“A democracy should aim at equality, but it can be ruined by a spirit of extreme equality, when each citizen would fain be on a level with those he has chosen to command. Where this is the case, virtue can no longer subsist in the republic. The people are desirous of exercising the functions of the Magistrates, who cease to be revered. The deliberations of the Senate are slighted; all respect is then laid aside for the Senators, and consequently for old age. If there is no more respect for old age, there will be none presently for parents; deference to husbands will be likewise thrown off and submission to masters. This license will soon become general; the people fall into this misfortune when those in whom they confide, desirous of concealing their corruption, endeavour to corrupt them. The people will divide the public money amongst themselves, and having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusement of luxury.”
I find this citation from the famous French philosopher rather appropriate for this chapter. He seems to suggest that the old system of governance—aristocracy and monarchy—is no longer effective, yet the democracy he experienced during his exile in England was not the final answer. In this quote, he seems to prefer to stay with the old, known ways rather than engage in a new experiment in governance.
It's a good thing our forbearers did not listen to Voltaire! Otherwise, the ideas generated from the American and French Revolutions would have never taught the world very important lessons about modern democracy. If our predecessors had feared these changes, much of the world would still be governed by aristocracies. We would have never moved on to something better.
This chapter contains some different ideas about democratic governance that many readers have not yet encountered. I ask them not to dismiss them too easily as Voltaire seems to have dismissed a maturing English democracy. If our goal is to have better governance, we have to be open to new ideas—especially ideas that are outside mainstream thinking.
The alternative is to accept the western democratic model as irreplaceable—the last and highest form of government that humanity can invent, and that we will cling to it despite all its shortcomings.
Instead, I propose a new system of governance, and I call it the Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG).