Tyranny of democracy | Sunday Observer

Tyranny of democracy

14 August, 2022

“Democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of Government.- Hans-Hermann Hoppe

The symptoms of distress and the generalised sense of disappointment among people can be indicators showing the effects of decaying conditions of democracy in Sri Lanka. People in most countries around the world have come to accept democracy as the form of Government mainly due to the lack of a better system.

Most of these, so-called, democratic countries are still struggling to keep their citizens out of poverty and hunger let alone finding effective ways of improving their economies and distributing wealth. It may not be utopian to think that humans usually do what they think is the best at any given point in time, a decision they make using the knowledge they have at that time.

If that is the case, then all types of different struggles people are experiencing in their daily survival game indicate how primitive the best decisions people have been making so far are. It also shows that our collective knowledge is not advance enough at least to find an efficient method of distributing the wealth of the planet, irrespective of all the technological advancements we have achieved during that same duration.

One of the fundamental reasons why people are struggling to survive in, what they think are, democratic systems is their misunderstanding of democracy itself. Most people think, or are made to think, that democracy means having the right to elect representatives to form a body which presumably would lead them to prosperity and happiness by governing the affairs of the state through a democratic way.

Therefore, the majority decisions prevail within the decision-making bodies from village councils to the Parliament of the country and the people have no way of changing a majority decision even if they see clearly that the decision is not in their favor.

If they stay true to that type of democracy, then they will have to elect people at the next election to create a majority opposing the decision that was not beneficial to them. Of course, there is no guarantee that all the decisions the new Government makes would be beneficial to people either. People receive a lot of benefits during election times since there are politicians from all competing parties trying to buy their votes and the faster economic growth induced by the Government in power, especially during the year leading up to the election.


People are happy that it is their power that changed the Government, and the winning side enjoys their honeymoon during the first quarter of the term. Then people, irrespective of their choice at the election, will start feeling that their problems are not being addressed by the new Government either and spend the middle half of the term with all types of disappointments. The fourth quarter of the term will again be filled with excitement of hopes and works of Government change at the next elections, and the cycle continues.

Politicians make sure that people will not improve their knowledge about Government structures, democracy, economy of the country, and the country’s obligations and responsibilities to the global community so that the people will never even dream of governing their own affairs. The true meaning of democracy is based on the concept of ‘self-governing’ which is based on ‘Civic Faith’: the belief in people’s innate capacity to shape their own lives and our shared lives.

What is even more interesting is the fact that Sri Lanka and Myanmar, being two countries with Buddhist majorities, are going through the worst political crises of their respective histories. Since Buddhism basically explains the importance of true democratic practices through taking the responsibility of governing one’s own affairs within the bigger purpose of being of service to others without being a hindrance to them, these two countries have shown that not only do most citizens do not understand democracy, but they also do not understand Buddhism.

Our journey through ancient kingdoms to British aristocracy came to an end in 1948 giving birth to a plutocracy where the country was governed by wealthy elite under the covers of a democratically elected Parliament. Currently the process seems to be working in the reverse order where rejecting elitism is popularised and getting elected through the so-called democratic process is the easiest way to become wealthy.


One of the main feel-good factors of democracy is that each and every voter is made to feel knowledgeable and empowered. However, in reality they do not even realise to what extent they have been misled by the candidates until they start seeing all the corruptions and abuse of power by the elected officials of the Government. It certainly is not a difficult task to brainwash a group of people who have been subjected to at least 13 years, from age 5 to 18, of ‘parrotry’ and conformity. It shouldn’t be difficult to see why education and media play very important roles in such democracies.

For example, Hitler’s Germany and allied countries used radio for their propaganda and made people believe that the other group is bad for humanity during WW II. The use of digital media by Ukrainian Government to boost the morale of the citizens and win the information war with Russia while Russians keep banning access to digital media is the latest example showing how media is used in influencing people’s perception.

For democracy to work positively for all the citizens, the voters have to be well educated about who and what they are voting for. Voters are expected to be independent thinkers who are willing to put the country first before their selfish needs. Those two reasons themselves would be enough to figure out why democracy has not helped Sri Lanka much over the years.


Majority rule only works if individual rights are also protected and respected. It certainly wouldn’t make any sense to have 90 lions and 10 deer voting on what they should all be having for dinner. What is supposed to be a Government of the people, by the people, for the people gradually has become one of the wealthy and powerful 0.001percent (225 / 21000000, approximately) of the people, by them, for only them and their supporters. The power of the majority arises from the fact that in a democracy every individual is, politically, the equal of every other individual.

Therefore, the greatest power will always be the largest number of individuals who combine their strength to act together. In monarchial societies, the majority has little or no power but there can be independent power centres such as aristocracy, religious sectors, and wealthy business communities.

In an aristocracy, the nobles may consist of well-trained soldiers and the unarmed peasants. In that case no majority can easily impose its will. There can be other bodies such as religious sectors, civil organisations, labour unions, and professional guilds in democracies but they do not have an independent political position. They often act as intermediary institutions to protect aristocracies from the force of the majority.

Democracy started to degenerate into tyranny where the society being pushed into chaos. Power had to be seized to maintain order. A champion, (usually one who has been starving for power) will come along and seize the opportunity which will cause him/her to become a tyrant.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fifteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]