Democracy is Dead

Democracy is dead.

I say so not because I have ceased to believe in it. I retain a half guilty affection for that worst of all forms of government, except for most of the rest. I say so because everyone else has ceased to believe in it.

Yesterday I asked my students what comes first to their minds when I say that some country is a democracy. Immediately they turned to two things. One was the machinery of elections. In a democracy, you get to vote. The other was freedom of speech, defined in a libertarian way, without regard to truth or to the good of any community. In a democracy, you get to spit venom.

So I asked them to turn to Chesterton’s discussion of democracy, in Orthodoxy. For Chesterton, democracy is not a system, and not the intellectual product of experts in political science. It is rather a deep human feeling, inchoate even in children. Its first principle is that “the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately.” In other words, what is essential about me is that I am a human being and a man, that I had a mother and father, that I eat and drink and breathe, that I talk and sometimes hold my peace, that I like a good laugh, that I am a husband and father, that I grew up in a place that still commands my affection, and that I bend my knees in prayer. It is not that I am a professor of literature, that I read nine or ten languages, or that I can recite large blocks of Paradise Lost by heart. The miracle is man himself, any man and each man. The true democrat looks with wonder upon that fine rarity called the common man.

Armed with this healthy wonder, the democrat can acknowledge excellence where he finds it, without servility. He can also be a farmer laughing merrily at the clumsy Lord Corpulent trying to boost himself up to the saddle, or a carpenter laughing merrily at the professor of architecture who cannot hammer together a simple box. The democrat can bow to Lord Corpulent, not taking him entirely seriously, and can smile and roll his eyes at Professor Rhomboid, not taking him seriously either. And in matters that affect everyone, he need not duck and scrape to any lord or professor or self-styled expert at all.

Chesterton’s second principle is that “the political instinct or desire is one of those things which [men] hold in common.” In other words, it is also natural in us to come together to seek the common good: “The democratic faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves—the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed.”

I then asked my students to imagine a small community. Call it Summerville. The people of Summerville want their children to know how to read good books, write clear English, and perform with ease those arithmetical operations we all have to perform. They want them to know the history of their country, honoring it without sentimentality, criticizing it without ingratitude or cynicism. They want them to know things about the natural world. They want them to know about other nations past and present. So they are going to build a school, decide upon a course of study, order books, and hire teachers. The question then is simple. Will you let them do that?

The students were uncomfortable. What if the parents disagreed? What if they were not expert in a certain area? I noted that I was not spinning a fabulous tale. I was not describing a new thing in the world. This is what the people of Summervilles have always done; until Professor Dewey and his “science” of education and the machinery of bureaucracy took their authority away from them. Dewey pretended to love democracy, and perhaps he believed his pretense. But it was not democracy that made him Dewey-eyed. It was control.

If you wish to impose a single set of “assessments” upon a hundred thousand schools in the country, or upon thousands of schools in a state, you may be wise, you may be foolish; you are probably ambitious and arrogant; but what you cannot be is a democrat. If you believe that a school board should at all costs be packed with “professionals,” lest ordinary people disrupt the smooth functioning of the educational machine, you may be a fine engineer, but you cannot be a democrat.

If that is true of education, it must be true many times over with regard to raising children. The policeman who arrests teenage boys for offering to shovel their neighbors’ snow for money may be following the letter of an ordinance; but neither he nor those who insist upon the ordinance can be called democratic. The avenging harpies of Child Protective Services, descending upon an ordinary mother and father who allow their children to play outside without constant surveillance, or who allow them to proceed home from school by that time-tested method known as walking, may have sheaves of statistics to warrant their intrusion. They cannot have one word of democratic poetry.

The health of a democracy is not to be measured by how much your representatives meddle with, but by how much they need not or dare not meddle with; just as the health of a limb is known by how little you have to attend to it; or the health of a marriage by how many daily things are done as effortlessly as breathing. The healthy man strides along with a happy indifference to the weather; it is the sickly man or the hypochondriac who has to glower about the clouds. England was at her healthiest when her rulers played polo more often than politics. P. G. Wodehouse is the sanest of writers because he delights in the glorious unimportance of lordship and ladyship, and in the more glorious wonder of the lord, the lady, the groom, and the butler.

