For a large nation-state to have a thriving democracy, five key conditions must be met . First among these is an educated electorate and a wise “learned aristocracy. ” To paraphrase Plato , an educated electorate is essential for a democracy chiefly because it is called upon to entrust candidates for office with power and at times is called upon to make decisions directly. It is imperative that the body politic be informed and not respond to the populist impulses or be lulled into surrendering their freedom by promises of salvation or profit.
A corollary to this requirement is that the nation’s “elites” must also be wise and benign since they will often be the ones who lead the nation. Just as Plato concluded 2000 years ago, the elites must place the interests of the people and state first, or you slide down a path of tyranny and social unrest. Mexico is a good example of a state where the elites (descendants of an exploitive colonial class) are out for their own interests at the expense of the “swinish masses,” to quote Jefferson. This leads to revolution and economic chaos which is becoming apparent in the poor state of Chaps.
Next , a large democracy must have a common cultural background. A shared heritage is imperative for a large democracy because it keeps cohesion to democracy’s naturally disordered state. Without a unified set of goals and values a democracy can splinter, as America did in the Civil War. De Destructive noted America’s strong grass roots where he commented on our predilection for forming associations that were not conscious of class in comparison to European society. A democracy may be pluralistic with respect to its acceptance of many religions and aces but it must have a shared tradition.
America does. It is found in the Constitution and civilian government, for example. A large democracy must also have a free press to thrive. The suppression of free thought is a major step toward tyranny. Without an independent and watchful press, a government may act as it pleases. Constitutional rights become moot when they are stolen away without a peep. A large democracy must also have a stable economy in order to persevere. When the economy turns sour, all the factional and tyrannical impulses of man intensify.
Germany rejected its nascent democracy on economic grounds and several East European nations are in danger of rejecting history. Lastly, a democratic nation state must also have a set of guaranteed rights for its citizens. Whether these rights are honored through Judicial precedent based on Constitutional guarantees or by some other way, such guarantees are essential to the whole concept of consent of the governed and the legitimacy of leadership. As Locke noted, a government’s legitimacy derives from its consent from the people. In return, it is obligated to guarantee the sights of the polity.
Without these rights the citizenry cannot feel security or trust in be secure without assured rights for the people. Many South American “democracies” teeter on the brink of dictatorship because they simply don’t respect the people, they show this by not honoring basic human rights. America presently satisfies these essential elements of democracy. Although education of the polity is even more important today because of the creeping problem of disillusioned “soft despotism. ” Rights must be maintained over comfort and privilege. A silk glove can hide an iron hand.