In Democracy’s Dangers and Discontents, Thornton Sheds Light on How Increased Democratization Isn’t Always a Good Thing

STANFORD, Calif.--()--The Hoover Institution Press today released Democracy’s Dangers and Discontents by Hoover research fellow Bruce Thornton. This thoughtful book traces the historical process by which American democracy has evolved, discussing past criticisms and showing that those dangers and discontents afflict us today. Thornton argues for the Constitution’s vision of limited government and recovering our forgotten antidemocratic tradition.

“By democracy we usually mean a government comprising popular rule, individual human rights and freedom, and a free-market economy. Yet the flaws in traditional Athenian democracy can instruct us on the weaknesses of that first element of modern democracies shared with Athens: rule by all citizens equally,” states Thornton.

This work, which illustrates criticisms first aired by ancient critics of Athenian democracy, traces the historical process by which the Republic of the founders has evolved into something similar to ancient democracy and argues for the relevance of those critiques to contemporary US policy. For many, the end of the Cold War vindicated liberal democracy and freedom as the universal political system best suited for the modern capitalist societies. But obscured in this understandable elation over the demise of communism have been the traditional criticisms of democracy’s dangers and weaknesses, evident in its beginnings in ancient Athens and acknowledged in the philosophical debates over the US Constitution. In short, the United States’ foreign and domestic affairs have compromised policies and led us down treacherous paths.

“Many of the problems we face today are the consequences of the increasing democratization of our government, and, unfortunately, the flaws of democracy are unlikely to be corrected. But the continuing vigor of the US Constitution and the American character give us hope that democracy’s dangers and discontents do not have to end in soft despotism and that we can restore the limited government of the founders and recover American democracy’s aptitude and strength,” according to Thornton.

On the domestic front, the author focuses on the political impediments to addressing entitlement reform and resolving the debt and deficit crises. In foreign policy, he discusses the impact of democratic politics on how and why wars are conducted, with particular emphasis on democratic nation-building abroad and support for supposed democracy movements such as the Arab Spring. This book attempts to recover the forgotten antidemocratic tradition of our Founders and its tragic vision of human nature and to show that the dangers and discontents of democracy still afflict us today.

Bruce S. Thornton is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on Greek culture and civilization and their influence on Western civilization; he is currently a professor of classics and humanities at California State University in Fresno, California.

About the Hoover Institution: The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of economics, politics, history, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs. With its eminent scholars and world-renowned library and archives, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity and secure and safeguard peace for America and all mankind.

Contacts

Hoover Institution
Jenny Mayfield, 650-723-0603
Director of Media Relations| Office of Public Affairs|
jennymayfield@stanford.edu

Release Summary

The Hoover Institution releases book by Bruce Thornton on the downfalls of democracy.

Contacts

Hoover Institution
Jenny Mayfield, 650-723-0603
Director of Media Relations| Office of Public Affairs|
jennymayfield@stanford.edu