From Kenneth Minogue:
I am in two minds about democracy, and so is everybody else. We all agree that it is the sovereign remedy for corruption, tyranny, war, and poverty in the Third World. We would certainly tolerate no different system in our own states. Yet most people are disenchanted with the way it works. One reason is that our rulers now manage so much of our lives that they cannot help but do it badly. They have overreached. Blunder follows blunder, and we come to regard them with the same derision as those who interview them on radio and television. We love it that our rulers are—up to a point—our agents. They must account to us for what they do. And we certainly don’t live in fear, because democracy involves the rule of law. Internationally, democracies are by and large a peaceful lot. They don’t like war, and try to behave like “global citizens.” There is much to cherish.Good! We might quibble a bit about the edges here -- as to whether being 'global citizens' is really what a nation-state is for, or whether it is for the defense of the people's liberties that it is constituted to protect -- but the author is a Briton. They have been swamped in such language for so long it's no wonder that it clings to them. Leaving those quibbles aside, this is a fine opening.
Yet it is hard to understand what is actually happening in our public life under the surface of public discussion. An endless flow of statistics, policies, gossip, and public relations gives us a bad case of informational overload. How does one tell what is important from what is trivial? The sheer abundance of politics—federal, state, and local—obscures as much as it illuminates.
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.That's true enough.
What follows after is the interesting part, though. The question he ends up asking is this: Can the moral life survive democracy?
I would propose another, because the two questions should be considered in concert: if the answer to that question is in the negative, what duty do we derive from the answer?
Read it, and let's discuss it.