Let it never be said that my criticism of democracy is categorical. There are such things as successful democracies in the world which needs explaining. However, the problem is that the conditions which make for a functional democracy are those which are not so palatable to the taste of those who loudly shout for it.
As a working definition, let us agree that a democracy consists of two components (1) Limited central governance (or euphemistically known as “checks and balances”) and (2) Representative governance by the “people”.
Liberal Governments needs Illiberal Societies
On the first point every society needs means whereby coordination problems are solved. We all must agree to use a common language or drive on one side of the road. We also need means whereby property and contractual disputes are resolved and finally, order maintained for those who seek to subvert it. Many societies resolve their coordination problems through the evolution of custom and manners over centuries and “on the ground” policing of rules. Conventions are formed as more and more people conform to it and the increasing conformity itself creates more conformity, etc.
Thus, depending on the society in question, different societies resolve their coordination problems in different ways. The half-truth of the “limited governance” argument is that the central governance doesn’t resolve every coordination problem or enforce every rule. Most societies are “self-regulating” through the use of social stigma, customs and manners, and shame. From here we get the first condition for a functional democracy. You need a highly regimented society which regulates itself to begin with so that the government doesn’t need to regulate it. If a society is highly self-regulating and regimented, then in theory it doesn’t matter if a government does not govern a certain segment of civic life.
Many people point to places like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or even the Nordic states as examples of “successful” democracies. The problem is that these are highly regimented and disciplined societies with very strong sense of stigma and localised social policing. South Korea and Taiwan still criminalises adultery, the Nordic states are beginning to criminalise and phase out pornography and prostitution! Thus, a “liberal” government is compatible only with a highly illiberal society, when society regulates itself there is no need for the government to. However when you have a highly “liberal” society, what you get is either chaos or you’ll get an increasingly powerful central state attempting to organise and regulate the commonwealth. Thus we have the paradoxical explosion of the growth of government in even “Western” states which is in the state of cultural decay to attempt to plug in the holes.
I pass no judgement as to which arrangement is superior to the other. Different places have different traditions as to how much the central state coordinates the commonwealth. My only claim is that limit governance ONLY works in highly regimented and illiberal societies.
Representative Government incompatible with Multiculturalism
On the second point, representative governance by the “people”, democratic governance can only appeal to the people’s input on governance provided you have a relatively uniform society. It has to be *one* people in the substantive sense of the word, sharing the same substantive outlook of life and values. Only when you have a cohesive people can the people speak with “one voice” to legislate uniform policies and laws for the commonwealth.
Although historically uniformity of society has been determined by a uniformity of race, the more vital point is that they need to be of the same culture.
However the current mantra about “multiculturalism” precisely contradicts this need. When you have a cacophony of contradictory groups in competition with one another, you obviously can’t legislate uniform laws and rules for everyone. Each interest group would want their particular policies enacted, and if democratic governance is precisely defined by representation of the “people”, or in this case a cacophony of contradictory interests, then the only thing you’ll end up representing is chaos. This is why successful democracies are also quite uniform societies. The xenophobia of Japan is well known to us, as well as the uniform racial composition of South Korea and Taiwan.
This is not a criticism of multiculturalism per se. Multiculturalism can exist, but only within a broader authoritarian framework. You can’t have representative government; you’ll only end up representing chaos. So what you need is an authoritarian form of government which transcends the particular interest groups to coordinate the competing interests between them. That is why China has traditionally been an empire because it was forged precisely out of an attempt to unify distinct races and peoples into a single nation. One of the greatest ironies is that there was a greater sense of culture amongst the Chinese in Singapore during the British colonial days. The British monarchy never claims to be representative of the Chinese, it doesn’t require that each Chinese become an Englishman or a Scot or Irish, it didn’t attempt to create a single culture. The British monarchy merely coordinates the efforts of the various races but leaves them pretty much alone, a true multiculturalism. It is only after independence when, in the name of nation building and to create “one people”, the Singapore government suppressed all dialect groups and distinct cultures among the Chinese to create an artificial uniform Chinese race. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I pass no judgement again, but what is clear is that democratic government requires “one people” and uniform cultures, and this is incompatible with “multiculturalism”.
Again to repeat, I do not think that a democracy is intrinsically flawed or wrong. I merely think that it works only under certain very narrow conditions, conditions which unfortunately are not too pleasing to those who advocate it the loudest. A liberal government requires an illiberal society, and a representative government requires a uniform culture, both conditions anathema to the politically correct crowd today.