The Great Democratists

Arthur raises an interesting point:

A great point Hoppe raises about democracy: who are the democratic thinkers? The Athenian democracy had nothing to do with the democracy as broadly understood, Rousseau envisioned something radically different at a very small scale, based on consensus more than majority rule. Montesquieu had in mind something closer to a random selection of representatives. There is simply no serious thinker behind democracy.

Hmmm... and de Tocqueville sold democracy as being girded by civic virtue, not the impersonal massive nation-scale democracy we have today.

Would any past thinker of note have supported the popular modern lay conception of democracy?

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Most serious thinkers oppose

Most serious thinkers oppose democracy. There is a very famous and widely used quote why democracies fail, but its origin is unclear. Nevertheless it’s food for thought. See:

When John Adams visited the Dutch Republic in 1780 he was appalled at the complacency of the wealthy Dutch who seemed to lack any higher ethics and could focus only on earning even more money. When in 1814 the Dutch Republic was abolished and turned into a monarchy Adams was not surprised. "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.", he wrote in a letter to John Taylor.

Hitler also demonstrated this fact when the Nazis won the general election in 1933. He transformed the Weimar Republic into a dictatorship, mostly by democratic means. See:

Majority rule seems unethical. After all, it makes the opinion of a random fifth person so much more important than the opinion of four other persons, when these voted 2 against 2 on an issue, that this man can determine the lives of the others. A power that in the past only emperors and high priests possessed, as Auberon Herbert pointed out in his excellent book “The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State” (1885).

Majority rule only works if you are considering individual rights too. Modern day democracies, however, lack balance and are simply vehicles for powerful lobby groups. This will eventually destroy any democracy, although public choice theorists may argue against this.