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Undermining the Free Society

December 6, 2010

Gerald J. Russello in The City Journal:

Winston Churchill may have been right about democracy’s being the worst form of government except for all the others, but he probably wouldn’t have guessed that the bar would fall so low. In his sweeping review of contemporary moral and political life, Kenneth Minogue contends that, as currently practiced, democracy may not be compatible with the moral life as it has been traditionally understood in the West. Minogue, an emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and a preeminent political thinker, acknowledges an ambivalence about democracy. It has been the cause of many improvements, he observes, but its flaws are increasingly evident. Democracy is prone to corruption: the immense amount of regulation and bureaucracy it requires to function opens limitless opportunities for abuse. Further, democracy’s inner workings compel it, paradoxically, to undemocratic results. The push for equality and ever more rights—two of its basic principles—requires a ruling class to govern competing claims; thus the rise of the undemocratic judiciary as the arbiter of many aspects of public life, and of bureaucracies that issue rules far removed from the democratic process. Should this trend continue, Minogue foresees widespread servility replacing the tradition of free government.

This new servility will be based not on oppression, but on the conviction that experts have eliminated any need for citizens to develop habits of self-control, self-government, or what used to be called the virtues. [More]

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