Tags: Democracy

On Democracy

Thursday, 20 April 2006 12:00 AM

When I was fashionable (since the Cold War was not yet completely over in the 1970s) and I spoke at major universities all over the West, I was asked why on earth I call the United States a democracy, while it is a constitutional republic. The questioners were right. Even today, some 30 years later, all reference books define the United States as a constitutional republic, England as a constitutional monarchy, etc.

The word "democracy" is not an official term. It began to be unofficially applied in the 19th century to the United States because the latter had universal suffrage; that is, all adults (except those registered mentally ill by psychiatrists) had the right to elect top officials in government and legislature and be elected as such. When de Tocqueville entitled his study of 1835-1940 "Democracy in America," that created a sensation in Europe. Did even women in America have the right to vote? Oh, my! Those Americans are crazy! Who doesn't know that women are mentally inferior to men? In England, women had no right to vote. But John Stuart Mill, the great English political thinker who published "On Liberty" in 1859, declared that his wife was more intelligent than he was! Why should she be deprived of the right to vote?

In the 20th century, English women received the right to vote, and Winston Churchill (who was half English and half American) applied the word "democracy" to both the United States and England. In the early 19th century, to assume that every psychiatrically sane person must have the right to "elect and be elected" was in England as absurd as to assume that every sane person can decide whether a certain man or a woman is the world's greatest opera singer, or that every sane person can even be such an opera singer if he or she garners more votes in a general election than any other aspirant to the ability.

Surely everyone can sing. Hence every man can be a Placido Domingo, and every woman a Joan Sutherland if elected as such by a majority of the American people.

When the word "democracy" originated and was used in ancient Athens (from which it was picked up in the West in the 19th century), its opposite was not "tyranny," but "aristocracy."

The New York Metropolitan Opera was in the 19th century and is today an aristocratic, not democratic, institution, since an overwhelming majority of Americans do not like classical music, including opera, while Frank Sinatra, the most famous American "pop singer" of the past century, may seem to listeners of classical music and opera a roaring Neanderthal, who rose from the dead in ancient Asia or Africa and came to the United States by United Airlines.

John Stuart Mill, whom I have mentioned, was not a university professor. He never went even to college.

So how did he survive financially?

Like Placido Domingo or Joan Sutherland, he had admirers, who bought his books at prices as stiff as tickets for The Met. He probably was the greatest political thinker of the post-Roman West, though he never got a college degree. Today the United States does not have a single internationally or even nationally known political thinker.

The States does have millions of university professors; fabulously salaried radio and television hosts; and top politicians, elected or seeking election; all pouring through the media their Philistine twaddle, prompted by their speechwriters. This twaddle is often mistaken for political thinking. The form of government in North America and Western Europe is not and has not been supposed to be the allegedly ideal or perfect society, invented by one person as Plato's "Republic" or the communism of Marx.

The Western form of government is supposed to be a result of historical evolution that began in the post-Roman West in 1215, when the King of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta, limiting his hitherto absolute power.

I never tire of quoting Churchill, who defined the result of this historical evolution since 1215 as the worst form of government except all other forms such as absolutism or dictatorship. Three presidents were elected in the United States in the last 15 years or so. They have been as audible nationally and internationally as political thinkers of old. But are they political thinkers? It is the same as asking, "Are they opera singers?"

Most of those who elected them cannot elect a psychiatrically insane president because such will be certified by physicians as insane. Otherwise they can elect anyone, and then, after his two terms of presidency, give him the lowest imaginable public poll rating. So, what was the political value of his election? A hundred years ago, the ineptness of elected top officials was not militarily dangerous, because, as Kipling once said, wars are won by those countries that have machine guns and lost by those that do not.

Thus, England had machine guns (the word appeared in 1870) as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and China did not, because there was no Industrial Revolution in China. In the 19th century, the British government demanded that China buy opium (from English merchants).

China refused, but after the Second Opium War, which Britain launched in 1858, the latter was forced to buy English opium.

Japan was successfully conquering China up to 1945, for Japan had enough machine guns. But at the beginning of the 21st century, in China and not in the United States, a super-industrial super-revolution has been going on in the secret labs of China (in alliance with Putin's Russia).

It will produce not machine guns or other conventional weaponry, but post-nuclear superweapons. Yet today, the Western elected top officials are no more intelligent than they were a hundred years ago. Tony Blair delivers his Philistine twaddle in the British Parliament at an amazing speed – he is a record-setting chatterbox.

This makes it possible for him to disparage orally the greatest number of his opponents in Parliament, but does not make his war in Iraq, including the lie of "Tony Bliar" (as the British quip) that Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction," any less stupid, and Blair any less inept as a government official.

It is rarely recalled in the United States that Blair is a socialist, who stated in the House of Commons on July 6, 1983: "I am a socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality." Once we had a British member of Parliament as our dinner guest in our country house in Russia. He was a miner. He told us that as he had spoken to his constituency, another miner declared that the Parliament member miner had become gentrified, that is, had socially broken with miners, who had voted for him.

Then the Parliament member miner challenged the accuser to a drinking duel: They would keep drinking, and the one who collapsed would be the loser. The Parliament member miner was near collapse, but his opponent collapsed first.

Naturally, miners have been voting for Tony Blair, a socialist, who has not been gentrified but who can out-drink or at least out-chatterbox any miner.

Well, it is likewise forgotten that Saddam Hussein also is a socialist. All the more absurd is Blair's camaraderie-in-arms with U.S. conservative Republicans (for whom the word "socialist" is the worst insult) in the disastrous attempt to conquer Iraq, a small Third World technologically backward country.

The superweapons of the super-industrial super-revolution in China's labs will reduce Tony Blair and his England to atoms unless the latter surrenders unconditionally, just as will the rest of the West quickly enough, and here Tony Blair's chatterbox speed of speech may prove to be quite useful.

You can e-mail me at navlev@cloud9.net.


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When I was fashionable (since the Cold War was not yet completely over in the 1970s) and I spoke at major universities all over the West, I was asked why on earth I call the United States a democracy, while it is a constitutional republic. The questioners were right....
Thursday, 20 April 2006 12:00 AM
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