In the land of the kilt and the chieftain, every newborn baby will now be assigned a government mentor, a walking surveillance camera. Roll your r’s when you say “Big Brother.” It remains to be seen whether the proud Scots, who long resisted their English overlords and held so manfully to their ways, will look to the professors and astrologers of Edinburgh to determine for them when they shall eat and how they shall move their bowels. It was for this that William Wallace died. Beware the tartan: it is bar-coded.

Several years ago the Swedish government abducted a small boy from his family as they were about to fly to the mother’s ancestral home in India. They had disobeyed the unwritten law: Thou shalt not teach thy children at home. The boy has not been returned. The mother has suffered nervous breakdowns; the father has gone into Eurodebt, in more ways than one. Yet Stockholm still stands, as impregnable as the fortress of the most overbearing of feudal lords. Not all serfs till the soil.

Which brings me to the final point. Chesterton went on to say that he never saw the connection between democracy and a hatred of tradition. For tradition was simply the democratic principle extended over time: it was “the democracy of the dead.”

“Democracy,” he says, “tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.” We might view the matter from the other end, thus. Tradition is the greatest source of an ordinary man’s grasp of truth. It is the distilled and ordered wisdom of the ages, and it is available to everyone. To trust in it is like trusting in common sense. When it goes wrong, it does not go far wrong; it is never monomaniacal, as innovators often are. If a democracy is real, rather than a fiction confirmed by electoral machinery, it must honor tradition.

If you despise tradition, if you assume that most men have gone badly wrong throughout all of history, and on those things nearest their hearts and minds, then you may be a genius, you are certainly an imbecile, but you cannot on any account be a democrat.

If you believe that only a social “scientist” can pronounce definitively upon marriage, or family, or education, or the relations of the sexes, or work, or play, you may be a megalomaniac, you may be merely deceived, but you cannot be a democrat. If you call your lawyer to ask whether your child should go to bed, or your federal judges to ask whether a child should be born at all, or whether a boy is a boy or a girl, or whether your valedictorian can say “God” without a sneer, you may need psychiatric care, you certainly need to clear your mind of cobwebs, but you cannot be a democrat. If you believe that you must defer to the cultural predilections and the immense wisdom of nine lawyers, and not to the sane whimsy of your grandmother, you cannot be a democrat.

The democrat does not trouble his head about what the bureaucrats in Brussels will say. He takes an ax to the bureau. The democrat does not place his hopes in a sane decision from the archons of a court royal. He may for strategy’s sake file an amicus curiae brief, but he is inimicus curiae.

But I am an owl among ruins, a pelican in the wilderness.

Democracy is dead.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Samuel63

    We live in a time when a federal judge can reverse a popular decision to protect traditional marriage and when a supreme court can require purchase of government supplied health insurance. Indeed, freedom is now marginal. We are slaves on the tax farm and the trend has not even begun to reverse. We allowed it to happen so no one is to blame but us.

    • Scott W.

      Good point about serfs on a tax farm. I’ve heard it said that all forms of government are really at heart feudal with veneers of other forms.

      • asuffusionofyellow

        Feudal government was often more reasonable and just then the economic regime we currently live under. At any rate, it succeeded in developing into something that ChesterBelloc tried vigorously to save.

    • John O’Neill

      Judicial tyranny is not new. Fifty years ago local governments could and did outlaw pornography within their jurisdiction. Along came the supreme court a group of amoral old men who declared that all pornography is “free speech” and therefore protected by their constitution. Too many Americans went along and agreed that their government and constitution always took precedence over the Ten Commandments, so we have what we have today and yes we have no one to blame but ourselves.

      • Samuel63

        Nicely stated John. It reminds me of a statement by Ben Franklin to a lady. [ A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “ Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.]
        It appears we are losing it. I hope we can reverse course.

  • DrollDog

    We (the USA) have never lived in a democracy. Per a recent Princeton study we are officially an oligarchy. Per our founding fathers, they tried hard to shield the landed classes from the torches and pitchforks of true democracy. We need to quit pretending.

    • fredx2

      Comments like this indicate that democracy is indeed dead.

      • DrollDog

        We don’t and never have democratically elected our president. Our House districts are anti-democratic, gerrymandered monstrosities of which both major parties are guilty and are one of the root causes of the current toxic environment. The way the Senate is determined gives small, rural states an outsized (undemocratic) voice in our upper chamber. How can democracy be dead if it never was alive?

