It was Plato who observed that “Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” One of the greatest fears of American statesman John C. Calhoun was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system whereby the taxpaying class would be perpetually looted by the tax-consuming class.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Democracy’s Demagogic Plutocracy
“The late Vilfredo Pareto – although recognizing that the democratic dogma, like other political myths, has important practical consequences in impelling men to act in certain ways – maintained that all the terms we use to distinguish forms of political rule are worthless “from the logico-experimental point of view.”
In other words, actual power is never where we imply that it is when we describe a given state as a monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy. Almost everywhere “there is a not very numerous governing class, which keeps itself in power partly by force and partly by consent of the much more numerous class of the governed.” The proportions of force and consent and the ways in which they are applied vary in different communities, but the variations do not follow the differences in the legal or theoretical forms of the state.
Behind the parliaments of so-called democracies, as well as behind all public despots, there is a minority that plays the major part in the real decisions of government. At times, it is true, the actual rulers have to do obeisance to the whims of princes and parliaments, but not for long; soon they resume their power and exercise it with a greater effectiveness than that of the occasional power wielded by the formal government.
In democracies the people are permitted to believe that the official government is actually controlled by their will. The ruling minority concedes to the populace a formal right to decide “general” questions, to which the proper officials may only give “concrete” application; but in the exercise of this latter function, the officers have all the freedom they need to make any sort of application which they, or the minority whom they serve, desire.
“A governmental system in which the “people” expresses its “will” (if we could suppose that the people has a will), without factions, intrigues and cliques, exists only in the state of the pious desires of theorists. Our democracies in France, Italy, England and the United States tend more and more to be demagogic plutocracies. [Pareto]”
(Recent Political Thought, Francis W. Coker, D. Appleton-Century Company, 1934, pp. 328-329)