DEMOCRACY is a weed of the tuber order. When its visible leaves are lopped off, the underground root remains strong as before. Proof that the worship of democracy is just the apotheosis of tyranny, that democracy is tyranny erected into a cult, does not make patent the absurdity of the conclusion that democracy is the gospel of the free. Proof is not proof that is: a sure sign that one has formulated the wrong proposition. The argument ostensibly only is on democracy; a democrat arguing his creed is arguing something else which he does not state. To convince him one must reach beyond democracy and grip hold of the subconscious something which is bolstering his belief in spite of argument.
Democracy viewed on its own merits of course reveals itself almost as a mathematical error. Starting from an aversion towards the tyranny of One- the historic Tyrant-the impulse towards democracy has spread tyranny-i.e. government-through a wider area, through oligarchy, and plutocracy, the Few, and the Rich, and presses onwards as to a desired goal, to the government of All by All. "Government of the People by the People." To how many million millions of speeches has not this phrase given a fillip during the last century and a half? Yet its meaning is clear. Democracy is a special form of government, that is, a particular form of according to some or all the privilege of meddling with the lives of the rest. Considered in the light of an agreement conferring this power to meddle between Smith, Jones, Robinson, and Brown, each of these persons severally agrees to place the regulating and governing of his life outside his own ordering and under that of the majority of the rest. For the sake of meddling in the affairs of the others, each one abandons power over himself. When Smith wishes to adopt a course of action to please himself, he finds he has placed a possible majority over himself with power to decide against him. He has agreed to the placing of a constant blockade upon his course of action. In return he can help to blockade the actions of any of the rest. Previous to the compact he was, as far as his own power enabled him, the equal of any; after, he finds himself automatically faced by a constant superior of his own making-the alliance. He has fenced himself round with restrictions, and receives as the utmost reward for his pains-alien responsibility. Govern himself he may not-but to govern others he is pledged.
If, abandoning the instance, we look at the same relationship in its vastly extended form, i.e. in democracy, the viciousness of the situation is found to be proportionately increased. Here in these British Isles, an English democrat, in return for having the one seven millionth part of a unified tyranny over each one of his fellows, suffers the accumulated weight of the remaining six million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine parts in his own person, should he elect to deviate by a hair's breadth from the authority of the alliance. When British democracy completes itself and unto the seven million are added women, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, beggarmen, thieves, and the rest the effect will be correspondingly worse. The alliance will smite with the force of Jove and the "free" little democrat will put up his share in the bargain with the force of the moth's wing. This is what Democracy in Excelsis, means-democracy perfected, democracy with proportional representation, with respect for minorities, and the like. This is what asking for a "vote" means: strangling by request, the bludgeoning of the individual by the alliance, by majorities. This is the freedom of the people which the poets have sung.
"The common-sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, and the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law."
That is Democracy's vision splendid, "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world."
That the above is the only description which can be given of democracy, i.e. a vast system of tutelage, a system impossible of conception by men accustomed to exercise their own judgments freely, none who use an intellect with precision can deny. Of all the forms of "government," democracy is the one most nicely calculated to overcome free instincts, and for the same reasons which make government under a "Tyrant" the least pernicious viewed from the same aspect. This, by the way, explains why there is now an increasingly popular demand that the royal power should be increased. It is a harking back to the single "Tyrant," in the interest of fuller play for free instincts. Democracy may have its good points, but whatever these may be they are the reverse of everything which tends to encourage free agents.
When an effort is made to account for the deluge of democratic sentiment which is submerging our times, one naturally turns to the doctrinaires of the Revolution period, with their conceptions of inflated "Humanity" and belief in the increasing perfectibility of "Mankind as a whole." "Humanity" has sat very heavily upon men for the last hundred years. In making schemes for the perfecting of "Humanity", the myth, men, the realities have been forced into set moulds, like clay into bricks to become fitting building-material for the purpose. Observation of individual men would never have led to the formulation of the static conceptions upon which the democratic edifice is founded, such as justice, equality, fraternity, order. These are based not on the traits of living men but upon schemes for the aggrandisement of mere thought-creations- "humanity"- "mankind." Indeed the "characteristics of men"- are something to be explained away, something to be overcome in the interests of "mankind." The individual man mars the thought-picture, just as testy individual people mar Mrs. Webb's vision of a perfect state. If the individual will can be annihilated, so much the better; if unhappily it cannot, then it must be scduced by guile into the service of the concept-and all for the benefit of " mankind."
