glyph 445: politics, power, force ... democracy, democratic majorities ... Weimar Germany, example of ... danger of demagogues . susceptibility of crowds to demagogues ... voting freedom away


The Terminal Instability of Democracy — Eric S. Raymond

the tendency of democracies to transform themselves into tyrannies

An essential part of the quest for freeorder is the study of social pathologies. Democracy is not immune to catastropic failure, and knowledge of those failures and the paths to them, described in books such as Hayek's The Road to Serfdom are important. When we know the early signs of the disease it improves our ability to stop it before it becomes fatal. Raymond's short essay draws attention to the need to take this matter seriously. -leif


What the willful self-destruction of Weimar Germany demonstrates is that the terminal instability of democracy is not a marginal or distant phenomenon. A modern, educated, civilized, and cosmopolitan people in the heart of the liberal West can — and will, at the behest of even a single, sufficiently skillful demagogue — surrender their liberty and condemn millions of innocent victims to mass death.


Eric S. Raymond is the author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a fine exposition of freeorder in the realm of software design.
November 1, 2008

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