Conrad Black: Democracy on the Way Out?

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Conrad Black, National Review, democracy



Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of FreedomRichard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at cbletters@gmail.com.

But a couple of other points should be taken into account before this cavalcade of gloom rolls much farther: Undemocratic countries aren’t doing very well either. No one is really pointing even to China, let alone dismal political burlesques such as Iran or North Korea, with envy or even respect, such as Bernard Shaw and Nancy Astor expressed in their pilgrimages to Stalin, or Oswald Mosley and Ezra Pound did of the fascists, in the Thirties. And appalling, vulgar, and broken-down though much of our societies are, they are not irreparable. What we seem to have is an economic problem compounded by a cultural problem. The economic system is less responsive and inspires more doubts about its sustainability than at any time since the Thirties. And it is hard to banish the suspicion, because it may well be true, that the level of public entertainment, the quality of the principal informational media, the effectiveness of the public education systems, and the reliability of the legal and judicial and correctional systems, despite immense increases in funding and endless calls for reform and radical improvement, are greatly worse than they were 20 or 40 or even 60 years ago.

All these woes are very serious and widely demoralizing, but they don’t so much impugn democracy as the long-entrenched and psychologically very necessary notion of progress. No sane person who is now audible proposes a better system of government; it is just that what we have isn’t working as well as we came to expect when democracy had rivals. We are now in the midst of an often absurd and generally debilitating effort to talk ourselves into an economic recovery. It is obvious that there is really no recovery in any traditionally recognizable terms. The best that can be said is that perhaps the rise in taxation and the python-like encroachment of the coils of red tape have caused large parts of the economy to cease to report. This happens when a free people is labored in the name of redistribution of wealth from those who have earned the money to those who have not, beyond what can be reasonably justified (and in implicit exchange for the votes of the self-interested, pseudo-conscientious majority)....




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