Do we elect a dictator?
Part 5 of a series looking
Our Own Worst Enemy
In our heads we are attracted to democracy, with its ideals of equality, the rule of law, and a feeling that government is merely a necessary evil, carried out by our representatives so that we can get on with our peaceful and productive lives in personal safety and free from tyranny. But in our hearts we long for superman. This fatal attraction to charismatic individuals runs quite counter to, and undermines, the democratic ideal. We willingly yield power to our leader, and even demand the ‘leadership qualities’ of which Hitler was so good an example. Remember that Hitler rose to power via the democratic process.
Democracy is no protection from power-struck individuals, as recent
history, and many examples prior to the
In the earliest, Athenian model, (free, male) citizens convened to decide policy. An executive was elected to carry out the needed, administrative function, but in contrast to the all-powerful executive of today, the Athenian executive was not even allowed a vote. The ‘commons’ was where the power to take all decisions resided. The gradual drift of power to the top ever since seems to be in part due to our demand for a strong leader. We are suckers for the cult of personality. Given our (probably built-in, biological) need for a Fuhrer, it is a wonder that democracy was ever invented.
Next month: The Executive’s overweening power