By Larry Romanoff, November 03, 2022
This is a serious discussion, so let’s be sure we are on the same page by ensuring we apply the same meanings to our words. “Democracy” is NOT government. It is not freedom, it is not human rights, it is not universal values, it is not free speech or free press. It is not capitalism or free markets. It is neither cabbage nor broccoli. Democracy, the fervent “we’ll invade your country and kill half your people” American kind, is nothing more than religion-based politics.
Let’s pretend for a moment we live in a normal world where people are not overcome by various political and religious insanities.
Now let’s imagine that our national economy develops, our country becomes richer and we all have more free time. American political theology tells us that as we reach some arbitrary threshold of income security, or some pre-determined level of progress from apehood to civilisation, our “natural yearnings of all mankind” will magically blossom, giving rise to an irresistible desire for US-style ‘democracy’. And that does NOT mean US-style Republican government; it means US-style multi-party politics.
This is a popular American mantra that sounds good but has no basis in reality – this conviction, however it’s stated, that when a people develop to some undefined but higher spiritual level, the laws of God and nature will release an inborn desire for multi-party politics. According to these people, as we progress in our natural development toward American clones, we will experience a predetermined, perhaps genetic, impulse, to meddle in the national government of our country. This foolish claim doesn’t even pass the laugh test.
Note that this theology doesn’t state that our interest in politics arises as we become more educated, experienced, or competent, but as we become somehow more spiritually enlightened. A basic tenet of this American religion is that as we develop spiritually and become sufficiently enlightened – in other words, when we become more like Americans – we will then want what they want. On what do Americans justify such a conviction? They offer no rationale for their beliefs, and indeed none exists. There is no existing evidence of such a human state, and of course they offer none. As with every religion, you must believe because you are told to believe.
But surely this is just lunacy. It would make equally as much sense for me, once I become rich (or educated, or enlightened), to develop a magical yearning to go to the surgical ward and try my hand at a brain transplant, since I know as much about that as I do about government, in other words, nothing at all. But why focus on government? Why not on the nation’s space program, or putting our noses into the nation’s educational system? The answer is that most people are not so interested in any of these fields, nor do they harbor any illusions about their knowledge or ability to contribute. And in fact, this is true of government as well – most people are simply not that interested and, in any case, have no useful knowledge or ability. But again, the attraction is not government, but American faith-based politics.
I can scarcely imagine anything more dangerous to the well-being of a nation than millions of uninformed and inexperienced people suddenly wanting to get involved in something they know nothing about but on which the entire well-being of their nation depends. The most dangerous, and frightening, part of this mindless infection is that Americans have blindly and foolishly included it as one of the 1,001 “rights” in their all-encompassing democratic theology. That means it is not only my natural and irresistible, inborn human yearning, but part of my rights granted to me by my God, that I, hopelessly ignorant, inexperienced and incompetent, can now meddle in the government of my country. And if that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what would be.
There is no natural connection between rising income or economic development and an interest in a nation’s management, any more than in a corporate environment. If our company does well, demonstrated by increasing profits and salary levels, there is no natural law dictating that employees will suddenly develop a fanatical desire to get involved in the company’s management. There is no reason to expect such a desire for corporate ‘democracy’, and we have never seen evidence of it in any of the many examples of successful companies. If this were some natural law, we surely would see it first in our corporations and institutions – in our companies, our hospitals, our school systems, charities. But we don’t. In fact, the more successful a company and its employees, the more willing are the staff to leave management to the managers. Management doesn’t even enter their minds unless it’s incompetent and begins to exert considerable negative influence on their lives.
Why don’t ideologies control our schools, hospitals and corporations? American theology tells us that as we reach some arbitrary threshold on our trek from apehood to civilisation, our “natural yearnings of all mankind” will magically blossom and the laws of God and nature will release an irresistible inborn desire for US-style ‘democracy’, for the “God-given right” to have multi-party politics as the way to choose our leaders. Think for a moment about a comparable circumstance in the corporate world. Why don’t Americans, when their jobs are secure and their incomes rise to some appropriate level, magically develop a “yearning of all mankind” to meddle in the management of the companies where they work? The rational answer is obvious: they’re all incompetent. Virtually none of them have the education, training, experience or ability to participate in higher management, nor do any of them possess the qualifications and skills to evaluate and select a corporation’s top management. They would be out of their depth, hopelessly incompetent to assume such duties and the only likely result would be the eventual bankruptcy of the company. It should be obvious that the rational answer is identical for a government, and that the entire “natural yearning” myth is ridiculous nonsense.
Why don’t we run our corporations, our government departments, our school systems, our charities, in the same way as our governments? Why, in a large company, don’t we force a separation of the management team on the basis of some ideology and let the two groups fight it out, with the winners taking control? Why don’t we do that with our schools and hospitals? The reason is that there is a purpose to all these things we do. Our schools are for educating our children, our hospitals for healing the sick. There is no room for ideology in these places; there is a job to be done and a focus on ideology will serve only to distract us from our purpose. Ideological rifts will color our actions, create irrelevant agendas, marginalise probably half of the most competent people. They will work directly against the work we must do. It is the same with corporations. There is no room for distracting ideologies if they want to be successful. We can find many examples of companies that have failed precisely because they forgot their purpose and substituted ideology for rational thinking.
