About time!

Back in late November of 2016, the New York Times lamented, in its smugly named “Interpreter” column, that democracy was suddenly in danger around the world. (What might have happened around then that would have put them is such a frame of mind? I feel as if I’m forgetting something…) They called upon two boyish boffins who, having “crunched data”, announced that the warning lights are flashing red. This, we are to understand, is both surprising, and bad.

We read:

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

“Political scientists”. Well, if science is what they’re doing, then their theory ought to be falsifiable, if I remember my Popper correctly. It makes me wonder if they’ve crunched the data for, say, Athens, Rome, Berlin, Caracas…

Anyway, the key datum in this piece is that the number of people who consider it “essential” to live in a democracy has declined — “plummeted” says the Times — in an assortment of prosperous democracies, particularly among the younger generation. This, says one of the striplings who did the research, “should have us worried”.

Really? It doesn’t worry me at all. Indeed it fills me with hope that we might be rearing a new generation of exceptional perspicacity and good sense. How on earth could anyone not an imbecile read the vast and varied book of history and conclude that it is “essential” to live under democracy — or, for that matter, under any particular form of government at all? “Red lights flashing”, you say? Good. Let them flash. Let us examine democracy for what it is: one possible form of government among many, with inherent and irremediable liabilities, and such a frightening track-record at the time of America’s founding that Framers tried their utmost — and failed nevertheless — to keep it at bay. The article left me feeling upbeat and refreshed.

“Well, fine,” I hear you ask, “but why mention it now? That article’s more than a year old.”

Here’s why: a post I ran across just recently over at Unamusement Park. Go and have a look. And if the name of the second party quoted seems familiar to you, you can refresh your memory here.

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