Democracy is Amoral
A Widespread Misunderstanding
It never ceases to amaze me how deep the misunderstanding of democracy in western culture has become. Not only does the mainstream media willfully engage in propagating disinformation but it goes beyond them. If the media were the only culprit it would not warrant alarm bells and the accusation of stupidity. For the mainstream media that is a normal state of affairs.
This lack of understanding is also present among major politicians. People who have been democratically elected! Is it not reasonable to expect that people who work in a given profession have a basic understanding of one of the basic tenants of that profession? Democratically elected individuals should have a basic grasp of the meaning of democracy. But alas, this seems to be to much to expect from politicians.
But it doesn’t stop there. The everyday man on the street seems to be deluded as well. Maybe western culture or at least the American variant of western culture has become so infatuated with itself that it’s members have elevated the status of one of their fundamental principles beyond that what it actually is.
George Bush is perhaps the biggest culprit. I’m not talking about the pros and cons of the War on Terror. Nor am I referring to the pros and cons of the War in Iraq. What I’m referring to is the underlying assumption behind many foreign policy objectives. Bush is not the only one. European leaders and the UN are also along for the ride.
All to one degree or another have a hope that democracy will save the day. The assumption is that a society which adopts a democratic form of government will automatically adopt a set of moral standards which agree with western principles. This in turn will create a state that can be brought into the western fold. This is why the UN sponsors election verification around the globe.
In the 21st century we are witnessing a historical Novum. The mixture of Islam and Democracy. Since the elections in Iraq and the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories it should be clear that the assumptions and hopes surrounding democracy are invalid.
What is the misunderstanding?
The misunderstanding is this: democracy is amoral. Democracy does not guarantee a certain moral stance. Democracy only guarantees that the moral stance of the majority is the one that will rule the day.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary one definition of democracy is rule of the majority. Amoral is defined as being neither moral nor immoral. Amoral is neither bad nor good. It means neutral. And this is what democracy fosters. A true democratic system will simply allow for the majority position to obtain power. In the case of Hamas a government which was democratically elected adopted the policies of the majority of its citizens. Namely, a policy toward Israel which was not welcome among Western governments.
One could argue that the democracy itself is of moral value. Giving people a say in who will rule over them is certainly a desirable proposition. But to go beyond this is a mistake. To assume that because a democratic system is in place that a specific palette of moral principles will emerge is naive. A theoretical example: If 80% of a population are so inclined as to desire death and destruction, rape and pillaging, a democratic government will not change this. Rather a democratic government would ensure that these desire come to the forefront.
Where does this leave us?
Hopefully this blog has opened a few eyes to the realization that our moral stance must have another basis besides democracy. Democracy is no assurance that people will do the right thing. I don’t want to suggest at this point what the right thing might be. My point is simply, let us look elsewhere.
I am not anti-democracy. This is not my point. Democracy is good. But democracy is not a cure all. Beyond democracy western culture needs a basis for a broad moral consensus. If this is not found, then at some point our lack of consensus on morals will cause our democratic systems to produce a democratically sanctioned chaos.