This post is the second in a series on academics who think that because they are not getting their way, this indicates that there is a problem with democracy that needs to be fixed. There’s no climate in this one, but the mindset is much the same as that of Al Gore and Mark Maslin discussed in part 1.
The second example is from Britain’s ‘foremost’
philosopher remoaner, AC Grayling, writing on Democracy and its crisis in the New European. It’s basically the same argument – Brexit won, Trump won, I don’t like either, therefore democracy is in crisis.
Apparently the article is part of Grayling’s “brilliant new book”, and it explains how “we stand on the precipice of losing democracy in Britain”. It’s worth reading, to see the shallowness of his argument. He starts by talking of the origin of democracy and how it means “rule by the people” – doesn’t everyone know that? There’s a bit about Plato’s criticism of democracy. Then there’s the Churchill quote about a few minutes talking to the average voter – doesn’t everyone know that, too? The other well-known quote about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried does not get a mention.
Grayling claims that democracy is more likely than oligarchy to lead to tyranny, “because monarchs and oligarchs would see that their tenure of power relies at least in part on the implicit acceptance of their rule by the populace, which cannot be secured by the exercise of coercive power alone.” I wonder what the starving citizens of North Korea would make of that.
After a brief mention of Cromwell, Grayling leaps to the present day and MTDWTDIB:
“The election of Donald Trump in the US, and the ‘Brexit’ referendum and what followed it in the UK, most acutely illustrate what happens when there is a failure to cleave to the underlying principles of representative democracy.”
Rather than attempting to support this claim in any way, Grayling then switches to another very well-known point – that many countries with “democratic” in their names are/were anything but.
There’s an excellent response to Grayling by Giles Fraser, The wrong sort of voter? There’s no such thing, AC Grayling. Fraser’s main target is the sneering elitism of the expert, but he also raises MTDWTDIB:
AC Grayling believes there is a crisis in democracy because the majority of those who voted on 23 June 2016 disagreed with him about the UK being a part of the European Union. It really does take some pretty monumental ego to think that not being agreed with constitutes a crisis for the whole of democracy.
Grayling has to have the last word, in a letter to the Guardian. In one sentence he simultaneously accuses Fraser of ad hom, and of being a dimwit: “Fraser’s failure to see this is the result of his having ad hominem intentions, a sure-fire way to be dimwitted in important debates”. The letter is as vacuous as the original piece, merely saying that “We have a right to good government”. A “good” government is presumably one whose policies match with the opinions of AC Grayling.
If anyone cares, there’s another excerpt from Grayling’s brilliant book at the LSE blog. Unfortunately for ACG, that blog allows comments, and the plebs have shown that the emperor has no clothes. That second article is also thoroughly debunked by Chris Hanretty.