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Setting the People Free

The Story of Democracy

by John Dunn

Book Summary by Brian T. Murphy

One principle that this book particularly highlighted for me what’s the threat that American individualism poses over the common good. Of course, individualism is nearly inseparable from the American identity. It alone is not bad. But when pitted against the common good, it becomes destructive. Take for instance, those protesting for access to haircuts and other businesses amidst a pandemic. They trumpet “their individual freedom” over government control of their lives, though clearly decisions to ‘close’ society by elected leaders is a great benefit of a representative democracy, particularly since those decisions were based on the guidance of health and economic experts. Individualism and complete control by the people are precisely what founders of our American democracy feared, since ‘mob rule’ is sometimes incapable of assessing or indifferent to the needs of the multitude.

Major themes


  • “What we mean by democracy is not that we govern ourselves. When we speak or think of ourselves as living in a democracy, what we have in mind is something quite different. It is that our own state, and the government which does so much to organize our lives, draws its legitimacy from us, and that we have a reasonable chance of being able to compel each of them to continue to do so. They draw it, today, from holding regular elections, in which every adult citizen can vote freely and without fear, in which their votes have at least a reasonably equal weight, and in which any uncriminalized political opinion can compete freely for them. Modern representative democracy has changed the idea of democracy almost beyond recognition. But, in doing so, it has shifted it from one of history’s hopeless losers to one of its more insistent winners.” p xiii


  • “This book sets out to explain the extraordinary presence of democracy in today’s world. It shows how it began as an improvised remedy for a very local Greek difficulty two and a half thousand years ago, flourished briefly but scintillatingly, and then faded away almost everywhere for all but two thousand years. It tells how it came back to life as a real modern political option, explaining why it first did so, under another name, in the struggle for American independence and with the founding of the new American Republic. It shows how it then returned, almost immediately and under its own name… amid the struggles of France’s revolution. It registers its slow but insistent rise over the next century and a half, and it’s overwhelming triumph in the years since 1945. In that rise we can see how strong the continuities remain, but also how sharp the brakes must be, between its Greek original and any modern democratic state.” p xvii-xviii



Preface and acknowledgments to the second edition


  • “Democracy is not in itself a clear political idea. It is not a valid title to the political compliance or allegiance of anyone. More important still, it is not stable and descriptively clear or accurate name for any form of modern state. You can use it yourself to express clear political ideas, to develop better or worse grounds for political compliance or allegiance, or even to label some particular range of modern states in contrast to others. What you cannot in principle do is validate any political judgment of your own...” p xii-xiii



Preface – why democracy?


  • “Not till very late in the eighteenth century, very close to France’s great revolution, and apparently largely in and because of it, did democracy transform itself into a noun of agency (a democrat) an adjective which expressed allegiance and did not merely allude to it (democratic), and a verb (to democratize), which described the project of refashioning politics, society, and even the economy in their entirety, to meet the standards set by the idea of popular self-rule.” p xx

  • “Athens gave democracy at name, and worked out an elaborate, highly distinctive, and astonishingly thoroughgoing interpretation of the political conditions required to achieve it. But it took the French Revolution, well over two thousand years later, to turn democrat into a partisan label and a badge of political honour, and first lent imaginative credibility to the idea of transforming human collective life, anywhere and everywhere, to fit those requirements. Only after 1789, as far as we know, did any human beings begin to speak of democratizing the societies to which they belonged.” p xx

  • The citizens of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC…governed themselves. What they meant by democracy (which was originally their word) was the extraordinary complex of institutions which enabled them to do so. No modern population can govern themselves in the same sense; and we lose all feeling for political reality when we strive today to see in America or Britain, as they prepare for war or draw up their public budgets, instances of either people governing itself in even a mildly opaque way. When any modern state claims to be a democracy, it necessarily miss describes itself.” p xxii

  • “The question I try to answer here, the book’s second question, is why this particular state form, the modern representative capitalist democracy, has for the present won the global struggle for wealth and power. This is a hard question; and I cannot claim to have it answered conclusively. What I hope to show is why its answer cannot be either of the two conclusions which we are endlessly urged to draw from it(Because it is evidently just and because it works reliably in practice), and where, instead, that answer must lie. If these judgments are right, they imply at least one simple conclusion: that our own need to understand the political reality of the world in which we now live is still every bit as urgent as the need which prompted the Athenians to invent and deepen that very distant system of self-rule. For them, it was a price they chose to pay to protect their freedom, as well as an expression of that freedom in itself.” p xxiv



