The Democratic Dilemma – Political philosophy


Democracy as a form of government has lost its appeal, particularly because of its inherent primitive characteristics. Though it is generally accepted that democracy originated in the city state of Athens, in reality the rudimentary form of democracy can be traced back to the tribal groups of the Neolithic Age, when the tribal chiefs were elected through majority consensus to protect the community. In the Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian and Indian societies also the rudimentary forms of democracy were believed to be in vogue, in ancient prehistoric times. Democracy was, and always is, essentially the rule of the mindless mob that represents regression and collective violence. So the experiments in democracy, globally has failed inhibiting human progress. People often wrongfully glorify freedom, equality and justice as the cornerstones of democratic rule. These seminal allurements of democracy can be established as the guiding principles of governance under any form of government, including dictatorship.

Though, some rudimentary characteristics of democracy were present in the tribal societies, democracy as an organized form of governance originated in Athens in sixth century BC. The legendary Solon is considered to be the founder of democracy. On his foundation Cleisthenes, Pericles and Ephialtes built the system of democracy in Athens championing the virtues of freedom and equality, around 508 BC. In seventh century BC there was a great public upheaval in Sparta, in response to which the lawgiver of Sparta Lycurgus wrote the first written constitution of the world. Lycurgus suggested many changes to satisfy all strata of the society. It is believed that Athens’ promulgation of democratic rule was an effort to prevent a Sparta like revolution.

However, the meaning or definition of democracy is still used very vaguely attributing freedom, equality and justice as the most important virtues of this form of governance. Further, it is stated that in democracy the sovereignty remains with the people– a ridiculous mockery. The so called indirect democratic governments of the world are prized as popular and representative governments enjoying the confidence of the majority.


Because of its core maxim– government by people’s mandate, popular government, and confidence of the majority and so on; in underdeveloped countries with widespread poverty and illiteracy the mantle of power has fallen into the hands of-mediocre leaders, with very little education and vision for their nations. On the other hand in advanced nations the power of governance has slipped into the hands of a minority segment of such societies, who has the financial muscles to control the power of the state.

The idea of majority is a misleading idea for any society– whether advanced or underdeveloped. It may look a little presumptuous, but to say unhesitatingly, the majority in any society represents foolishness, lethargy with a strong herd mentality. Over emphasis on it results in degeneration of the human capital in any society. Again, the resistance of the majority to accept new thoughts and ideas under democratic governance poses formidable impediment to rapid social change, with every possibility of social stagnation. Human history is witness to the fact that only a small minority has always determined the fate of the society with its innovative ingenuity; and has steered human societies in the direction of progress — such as writers, poets, philosophers, scientists, artists and a host of thought leaders. Hence, when the national executives are the elected representatives of the majority, the quality of leadership is a compromise for inferior and indecisive leadership.

The minority intellectuals in democratic setups always feel out of place, as the leaders of the nation are the mirror images of the majority whom they represent; the innovative ingenuity of the minority is always challenged and buried by the whims of the unthinking majority. In a democratic society, therefore, the intelligentsia and the elite intellectuals have very little role to influence the governance of the nation. Hence, what flourishes in a democratic setup is unchallenged mediocrity.

The leaders in a democracy enjoy an enviable advantage: to manipulate almost all aspects of the life of their citizens with the conscious knowledge that they are managing mediocrity and the intellectuals of the society are too meek and insignificant to pose any challenge owing to their inconsequential presence. These manipulative advantages of the leadership tend to make any democratic set up autocratic and corrupt as well.  More importantly, to perpetuate their power, the leaders resort to populist policies in the name of social welfare endangering the growth potentials of some section of the citizenry permanently. Through such policies of appeasement they invariably succeed in creating loyal vote banks for themselves. The members of these sections of the societies, who are the beneficiaries of appeasement politics, follow their leaders as messiahs, least realizing that in the process they are made defunct social parasites, a veritable cattle population. This symptom is pathetically discernible in developing nations worldwide.

The idea of majority has come under scathing criticisms since the inception of democracy; and importantly from the great philosophers of the place of its birth– Athens. Socrates was of the view that justice, freedom and equality cannot survive under democracy. Socrates was a great votary of rationality, logic and philosophy. Democracy suppresses these essential qualities of governance. Majority does not understand the matter of importance of the nation and their supremacy only leads to grave danger for the nation; similarly, when a state is devoid of rationality and logic– which only a minority section of people possess– the democracy tends to be an irrational and illogical system, operating more on verbose emotional emptiness, thereby turning unjust, antithetical to freedom and equality. It turns out to a mindless system ruled by the vices of appeasement and compromise. The dominance of the majority cripples all progressive ideas resulting in a stagnant or regressive society. In their insecurity owing to the periodic change in leadership; the leaders in democracy cannot distance themselves from malpractices and shall inevitably be corrupt which will lead the society towards anarchy– sooner or later.

