On Democracy

On Democracy

Othe merits of  modern democracy, I highly recommend two video clips:  Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator’s Final Speech, a 1940 anti-fascist satire; and Edward R. Murrow in Freedom of Speech, a 1954 direct response to the hysteria surrounding McCarthyism and Communism. 

Assuredly, there are other fine speeches, both in film and in various media, made by journalists and politicians. But these two stand out for their simple and direct defense of the liberties that are fundamental to a well-functioning and healthy democracy.

Below is a small sample of the many published views on Democracy; these are the most well-known, but not necessarily the most understood or appreciated:

In the first place we must assume as our starting-point that in the many forms of government which have sprung up there has always been an acknowledgment of justice and proportionate equality, although mankind fail attaining them, as I have already explained. Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal. Oligarchy is based on the notion that those who are unequal in one respect are in all respects unequal; being unequal, that is, in property, they suppose themselves to be unequal absolutely. The democrats think that as they are equal they ought to be equal in all things; while the oligarchs, under the idea that they are unequal, claim too much, which is one form of inequality.
Aristotle [384–322 BCE]

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, Prime Minister of U.K. [1940–45; 1951–55]
House of Commons speech, Nov. 11, 1947

Let us not be afraid to help each other—let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators and Congressmen and Government officials but the voters of this country.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States [1933–45]
Address at Marietta, Ohio, July 8, 1938

The business of saying, in advance of a serious effort, that people are not capable of achieving a good education is too strongly reminiscent of the opposition of every extension of democracy.This opposition has always rested on the allegation that the people were incapable of exercising the power they demanded. Always the historic statement has been verified: you cannot expect the slave to show the virtues of the free man unless you first set him free. When the slave has been set free, he has, in the passage of time, become indistinguishable from those who have always been free.
Robert Maynard Hutchins [18991977],
Great Books: The Foundation of a Liberal Education (1954)