1 – Democracy’s first coming


  • “…democracy stakes a claim which is disconcerting from the outset: the claim to be obeyed. Every right constrains free action. Every freedom necessarily intrudes on the freedom of action of others. But democracy is itself a direct pressure on the will: a demand to accept, abide by, and in the end even submit to, the choices of most of your fellow citizens.” P2

  • “Today democracy has come to be used, with sufficient gall, to refer to almost any form of rule or decision making. But when it entered human speech, it’s did so as a description of an already existing and very specific state of affairs, somewhere in particular. That place was Athens.” P2

  • “This regime, which is called democracy (demokratia), because it is administered with a view to the interest of the many, not of the few, has not merely made Athens grade. It has also rendered its citizens equal before the law in their private disputes, and equally free to compete for public honours by personal merit and exertion, or to seek to lead the city, irrespective of their own wealth or social background.” P4

  • A speech by Greek statesman and general Pericles, as recounted by Thucydides (~450 BC): “For we alone regard the man who takes no part in public affairs, not as one who minds his own business, but as good for nothing; and we Athenians decide public questions for ourselves or at least endeavor to arrive at a sound understanding of them, in the belief that it is not debate which is a hindrance to action, but rather not to be instructed by debate before the time comes for action.”

  • “It gave power to the poor, the unsavory and the unabashedly popular, and did so quite deliberately at the expense of those of wealth, nobility of birth, for social distinction. The distribution of power had a entirely natural consequences, benefiting the former mercilessly at the expense of the latter. What made the distribution viable was the main source of the cities military power, its citizen navy, drawn overwhelmingly from the poorer sections of Athens’s population, unlike the heavily armed hoplites who dominated its land armies.” P5

  • “What then was a Athenian democracy?...For the Athenians themselves what it was remained fiercely contentious from its beginning to end…What divided them, as it divides every human community, was how they saw one another’s political actions, and the purposes which lay behind these, in the forces and interests…which in turn lay behind those purposes.” P9

  • Democracy in Athens rose out of struggles between wealthier landowners and poorer families who had lost, or were in danger of losing, their land, and who therefore risk being forced into unfree labour by their accumulated debts. It did not arise…through that struggle itself, by unmistakable victory of the poor over the rich, but through a sequence of political initiatives which reshaped the social geography and institutions of Athens, and endowed it with a political identity, and a system of self rule which equipped it to express and defend that identity. The most important of these initiatives, the reforms of Solon, were put in place before Athens had in any sense become a democracy.” P10

  • “By these means Solon tamed the brutal dynamics of appropriation, land hunger, debt, and potential enslavement amongst the Athenians themselves, and showed them how Athens could hope to conceive itself, and keep itself together as a community, while the world changed round it. What he failed to do was to establish a political mechanism through which the Athenians could act together to realize that hope.” P10

  • Nearly 100 years after Solon was Kleisthenes. These two statesman were arguably the beginnings of democracy. “What was different about his solution was that the framework he established was from its outset a way of organizing political choice which took it outside the ranks of the well-born and relatively wealthy, and assigned it clearly and unapologetically to the Athenian demos as a whole.” P11

  • “As it continued to work, acquired in name of its own (demokratia–… strength or power in the hands of, the demos–the people as a whole.... Pericles’s speech was delivered (in some form) some three-quarters of a century after Kleisthenes one power in Athens through and for democracy; and Athens remained a democracy, with two brief but destructive interruptions, for a further century afterwards. When democracy came to an end in the city, what ended it was not Anthony and political choices…It was foreign military power: the armies of the kingdom of Macedon.” P12

  • “There were also the popular Law Courts, in effect juries drawn from an annual panel of 6,000 citizens, all of whom had volunteered for the service and sworn a formal oath to do justice within it, and who were paid a modest daily fee for providing it.” P14

  • “What survived from ancient democracy, for at least the next two thousand years, was not a set of institutions or practical techniques for carrying on political life. It was a body of thinking which its creators certainly envisaged…as an aid in understanding politics. Its most powerful elements can be found principally in three books, by three separate authors who overlapped with one another in time: the historian Thucydides, and the philosophers Plato and his pupil Aristotle. All three spent an appreciable portion of their lives in Athens itself. None was an open partisan of democracy as a system of rule; and Plato was as harsh a critic as it has ever encountered. But all were evidently more concerned to understand what democracy was and meant than they were to sneer add it or try to subvert it.” P17

