Enlightened Despotism vs democracy

Nov 2010
1,583
#1
It is often said that "democracy is the least of all evils", or something like that, but I certainly believe that the opposite is true.

All evil things committed by authoritarian/non-democratic regimes were committed because of the will of the people. Jesus was crucified because the people of Judea wanted this to happen, or they would rebell. To avoid rebellion, the Romans crucified Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus said "give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what belongs to God". In other words, Jesus was preaching peace and stability, not rebellion.

I can't remember a single authoritarian regime through the history of mankind which has committed henious crimes against humanity which was not by popular support.

One may eventually mention Syria, but I believe the Syrian opposition to be directly responsible for the mass murder on civilians done by forces loyal to the old regime of Assad: If they had not rebelled, no mass-murder would have happened!

I do not support mass-murder, torture and the like, but I do know that any authoriarian regime is bound by the fear of rebellion, which is why it is doing it. The Authoritarian regimes only commit mass-murder, torture and civil public executions because of the will of the people and to avoid rebellion from pro-torturists and pro-mass-murderers.

The Taleban regime is a very good example of what can go wrong in a direct democracy: The people of Afghanistan took the power from the Soviet Union, and formed Taleban and installed a popular religion in the area as the guiding and ruling law of the country. Taleban was democratical in its core, because it was supported by the common man on the street.

The Nazi regime during WW2 was also supported by the vast majority of the population, and the German people knew all about the gas-chambers. Yet they full heartedly supported the mass-murder of the Jews and the disabled.

The common people consisting of peasants and workers are too easily distracted by demagogues. This is the main reason democracy will always end as a tyranny.

Instead I suggest an Enlightened Despotism ruled by wise men and women and only using violence when they are trying to avoid rebellion.

Remember: It is the PEOPLE, common average Joe who wants mass-murder. Not the Despot or the Monarch!
Just look at the French Revolution!
 
Last edited:
May 2012
221
Groningen, Netherlands
#2
Really, I wonder if the occupied nations during the second world war agree. I also wonder if the majority of the Jews agreed they were being executed.

Enlightened Despotism? Someone you find to be wise men and women could be completely retarded in my eyes. Now I can vote, and if the majority agrees someone else is put in place. What if these wise men and women make bad decisions, there is nothing the people can do about it other than violence. Now we can vote.

Yes Democracy isn't ideal, it's the lesser of all evils. Democracy is still the dictatorship of the majority over the minority. Still, that minority can at least vote and don't have to resort to violence in order to change.

And seriously... the common average Joe wants mass-murder? Give me a source stating that all Germans knew exactly what was going on in those death camps. Yes, many hated the Jews, but they did not follow Hitler just because he hated the Jews. If you think this you are pretty ill-informed. In another topic in this forum someone stated that Hitler was a product of its time, and I agree with this sentiment.

And you really think Hitler killed all those Jews because the people wanted that and Hitler was hesitant??... I would like to say some more, but I will stop here.
 
May 2012
202
Cardiff,Wales
#3
It is often said that "democracy is the least of all evils", or something like that, but I certainly believe that the opposite is true.

All evil things committed by authoritarian/non-democratic regimes were committed because of the will of the people. Jesus was crucified because the people of Judea wanted this to happen, or they would rebell. To avoid rebellion, the Romans crucified Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus said "give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what belongs to God". In other words, Jesus was preaching peace and stability, not rebellion.

I can't remember a single authoritarian regime through the history of mankind which has committed henious crimes against humanity which was not by popular support.

One may eventually mention Syria, but I believe the Syrian opposition to be directly responsible for the mass murder on civilians done by forces loyal to the old regime of Assad: If they had not rebelled, no mass-murder would have happened!

I do not support mass-murder, torture and the like, but I do know that any authoriarian regime is bound by the fear of rebellion, which is why it is doing it. The Authoritarian regimes only commit mass-murder, torture and civil public executions because of the will of the people and to avoid rebellion from pro-torturists and pro-mass-murderers.

