The Price of Democracy

There are a lot of things about democracy I don’t particularly care for. For one thing, people with opinions that differ from mine are too often given a voice, a vote, and even positions of power. Subsequently, I have to live with laws I don’t particularly like and tolerate public officials I don’t particularly care for.

I am certain that if my laws and my way of doing things were implemented without delay tomorrow, our world would soon be all well and good. Progress would lurch forward at astonishing speed. Opportunity would blossom. Evil would tremble and retreat. Injustice would wither and die. Peace and harmony would reign supreme.

Only that inconvenient and archaic Constitution of the United States stands in my way.

And for that I say, thank god.

Because no one, not even The Good Lord Byron of Paris, is smart enough to single-handedly solve all the problems of a small village, much less half the problems of a nation or a world. This is near-blasphemy for me to admit, but all too often wisdom is, at its pinnacle, just knowing our own limits.

What results when one person begins to think that they can solve all the problems of a society and is given (or takes) that power without legislative or judicial constraints? Quite simply, the current tragedy in Ukraine.

What results when a group of people begin to think that they know best and are given (or take) power to implement their ideas without opposition? Quite simply, the ongoing situation in China.

Vladimir Putin is dangerous because nobody around him or in Russia can safely disagree with him or moderate his less-than-brilliant ideas. The Communist Party in China is dangerous because nobody in China can safely disagree with the party platform or moderate its less-than-just policies and practices.

Democracy allows for and even encourages dissent, discord, and disagreement. The obnoxious jerk with a baseless conspiracy theory gets the same opportunity to voice his opinion as the genteel academic with a well-researched public policy thesis. And, in measured intervals, the public gets to vote on who they want to represent them and which ideas they want to become law.

That’s the theory, anyway. The practice is often much more messy, convoluted, and corrupt. Democracy is, in the words of Winston Churchill, the worst form of government we have…except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.

The price we pay for it is multifaceted and may seem contradictory: we must be simultaneously informed, objective, passionate, practical, patient, and tolerant. As we protest and persuade, we must endeavor to see another’s point of view, especially when it is different from our own. As we contrast our policy ideas with our opponents’ agendas, we must remember what we have in common, what we do agree on, and make sure we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It’s a tall order and a long road with no guarantees, but if we don’t accept the challenge and march on, examples of what we may become–or fall prey to–are all around us. And they ain’t pretty.

  • BGT

The second round of the French presidential election is Sunday. President Macron and his opponent Marine Le Pen debate tonight. 


6 thoughts on “The Price of Democracy

  1. Hi Byron,
    which hotels in Paris are nowadays preferred by the old money people?

    Many thanks
    Stefan

    1. Hi Stefan, the Mandarin, Crillon, & La Reserve tend to cater to low-profile/high-end clients, both Old Money & New. If OMGs are traveling as a family, the vacation apartment rental is a popular option. It provides not only a place to sleep, but to cook meals, gather with friends privately, and relax, often for half the price of a hotel room at the Ritz.
      Hope that helps. – BGT

  2. Dear Byron,

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. It was quite unexpected to see on the “old money” page publicly written opinion about politics. It is always good to know, how the person you “follow” check his facts and does the homework or what he will do if he simply feels like he will benefit from voicing certain opinion. However there is always a hope for a sincere mistake.

    I spent 30 years in Russia, including the time when Vladimir Putin was a prime minister and then a president, during the time he was a prime minister again and a president again. Neither I or ANY person around me was afraid or felt unsafe to disagree with him.

    I see you had a favorable trip to your motherland USA. I wish you true well deserved luck with your film.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Anna. I appreciate your respectful tone and your well wishes for the screenplay’s success.

      I’m glad that you and the people around you felt comfortable disagreeing with Vladimir Putin. I assume that all of you remain well and safe.

      Some journalists in Russia who have ‘disagreed with’ Mr. Putin have not been so lucky. I would suggest you review Wikipedia’s page ‘list of journalists killed in Russia’ for comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date information about this issue.

      It’s wise not to equate ‘disagreeing with Putin’ during a conversation at a coffee shop among friends and ‘disagreeing with Putin’ in the context of publishing facts critical of Mr. Putin’s regime in online and print media read by the public. These are two very different scenarios. They often have two very different outcomes for the participants, whether those participants be Russian journalists, activists, political opponents, or friends having a private, casual conversation.

      Hopefully, that distinction will eliminate any confusion that lies between your comment and my post. Rest assured, I’ve made mistakes on this blog, but not this time. – BGT

  3. Another excellent treatise. The final two paragraphs seem especially relevant. Sadly, too many remain asleep at the wheel, or actively buy into the easy solutions pedaled by the brash, obnoxious jerks of the world. What will it take to reverse that tide of ‘thought’?

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

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