  • “It was Thucydides’s History above all on which the most committed and influential modern interpreters of Greek democracy have a drawn for their most evocative evidence of what it was like…” p17

  • “At face value, Plato’s Republic is not a book about democracy. Perhaps, as it says itself, it is principally about justice, or acting as one should, or about the nature of goodness and why human beings have sound reasons to try to see that nature clearly and respond to it with all the imagination and energy at their disposal.” P20

  • “The Republic is a book with many morals…But no serious reader could fail to recognize that it comes down firmly against democracy. Plato makes many charges against democratic rule, and the way of life which forms around it and arises out of it. He sees it in essence as and all but demented solvent of value, decency, and good judgment, as the rule of the foolish, vicious, and always potentially brutal, and a frontal assault on the possibility of a good life, lived with others on the scale of a community.” P22

  • “But for him [Plato] the rage for liberty…will infallibly undermine democratic rule and dissolve every form of authority within it…Any constraint at all comes to be seen as slavery. The chaos which this unleashes must ends ineluctably in arbitrary rule (tyranny): a precipitous descent from democracy, the height of liberty, to the fullest and harshest slavery.” p23

  • “Plato saw democracy above all as a presumptuous and grossly ugly idea, whose demerits could be read clearly and its erratic passage through the Greek world. The chaos of the idea itself was realized in the political disruptions of the communities to which it came, and the disorder of the ways of life which it sanctioned.” P24

  • “The Greek champions of democracy praised and fought for rule by the multitude (to plethos), buy a broad array of political arrangements. But, unlike Aristotle, they either did not choose to write books, or failed to ensure the preservation of any books which they did right. Their picture and Their case have largely passed from the earth, leaving the scantiest traces behind.” P27

  • “The word demokratia entered the Latin language, as far as we know, in the 1260s, in the translation by the Dominican Friar William of Moerbeke of Aristotle’s Politics, the most systematic analysis of politics as a practical activity which survived from the ancient world.” P35

  • “What is clear, however, is that Spinoza abhorred political disorder and fought hard and consistently throughout his life for the primacy of the human need for freedom of thought and expression.” P43

  • The last 20 or so pages of this chapter discuss the roots and meaning of the word democracy. Dunn discusses how philosophers used it overtime, and what this meant in the context of their time.


2 – Democracy’s second coming


My summary of this chapter: This chapter detailed the role that the concept of democracy played in the American and French Revolutions. These weren’t necessarily fighting for democracy as much as they were fighting against tyranny and aristocracy. Most of the chapter focused on the French Revolution, and the intellectuals who fueled it. Though the French Revolution didn’t result in a flourishing democracy, through it, led by many but in particular Siyes and Robespierre, the foundation of democracy as a viable form of governance was laid. Dunn constantly highlights the differences between the democracy of total citizen rule (which is not favorable) versus a representative democracy, argued for by most of our founders and the latter French intellectuals.


  • “What brought democracy back to political life, late in the eighteenth century, was two great political crises on either side of the North Atlantic. The first arose in the mid 1760s amongst the set of British colonies in North America which had never fallen under French rule; the second, some two decades later, in metropolitan France itself. The two settings could scarcely have been more different…The two crises differed in their causes, they’re rhythms, and their outcomes; but each has marked the history of democracy ever since in indelible ways.” P49

  • “The Constitution was initially drafted in a secret Convention held in the city of Philadelphia between May and September 1787, through an elaborate process of manoeuvre and the bargaining. The resulting draft was first made public on 17 September 1787, and put it to the twelve State ratifying Conventions, for their approval or subsequent emendation…a Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, drafted by James Madison on the basis of scores of recommendations from the individual State Conventions, was sent back to the States for their approval; and a Judiciary Act, creating the Federal court system, and endowing it with the requisite powers, was passed by the Senate.” P51