The Taleban regime is a very good example of what can go wrong in a direct democracy: The people of Afghanistan took the power from the Soviet Union, and formed Taleban and installed a popular religion in the area as the guiding and ruling law of the country. Taleban was democratical in its core, because it was supported by the common man on the street.

The Nazi regime during WW2 was also supported by the vast majority of the population, and the German people knew all about the gas-chambers. Yet they full heartedly supported the mass-murder of the Jews and the disabled.

The common people consisting of peasants and workers are too easily distracted by demagogues. This is the main reason democracy will always end as a tyranny.

Instead I suggest an Enlightened Despotism ruled by wise men and women and only using violence when they are trying to avoid rebellion.

Remember: It is the PEOPLE, common average Joe who wants mass-murder. Not the Despot or the Monarch!
Just look at the French Revolution!
I think you give too much credit to a single ruler. Despite what anyone says, a rulers power can only come with the approval of the people under him. Otherwise, they kill him. You also have to take into account the way in which people can be lead to think alike and how an intelligent ruler can shape people's opinions through limited information and manipulating social values. That being said if there is going to be a massacre in the streets that a despot does not approve of there is little he can do to stop it besides shooting and arresting civilians.
 

Gudenrath

Ad Honorem
May 2012
2,626
Denmark
#4
All evil things committed by authoritarian/non-democratic regimes were committed because of the will of the people. Jesus was crucified because the people of Judea wanted this to happen, or they would rebell. To avoid rebellion, the Romans crucified Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus said "give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what belongs to God". In other words, Jesus was preaching peace and stability, not rebellion.

I can't remember a single authoritarian regime through the history of mankind which has committed henious crimes against humanity which was not by popular support.

One may eventually mention Syria, but I believe the Syrian opposition to be directly responsible for the mass murder on civilians done by forces loyal to the old regime of Assad: If they had not rebelled, no mass-murder would have happened!

I do not support mass-murder, torture and the like, but I do know that any authoriarian regime is bound by the fear of rebellion, which is why it is doing it. The Authoritarian regimes only commit mass-murder, torture and civil public executions because of the will of the people and to avoid rebellion from pro-torturists and pro-mass-murderers.

The Taleban regime is a very good example of what can go wrong in a direct democracy: The people of Afghanistan took the power from the Soviet Union, and formed Taleban and installed a popular religion in the area as the guiding and ruling law of the country. Taleban was democratical in its core, because it was supported by the common man on the street.

The Nazi regime during WW2 was also supported by the vast majority of the population, and the German people knew all about the gas-chambers. Yet they full heartedly supported the mass-murder of the Jews and the disabled.

The common people consisting of peasants and workers are too easily distracted by demagogues. This is the main reason democracy will always end as a tyranny.

Instead I suggest an Enlightened Despotism ruled by wise men and women and only using violence when they are trying to avoid rebellion.

Remember: It is the PEOPLE, common average Joe who wants mass-murder. Not the Despot or the Monarch!
Just look at the French Revolution!
I am going to assume you are playing the devils advocate here, because I am having trouble seeing this being arguments defended by anyone with just an inkling of historical knowledge.

There are several problems with your argument. First of all you will need to define "popular support", how many supporters does it take for that term to be applicable? There are countless examples of military regimes taking over who only had the support of the military and a rich cadre (Chile, Burma, to name a few of the more recent examples). Secondly, is everything permitted on account of "popular support"? I don't think any academic political theorist would make such a claim. Remember the "1 million flies can't be wrong..." saying?

Then there is the problem of your claim that authoritarians only commit crimes agains humanity "for fear of rebellion". While I don't think that is true at all, some of the worst crimes against humanity was committed by the totalitarian regimes during WWII all in the name of imperialism and expansionism. And even if it was true don't you think that the thought that such harsh measures should be necessary, is a sign that their regimes are not in any way enjoying popular support?

