On Democracy

October 15, 2016

The defects of democracy can not only be illustrated by a mass of evidence from ancient history: we can also find a number of modern instances. There are many cities of Italy living under democratic governments which suffer from the diseases that, as I have argued, attend on such constitutions. No small measure of confirmation and proof is afforded at the present time by the city of Genoa, which is vexed by sedition, and internally divided, in consequence of the defects of its civic body. It is exposed to extreme danger, which threatens it with utter destruction and decay beyond the reach of all medical skill and power and that though it may almost be called the city of greatest reputation in all the world, flourishing as it is in wealth and possessions and in spirit and martial energy, and wielding such power as sea as I know not if any other city of the present day can exercise. It has to its credit astonishing victories over its enemies, which can challenge comparison with those of antiquity; but it is none the less an evil case owing to its extreme system of democracy and to the irrational, illimitable, and inopportune spirit of self-seeking and cult of liberty which reigns among all its members. The conduct of public affairs shows itself at its worst in consequence of the spirit of greed ingrained in all the citizens, their unbridled ambition and contentiousness, and their thoughtlessness and heedlessness of all the requirements of the common weal. But they also suffer individually, and in their private lives, to a disgraceful and dangerous degree, the good at the hands of the bad; those who are eminent from those who are of no standing; and those who are sage and dexterous in all things from those who are utterly ignorant of all matters whether public or private. They have neither associations with one another-those sure covenants and compacts that unite men by general human bonds nor any with their neighbors, or with any other communities with which they have common dealings and some occasion for intercourse and co-operation.

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