  • “The case which the Federalist made for the merits of the new system of government, while it failed to convince a great many amongst its immediate audience, rapidly became the barely disputed rationale for the basis of America’s Republic ever since. It was a case for the need for, but also for the safety of, a strong central government, which could raise revenues, control naval and military forces, and sign treaties with foreign powers like any other state, but do so in a way which posed no threat to the personal liberties which the Americans had won back at such peril from their former colonial masters…More than half of the Federalist was written by Alexander Hamilton, one of the most economically sophisticated of America’s leaders and uniquely sensitive to the commercial and strategic threats and opportunities which it was sure to face in the centuries to come. But the essays which had given the Federalist its unique authority we’re not written by Hamilton. Their author was the shy, diligent, unabrasive elder son of a Virginia planter,thirty-six years of age as the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia, James Madison…The Central purpose of that shape he set out and defended with exemplary clarity in the most celebrated of all the Federalist Papers, number 10, echoing the arguments of a letter composed a month earlier to his fellow Virginian and close friend, Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence.” P51-53

  • “Three and half months later, in Federalist 63, Madison returns to this judgment…The principle of Representation formed the pivot of the American republic. There were elements of representation even in the purest of Greek democracies, in the election of public officials who held the executive power. P55

  • “No human government could eliminate the risk of the abuse of power. But America’s Federal Republic, on the evidence of over a third of a century, had cut those risks to a bare minimum.” P59

  • “But, within politics itself, democracy had come to dominate the landscape. It faced no surviving rivals and was seldom under much pressure to reflect on its own nature, let alone defend itself against a real challenge to its ascendancy. For Americans, from then on, it filled the horizon of politics; and anyone who chose to rejected it publicly simply rendered themselves politically impotent. In America, the battle for democracy, as Americans had to come to understand it, was won affectively by default, even if much of its substance had been won much earlier and with much effort under very different names.” P60-61

  • “But, Beyond the Americans, the impact of these experiences on the politics of other countries was still quite modest until the First World War, and did not really come into its own until the aftermath of the Second.” P68

  • “What happened in France in the few short years between 1788 and 1794 changed the structure of political possibilities for human communities across the world almost beyond recognition.” P68

  • “The democratic legacy of the Revolution was very much the product of its intense and often devastating political struggles. But it was no echo of its public symbols, nor of the language in which those struggles were openly conducted…Only in retrospect… did democracy slowly beginning to emerge as its central issue, and do so in its own right and under its own name.” p69

  • “France’s Revolution was a revolution against aristocracy well before it turned against the incumbent monarch. As far as we know, none of its prominent native actors was a convinced democrat…until well after it had unmistakably broken out.” P73-74

  • “As with the making of America’s constitution, what drove the reconstruction of the French state was the crippling burden of war debt, and the political challenge of finding a basis on which to discharge it without openly repudiating it.” P74

  • “France was not a single kingdom, with one law for all its subjects. It was a vast archipelago of overlapping jurisdictions and endlessly differentiated statuses, all fiercely defended, and all at least pretending to centuries of antiquity…The two most prominent blocs of privilege belonged to the Church and the nobility, the First and Second of the three estates…” p74

  • “The crushing the burden of debt, the manoeuvres of the old regime’s beneficiaries to shirk responsibility for meeting it, and the debilitating squabbles over who was most to blame for the steady worsening in the predicament of both government and nation focused on the nobility, the Church, and eventually on the Monarch himself, an unprecedented weight of ideological odium. In the end all three buckled beneath it. For the next five years, through turbulent political exploration and struggles, intense legislative deliberation and enactment, and bitter civil and international warfare, the French nation set out to endow itself with the new legal identity. It also set itself to design and implement a fresh set of institutions in which to live together without either ignominy or absurdity, and on a basis which guaranteed liberty and security to all its citizens. The attempt to reconstitute France as a society and a state through political action was often nightmarish in its consequences, and as cruel, hypocritical, muddled, and disorientating as the very worst abysses of the ancien regime. It ended, on its own terms, in failure: military dictatorship, a parvenu empire, and, a quarter of a century later, in the reluctant restoration of the dynastic monarchy. Before it had done so, it devastated the continent of Europe and the ruins the lives of countless millions of its inhabitants.” P77-78

  • “Given the depth of the nightmare, and the awesome impact of the Revolution’s blood-stained wars, some of the models drawn from it, inevitably, were negative rather than positive–precedents to avoid or catastrophes to insure against at virtually any expense.” P78

  • “[Emmanuel Joseph] Sieyes broke openly with the nobility of France as an order and set himself to demolish the entire edifice of conceit and pretension which held its worlds together. The very idea of privilege (the basis on which the first two Estates held their formidable powers of political obstruction) was lethal to any good or happy society… not only was privilege deeply wrong in itself, it was also profoundly corrupting of all who benefited from it. Privilege was not an honourable quest to earn the admiration a fellow members of society; it was a constant spur to insolence and vanity: ‘You ask less to be distinguished by your fellow citizens, then you seek to be distinguished from your fellow citizens.’” P82

