Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. (Winston Churchill from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)
On its centenary we revisit the world shaking impact of WW1. The first of modern international wars did change the map of Europe and the Mideast. Empires – Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German, Ottoman - fell and new nation-states arose from their debris cast asunder. Countries’ borders were subsequently drawn upon the whims of powerful players who disregarded the details and longer term consequences of their dabbling with crayons on the maps spread before them. It was time for a new world order, and the details could be sorted out later.
The winner in the new world order was something known as democracy. No post-war nation-state would consider going forward without some celebrated expression of the kind of democracies that were introduced in America and France at the close of the 18th century. And therein lay the problem that haunts, nay, compels our energies to this day – unfortunately democracy comes in two distinct flavors that make all the difference in the world. In the sequel I quote philosopher and professor emeritus Claude Polin of the University Paris-Sorbonne who expands on the post-Enlightenment history of democracy in his ‘World War I and the Modern West’.
Fundamentally, democracy means that the people are sovereign. However, almost all who believe in democratic governance are ignorant of its two distinct meanings and blind to its two opposing and competing ways of organizing society – in short, there are two ways for individual citizens to achieve sovereignty. It is this distinction and the different regimes of public policy which then evolve that gives rise to the ideological polarity we enjoy or suffer from today, and that forms the basis for the debates in the media and in forums such as RR.