A very short note on despotism

Democracy was once viewed as a counterweight to despotism. Democracy was also once more exclusionary, too.

However, once democratic regimes in North America and France were established in the late 18th century, despotism flourished. How to deal with democratic despotism is at the heart of the conservative-liberal split (socialists embrace democratic despotism).

Conservatives believe a stronger executive “branch” will temper democracy’s excesses, while liberals believe a stronger judicial apparatus will do a better job of keeping democratic despotism at bay. (By “liberals” I mean libertarians.)

Thus Hamilton and Trump argue for a stronger executive branch. Thus Madison and Hayek argue for a stronger judicial branch. Thus Marx and Sanders argue for more power to the people. This is at the heart of all political disagreement, and not just in the United States. Indeed, it’s at the heart of politics itself. Discuss.

2 thoughts on “A very short note on despotism

  1. Isn’t “despot” just a bully in charge of a government? If so, “despotism” can be attenuated only to the extent that his government can be made less responsive to the despot; that has a price, does it not?It seems that as implied, everyone proposing an answer, wants something …

    • Isn’t “despot” just a bully in charge of a government?

      No, Jack, a despot is much worse than a bully. Despots have absolute power, and more often than not this power is wielded in a cruel and unusual manner.

      You are right that everything has a price, and that everybody wants something. I was driven to this post by some recent readings on the American federal system. The Americans were worried about democratic despotism thanks to the states. Madison and Hamilton were split on the issue of how to temper democratic despotism, but united in their front against it. In a lot of ways, this helps to explain why socialism never took root here.

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