  • “The third, and far the most famous, of Sieyes’s trio of pamphlets appeared next, in January 1789, turning this tirade into an open programme of revolution, and handing on to the young Karl Marx half a century later the classic formula for revolutionary consciousness.” P83

  • “For Siyes, democracy as such could pose no real threat in France, however deep its crisis, since it was simply impractical. In a country as large as France, the demos could never assemble together to shape itself into an effective political agent. To act at all, it must be represented. A select and separate group, small enough to co-operate effectively and be capable of action, must act on its behalf. But, to act with its authority, that group must first be chosen by it.” P86

  • “[Thomas] Paine presented the Revolution’s political outcome as a triumph, not for simple democracy, but for ‘the representative system’. That system retained ‘Democracy as the ground’ and rejected the correct systems of Monarchy and Aristocracy.” P88

  • “For Paine, America’s new government was best seen as ‘representation ingrafted upon Democracy’. This novel creation united all the advantages of a simple democracy; but it also avoided most, if not all, of its notorious disadvantages.” P89

  • “The Rights of Man was Paine’s attempt to defend France’s revolution, not only through its own informing political values… but also through the reassuring precedents of America’s relative domestic peace as an independent state. It saw in representation, as Siyes and Madison had each done before it, an effective system for designing and organizing a form of government accountable overtime to the governed and dependably committed to serving their interests. It is firmly refused to see in the representative system the slightest element of regrettable concession to political, economic, or geographical realities at democracy’s expense.” P89

  • “But with Maximilien Robespierre, for the first time in modern history, democracy at last appears not merly as a passing expression of political taste but as an organizing conception of an entire vision of politics.” P90

  • “The French are the first people in the world who have established true democracy, summoning all men to equality and the full rights of citizenship. This is the real reason why all the tyrants leagued against the Republic will be conquered in the end.”

  • Robespierre stated: “democracy parishes by two excesses, the aristocracy of those who govern, or the contempt of the people for the authorities which it has itself established, a contempt in which each faction or individual reaches out for the public power, and reduces the people, through the resulting chaos, to nullity, or the power of a single man.” P94

  • “It was Robespierre above all who brought democracy back to life as a focus of political allegiance: no longer merely an elusive or blatantly implausible form of government, but a glowing and perhaps in the long run all but irresistible pole of attraction and source of power.” P94


3 – The long shadow of Thermidor.


  • “The democracy which Robespierre affirms is synonymous with the republic as a form of state. By 1794 it made some sense to insist that a republic, the reluctant political product of France’s turmoil, could no more be an aristocracy than it could a monarchy…The quest to combine democracy with monarchy in varying proportions persisted in France itself at intervals for almost a century, with at least one notable triumph along the way in the person of Napoleon. It was emulated widely elsewhere for quite some time, and is still not wholly discredited in some settings (Morocco, Thailand, Holland, Sweden, Britain, and in future or perhaps even Saudi Arabia)…By 1794 a republic claiming legitimacy could hope to vindicate its claim by setting itself against aristocracy, and could use democracy, without further explanation, to express and authenticate its categorical opposition to aristocracy. What it could not do was to use the same category to settle the questions of how exactly its own rule should be organized, what if anything should limit its powers in practice, or who should acquire the opportunity to exercise that rule for how long and by just what means.” P96

  • Page 97 details the limitations of a democracy in which the people are in complete control, and discusses that thought the masses in France were effective in bringing down the monarchy, they never deluded themselves to think that they would “assemble continuously, and never entertained the fantasy that they might truly be ruling France.” The movement was useful to disruptive system, but could never govern without leaders. Occupy Wall Street is a perfect example of this. For a place like France to be governed, it would have to be done so through representation. Note: Representative democracy was a term coined by Alexander Hamilton.