" Our wills are ours, we know not how. Our wills are ours to make them Thine,"
Says Tennyson. Emmanuel Kant means exactly the same thing when he speaks of the Will being free to obey the " Moral Law." "Free to obey"-a curious phrase! The name of Kant here is opportune because he more than any other is responsible for thc introduction of the idea of independent law to be realised in human conduct. This notion has sunk deep, this idea that we do not belong to ourselves, that we are not our own. The shackles of democracy do not offend because at heart men have come to believe that they ought not to be free, to be their own masters. They believe that there exists underlying law, an underlying harmony, and that to learn this harmony, to get into step with it, is the proper role-the "duty"-of men. They may not actually be in tune with the infinite but they feel they ought to be. And here we have it. Men love the "ought," the duty, the submission to "something higher," the categorical imperative. They are in truth fearsome and very timid, the sons of men! The real Ishmaelite among them, the real outcast, is the man who says "I desire to be free, not free to obey or free to serve, but free (as far as my power goes) to please myself." Of the Egoist in thought human culture bears small trace: men cannot easily suffer this view of themselves; but of egoism in action all that is hard and lasting has been built up.
So with democracy: timid hearts and feeble minds have made common cause to raise up false gods. The soul says "Thou shalt have no other gods but me," but the alien gods arise notwithstanding and democracy has its full share of them-Equality, Justice, Fraternity. Because these are lies, i.e. without correspondence to anything real, the men who have raised them aloft for worship do not worship for long, and the people cry out that democracy, in these its bases, is being undermined. The "People" bitterly complain that their politicians betray them. They are betrayed surely enough, but their own minds are the culprits. They are the victims of their own hasty and mistaken generalisations, their own false analogies, and slack efforts of attention. For it is to be noted that the democratic idea, i.e. all governing all, is one not at all incapable of realisation. There are circumstances where it would be the perfect adjustment: in living organisms for instance, such as the human body. There in the inter-relationship of each single member of the body with the rest we have in their common health and well-ordering the "Each for all and all for each," the "government of all, by all, for all," of democracy. But the living organism is an actual unity, not a "thought" unity -but a reality. Its indivisibility, its separateness and oneness are its distinguishing marks. Attempt to divide it, chop it up into members and we kill it. Not so mankind. Only by false analogy is "humanity," "mankind," conceived as a unity and hence our "human" woes. Out of the disparities, diversities and separateness which "mankind" comprises, to create a semblance of unity in order to fit the concept these naughty frauds of thought are perpetrated: Equality to level differences, Justice to keep them levelled; Fraternity to cement the mixture permanently together, into "the brotherhood of man"- mankind.
What is wrong with democracy is that it is calculated to fit mankind: a homogeneous, ardently desired, much-vaunted but non-existent unity. It does not fit men. Hense this quarrel of "human" culture with egoistic men. If men do not conform to the "ideals of humanity" then they ought to. That has been the claim of all moralists, and egoists have usually lost the argument. Rather they have never attempted to win it, but in a shamefaced way they have acted on their egoism. The "Moral Law" has held the entire platform, "humanity" has had full innings, and we have all agreed that humanity would be uplifted and glorified, with democracy fitting like a glove, if only men were free (to obey), equal, just, loving, and guided by law. And men have piously admitted that they ought to be these things, and have cast a glance in their direction in leisure moments. No institution can thrive however on attention so casual, and as for democracy it has clattered down in a straggling ruin. The clatter of its fall may prove capable of breaking the spell of hypnotism which the architects of mankind- the moralists-have laid upon their living material- men; capable of dispelling the authority of the "Moral Law," the authority, ruling in an alien interest from without. Then the ego, the wayward will of the individual man may have courage to mount the throne and ask, "Now what precisely does it avail me, Oh my Soul, to be free, to be just, to be loving?" and the individual value of the satisfactions to be derived therefrom will be the measure of their intrinsic value of these.