What is Democracy?

Things are getting complicated. The results of democratic votes leave many people unsatisfied, as the votes electing Donald Trump as US President and those in favour of the UK leaving the European Union show. Those who are on the losing side of such votes try to reverse the votes by legal means, often offering up arguments that they would not countenance had they won the votes and the losers offered up those same arguments.

It has often been thus. In the USA, Mr Trump was repeatedly asked before the election whether he would accept the result of the vote. He said that the election was “rigged” and this statement brought howls of derision from his opponent and those supporting her, who claimed that democracy was threaten by such a viewpoint. Today those very people do not accept the results of the vote carried out in accordance with the rules set out in the constitution, yet that is democracy.

In the United Kingdom the result of the referendum is now going to be pored over by judges, who may well render the “leave” vote impracticable by their decision, any by the restrictions imposed by the courts may force the government to take actions which make its bargaining position untenable and thus alter the democratic votes’ effect.

We all have the right to disagree with democratically made decisions but we do not have the right to attempt to overturn them or render them nugatory, for if we do we deny the democratic process we deny our most important freedom. Democracy simply appeals to the lowest common denominator of interests so it will often provide results that those seeking to impose their own versions of what is in the interest of a nation will find repellent.

Democracy has been described as the least worse system of government. It exists because time and time again we see that dictators, tyrants and monarchs are not to be trusted. We deny it at our peril.

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