To the modern Western mind, the word “democracy” has a strictly positive meaning.
This is also true for such word combinations as “democratic values,” “western democracies,” etc.
Democracy is considered to be practically analogous to liberty. More democracy – more liberty.
But this was not always so. Most of the philosophers of the past did not like democracy, giving preference to an enlightened dictatorship (or, as it was called in ancient Greece, a “tyranny”).
Democracy was disliked by both the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and by his disciple Aristotle. By the way, Socrates (the teacher of Plato) was sentenced to death by the Athenian democracy in a completely democratic way (by common vote) – for the corruption of young men (Socrates allegedly corrupted the young men by propagating his harmful theories to them).
Democracy was also not favored by the enlighteners of the Golden Age (the XVIII c.) – Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu…
…and neither was it loved by the Russian philosophers of the XX century – Berdyaev, Shestov, etc.
But the most interesting thing is that (!) all (!) of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America did not like democracy and were actually afraid of it.
For example, Benjamin Franklin wrote:
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
And then Franklin added:
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
The reasons for this obvious dislike?
Well, they are twofold. First, democracy itself was unpleasant to the Founding Fathers. They did not trust the ability of their fellow citizens to make important decisions. Second, history clearly shows us that any democracy sooner or later becomes a dictatorship.
In actual fact, today we see both of these elements in action, taking for an example Russia and the other countries formed after the collapse of the USSR, where the presidents are elected on the basis of universal suffrage, i.e. the democratic way.
But then what were the Founding Fathers of modern America founding?
They were not founding a democracy (i.e., people’s power & universal suffrage). They were founding a republic.
In this case liberty is maintained primarily through the existence of 3 independent Branches of Government – the executive branch (the President), the legislative branch (the Parliament), and the judiciary branch (the Courts of Justice).
The existence of 3 independent Branches of Government is exactly what distinguishes the best countries of the Western world from modern Russia, where the last two branches are represented only formally and are fully subordinate to the executive branch.
Democracy – the power of the people – depends entirely on the level of development of the consciousness of this very people. The lower the level of their collective consciousness is, the worse the results of the democracy are. At a low level of consciousness, democracy quickly degenerates. Philosophers and politicians of the past understood this very well.
John Adams (2nd US President) spelled it out:
Democracy never lasts long; it soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
This is not only often overlooked in Russia, but is frequently forgotten in the West, too.
Ultimately, a substitution of concepts has occurred.