/ A fascinating history of democracy

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john arran - on 11 Oct 2018

A very interesting historical review of the concept and various implementations of democracy. We tend to take it for granted that the term has always referred to largely the same thing.

One of many passages that stood out as being notably relevant to modern times:

[In a 1922 study, Walter] Lippmannn used for his epigraph Plato’s famous image of the inhabitants of a cave bewitched by shadows and unaware of the real world outside. The majority of modern men, Lippmann argues, are prisoners of shadowy and unexamined assumptions, immersed in private lives involving the pursuit of personal interests, with limited time and even less attention to give to public affairs.

Lippmann’s conclusion is most bluntly stated in The Phantom Public: “The individual man does not have opinions on all public affairs. He does not know how to direct public affairs. He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen. I cannot imagine how he could know, and there is not the least reason for thinking, as mystical democrats have thought, that the compounding of individual ignorances in masses of people can produce a continuous directing force in public affairs.”

Tringa on 11 Oct 2018
In reply to john arran:

I haven't read all the article yet, but it looks interesting.

I think we had an example of Lippmann's quote in action on 23rd June 2016.


Rog Wilko on 11 Oct 2018
In reply to john arran:

I also haven't read the article yet. But I suspect it will all come down to, in the end, is the big imponderable of democracy i.e. what can be done when, in their infinite wisdom, the people vote for dangerous charlatans as in November 2016, or evil populists like Adolf Hitler.

daWalt on 11 Oct 2018
In reply to john arran:

love The Long Reads from the Gruinard. need to finish this one later. (too long would you believe)

I never like the comparisons to democracies of old. the system of government and separation of executive, legislature and judiciary would surely be too different to make any meaningful comparison. (but that's another thing).

we are all too unaware, and not least modern technology is too complex and diverse, to allow everyone to have a say in everything. if we hade a plebiscite on weather or not to allow, let's say, genetically modified wotsits for human consumption, yey or ney. From me: f*ck knows, couldn't make a decision and wouldn't have to time to learn about the subject.  

if our current situation tells us anything it's that government's priority should be to look after the interests their citizens. and if they don't some shyster will come along who will promise to look after them and make things great again. something of this like will happen here in the uk before too long......

Post edited at 19:24
Pekkie - on 11 Oct 2018
In reply to john arran:

Interesting article. Somewhat gloomy prognosis for democracy - but remember Churchill's comment that 'democracy is the worst possible political system, apart from every other system that has been tried from time to time.' Also I believe the article finished with the comment that 'it is better to live free in a dangerous democracy than live in peace as a slave in a tyranny'.

Post edited at 19:35

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