When Democracy Dies Not in Darkness but in Dysfunction

Duncan Kelly in the New York Times:

05kelly1-master180A. C. Grayling, a British philosopher and critic whose subjects range from 17th-century epistemology to 20th-century war crimes, has come to tell us what he knows: that at one time we admired and understood representative democracy, and not without reason, but that in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, democracy has been “made to fail.” Why has this happened? Because of insufficient checks on the power of political and economic elites, a failure in the civic education required of an informed populace and the ideological distortions created through the lobbying efforts of special interests.

Representative democracy ticks more of the boxes citizens want from their government than any other system we’ve tried to design. But when we forget this, rancorous populism and plebiscitary politics take hold, and we need to be given an old-fashioned history lesson to warn of the dangers ahead. As Grayling reminds us, democracy, understood as the rule of the majority, has never been sufficient in itself. Plato, Aristotle and Machiavelli all knew that more was needed, whether that meant enshrining constitutional rules to avoid the arbitrary exercise of power, imposing standards of behavior on elected officials or supporting a healthy ambivalence toward rulers by the ruled.

More here.