      • Kate

        But, but. isn’t Obama going to fix all that with mandatory voting?

    • DrollDog is not wrong – we are (were) a Republic, precisely because the history of democracies has so often been a fast slide into tyranny. A republic – and Ben Franklin added “…if you can keep it.” That died with the XVII amendment.

      Professor Esolen’s description of “democracy” might better be called “free government,” encompassing as it does the key preconditions for the health of any democracy or republic. Unfortunately Prof. Esolen’s conclusion is correct, and so is Peter Thiel. We are no longer a republic, and no longer even a constitutional democracy:

      The hope, such as exists, is twofold. One, free government may only be Mostly Dead, per Mel “Miracle Max” Brooks in the Princess Bride. Two, there are things beyond government that will always endure, as Crisis readers well know.

      • ColdStanding

        Billy Crystal played Miracle Max in the P. B.

        • Hey, you’re micro-aggressing me!

          Nah, you’re right, of course. My bad.

          • Jude

            No more rhyming, and I mean it.

            • Nathan

              Does anybody want a peanut?

      • Eamonn McKeown

        I’d love for Lee, Paul, Rubio, Cruz to campaign for a repeal of the 17th. Not gonna happen unfortunately. The other guy has to relinquish power first!

        • Repealing the 17th would be meaningless without repealing the 16th. None of the promises of the the proponents of the individual income tax have been fulfilled; and it has been the

          • Eamonn McKeown

            Andrew Napolitano pointed out that the 16th and then the 17th were necessary steps towards Prohibition. I only wish all the hipsters that celebrate the yearly anniversary of the 21st Amendment could understand that. It might make for a more aware youth. Back to the 17th amendment. I just think it would be the easiest with so many state govts. being all Republican, despite how we all hate paying taxes.

    • Guest

      Torches and pitchforks are mob rule, not democracy.

      • Clare Krishan

        I concur, I enjoyed the jaunty prose until we got to ‘He takes an ax to the bureau’ and that jolted me out of my righteous indignation… this British Catholic would broderie-her-some-anglais opus anglicorum and hang the tried-and-trusted pilgrimage of grace cinque piaghe blazon in her suburban Pennsylvanian HOA abode, a new-fangled oligarchic encomienda which bans such vulgar displays of individual free expression (with fines and legal expenses with powers to attach liens more sweeping than any under current American law — let it be noted — most new construction in the US now follows this vile model of home ‘ownership’ which is de-facto not ownership at all but moral hazardous rent-seeking serfdom.)

        At the close of the World Meeting of Families let us unite under the glorious wounds of the misercordia vultus… God Bless Pope Francis for the gift of the jubilee year of mercy… axes are not welcome in my house.

  • Seamrog

    “The democrat does not trouble his head about what the bureaucrats in Brussels will say. He takes an ax to the bureau.”

    The bureaucrat saw the future some time ago – that the democrat would come with the ax, and has prepared himself for it. The bureau has quietly and steadily abandoned law and order to arm itself with brute strength and a tyranny of gathered and stored information.

    The bureau has an assembled arsenal that is ready, waiting for the stroke of the ax, and strangely, appears eager for the first blow to fall.

    I do not believe for one minute that democracy is dead. I believe the democrat is studying his enemy, desperately looking for a crack in his armor, and keeping the edge of his ax razor sharp.

    The threat of the bureaucrat coming to ruin your life, destroy your career, remove your children and cast you in a bottomless prison is too real to ignore.

  • Dick Prudlo

    The slippery slope to slavery is clearly now a toboggan slide. A toboggan, for those too young to remember, is a huge sled with no steering wheel. It is something children, yes children in snowy climes played with, before their betters told them they could not. But, it was fun and fun is no longer to be tolerated by the tolerant.

    Mr. Esolen say’s it better than most, but it does make me quite bitter to read it. What we once had, even though not perfect has become most imperfect. I once said to a close friend that I was glad to be 69 and not 39. Every day that becomes more true for me.

    • djc

      I’m glad I’m in my 50’s for the same reason.

      When I talk w/peers in their 30’s its apparent they can’t conceive of what life was like in the 1960’s and 70’s. This is going to be an ugly plunge to the bottom and I’m very glad I won’t live to see it.


      • Nordog6561

        Most people in their 50’s will live to see it because we are plunging right now.