And then there is your claim that it is the people who wants to massacre not the ruler. I think that while there is certainly a lot of historical evidence for the people, the mob, can be sadistic bastards (the fate of Johann de Witt is a prime example amongst countless), I don't think there is any lack of evidence that the rulers can be just as sadistic and vicious, if not more, since power corrupts and all that jazz.

All in all I think history has made a very poor case for despotism, when it comes to securing the prosperity and freedom of their subjects, enlightened or not. And then of course the major problem with "enlightened despotism" is that while the current ruler may be enlightened, there is no guarantee that his successor will be, and if it is a despotism only the ruler can appoint successors, so who would be in a position to complain if the next ruler is a failure? According to you noone, and they would even be permitted to massacre their political opponents in order to secure their regime (the current catch-22 of Syria). No, the weaknesses of democracy is also its strengths, there may be a lot of populists in government, in fact there may be nothing but populists, but they are out of government again when their term is out, so they can't do as much damage as someone governing for life, who will ultimately get corrupted (if they weren't already from the beginning).
 
Nov 2010
1,583
#5
I am going to assume you are playing the devils advocate here, because I am having trouble seeing this being arguments defended by anyone with just an inkling of historical knowledge.
I was not playing the devil's advocate I am just trying to figure out what is better than democracy, nothing else, nothing more, nothing less.

As to my historical knowledge, I agree with you that I have much to learn.
That's why I am here.

There are several problems with your argument. First of all you will need to define "popular support", how many supporters does it take for that term to be applicable?
60 % should do it.

Alternatively I see "popular support" as one of those parties or issues gaining the highest support. Ie. A party gets 4 %, B gets 10 % and C gets 30 %, I'd say the popular support is for C, regardless of the fact that the majority have no such opinion and C only gets 30 % support.

There are countless examples of military regimes taking over who only had the support of the military and a rich cadre (Chile, Burma, to name a few of the more recent examples). Secondly, is everything permitted on account of "popular support"? I don't think any academic political theorist would make such a claim. Remember the "1 million flies can't be wrong..." saying?
Well, I didn't say "might is right", I suggested Enlightened Despotism, founded by the traditions of the country. The regimes of Chile, Burma etc. are all examples of revolutions and have nothing to do with traditions.

No. In Popular Support I distinguish between conscious awareness and Militancy. Only militancy/rebellious fractions needs to be accounted for/appeased, although conscious awareness creates militancy when high enough.

Then there is the problem of your claim that authoritarians only commit crimes agains humanity "for fear of rebellion". While I don't think that is true at all, some of the worst crimes against humanity was committed by the totalitarian regimes during WWII all in the name of imperialism and expansionism.
Sorry, but I still see this as a measurement towards appeasing the masses to avoid rebellion.

I'm sure the British people supported (and demanded!) colonialism, like I am sure the German people (unfortunatly) supported the extermination of the Jews. I am basing these theories on the facts that the Nazis gained popular support in the early 1920's and 30's.

And even if it was true don't you think that the thought that such harsh measures should be necessary, is a sign that their regimes are not in any way enjoying popular support?
I'm not advocating popular support. My wish is that the government should do what is neccessary for the country to survive, and the well-being of its citizens, not just some liberal loosly founded ideas without roots in academics, tradition or experiences.

However, I am against violence, but I do understand why the authoritarian governemts are using violence (like public executions), because if they don't the people will rebel against the rulers. Look at the public executions in Iran: They are a direct product of popular support, unfortunatly. This sick and disgusting way of "enjoyment" is carried out by the government, because if the government does not execute these people, the government will fall.

Then imagine how many of such public executions there would be in Iran if it was a direct democracy... I get sick just by the thought of it.

