Watch out! Aristotle pointed out, and history shows, that tyranny usually follows democracy. Athenian democracy fell to Alexander the Great. The Roman Republic fell to Julius Caesar, his nephew, and 400 years of increasingly tyrannical emperors.
Florence, Milan and other Italian republics fell to the Medici, the Sforza and other self-made lords.
In the 20th century, the Weimar Republic fell to Hitler, the Italian Republic succumbed to Mussolini, Cuba gave in to the Castro brothers and Venezuelan democracy yielded to Chávez — to name only a few.
The pattern is clear. Hopefully the pattern is not inevitable. But what Santayana said is worth remembering: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
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When democracies fail to meet the needs of the people, the people turn to a strong leader (Duce, Führer) to solve all the problems. The leader finds that he can solve all the problems only if he can get enough power to override democratic laws.
Eventually, the leader makes his own law, has his own police, does what he wants. Impulse reigns.
As Churchill once wrote, “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount.” The following turmoil gets worse and worse. The hopes of the people turn out to be in vain, and they become subjects instead of citizens.
Don’t believe that it cannot happen. It has happened too often before.
Dabney Park, professor,
University of Miami,