The constitutions of the democratic countries have the flexibility for amendment from time to time. Any political party voted with landslide majority by irrational popular emotions of the mindless majority, can amend the constitution beyond recognition and the party in power can easily usher in dictatorial rules, with deep rooted corruption, nepotism, inequality, injustice and the cruel bondage of the citizens.


Democracy with its inherent flaws can never provide good governance to society. The inevitable outcome of democracy is anarchy, and anarchy will invariably be succeeded by Tyranny. Machiavelli’s cyclic theory sums up this experience. He observed that “monarchies always decay into aristocracies and then decay into democracies, which decay into anarchy, then tyranny.” Machiavelli was very accurate in his prediction and the so called glory of the democratic rule will witness stark realities of anarchism, sooner than later.

In 1947 when India and Pakistan were granted independence from the British rule, Churchill had made some oracular prophesy which has come true without even a grain of difference. He had stated “Power will go to rascals, rogues, freebooters. All leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and the two countries will be lost on political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water will be taxed”

Is it not the experience of every conscious Indians living in the so called largest democracy of the world? Democracy
as a form of Government tends to encourage the whims of the majority and the educated minorities are always marginalized. In this context I am reminded of the Gresham’s law– “bad money tends to drive out good money out of circulation when both are in use” At the initial phase, democracy is the whim of the people and gradually it is taken over by the rich and the powerful section of the societies. This pattern is visible everywhere in all democratic setups.


In America, only 1% of the population, with their fabulous wealth, practically control everything, including the government policies. America has already become a plutocracy with one percent ultra-rich people amassing such huge wealth unheard of in history. All democracies in the world are on the path of their plutocratic journey and finally towards anarchy and tyranny.

The current exposure of NSA’s secret spying over people’s privacy is a strong body blow to all known democratic values. Only saving grace is- American society is not that corrupt like the societies of the developing democratic nations. But the rising unemployment, the economic disaster and the debt burden that America is confronting today, unless addressed with dedication and ingenuity, will give way to anarchy, and consequence upon that the government will be tyrannical to prevent such anarchy. I have no hesitation to say that economic turmoil that the advanced democratic nations of the world are confronting today will exert serious impact on their social orders. It will not be surprising if these societies emulate the corrupt practices of the developing nations with whom they have to be more closely integrated owing to economic compulsions.

The decadence of democracy is visible in various countries in various ways, depending upon their economic progress, literacy and cultural traits. For example, America, despite the current economic trouble, is a more affluent society than India or many African nations who claim to be democratic. So the symptom of decadence of democracy will be different in American society than in a developing country like India or in Africa.

In American society, the rise of irresponsible capitalism is a disturbing symptom. When a very small minority enjoys the enviable concentration of wealth at its disposal, many pillars of the democratic institutions crumble visibly or invisibly. This minority group with its economic muscle would tend to influence the political, economic as well as the foreign policy decisions of the country. America’s engagements in several wars, causing serious damage to the economy, stem from such influences otherwise known as lobbying. Large and influential Corporations engaged in manufacturing arms and ammunition would always try to drag the nation towards war and even try to destabilize the international peace with clear commercial motives. This trend, unless arrested effectively, is likely to lead to irreparable damage to the economy and shall have very detrimental effect on the social order. All dangerous social evils have their genesis in economic factors. Economic turmoil which is already apparent in the US economy is likely to result in more violence, discrimination and worst of all indulgence in corruption by the underprivileged citizens. Once corruption becomes a way of life, the degeneration of the society will be beyond repair, which is the biggest problem confronting the developing countries. To control social evils and violence, the governments will be forced to promulgate draconian laws leading to the end of democracy. Against such draconian laws and curtailment of citizens’ liberty, public upsurge and revolt cannot be ruled out. Thus, a phase of anarchy will precede the emergence of tyranny. In my opinion this holds good for all democracies of the world, including the advanced countries.

As such, the democratic ideals are very fragile in underdeveloped countries. Firstly, these countries do not deserve to be populists or adopt democratic forms of governments, as the poor, illiterate or deficiently educated majorities in these countries hardly value the so called liberty, equality and justice, as their focus is on basic survival needs. Under the circumstances, the symptoms of political decadence in these countries are very peculiar. It is to be borne in mind that these countries are also corrupt to their core; hence, can never grant the professed– equality, justice and liberty to their citizens in any effective manner. If in the opinion of Jimmy Carter the US is a “hollow democracy”, these developing nations are “pretentious democracies”. Like the advanced democratic countries, the concentration of wealth, in these countries, also remains with minority groups that influence all walks of life.


