the imaginative conservative logo

democracy worshipersYour people, sir, is…a great beast.

So Alexander Hamilton reputedly said in an argument with Thomas Jefferson. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Hamilton explained:

Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship.

In his column, “Democracy Versus Liberty,” Walter Williams cites Hamilton, James Madison and John Randolph, who wrote of “the follies and turbulence” of democracy, and John Adams:

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

Yet what our fathers feared we embrace. For it may fairly be said of this generation that it worships democracy. Indeed, the fanaticism of this faith in democracy as the path to worldly salvation causes many to hail any and all revolutions against any and all autocrats.

One wonders: How is it that this childlike faith endures?

After all, the French Revolution gave us the Terror and Napoleonic wars. The Russian Revolution gave us Lenin, Stalin and 70 years of totalitarian horrors. Mao’s revolution put 30 million Chinese in early graves.

Cuba’s revolution gave us an end to freedom and 50 years of Fidel’s cult of personality. Iran’s revolution that took down the Shah raised up the Ayatollah.

One would think we would have learned a little skepticism.

Yet no sooner had the crowds in Tunis turned out their autocrat and the throngs taken over Tahrir Square in Cairo than our giddy elites were proclaiming the “Arab Spring” and demanding the United States get on the side of the Arab street against all autocrats.

Yet Hosni Mubarak, though a ruthless ruler, had been our man in Cairo since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, fighting alongside us in the Gulf War, keeping the peace with Israel, allying with us in the war on terror.

But as soon as the tide turned against him, we ditched him and cheered on the crowd in Tahrir Square, a few of whom celebrated the downfall of despotism with a sexual mauling of Lara Logan.

What our democracy worshipers, our “power-to-the-people” lovers of revolution fail to understand is that revolutions unleash all the forces in a society, including the most noxious. Indeed, especially them.

To understand what revolutions and popular democracy are likely to produce, we need to understand the fires in the minds of the men who create or capture those revolutions.

And neither Africa nor Arabia offers much in the way of hope.

The overthrow of Ian Smith’s government in Rhodesia brought to power Robert Mugabe and his Mashona, who proceeded to massacre the Matabele of rival Joshua Nkomo, rob the whites of their property, drive them out of their country and create the hellhole that is Zimbabwe.

Yet such is the power of democracy worship, this secular religion, to blind people to the evidence of their own eyes that virtually every Western leader favored one-man, one-vote democracy in Rhodesia.

As we see in Julius Malema, that admirer of Mugabe and 30-year-old firebrand of Mandela’s ANC, just convicted of a hate crime for his singing of the anti-apartheid ditty “Shoot the Boer!” who wants to expropriate South Africa’s mines and confiscate white farms, racism and tribalism are alive and well in liberated Southern Africa. And democracy is their enabler.

To know what the Arab Spring is likely to produce, one needs to look not only at the Kerenskys who lead the Facebook-Twitter revolutions, but the Lenins and Trotskys who stand silently behind them.

The Arabs of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain want new leaders to reflect the popular will. And what is that will?

In the most recent elections, an Islamic party took power in Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood advanced dramatically in Egypt. Hezbollah and Hamas were vaulted to power in Lebanon and Gaza.

Democratists who demand we distance ourselves from the kings of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain, who do they think will replace these monarchs?

Do they care, or is democracy the right way, results be damned?

In liberated Libya, reprisals are being perpetrated against the black Africans Moammar Gadhafi brought into the country, and the Islamists are surfacing.

In liberated Iraq, it is Muslim vs. Christian, Sunni vs. Shia, Arab vs. Kurd. In Sudan, it was Arab Muslim against African animist and Christian that tore the country in two. In Ethiopia, it was the ethnic Eritreans who seceded to establish a country of their own.

Looking at Africa and the Middle East, men seem willing to march for a better life and to demonstrate for democracy. But when it comes to fighting and dying, the calls of race, religion and tribe alone seem capable of compelling the ultimate sacrifice.

Before we endorse the right of all peoples to have what they want, perhaps we should know what they want. For in the Mideast, it appears that most would like to throw us out and throw our Israeli friends into the sea.

Books related to the topic of this article may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Originally published September, 2011. Appears here by the gracious permission of the author. Copyright 2012,

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
1 reply to this post
  1. There is no doubt that democracy rarely lasts long, especially when the nation it develops in is so short of resources as industrialised Europe is. Yet it is resource scarcity and competition that grew the constant demand for radical direct democracy in Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand. People want to be given what they do not have out of envy of others and this has gradually demolished the original resistance of those nations’ ruling classes to bigger and bigger government. Philosophers, even today, seldom spend much time on what the demand for direct democracy

    The size of government in nations of those landmasses is very troublesome for their future economies because of potentially vast old-age dependency ratios and likely great difficulty in attracting migrants amidst great competition. A myth is that people grow more conservative with age: in fact the elderly can often be far more politically radical than middle-aged people and a big obstacle to downsizing government in Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand.

    The truth, too, is that democracy in Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand, which once in its more moderate forms may have allowed ideological freedom beyond that of the old monarchies, is now trying to limit it and prevent alternative viewpoints to the radical Epicureanism of the Baby Boomers, who want to completely remove vestiges of the old pre-industrial Christian society and enforce a culture with as rigid standards that offer no room for hospitality to other people and often lack understanding of the problems they claim to be solving.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: