Free Minds & Free Markets

Democracy in Decline? New at Reason

If its recent record is any indication, Winston Churchill might have been wrong about democracy.

Ullstein/Getty ImagesUllstein/Getty ImagesThere is no more satisfying description of democracy than Winston Churchill's declaration that it "is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Among compliments, backhanded ones are the loveliest, first making a show of retreating and then, like a boomerang, returning to hand. One cannot deny that democratic electorates occasionally lurch into unfortunate decisions, but Churchill consoles us that other systems are prone to worse. (He also thereby consoles himself two years after being turfed out of office by an electorate asking, "Yes, but what have you done for us lately?") The theoretical case for democracy is not undermined by such wayward episodes because the system's excellence is comparative, not absolute. Democracy embodies the virtue of moderation in its self-equilibrating disposition to retreat from perils that hurl other political systems off the rails, writes Loren E. Lomasky.

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