  • publiusnj

    Samuel63 rightly identifies the judges that have been inflicted upon is as key actors in the destruction of our freedom. Two other key factors:

    1) Sheer numbers. In the First Congress, a much smaller number of representatives represented 30-35,000 constituents apiece. Today, our representatives SUPPOSEDLY represent over 700,000 “constituents” apiece. In truth, that vast number cannot so much be represented as manipulated. Had our First Congressmen represented over 700,000 people each, the Congress would have been called “the Directorate” instead of a “congressing of representatives” because there would only have been 5 sharers in the legislative power of the State.

    Second, that pesky Will Maslow. Politicians understand Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and use it in devising the most effective way to divide and conquer their subjects. No longer are the subjects viewed as “yeomen” but as needers who can be manipulated to vote in predictable ways by spending programs.

  • HartPonder

    I am by no means an expert, but our so called founding Fathers in their wisdom, gave us a Republic and for good reason. You can see the results where our elected officials now count votes instead of counting on virtues and doing what’s right. All that really stands in the way of mob rule and the block of entitlement interststs is the Electoral College. But this last vestige of the Republic has come under attack in recent years.

    In the last one hundred years, as one example, we have changed the way we elect our Senators, they must now respond directly to the wim of the people. We have changed the Tax Code to give unlimited power to the government to allow the social engineering that now has turn on religious freedom. Now, the polls are what drives this nations decisions. A good example is Indiana freedom of religion act, look how fast the governor made a U turn when the
    So called people spoke.

    From a Church viewpoint, this world’s attempt at Government has always been a dead end street ( Daniel 2:44, Revelation 21) We pray for God’s Kingdom to come, for we know “there is no salvation” to be found in the princes of men.

  • So we do not become too enthralled with our opinions what we describe as democratic or less than democratic each of us interiorly are free spirits. The essential man lives in his mind which he may or may not be able to express. For me we are free to believe, hope and love in another context as sojourners here. Finally, let’s not take ourselves too seriously, at least here.

    • fredx2

      An attitude quite fit for life in a communist country.

  • Loyd McIntire

    America was a Republic/ Democracy when she was a country of people who had the same goals in life. We are now a splintered nation. May the old America rest in peace.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    As a Catholic I believe in that most democratic of all realities – the Four Last Things.

  • Vinny

    “It was control.” The poison of mankind.

  • Jim in Pittsburgh

    Good article. But let’s keep it simple. Democracy, in our day at least, is simply a means of transferring power. It is mere “head counting”.

    • James Boardman

      I think it would be more accurate to say that in the US, “democracy” has become a “MEANS by which the rich can purchase the ability to control the people.”

      • Jim in Pittsburgh

        Sad, but true, especially in this age of “low information voters”.

  • Carol Leeda Crawford

    One of my favourite books is Plato’s Republic. I read it every few years to remind myself of how prophetic it was on the demise of society. How democracy, the third of the four demises, gives the general populace a false sense of freedom and relevance. “Even their dogs will be allowed to run free on the streets”. Yes, so called freedom which eventually leads to tyranny the fourth and final demise. I believe we have tyrannical rule in North America now.

    • Joseph

      It feels like we are in a oligarchy run by leaders of corporations and the political donor class. Corporate leadership took down Indiana’s RFRA. The donor class runs Washington DC. Granted, there are disagreements among the various donor groups, but it is a rule by oligarchs.

      • Paddy

        Don’t forget all the voting “stupids” who rip off the government in exchange for a vote to tear this structure down. Too much democracy is the Black Death of politics.

  • Siwash

    Democracy requires shared values, some of which are outside (at least currently) of the political sphere and state power.

    With the Advent of Big Nanny Obama, the state must grab more power to impose the Nanny agenda. . . and this means less liberty and less self-determination. The technocrats win.

  • Keith Cameron

    We are the authors of our own destruction. We voted for it.

    • FrankW

      Agreed, at least to some extent. I would much prefer to see only those who are tuned in current events and issues on regular basis vote on election day (No, I don’t support laws enforcing that).

      The only reason Barack Obama was elected President was because there were far too many people voting who thought it would be cool to have a black President, and far too few people who were actually paying attention to the issues casting ballots.