To my knowledge, every democratic country in the world emphasizes on separation of powers between executives, legislature, judiciary with the press as the watch dog. What destroys the independence and separation of the four pillars of democracy is the interdependence of the main three pillars- the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The elected members of the legislature are governed and guided by the undemocratic and authoritarian party whips and leaderships. The political parties in any democratic country in the world are structurally very undemocratic and demand unflinching loyalty from the members, as it is often stated– “we sink or swim together”. Particularly, in the indirect representative democracies of the modern world, the so called democratic principles are sacrificed by the political parties, which act like standardized groups, with complete obedience to the coercive party decisions and ideologies by its members. This makes me to believe that democracy as a system is just a misnomer. Somewhere in the democratic process, the elements of authoritarianism creep in, without which democracy will turn into chaotic anarchism immediately.

The executive functioning in democracy is also not free from authoritarianism. The executives in any democratic setup enjoy or wield authoritarian and sweeping powers within their constitutional frame work. They are like George Orwell’s “Some people are more equal than others”. My observation is: whatever popular and participatory election process may be followed in democracy, the governance cannot ever be participatory or popular. Governance by its very character involves authoritarianism. Regrettably, the authoritarian powers in the democracy are enjoyed by mediocre leaders due to the popular and participatory election process followed in the democratic setups and the citizens are largely hoodwinked.

The judiciary in a democracy is supposed to be independent. But in reality it is not. How are the judges in various democratic countries appointed? In their appointment the executives or the legislatures play very significant role. Hence, the judiciary cannot be absolutely independent in the separation of powers.

Further, the so called Fourth Column of democracy–press, can tend to be irresponsible and play mischievous role in any democracy. They have the power to influence legislative, executive and judicial process by their wide reach to the citizens, particularly in the present day world, owing to the exponential growth in communication. Now in view of all these, I feel that the separation of power in democracy ultimately leads to power struggle between these four pillars of democracy resulting in chaos, stalemate and more and more inefficiencies.

I am tempted to cite the example of India, supposed to be the largest democracy in the world. Indian constitution is otherwise known as “Lawyers’ Paradise”. This criticism itself is enough to demonstrate the democratic predicament of a nation with a population of 1.25 billion people. In contrast to the US, India has abject poverty and illiteracy. The total number of people below poverty line in India is larger than the entire population of the US. This is a grim story. The elections are fought with money power, muscle power and manipulation of the poor and illiterate people of the country. Political parties, in their intoxication for power, manipulatively defunct a segment of the population into cattle population, ironically as their loyal and assured vote banks, as I have stated before. They divide people on caste and religion lines for their success in democratic process of election. The judiciary which is supposed to be an independent pillar of democracy is entangled with the executives and the legislatures. Justice is bought and sold. Corruption in judiciary is no more a matter of exception.  This is not merely the story of India. This is the hapless state of democracy in all countries of the Third world.

The most recent political development in Indian speaks volume about the debacle of democracy in the most populous democratic nation of the world. From this development one can easily gauge the functioning of the major pillars of democracy. The Supreme Court of India, pronounced an advisory debarring people with criminal records or convictions from contesting in the general elections. The ruling party in power in transgression of the Supreme Court verdict passed a resolution to bring in an ordinance to allow such candidates to contest elections. This can be seen as a clear power struggle between the Judiciary and the Executive/Legislative functioning for supremacy. But in the ultimate equation of the power game the Vice President of the ruling party overruled the executive decision of the Cabinet of Ministers. Dose this not reveal utter disharmony and chaos and the inevitable massacre of the so called democratic values?

To add insult to the injury, the media resorted to a public campaign, inciting public opinion against the Executive decision. However, I have no scruple to accept it as a healthy democratic process, and maybe Indian democracy is coming of age, as some would suggest. But does this not show how chaotic, disharmonious and anarchistic the democracy could be; and how the power struggle between the four pillars of democracy shall, in its ultimate expression, morph into nothing better than anarchy. To see it from another perspective: from where does the Vice President of the ruling party wield his authority to veto and alter the decision of the legitimately elected people’s representatives in the Cabinet? What democratic norms give him such sweeping power to which the Prime Minister of a large nation had to meekly yield? It will not be an exaggeration to say that the party chiefs in parliamentary democracy are the autocratic “Fifth Column” of democracy.


