Kevin Price
Egypt's quest for democracy...lessons from history
By Kevin Price
February 15, 2011

The headlines driving today's news is that democracy is winning in the country of Egypt. True, the country has dumped a dictator in Hosni Mubarak, but in the short term has replaced it with a military junta. But what the people demand next is elections and it appears the military is willing to accommodate such. But, what will that translate into government wise? Even if the people of Egypt get true and fair elections, that does not mean that they will like the results.

Countries that have had long periods of dictatorship know what that is, but have no idea of what liberty looks like. There are many lessons, in fact that can be learned by looking at Europe. When I traveled to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union following the fall of Communism, there were often protests because the people were seeking a quicker pace of reform. You would find signs, in English to get the message to the United States via TV, that would say "Democracy equals Freedom" and similar themes. Ironically, the first free elections in Germany's history were in 1932 and led to the rise of Adolph Hitler, whose party enjoyed a mandate. Democracy always lead to mob rule and mobs behave in a most destructive fashion riddled with socialism and financial ruin, if not checked by the rule of law. Alexis de Tocqueville is quoted as saying "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers — and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce — and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution — and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

The reality is, democracy does not work for any people. Democracy is the rule of the majority, and for those in the minority, it is not better than an autocracy (rule by one) or oligarchy (rule by the few). The founders of the US government recognized this and wanted a nation ruled by law, not the majority, and you can see this sentiment in their statements:

John Adams warned people to "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself."

Benjamin Franklin noted that democracies failed because such is like "two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." A republican form of government, on the other hand, assures liberty, and "Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"

Fisher Aimes, who was one of the first members of Congress, noted that "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty."

Even Thomas Jefferson, considered by most of his contemporaries to be the most sympathetic of democracy, was quoted as saying: "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." As the ambassador to France during the Constitutional Convention, Jefferson saw first hand, the excessiveness of democracy in that country as the mob ruled the day. The symbol of the American Revolution and its emphasis on republican government was the liberty bell, while the democratic revolt in France had the guillotine. These symbols speak volumes about the temperament of both philosophies.

Democracy is a government of extremes. What Egypt needs — and what the US should restore — is a Constitutional republic. A country where individuals rule and minorities are protected and the mob is at check, like any other potential dictator.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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