The Primacy of Democracy

It’s easy to feel that we live in the most extreme of times, whether good or bad, and that these current years are truly the crux of humanity, the pinnacle of our society. But every generation has felt this way and so, necessarily, every generation has been wrong. It’s hard to see how we’re any different. And so, most likely, we’re not. We’re almost certainly wrong too. We’re probably not special.

All of which makes our intense devotion to certain thought paradigms particularly bewildering. Religion is the most obvious and incendiary example (“What’s the difference between Christianity and a cult? 2,000 years!” -Some Comedian, Probably) but in our current moment, politics seems more relevant.

It’s always seemed strange to me that democracy—undeniably a good means of governance—is indelibly held up by the United States and most of its political allies (read: democratic world powers) as being the pinnacle of government. This is not to say that democracy isn’t superior to monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy or any of the other myriad ways that a cloistered few can dominate an under-represented many. The point is that progress marches on and that we would be foolish to think that we’ve reached some fatalistic, terminal endpoint where no further development is possible. Divine right was an acceptable claim to power in the not-too-distant past just as representative democracy—which is not pure democracy—is an acceptable claim today. There’s a big jump from claiming divine right to sorting out the details of the electoral college but, having made one such jump in the past, who’s to say we won’t make another in the future, even if we can’t today see where that would land us?

Taking the primacy of democracy for granted is a shortsighted worldview. Time will march on and change will come, just as it always has. Social beliefs and the bodies that govern them will continue to evolve. Who can say that democracy will survive that evolution?

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