And then there is your claim that it is the people who wants to massacre not the ruler. I think that while there is certainly a lot of historical evidence for the people, the mob, can be sadistic bastards (the fate of Johann de Witt is a prime example amongst countless), I don't think there is any lack of evidence that the rulers can be just as sadistic and vicious, if not more, since power corrupts and all that jazz.
That is true, but there is no incentive for the ruler to be a sadist bastard, on the contrary he has all reason to stay calm and have peace and stability.

When the mob rules (democracy), there are no limits. Look at the french revolution.

All in all I think history has made a very poor case for despotism, when it comes to securing the prosperity and freedom of their subjects, enlightened or not.
Ehm... what about Prussia? Austria-Hungary? France (before 1789)?
I may have missed something though...

And then of course the major problem with "enlightened despotism" is that while the current ruler may be enlightened, there is no guarantee that his successor will be, and if it is a despotism only the ruler can appoint successors, so who would be in a position to complain if the next ruler is a failure?
That is indeed the weakness of despotism, and I agree with you that this is a very bad weakness indeed.

However, I think the risk with mob rule is quite more scary.

According to you noone, and they would even be permitted to massacre their political opponents in order to secure their regime (the current catch-22 of Syria).
I didn't say that.

I said the government of Syria is using violence because the opposition is trying to get mob rule. I don't support the Syrian violence, but I blame it on the syrian opposition for creating instability. However, I may have been wrong about the Syrian government. I don't know wether they've mass-murdered people during peacetime. If they have, the Syrian government should indeed fall in the hands of the opposition.

Peace and stability and as little violence as possible, is the best way to go.

I hope we can agree on that.

No, the weaknesses of democracy is also its strengths, there may be a lot of populists in government, in fact there may be nothing but populists, but they are out of government again when their term is out, so they can't do as much damage as someone governing for life, who will ultimately get corrupted (if they weren't already from the beginning).
Isn't populism dangerous to the fate of the country?

May I suggest an alternative the the "Enlightened Despotism": Enlightened Indirect Democracy. Democracy just can't function without heavy emphasis on education.
 

Gudenrath

Ad Honorem
May 2012
2,626
Denmark
#6
60 % should do it.

Alternatively I see "popular support" as one of those parties or issues gaining the highest support. Ie. A party gets 4 %, B gets 10 % and C gets 30 %, I'd say the popular support is for C, regardless of the fact that the majority have no such opinion and C only gets 30 % support.
Most regime changes in history has had nothing to do with popular support and everything to do with the ruler having control of the power structure of the country (be it military, aristocracy, clergy or some other base).

Well, I didn't say "might is right", I suggested Enlightened Despotism, founded by the traditions of the country. The regimes of Chile, Burma etc. are all examples of revolutions and have nothing to do with traditions.
I'm sorry, but you lost me with traditions, then. You will have to explain in more detail.

No. In Popular Support I distinguish between conscious awareness and Militancy. Only militancy/rebellious fractions needs to be accounted for/appeased, although conscious awareness creates militancy when high enough.
Sounds like someone has been playing Victoria. ;) While it is a neat model for a game it is just too simple to be applied in real life since there would be so many different parameters to appease conciousness/militancy that simple models of government isn't capable of handling them all.

Sorry, but I still see this as a measurement towards appeasing the masses to avoid rebellion.

I'm sure the British people supported (and demanded!) colonialism, like I am sure the German people (unfortunatly) supported the extermination of the Jews. I am basing these theories on the facts that the Nazis gained popular support in the early 1920's and 30's.
I am not just talking about the extermination of the Jews, I am talking about the enslavement of conquered peoples, massacres, mass deportations, this being done by both the Nazi regime and the Stalin regime, and the people of Germany and the Soviet Union cannot have been fully aware of the circumstances of this either. Those regimes did control public opinion, and while stories slipped out, the full extent of it never was.

I'm not advocating popular support. My wish is that the government should do what is neccessary for the country to survive, and the well-being of its citizens, not just some liberal loosly founded ideas without roots in academics, tradition or experiences.

