy.

  • Outcome Mob rule is being criticized.

Through Socrates’ narration, Plato’s Republic presents a critical view of Democracy: “foolish leaders of Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike.” Plato ranks the five forms of government from best to worst in his work. Assuming that Plato’s Republic was intended to be a severe critique of Athens’ political thought, he claims that only Kallipolis, an aristocracy led by unwilling philosopher-kings (the wisest men), is a just form of government.

Plato rejected Athenian Democracy because such democracies were anarchic societies with no internal unity. They pursued citizens’ impulses rather than the common good, that democracies are incapable of allowing a sufficient number of their citizens to have their voices heard, and that fools typically ran such democracies. Plato chastised Athenian democracies for confusing anarchy with freedom. Plato concluded that due to the lack of coherent unity in Athenian Democracy, such democracies were merely a collection of individuals occupying a shared space rather than a form of political organization. Other forms of government, according to Plato, place too much emphasis on lesser virtues and degenerate into other forms from best to worst, beginning with timocracy, which overvalues honor, then oligarchy, which overvalues wealth, and finally, Democracy. 

In a democracy, the oligarchs, or merchants, cannot effectively wield their power, and the people take over, electing someone who reflects their desires (for example, by throwing lavish festivals). However, when the government gives the people too much freedom, the state devolves into the fourth form, tyranny, or mob rule.

According to John T. Wenders, an economics professor at the University of Idaho, if we base our critique on the definition of Democracy as governance based on the majority’s will, there can be some predictable consequences to this rule. Fierlbeck (1998: 12) points out that a country’s middle-class majority may decide to redistribute wealth and resources to those they believe are most capable of investing or increasing them. Of course, this is only a critique of a subset of democratic systems that rely on majority rule.

Democracies have always been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths,” wrote US President James Madison in Federalist No. 10. Madison offered that republics were superior to democracies because republics safeguarded against the tyranny of the majority, stating in Federalist No. 10: “the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic.

Willamette University professor Richard Ellis and Rhodes College professor Michael Nelson argue that much constitutional thought, from Madison to Lincoln and beyond, has focused on “the problem of majority tyranny.” “The principles of republican government embedded in the Constitution represent an effort by the framers to ensure that the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were not trampled by majorities,” they conclude. “An elective despotism is not the government we fought for,” warned Thomas Jefferson. A constitution would limit the powers that a simple majority could wield.

  • Cyclical government theory

According to Machiavelli, democracies will tend to cater to the whims of the people, who will follow false ideas to entertain themselves, squander their reserves, and fail to deal with potential threats to their rule until it is too late.

However, Machiavelli’s definition of Democracy was more limited than Today’s. He proposed a hybrid system of government that incorporated elements of all three major types (monarchy, aristocracy, and Democracy) to break the cycle. Many modern democracies with separation of powers are claimed to be examples of hybrid governments. However, because of the weakening of the separation of powers or the erosion of the original function of the various branches, there is usually no direct correlation with Machiavelli’s idea in modern democracies. For example, since senators are now democratically elected, the current United States executive branch has gradually accumulated more power from the legislative branch, and the Senate no longer functions as a quasi-aristocratic body as was originally intended.

  • The Coase theorem in politics

Some have attempted to argue that the Coase theorem also applies to political markets. Daron Acemoglu, on the other hand, provides evidence to the contrary, claiming that the Coase Theorem is only valid while there are “rules of the game” that the government enforces. However, there is no way to guarantee that low transaction costs will result in an efficient outcome in democracies when there is no one to enforce the rules for the government itself.

  • Logical Coherence Criticism

For centuries, scholars have studied voting inconsistencies, also known as voting paradoxes. These investigations resulted in Arrow’s impossibility theorem, which suggests that Democracy is logically incoherent. This is based on the fact that specific criteria for democratic decision-making are inherently contradictory. Charles Plott metaphorically described the situation:

The discussion began with what appeared to be a minor issue with majority rule. “It’s just a mathematical curiosity,” some people said… But, intrigued and curious about this small hole, researchers, undaunted by the potentially irrelevant, began digging in the nearby ground… They have discovered a massive cavern into which almost all of our ideas about social actions have fallen. Internal inconsistency threatens nearly everything we say and anyone has ever said about what society wants or should get. It’s as if people have been talking for years about something that cannot exist “in principle,” Now, a significant effort is required to see what remains from the conversations.

  • Democratic Alternatives

The author of Against Democracy, Jason Brennan, criticizes the democratic system and proposes an alternative form of government known as an aristocracy. Instead of allowing everyone to vote, an aristocratic system would only allow those competent to vote. Only citizens with elite political understanding would be able to influence government. Brennan’s entire case for preferring an aristocracy over a democracy revolves around the issue of voter illiteracy. Brennan believes voter illiteracy is a significant problem in America and the main reason people oppose democracies in general.

  • Islam’s Religious Criticism

As practiced by Salafism, Orthodox Islam can clash with a democratic system. Fundamentalists interpret Islam’s core precept of “Tawheed” (the “oneness of God”) to mean, among other things, that Democracy as a political system is incompatible with the purported notion that laws not handed down by God should not be recognized.

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