What IS Democracy?


When attempting to define a word it is often best to begin with its etymology, its linguistic origin. The word Democracy is derived from two Greek words: Demos meaning "People", and Kratos meaning "Power". Autos means "Self" in Greek. So we have "Autocracy", or autos-kratos meaning "Power to the Self" or Dictatorship, and we have "Democracy", or demos-kratos meaning "Power to the People".

"Power to the People" means that "The People" decide the institutions and the laws which will govern them and their land.

This would be fine, if all of "The People" were of one mind. But they are not. There are always those who want to get the better of others, who want to increase their own wealth and standing by diminishing that of others. There are those who want to impose their will on others. There are people in business whose object is to maximize prices to their customers while minimizing the wages they pay their workers in order to maximize their own profits. There are those in developing countries whose families own all the best land, forcing others less fortunate to scrape a living from poor mountain soil. No, "The People" are not of one mind. Even when they may appear to be of one mind, in reality they may not be.

A reporter visits a country torn by civil war. Two tearful women on opposite sides in the conflict both clasp their hands in prayer and say "all we want is peace". Indeed they do. But each wants peace on her terms, on the terms of "her" side. They both want peace; they are fighting precisely because they disagree on the terms of peace.

The People are not of one mind. Indeed if they were, there would be no need for laws. Laws are necessary precisely in order to settle disagreements between people, to limit the extent to which people can harm or exploit one another.

If The People are not of one mind, then "Power to the People" becomes a technical and political impossibility, a contradiction in terms.

If we do not have Democracy, what then is the system of government which we believe to be Democracy?

The system of government in countries considering themselves "democracies" is in fact a "Majocracy", an invented word combining Majority with the Greek Kratos "Power to the Majority".

We are the Majority, therefore we are right. In a Majocracy masquerading as a Democracy, there is no moral right or wrong in law. We are the Majority, therefore we are right. No matter if the laws promulgated by the Majority are oppressive of and unjust to a minority or minorities; no matter if the laws promulgated by the Majority are financially irresponsible, promoting beneficial programs causing government to accumulate debt which future generations must pay off.

"Vote for a New Swimming Pool" the roadside signs proclaim. The Majority wants it, therefore it will be constructed. But what is actually happening here, in slow motion? The Majority wants a swimming pool because they would use it and enjoy it. The only problem is that they are not willing to pay the true cost of construction and maintenance. Therefore they resort to "Democracy" in order to compel by law those who cannot or do not want to swim, to subsidize their enjoyment. Or, if the government is already indebted, then increase the deficit and future generations must pay.

The Bill of Rights which supplements the US Constitution, was founded on the idea that since Government is a powerful institution, its officials must be compelled to exercise their powers within strictly defined boundaries, even when they have the support of the majority. The Bill of Rights' limitations point sometimes against the abuse of the Executive power, sometimes against the Legislative, and in some cases against the community itself; or, in other words, against the majority in favour of the minority. Government is Power. Democracy is Majority Power. Power corrupts. Power can be mis-used. Power can force others to pay for our pleasures.

No one should have power over others, neither King, President, Dictator, Government, nor Majority, unless and until that power and the conditions of its use have been strictly defined. This is the purpose of Constitution.

Governing Government

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