In the excerpt we posted the other day from Sir Henry Maine’s Popular Government, the author explains that the chief feature of what we call Democracy is that it is an upside-down monarchy, in which, somehow, the multitude is sovereign.
But how, wonders Sir Henry, can a multitude express its will? In what sense can it even be said to have a singular will? (Students of esoteric work will know how hard that is even for a man, who in his undeveloped condition is himself not one, but many. How could it be possible for a multitude?)
The answer is that it cannot. We may flatter a congeries of hundreds of millions as our “sovereign”, and we may make the same obeisances to it that we would a king, but in point of fact there is nothing resembling an actual sovereign in the mass of the people; there is only something more akin to an applause-meter. No sovereign “will” can be expressed until some proxy is put upon the stage, or in the dock.
What is sovereignty? What does it mean to have sovereign power? It means the freedom to control events according to one’s own choices — and even more importantly, to determine what the range of choices will be. But when the sovereign is not a man, but a mass, this is impossible. All that a mass can do is to select, by the volume of its applause, from the menu it is given.
Do you think, lovers of democracy, that you actually have sovereign power? I don’t mean the mass of you, because none of you is a multitude. I mean you.