Democracy In America – What It Is Not
De La DÉmocratie is an old French text by Alexis de Tocqueville, translated into English as On Democracy in America. The title of this book translates as On Democracy in America, yet English translations are almost always just titled democracy in America. There is no doubt that the author intended these words to be understood in that way, because his life, and life outside of France, was highly influenced by the American democratic culture. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to get the joke. They imagine the phrase to mean absolute freedom from all government controls, or some variation of that.
One of the most quoted phrases in the text is ” democracy never did any good.” This is an interesting comment because it is very accurate in its formulation, as it aptly expresses many of America’s unique political ideals, which are indeed rarely practiced by our elected representatives in Washington D.C. or elsewhere in our nation. It is amazing how many Americans believe that their elected leaders are making every decision based on what is best for the people, when quite the opposite is actually the case. Of course, they are not elected because they want to serve as a “stakeholder” in some committee that decides how everything will run. No, they are elected because they have been told that they must be so, because of ” democracy in America.”
It is interesting that many people do not understand that this phrase “democracy” is an ideal and not a description of anything. Aristotle defined democracy as a form of government in which the people rules through a system of laws established by the demos. That is to say that everyone chooses laws that will govern themselves. A more accurate definition would be “the rule of the demos.” Unfortunately, Aristotle’s ideal is almost never realized by those who claim to support it. Instead, democracy is manipulated by power brokers and the masses to serve their will.
According to leading historians, Aristotle was right on target when he said that democracy in America is little more than a sham, because it lacks the key ingredient of democracy, political equality. Aristotle stated that to be truly equal, all individuals must have equal access to resources, which include education, land, jobs, health care, etc. Only through such access can people pursue happiness in both their private and public lives. However, America has failed to realize its true potential as a democratic republic.
In The Chicago Press, Leo Tolstoy wrote a well-researched treatise that is still unsurpassed for its level of intellectual contentment. He stated that Aristotle’s ideal was close to democracy, but that whereas democracy could flourish with a healthy balance of democracy in the demos, Aristotle felt that the “democracy” enjoyed in Athens at that time was unhealthy for the polity. For example, Aristotle claimed that Socrates’ philosophy of dialectic argumentation was unarguably ” democratical”. He argued that the demos do not wish to hear dialectic argument, and that they only reason out of fear, in defense of their aristocratic ruling class. Consequently, the demos turn to tyrants, to power brokers, and to force.
democracy in America has degenerated into a farce, according to the social scientists. Aristotle’s ideal of democracy in a republic was far from realized. Social scientists maintain that Aristotle’s theory of democracy in a republic is an oxymoron. No government, organization, or society can survive for long with such a distorted definition of equality and social conditions. For social conditions to improve in America and become what they ought to be – worthy of the Greek polis – an educated citizenry must be developed, with all of its natural and individualistic virtues nourished, rather than suppressed by a skewed definition of democracy.