However, I am against violence, but I do understand why the authoritarian governemts are using violence (like public executions), because if they don't the people will rebel against the rulers. Look at the public executions in Iran: They are a direct product of popular support, unfortunatly. This sick and disgusting way of "enjoyment" is carried out by the government, because if the government does not execute these people, the government will fall.

Then imagine how many of such public executions there would be in Iran if it was a direct democracy... I get sick just by the thought of it.
I just cannot agree with you that government is more important than the life of the individual citizen. After all individual citizens are what makes the government, and government exists in order to server the citizens. I am aware of the dilemma of sacrificing individuals in order to preserve the majority, but I do not agree that it is right to do it to such an extent as what you are mentioning in Iran or in Syria for that matter.



That is true, but there is no incentive for the ruler to be a sadist bastard, on the contrary he has all reason to stay calm and have peace and stability.

When the mob rules (democracy), there are no limits. Look at the french revolution.
The average Joe wants peace and stability just as much.

And regarding the French Revolution it can hardly be taken as a prime example of democracy, especially not during the Terror. During that time a small political elite ruled France on the power of armed mobs in Paris. But notice that they were in fact themselves deposed in favour of a government, namely the Directory, that imposed a relative inner peace and stability and still was democratic (republican) in its core. Mob rule is not the same as democracy, in fact mob rule could just as easily be a sign of an authoritarian government. The Nazis had the armed mob in SA who had been terrorising the streets and political opponents for years before they came to power. Same with the NKVD and the Soviet Union, the Blackshirts in Italy, armed taleban warriors in Afghanistan. In countries where such strongmen are necessary in order to enforce the pyou seem to be conflating mob rule with that political system.

Ehm... what about Prussia? Austria-Hungary? France (before 1789)?
I may have missed something though...
Absolutist states with most of the population consisting of serfs and/or empoverished rural populations. Espeically Prussia during Frederick II was excellent at creating institutions that secured a steady supply of educated bureaucrats and soldiers, but they would in no way get near the 60% popularity vote you demand.

That is indeed the weakness of despotism, and I agree with you that this is a very bad weakness indeed.

However, I think the risk with mob rule is quite more scary.
The history of Western democracy is very recent, and in a Western European context the popular support for this type of government can only really be said to have taken roots in the last 60 years or so. However during those last 60 years, how many really bad instances of a socalled mob rule have you seen as opposed to negative results caused by despotic and authoritarian governments?


I said the government of Syria is using violence because the opposition is trying to get mob rule. I don't support the Syrian violence, but I blame it on the syrian opposition for creating instability. However, I may have been wrong about the Syrian government. I don't know wether they've mass-murdered people during peacetime. If they have, the Syrian government should indeed fall in the hands of the opposition.
I think it would be incorrect to only blame one side for creating instability. The opposition to Assads rule started as peaceful protests which were violently repressed, this in turn caused the opposition to turn to violence and where his power waned all sorts of armed groups with ethnic, religious or other political agendas have sprung up trying to carve a piece for themselves. That is unfortunately usually what happens when authoritarian governments lose control, and there is no saying whether the alternative to Assad will be worse or better. Anyway he does reap what he sowed after decades of oppressing political oppostion through vanishings, summary executions and jailings carried out by a bloated secret police with unlimited rights.

Peace and stability and as little violence as possible, is the best way to go.

I hope we can agree on that.
I don't think there would be a person on Earth that would disagree with the basic premise of that, however most persons also have a threshold for how much oppression and violence they themselves can tolerate before fighting back. And I certainly don't think a repressive prohibitive authoritarian government is preferable just because it creates more stability for its supporters. Democracy with all its public demonstrations, public debate, changing governments, compromises and all those sorts of things may seem to some to be the unstable and chaotic, but I really do think that this is the more stable and peaceful way to go than the aura of fear and paranoia that follows authoritarian monpoly on politics.