If we look deeply, all that we say and believe are carefully learned ideas in course of our social interaction since our childhood. Psychologists say that our world view is formed at a very early age– by the age of six. The rest of our life, we look at the world around us through this filter which is formed so early in our childhood. Again our individual characters are nothing other than our repetitive habit patterns. In view of this, some ideas when repetitively forced into our mind they turn sacrosanct truth for us. That is how the political parties operate with their weapon of propaganda. That is how the erstwhile Soviet Union was trying to disseminate communism in the world by using their broadcasting media as the tool. The Soviet broadcasting media was airing news, literally in all languages of the world. Mao, the Chinese stalwart believed that, “repeat a lie for hundred times, it would turn into truth”. The leaders of the democratic nations are no exception to using this device of false propaganda. The engagement of the US and Britain in the Iraq war is a recent example of the propaganda politics. The entire world for sometimes believed that Iraq possesses the weapons of mass destruction.

Precisely, by the same logic, the eulogy of democracy is a repetitive false propaganda acquiring widespread acceptance as the best form of governance. The purpose of saying all these is that we are forced to live in a world of misinformation. For example the present crisis in Syria— what do the media say? What information is disseminated worldwide as the cause of the crisis and what is the real reason? We are living in the Age of Information and one that controls the information wields the power. That is why the US is trying to tap on the information that the internet world exchanges globally; and in the same vein the access to secret information made Snowden a hero overnight. This information manipulation was always there in our human societies.

I know, many will disagree with me. But I staunchly believe that democracy, like the baggage of many other institutions human race is carrying from the past, is a system propagated carefully through information management, by tantalizing the stupor masses with very lofty ideals of equality, liberty, justice etc– like the empty but verbose slogans of the politicians all across the globe.

The reason for this is to perpetuate “mediocrity’ as against “meritocracy”. The human society is always afraid of thought leaders and geniuses. Therefore, such people always have lived lives of miseries or have faced serious social sanctions. Galileo after denying his own new theory of the Solar System, as a compromise, told one of his close disciples “We are a race of inventive dwarfs, who can be bought for anything”.


A report says that nearly six trillion US$ representing ill-gotten and illicit money has been exported out of the developing countries, in the first decade of the twenty first century. This report itself is indicative of the economic chaos that is imminent in the world. It is important to observe here that the population of the developing countries far exceeds that of the population of the developed nations. It is pertinent to note here that majority of these developing nations profess or aspire to be democratic in their political setups. I am surprised why these countries are euphemistically called “developing” countries; whereas they appropriately deserve to be called as the regressive and the falling nations of the world. The social and political scientists least realizes the powerful disintegrative undercurrent that may explode in these falling nations, leading to a serious threat to the present world order. The symptoms are quite visible in many countries.

Moreover, by resorting to the vote bank politics, the political parties unabashedly resort to dividing people on various lines, and in the name of welfare of the poor and the weaker sections of the society, promulgate such laws finally inviting economic bankruptcy. At this stage, it is a conscious robbing of the national exchequer in connivance of the wealthy and powerful minority with the poor and the illiterate pressure groups (vote banks)– irrespective of minority or majority status of these constituents of the society.

As a grim fall out of such measures the economies of many such nations have regressed from gold standards of the past to almost absolute paper standard or fiat money of the present day economies This is also an indicator of the disaster, the economies of the world are likely to face. The artificial creation of money without intrinsic value will take its toll in no distant future. The wealth creation by any nation depends on growth in productivity of goods and services. The artificial creation of money or the bills of exchange in disregard to the growth in productivity is an ominous sign for any economy.


I have an observation to make here about the rise and fall of the Communism in the world and its incoherent vestiges still found in some countries. The rise of Communism in the world scenario in twentieth century was considered as an alternative to the democratic and capitalist political system. This philosophy was zealously practiced and propagated by some nations, and divided the world into two so called blocks. However, in reality the emptiness of this pretentious philosophy to achieve a standardized socio-economic order is in r
eality a close cousin of democracy – a further shift towards an incongruous mix of the shortcomings of the democracy and the dictatorship. It was more democratic than the known forms of democracy and more dictatorial than the evil designs of dictatorial rules.. Despite its harmful effects in countless ways, it swept the world for more than five decades. Why?

