On Democracy

There are days when I believe that there’s such a thing as too much democracy.

Let me give you just one example. When I was sixteen I attended a school that was founded on basic democratic beliefs. It outlawed hierarchy. Our teachers were there to guide us, to give us the benefit of their experience, but they were not to be our superiors; to underscore this fundamental belief that everyone was equal, everyone, from the Director of the college to the gardeners and the cleaning ladies, was called by his or her first name.

But it was not governed democratically. In fact, when we first arrived, the Director sat down with us and explained to us that although the college was based on democratic principles, there was such a thing as getting a job done, and there was such a thing as division of labour. Our job was to get the best education — not just academic — that we could, and to do so not for our own selfish edification, but to make the world a better place. His job was to govern. If that made him a dictator, he said, then so be it. He would be a benevolent dictator.

And by and large, he was. Benevolent, that is, and a dictator. And things got done.


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