During turbulent times like the present, Americans make fervent appeals to “democracy,” which they equate with freedom.

President Bush is eager to impose democracy on Iraq and other countries whose governments he disapproves of. Woodrow Wilson only wanted to “make the world safe for democracy”: Bush wants to make the whole world democratic. Everyone seems to take for granted that democracy is the ideal form of government.

Why? What’s so great about majority rule? A majority may be as tyrannical as a single dictator, and majorities have often deprived minorities and individuals of their rights — exploited, enslaved, and murdered them. Democratic Athens executed Socrates.

Majority rule has its uses, as long as it doesn’t threaten or violate more fundamental principles; A chess club can elect its officers, but it can’t vote to change the basic rules of chess; or it ceases to be a chess club.

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