  • fredx2

    A tale from Minnesota is instructive. In the 1990’s Democrats took over state government. They renamed the Department of Education. It was re-named “Department of Families and Children”

    Get it? Their job was not to teach children. Their job was to tell us what our families should be, and their job was to be in charge of the children. The state was in charge of families. and chlldren.

    The name was changed back, but the ethos remains. We now have come to accept that the state is in charge of the children, and the parents are pikers that have at best minimal rights. Students come out of school not knowing how to read a book, but they are violent in their support for “gay rights” and are quite certain that religion is poison.

    And they are very happy to let the government/TV complex tell them what their moral ideas should be. They are happy to be slaves, having learned to become slaves in the schools. They most resemble the Eloi.

  • St JD George

    I’ll share with you where my head is at. I’ve gone through plenty of moments of despair, and still am to a lessor degree, wondering how things got to be so bad and where they are in our society. I even wonder if God turning his back on our country who seems to have turned their back on him. Wallowing in it can cause depression which serves no one, and certainly doesn’t help spread his good news to the sea of unbelievers. I’m in the process of re-purposing my life to him, trying to block out the things that I feel I don’t have direct control over that have become distractions to me, and focusing my energies instead on the positive things I do have control over. It’s hard stuff to accept that it is God’s will that will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, to not fear death, persecution and our own mortality, and place all our faith in him. But if we don’t, then what do we really believe? It does pain me to see our church seemingly aligned in so many ways with this mayhem, or complicit by it’s silence.

    • crimsoncat

      Please keep posting your thoughts. I look forward to your comments.

      • St JD George

        Thanks. I get a lot of inspiration from the Gospels especially this time of year between the Passion and the Ascension at Pentecost. Reading how the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and watching their transformation overcoming fear gives reason to hope for us all. I’m certainly not detached from this world, but as I move along my path of faith things are coming into focus more sharply, and other things are blurring into the background. God bless you.

    • Well-said. The process of “re-purposing my life to Him”is one that is being accelerated in these dark and darkening days, for many. Trials have a way of doing that – and how could it be otherwise, as one looks carefully at salvation history?

      It is painful for me also to see “our church seemingly aligned in so many ways with this mayhem, or complicit by it’s silence.” Yet strangely/wonderfully, pharisaism is no surprise to God! I am encouraged to remember that in God’s plan the Cross was necessary, so deep and pervasive is sin in the heart of man – and the Church is called and required to carry the Cross following Him – and the Catechism teaches that that very end awaits the faithful: “The Church’s ultimate trial” (CCC 675-677). As I heard one preacher preach, “It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming!”

      • St JD George

        Well said, and may God bless you Thomas.

  • asuffusionofyellow

    It’s so interesting that when you’re channeling Chesterton, everything comes clearer, just as it always did with him. I need to go get me a Chesterton fix, now.

    • John O’Neill

      The basic fallacy of democracy is that it is a system where unscrupulous amoral people can through bribery or coercion get 51% of the people to vote that 2 plus 2 equals five and declare it proved science and then force the other 49% to ascribe to their new truth and forbid them to say that 2 plus 2 equals four or else face dire punishment. That is the state of the world today. O tempora O mores

      • Paddy

        True. Fixed electronic voting machines make it even worse.

    • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

      Have you ever pondered what G.K. would have made of the New Church? I can’t even imagine.

  • Tamsin

    I think the small-d democrat, as envisioned by Chesterton, must accept that the common man will make mistakes, and sometimes, some harm will be done. A democrat should believe Tradition is the common man’s best defense against such harms. The Catholic Church is supposed to offer precisely that Tradition. We have gone very wrong in relying on the State to defend us from all harms, whether it is feeding our poor or schooling our children. For instance, Dewey’s public school systems now stand poised to “defend” children from the “harm” of parents who espouse traditional views on the nature and purpose of sex and marriage.

    • Kate

      If the common man wallows in a corrupt culture, rejects tradition, and enjoys his “free to be me” lifestyle, then it can be predicted that he will make many, many mistakes. I look at my small town’s city council filled with “common” men and women and am amazed at the stupid and blatant self-serving decisions they make. I look at my neighborhood, filled with dysfunctional families and self-inflicted drama, and am not amazed at all that we get the politicians we have.

  • Pickwick

    Is Chesterton the authority on what constitutes democracy? He was a clever man but also a sophist.

    • Scott W.

      I think everyone here would be more interested in a well-reasoned critique of this article rather than a characterization of someone referenced in it.

