People are reliably selfish, stupid, censorious, authoritarian, and prone to... Watch

Badges: 13
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
...persecutory manias. (An indictment borrowed from Claire Berlinski.)

Do you agree? If so, what do we do about it?

Liberal democracies value liberty and democracy - two ideologies often in tension. Pure democracy is doomed to fail, eventually turning into a direct reflection of our slow-to-evolve human nature of being... 'reliably selfish, stupid, censorious, authoritarian, and prone to persecutory manias'.

Liberal democracies are not perfect but thus far have been the most successful and fruitful forms of government if we are to take a society's well-being to mean lives of relative ease and comfort, peace, liberty, unrivalled healthcare and wealth, as well as scientific and technological successes and environmental care.

What are the safeguards that we need to have in place to ensure that democracy doesn't turn into tyranny?
Last edited by Ascend; 4 weeks ago
Badges: 13
Report 4 weeks ago
That's a very tough and very interesting question. I suppose the most important safeguard is a strong, unambiguous, constitution demarcating a separation of powers between executive, legislature, and judiciary. However, if extreme partisan divides begin to appear (eg Brexit debate in UK, and 'culture wars' in US), then interest groups may attempt to manipulate the constitutional system, or in extreme circumstances circumvent it. The question in this case is who watches the watchers - how do we create a truly independent oversight system to ensure governments abide by the rule of law. The US supreme court for example looks likely to become increasingly partisan, which has the potential to seriously break down the system of checks and balances between the three branches.
Democracy can only ever work where some sort of national consensus exists on the key issues, destabilize that consensus and almost inevitably liberal democracy (a fragile system at the best of times) starts to collapse. We can only live together successfully if we have more common than the sum of our differences. If, as increasingly it seems, that ceases to be the case, the future may well be one in which liberal democracy is seen as a thing of the past, a short-lived anomaly of history.
Power is a uniquely and dangerously corrosive concept, and as Acton once said, "great men are almost always bad men". Inevitably people desire more power, either out of blind greed, or as the result or a misguided belief in their own convictions as the remedy for society's ills, and without fundamentally changing human nature (which is at least in our time impossible), that is unlikely to ever change. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that every time a liberal democracy collapses, the resulting dictatorship, or oligarchy or whatever else, eventually becomes so oppressive that it collapses and is replaced by a new, more tolerant system. There may be some comfort in the fact that while democracy is unstable, so too is tyranny.

A fascinating and thought-provoking question.

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
new posts
to top
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.


Would you turn to a teacher if you were being bullied?

Yes (65)
No (211)

Watched Threads

View All