Though undeniably pseudo in its tenet, it spoke about “economic democracy” which was a paradigm shift from hitherto known ideologies of political democracy. Immediately it appealed to the same mindless mobs that were over a period of time disillusioned with their supposed sovereignty in political democracy.  This idea of “economic democracy” in Communist philosophy was no doubt a challenge to the hypocrisy of the political democracy. When many nations of the world adopted this form of governance, the common citizens were not aware that they were throwing their weight in favour of a system which is again another stem of democracy in disguise. But whatever it may be, it drove an established exploitative order, controlled by some rich and powerful people, paranoid. The world saw a divide between an old failed model called political democracy and a brand new equally inefficient, equally exploitative model cunningly professing “economic democracy”. The era of cold war and the emergence of Big Brothers—Super Powers, was highly symbolic of a hysteric world characterized by ubiquitous insecurity. The votaries of both the systems knew that they spoke the same language with identical motives. Each blocks had the identical fear that the other block could expose its hypocrisy. This mutual suspicion not only divided the world, but also became the seminal cause of the notorious arms’ race, surreptitiously paving the way for socio-economic disasters in both the known systems of governances in the world. Further, instability, hostility among the nations of the world, rise of dictatorship in some countries emerged from this conflict and the chaotic notions of political democracy and “economic democracy”. These chaos, conflicts and suspicions that characterized the twentieth century stare remorselessly at the economic and political aspirations of the current century. The economic meltdown experienced by the major economies of the world is a legacy of the twentieth century inherited by the new millennium. Sadly enough, many skeletons still remain carefully hidden in the cupboards.

Communism (“economic democracy”) as a system failed, as it unwittingly promised a quantifiable democracy. I say quantifiable because economic equality and justice are measurable objectively. In contrast, all promises of political democracy are abstract and cannot be measured objectively. Therefore, the political democracy survived the battle against economic democracy; and the economic democracy in its desperate effort for survival either adopted policies of opaque nationalism or tyrannical rules; or in the extreme perverse form, a strong combination both.


I have no hesitation to say that the romance with the political democracy for a long time, and experiment with its supposed alternative—“economic democracy” (Communism) during the major part of the twentieth century have done more harm than good to the world. The story of the mankind in the modern day world is no way better than its despicable history of grim and gory battles, exploitations of the poor and the weak, barbaric cruelty, racial discrimination, slavery, injustice etc. All these exist in same degree and intensity; maybe in a little more cunningly disguised forms.

Our transformation from our primitive order to the so called modern day existence is only a journey from the jungles of trees to the jungles of concretes. Everything else remains the same. This is primarily due to the neurotic fear of the masses, inclusive of the dumb and mindless political and ruling classes. These political classes by and large personify the aggregate of the violent and mindless mobs they resorting to ruthless suppression of the nonconformist voices of the meritorious individuals. These meritorious individuals are always an insignificant minority in the midst of a very potent and consequential majority that is devoid of vision and direction.

Democracy, at best, can only be a temporary arrangement in any polity, but in the long run is bound to give way to some more sustainable and stable form of governance through a preceding phase of chaos. We are standing at a crucial juncture of human history where a new and more effective political system looks very imperative. What form of governance next to democracy, though, is a million dollar question? To me, the idea of “Meritocracy” or “Talentism” appeals significantly.


A well-groomed “Meritocracy” of well evolved human beings with visions and unshakable human values is the prerequisite for a stable, prosperous, just and peaceful mankind. “Meritocracy” is different from aristocracy or oligarchy. In the past, many civilizations of the world have experienced the governance under aristocracy and have overthrown the system for its minority character and the oppressive nature of governance. More importantly, aristocracy tends to end up in oligarchy– a purely minority governance with all concomitant evils associated with it. “Meritocracy” or “Talentism”, to my knowledge, as a form of governance has never been experimented, though the idea is as old as democracy. Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher and his student Plato had mooted the idea of “Meritocracy”; particularly Plato’s concept of “Philosopher Kings” comes very close to “Meritocracy” or “Talentism”. As such, no significant and fully developed theory on “Meritocracy” has ever been propounded; because of the acceptance of democracy in its Utopian form has been the goal and allurement for mankind ever since the concept came into vogue.

“Meritocracy” needs to be experimented. But prior to that its theory and the philosophy are to be exhaustively developed, debated and understood. At this stage, I can only surmise that the rapid power -shift towards knowledge and information is promisingly leading the world towards “Meritocracy”. I am very optimistic that a full-grown “Meritocracy” will be the ladder to our next phase of evolutionary growth.


We are standing at an epoch in time that portrays a bleak picture of our survival on this planet. But we are not prepared to wake up from the deep slumber and take proactive actions. The reason being– the greed of the mankind is surfacing everywhere as the impediment; literally, this greed has corrupted our conscience; we are unable to see or evaluate clearly. In the name of economic progress we have destroyed, blindly exploited all beauty and bounty of life. We have devastated the finer sensibilities of human character. But it is glaringly ridiculous that we have hardly made any significant progress, as– “half the world does not know, how the other half lives”. Is majority rule the answer to our widespread owes?

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