      • Nick_Palmer3

        Yeah, Scott. Well Chesterton was fat, too!

  • Veritas

    “Over? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!” John Belushi in Animal House.

    “A country boy can survive.” Sung by Hank Williams, Jr.

    When the ordinary American citizen is working his job, paying his taxes, shuffling her kids off to baseball practice (I didn’t write “soccer” since my mates always said “That Communist sport”), planning a vacation–what is the opposition doing? They don’t work day jobs unless they’re an ivory tower fascist, or a community organizer, or a terrorist, or just a plain old revolutionary “tinkerer”. They “tinker” with the system and they’re usually dilettantes and sick philosophers. People without kids. Losers. They’re losers.

    Lots of good comments below about democracy and “republic.” Lots of information in both The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. The real revolution for the City of Man must be the education system. All Crisis readers should examine the Hillsdale College online courses offered free of charge (please send donations). They are “teaching” to keep the flame lit. Kids are good, and I don’t care how inadequate they might be due to the failings of our education system–The kids are good! We can reverse the tide in K-12 education, but we need to make it a priority. I do not propose reversing the tide with more money; we must free the schools of the Dewey-eyed ideological fallacy and return to classical education. That is the hope.

    Go to Sign up for anything there. Donate. The lefties reading this post already know about Hillsdale and, no doubt, will want to intervene on some kind of trumped up charge.

    • Someone alive at the time

      How can we pay attention to someone who knows so little of history as to claim that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

      • Veritas

        I was quoting a silly line from a movie comedy.
        We can have a sense of humor in these comboxes.

        • Nick_Palmer3

          He wasn’t really a zit, either…

        • Scott W.

          Natzis! I knew you guys were in cahoots!

          Sadly one of the few funny parts of that movie

      • Jude

        You are now on double secret probation.

  • Greg Cook

    By Chesterton’s definition America is and always has been anti-democratic, since we are founded on and nourished by a renunciation of tradition.

    • Nick_Palmer3

      Absolutely wrong, Greg. The “revolutionary” cadre in the US actually saw George as renouncing the tradition of salutary neglect toward the colonists. They wanted things as they had been throughout most of the colonial period. Their “solution” — Declaration and Constitution — was a practical distillation of millennia of tradition and experience including Roman law, the Old Testament insistence on man as created in God’s image, and many others.

    • geoffrobinson

      Our revolution was a fight to uphold the rights won in the British civil war a century or so earlier. So, no.

  • ForChristAlone

    And as far as economic freedom is concerned, Hong Kong and Singapore now occupy the top two positions. The other nations in the top 10 are New Zealand, Switzerland, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, Jordan, and, tied for 10th, Chile and Finland. The US and UK tie for 12th.

    It is only a matter of time before the US with its loss of true democracy begins to continue its downward spiral toward the likes of places with the lowest rankings: Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, and, lastly, Venezuela. But that’s exactly what Obama and the leftists are intending for us…

    Countries that are democratically-challenged will not remain economically free for long. And those which do practice economic freedom will either become more democratic or begin to forfeit the former.

    • Jennifer Roback Morse Phd

      Economic freedom is not the only consideration: Hong Kong and Singapore are among the lowest fertility countries in the world. A country that cannot replace itself is in trouble, no matter how much economic freedom it may have.

      • Veritas

        Welcome, Dr. Morse.

      • ForChristAlone

        You are correct. This was but one dimension that I referenced. My main point is that we’re not doing to well here on those dimensions Tony discusses nor in the arena of economic freedoms.

        (Enjoyed your book “Smart Sex” which sits in my library).

      • Clare Krishan

        or it is a thorn in the side of its neighbors, when it uses force majeur to expropriate goods from others, as seen by the birth dearth amongst Jewish-confessing citizens of Israel.

  • Matthew

    Dr. Esolen had me interested until he started writing about how he is a professor who can read ten or ten languages. Well, which is it, Professor Rhomboid? Nine or ten? He can read them all but he can’t count that high?