So what is it about government that makes it different? Surely a government has a purpose too – to run a country, to manage an economy, to create jobs, growth, safety and security, to manage a military, to conduct foreign affairs, to look after the population and do what is generally best for all. The demands for world-class understanding and competence are far greater than with any corporation. Where is the room for ideology in this? Why is government a special case? I can think of no reason. There is nothing about this that appears rational from any point of view. It is true that any population will have a wide range of views, reflecting the differences in people and personalities, but we have that equally in schools, hospitals, corporations and charities. In each case, these other groups are able to absorb these irrelevant ideological variations and cooperate sufficiently well to function without the partisanship and infighting that is typical of politics. I see nothing to justify such a great departure from rationality for the purpose of government.
These ideas are not new. They have been presented before, but the ideologues try to dismiss them by saying “A country is not a company” – as if that obvious truth somehow negated the illogic of their position. They claim that the rules of business and government are entirely different, that in business you must prove yourself by delivering to customers and stake-holders, while in government the responsibility is to keep your supporters happy, or some such nonsense. This foolishness is simply a way of trying to pre-empt rational people from coming to the correct conclusion and realise that a state or country is not a daycare where you must treat the kiddies nicely, but is instead an enormous management task far beyond the demands of most corporations.
These detractors apparently want us to believe that a government needn’t accomplish anything, but just make its supporters happy. And those supporters would be whom, exactly? The other party members, those who share the same ideology? Those who paid the money and bought the elections? Well, schools and hospitals are different too, as are grocery chains, mining companies and manufacturers. Their business, their purpose, their stakeholders are all very different, but they function very well without the imposition of an ideological framework. And there is no reason that government cannot do the same. The benefits are not difficult to imagine.
This propaganda that so many Americans preach is almost pathological in its religious fervor, and yet those same Americans appear totally blind to the immense failings of that same system in their own country. This is what we call Jingoism – a blind and unquestioned belief that my country, my system, my everything, are the one way, the right way, the ONLY way. American political jingoism is a blind conviction that all living beings will gravitate by a natural law of the universe toward those values that Americans hold to be true. Most Western comment on this issue resolves from a blind worship of the multi-party political system with scant evidence that its proponents have ever seriously examined the reality of their own ideological beliefs which are all rooted in a primitive and simple-minded theology, an all-encompassing political-religious ideology producing a kind of simian team sport that would be perfectly at home in a zoo.
When writing of China, these same people tell us the Chinese haven’t yet wanted US-style multi-party politics because “their democratic yearnings have not yet developed.” What kind of nonsense is this? If I’m not Muslim and my name isn’t Mohammed, that’s because my ‘Allah-yearnings’ have not developed? If I hate McDonald’s, that’s because my ‘hamburger-that-tastes-like-greasy-cardboard’ yearnings aren’t yet developed? This mindless conviction makes no allowance for differences in culture or values of other nations, for their history or tradition, and indeed it disparages such differences and often treats them with open contempt. To Americans, any rejection of their democratic religion on the basis of cultural or other values is just a cheap excuse to avoid the inevitable. And of course, the ‘inevitable’ is for all peoples to become American. Actually, it’s a bit worse than that. No foreigners possess the spiritual gifts to become true Americans, even after centuries of colonisation. The best you can hope for, is to become a kind of imperfect clone – not really white, not really American – but having adopted American values and therefore suitable for colonisation.
Americans are deluded that their entire belief system and set of values is held in their minds as the world’s default position, representing the natural order of the universe. And they presume to measure the world according to this political religion. One American wrote: “I’m really tired of hearing about democracy. Time and again, people are saying, maybe the Western style isn’t right for this country, or maybe the country isn’t ready for democracy. Well, when, pray tell, is a country finally ready for democracy?” Another wrote, “We need to recognize that our ideology is not for everybody. The Chinese are still evolving upward, and without an educated society, US-style democracy will not work.” Now we know. The Chinese cannot adopt democracy because they are still primitive, having only just taken their first baby steps from apehood to Americanism. Those who reject our system do not do so because it’s unsuitable, dysfunctional and corrupt, but because they aren’t sufficiently educated.
“Democracy is only one way of constituting authority, and it is not necessarily a universally applicable one. In many situations the claims of expertise, seniority, experience, and special talents may override the claims of democracy as a way of constituting authority. The democratic principle [can be] extended to many institutions where it can, in the long run, only frustrate the purposes of those institutions. A university where teaching appointments are subject to approval by students may be a more democratic university but it is not likely to be a better university. In similar fashion, armies in which the commands of officers have been subject to veto by the collective wisdom of their subordinates have almost invariably come to disaster on the battlefield. The arenas where democratic procedures are appropriate are, in short, limited.”
“Democracy, alas, is also a form of theology, and shows all the immemorial stigmata. Confronted by uncomfortable facts, it invariably tries to dispose of them by appeals to the highest sentiments of the human heart. I allude to the fact that [American] man on the lower levels, though he quickly reaches the limit of his capacity for taking in actual knowledge, remains capable for a long time thereafter of absorbing delusions. What is true daunts him, but what is not true finds lodgment in his cranium with so little resistance that there is only a trifling emission of heat. It lies at the heart of what is called religion, and at the heart of all democratic politics, no less. [Democracy is acceptable in America because] a yokel can grasp it instantly. It collides ludicrously with many of the known facts, but he doesn’t know the known facts. It is logically nonsensical, but to him the nonsensical, in the sciences as in politics, has an irresistible fascination. His vast capacity for illusion, his powerful thirst for the not true, embellishes his anthropoid appetite without diminishing it. What reaches him is what falls from the tree, and is shared with his four-footed brothers. Certainly, the attitude of the average American . . . offers superb clinical material to the student of democratic psychopathology.”
Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons).
His full archive can be seen at
He can be contacted at: email@example.com
 The Crisis Of Democracy
 H. L. Mencken. Notes on Democracy