Isn't populism dangerous to the fate of the country?

May I suggest an alternative the the "Enlightened Despotism": Enlightened Indirect Democracy. Democracy just can't function without heavy emphasis on education.
That education and political freedom are closely intertwined, and every political philosopher at least since the age of Enlightenment has been aware that one needs to strengthen public education if a state needs political aware citizens capable of taking care of their own political freedom. However unlike most philosophers from that time I think that nowadays we realise that we can't enlighten or educate all people, there will always be people who choose ignorance and wants others to take their decisions for them, but that doesn't mean that democracy should be abolished on account of that, since the amount of people who actually do take their time to learn something about their society and are able to take an interest in politics does outweigh those who doesn't.
 
Apr 2012
1,029
The Netherlands
#7
Enlightened Despotism sounds appealing to me but its very dificult to maintain. A sole ruler can be enlightened for a good part of his reign bit who says hes stays that way? Maybe power corrupts him, maybe his dificulties as a ruler make him bitter and uncarring or maybe the stress will just erode his mind at a certain age.

Even when an enlightened despot stays enlightened, his succesor might not be. Also an enlightened despot would most likely be extremely talented and above avarage people by far. The problem is that such a man is rare so even if his succesor inherits his morality the chance that he will be as skilled is small.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,666
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#8
I can't remember a single authoritarian regime through the history of mankind which has committed henious crimes against humanity which was not by popular support.
I suggest you try reading about post-colonial Africa, just for a start. How many people on the ground do you think supported Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, Bokassa, or even the likes of Pol Pot elsewhere in the world? They were able to commit these crimes because the people who had the arms to enforce their will supported the regime, NOT because the majority of people did so.

One may eventually mention Syria, but I believe the Syrian opposition to be directly responsible for the mass murder on civilians done by forces loyal to the old regime of Assad: If they had not rebelled, no mass-murder would have happened!
So, reductio ad Hitlerum - if the Jews had just given up their possessions and left Germany, none of them would have had to die. It was all the Jews' fault?

The Taleban regime is a very good example of what can go wrong in a direct democracy: The people of Afghanistan took the power from the Soviet Union, and formed Taleban and installed a popular religion in the area as the guiding and ruling law of the country. Taleban was democratical in its core, because it was supported by the common man on the street.
Was it? Why then, were so many rebel factions fighting against it? And what happened to anyone who opposed it? Why was the Taliban on the verge of collapse against Massoud until Pakistan intervened? Why were the vast majority of Taliban fighters primarily foreign?

Instead I suggest an Enlightened Despotism ruled by wise men and women and only using violence when they are trying to avoid rebellion.
And when your enlightened despot turns into a tyrant, what then? Who decides who are the wise men?
 
Sep 2011
24,135
------------
#9
I agree with the others here.

The more I read the OP, the more I was disagreeing with it.

I guess the others guys have said it all already.
 
Nov 2010
1,583
#10
Hmm... I might be on the wrong path here...

I won't answer all the comments, but I'd like to address the most serious ones concerning what my opinion is/is not:

Gudenrath said:
I just cannot agree with you that government is more important than the life of the individual citizen. After all individual citizens are what makes the government, and government exists in order to server the citizens. I am aware of the dilemma of sacrificing individuals in order to preserve the majority, but I do not agree that it is right to do it to such an extent as what you are mentioning in Iran or in Syria for that matter.
I never said that. I completely agree with you that the individuals makes up a country. The Iran and Syria things were not my examples to follow, rather they were scary examples of what can go wrong when the mob rules a country.

Naomasa298 said:
Was it? Why then, were so many rebel factions fighting against it? And what happened to anyone who opposed it? Why was the Taliban on the verge of collapse against Massoud until Pakistan intervened? Why were the vast majority of Taliban fighters primarily foreign?
Ok, you got me on this one, I didn't knew that.
 

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