28 April 2021

The Popes and Democracy - Part I. General Notions 8. The Two Concepts of Democracy

Traditional democracy was regarded as being one possible way, among many others, of designating leaders. It was seldom regarded as self-sufficient, and never as an exclusive political system. In traditional democracy, the people designated leaders but did not formulate policies, leaving that to their leaders, in whom they placed all their trust. Kings, magistrates, even Bishops, have been elected in this way. But, once elected, they had effective powers; they were real leaders, not merely representatives of the people. A leader takes initiatives and assumes responsibilities, whilst a representative, strictly speaking, takes no decision of his own, being only the spokesman of the people or the party. Modern democracy, on the other hand, is regarded as being the only legitimate way to designate leaders (see above quotation). It claims to be self-sufficient, rejects all other political systems as being contrary to justice, and gives the people, or political parties, the right to dictate policies. It is no longer exclusively a system of designation which, owing to circumstances peculiar to times and places, may be preferred to other systems; it is an exclusive regime, claiming absolute rights. Any suggestion of its possible suppression is regarded as absurd and contrary to basic human justice. Traditional democracy was a revocable right, partly or fully granted - or withdrawn, according to the needs of the moment; but modern democracy is regarded as an inalienable right, the only fountainhead of political justice, lawfulness, and authority.

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