Democracy Means Populism

And populism is always wrong

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: Time Magazine

Representative democracy in the West emerged slowly through a series of historical accidents, commencing with the Magna Carta. Until the creation of the US Constitution in 1787, democratic governance structures were the entirely unplanned consequence of occasional compromises and adjustments made without any concept of their implications. The franchise grew not because anyone in power sat down to consider carefully the fundamental ideas behind democracy but because each expansion served to pacify certain sectors of society that had become too powerful to ignore. Even the concept of representatives was a makeshift compensation for the fact that increasingly large territories made participatory democracy Athenian-style infeasible.

Locke and Montesquieu may have written some interesting things but for the most part those in power were not much influenced by their ideas; as always, those at the top were simply trying to remain there by means of whatever compromises seemed expedient at the time.

Much later, when the authors of the US Constitution set to work, the concept of representative democracy was sufficiently established — and the concept of kingship sufficiently discredited — that the task at hand was to construct a representative democracy the structure of which would somewhat constrain some of…

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.