Tag: Democracy

Churchill on Democracy

Churchill on Democracy

Not by Churchill: “The best argu­ment against Democ­ra­cy is a five-minute con­ver­sa­tion with the aver­age voter.”

Desert News in Salt Lake City is the lat­est to pub­lish this red herring.

Com­mon­ly attrib­uted to him, but with no author­i­ty, this is not quite as cyn­i­cal as Win­ston Churchill could be—but not about Democracy.

Though he some­times despaired of Democracy’s slow­ness to act for its own preser­va­tion, Churchill had a  more pos­i­tive atti­tude towards the aver­age vot­er. On 31 Octo­ber 1944, for exam­ple, in the House of Commons:

 At the bot­tom of all the trib­utes paid to democ­ra­cy is the lit­tle man, walk­ing into the lit­tle booth, with a lit­tle pen­cil, mak­ing a lit­tle cross on a lit­tle bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or volu­mi­nous dis­cus­sion can pos­si­bly dimin­ish the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of that point.…

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Tests of Freedom: Italy 1944, Iran 2009

Tests of Freedom: Italy 1944, Iran 2009

The dis­tress­ing repres­sion fol­low­ing the recent Iran­ian elec­tion reminds us once again of Churchill’s eter­nal rel­e­vance. In the House of Com­mons on 28 August 1944, he was asked how he would judge whether the new Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, about to replace the Fas­cist dic­ta­tor­ship of Mus­soli­ni, was a true democ­ra­cy. Churchill replied:

The ques­tion aris­es, “What is free­dom?” There are one or two quite sim­ple, prac­ti­cal tests by which it can be known in the mod­ern world in peace conditions—namely:

Is there the right to free expres­sion of opin­ion and of oppo­si­tion and crit­i­cism of the Gov­ern­ment of the day?…

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“Democracy is the worst form of Government…”

“Democracy is the worst form of Government…”

The young ora­tor, 1907.

Democ­ra­cy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment, except for all the oth­ers. “It is fre­quent­ly claimed that Churchill said this (or words to that effect). I have tried to locate the source of that quote, but I have not been able to trace it. Is it gen­uine, and if so, where and when?” —D.C., Bogotá, Colombia

He said it (House of Com­mons, 11 Novem­ber 1947)—but he was quot­ing an unknown pre­de­ces­sor. From Churchill by Him­self, 574:

Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.…

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