  • “The freedom of a nation is the product of two elements: the equality which its laws create in the conditions and enjoyments of the citizens, and the fullest extension of their political rights. The second is no substitute for the first;” p100

  • Fantastic assessment of American democracy and the brilliance and long-term thinking of Madison and Hamilton’s Federalist Papers: “To delegate government to relatively small numbers of citizens but also insist that they be chosen by most, if not all, of their fellows was a cunning mixture of equality and inequality. It could not guarantee sustained victory in practice to the partisans of opulence and distinction. But it could and did open up an arena in which that victory could be sought and won time and time again, and won through the judgments and by the choices of the citizens themselves. By doing so, and by leaving their victory apparently permanently at the mercy of reconsideration, in the long run, it also won them the war.” p104

  • “The market economy is the most powerful mechanism for dismantling equality that humans have ever fashioned.” P112

  • “As stories go, it lacks a clear narrative line and conspicuously fails to carry its own meaning clearly on the surface…The passage of forms of government has been at the same time an uninterrupted struggle over who exactly is entitled to act in the people’s name, and on what grounds, over which forms of inequality, dependence or exclusion are to survive, be suppressed or re-created, and over who is to be subject to whom over what…Not a quest for anything at all, but a stumbling, myopic blend of quarreling and shared exploration of the inescapable issue of how to sustain everyday lives together as agreeably as possible. This is an eminently democratic perspective on the story, a view not from above, before or after, but simply from within.” P112-113

  • “Terrorism and tyranny lie in the eye of the beholder; and under democracy each beholder not only will perceive them for themselves, but is explicitly entitled to do so.” p117

  • The remaining few pages of Chapter 3 are a passionate description of both the virtue and the fragility of modern democracy.


4 – Why democracy?


  • Dunn offers poignant, often forgotten analysis and the primary reason everyone should vote: “Some prefer to attribute its victory to its evident political justice, its being plainly the best, and perhaps the sole clearly justifiable, basis on which human beings can accept the apparent indignity of being ruled by all. Others find it easier to believe that it owes this eminence to the fact that it and it alone can ensure the well-protected and fluent operation of a modern capitalist economy. Neither cheery view, unfortunately, can possibly be right. Democracy in itself, as we have seen, does not specify any clear and definite structure of rule. Even as an idea (let alone as a practical expedient) it wholly fails to ensure any regular and reassuring relation to just outcomes over any issue at all. As a structure of rule, within any actual society at any time, it makes it overwhelmingly probable that many particular outcomes will turn out flagrantly unjust. The idea of justice and the idea of democracy fit very precariously together.” P123

  • “If we want to understand how democracy has won this eminence, we must set aside these presumptions and think again and less ingenuously.” P124

  • “By 1796 this was not a prospect which attracted the rich anywhere in the world. Today, by a long and winding route, in all the wealthiest countries in the world, the rich have learns to think better of the proposal and become quite thoroughly inured to it.” P125

  • “But virtually none of this, as yet, not even the first stirrings of the enfranchisement of women, had happened under the rubric of democracy itself.” P128

  • “It must recognize all citizens as equals and give each at least some opportunity to insist on being treated equally in ways which especially concern them. What it cannot in practice give them is equal power to defend their own interests. What prevents it from doing so above all is the scale and pervasiveness of inequality dictated by the order of egoism.” P147-148

  • “If ancient democracy was the citizens choosing freely and immediately for themselves, modern democracy, it seems, is principally the citizens very intermittently, choosing under highly constrained circumstances the relatively small number of their fellows who will from then on shoes for them.” P149

  • “Within the order of egoism a large part of the point of power is always money, and a large part of the point of money is always power.” P152

  • “Representative democracy, the form in which democracy has spread so widely over the last six decades, has equipped itself for the journey by making its peace evermore explicitly with the order of egoism. It offers a framework within which that order can flourish, but also one in which the citizens at large can set some bounds both to its pretensions and its consequences. Wealth by permission of the people may or may not present less of a practical hazard to any of them than wealth secured in open defiance of their will.” P153




  • History of democracy: “After its first hectic and crowded two centuries, that word lingered on forlornly for almost two thousand years, waiting for history to catch up with this and turn it back into practical politics. Once re-appropriated, and quite fast, democracy picked up momentum and spread erratically across the globe for much of the next two centuries.” P163

  • “Democracy is just a structure of political choice. It is no providential guarantee of the wisdom or adequacy of the choices presented to any citizen body. Especially, on the evidence of the past two centuries, it is no guarantee of the social sensitivity or economic intelligence of the approaches to benefiting a majority of citizens which will be proposed to them, still less of the personnel who end up governing them.” P172

  • “The fault, if fault there proves to be, will not lie in our stars or even in the career or amateur politicians we pick to govern us. It will lie in us. That is what democracy promises, and even in the muted form in which the citizens of the West at present enjoy it, it is what democracy will deliver.” P183

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