    As always, Dr. Esolen makes some good points but I dislike the hyperbolic writing style. It’s the literary equivalent of the scream. As far as the substance of the article, we are living in a democratic republic, which means (like all democracies) we are governed by the tyranny of the majority. Apparently, the majority want a “Dewey-eyed education” with a single set of standards imposed on our children. What Dr. Esolen holds as the common good and what the “common man” holds as the common good are two entirely different things. My takeaway is that Dr. Esolen’s complaint isn’t with the death of democracy or even with the control of the majority, his real complaint is that he is not in the majority and that he therefore has no control. Those of his ilk want to control education and the liturgy and the Church and everything else under the sun. He doesn’t want to be left alone by government, he wants government to hammer others into his image of the perfect man in a perfect society. Hmmmmmph!

    • ForChristAlone

      “he wants government to hammer others into his image of the perfect man in a perfect society” Please cite for us what of what he wrote supports this allegation of yours.

      And if you find his hyperbolic writing style so much to your dislike, since we still have some semblance of democracy here, you are free to choose not to read any of his writings. Then we will be spared your snotty comments.

      • Matthew

        You can choose not to read my snotty comments. As for my conclusion, I arrive there because of Dr. Esolen’s repeated insistence that those who disagree with him on the role of government are not “true democrats.” The residents of Summerville are true democrats as long as they impose the educational machinery of which Dr. Esolen approves, but they are not true democrats the moment that they decide to agree with Dewey on education.

        • Nick_Palmer3

          No, Matthew, Tony gives a definition of “democrat” against which one can assess whether or not a case fits that definition. It’s rigorous and relatively objective.

          Now, you may disagree with his definition. Fine, do so and propose an alternative. Or if you agree with his definition but feel his examples or positions don’t follow, show how his examples fail to meet the standards of the definition.

          Altogether too much dialog today is of the “I don’t like how what you’re saying makes me feel” type. Tony is not making a No True Scotsman argument, he is defining his terms.

          • Art

            I suppose that is why I sit on the edge.

            Who knows if the promise of Democracy is ever really attainable? Part of it depends on the people that compose that democracy, and today the people (and the so called elite) are of a much lower quality.

        • Tony

          I’m astonished that you could read such insanity into the article. I detest the idea of educational control from the outside.

          The point is this. Democracy isn’t a machine for electing representatives, so much as it is a culture, a culture of confidence in the abilities and the responsibilities of ordinary people to get done the really important things in life, the things that we all have in common.

          If the people of Anytown are democratic in spirit, they will consider themselves to be perfectly capable of running their own schools, thank you. The idea that they should conform to wisdom passed down by their superiors from afar may be crazy, it may be craven, it may be necessitated by their need to secure funds that come with strings attached — but it isn’t democratic. It springs from a lack of confidence. All deference to “experts” on the ordinary things in life is essentially corrosive of the democratic spirit.

          I have no desire to tell anybody how to teach their children, except to urge them not to let anybody buffalo them. We taught our kids at home. When a truck driver or a housewife came to me to ask whether they could do likewise, I told them that of course they could. If they asked me where they could find a curriculum, I gave them directions to the several big publishers of curricula, but I also told them that most of us didn’t commit ourselves to any one curriculum, and that it was perfectly fine to come up on your own with what you thought would work best for your own children.

          I said “nine or ten” because it depends on how you count them (are English and Anglo Saxon separate languages?), or on whether my really sketchy knowledge of Hebrew counts at all. Big deal. The point was that it is not a big deal. Adam Smith said that the range of intelligence in dogs was greater than the range of intelligence in man. I don’t know if he’s right, strictly speaking, but I approve of the sentiment. There’s not enough difference between the Harvard grad and the road worker for us to justify letting the Harvard grad standardize everything, or letting the Harvard grad determine the ordinary affairs of 300 million people. That’s not even taking into consideration the corrupting influence of ambition.

      • Jane

        Snotty is bragging that you can read in 9 or 10 languages but that it has absolutely nothing to do with the point you’re making.

        • ForChristAlone

          says you

    • Beth

      Hmmmm…let me guess, you are an ‘educator’! Am I right?

    • Veritas

      Are you kidding me? The masses wouldn’t know Dewey from a burrito. You may reply, “They approve of the status quo, which is Deweyian.” Why is that true, which it just may be? Because they don’t know anything else.
      Recently, I came across a lecture where the professor cut Dewey some slack. He said that Dewey would not agree with how his theories were implemented, and then he quoted education reformer turned progressive Diane Ravitch as saying the same thing; and Dewey kept quiet because he didn’t want to give ammunition to conservatives.
      I’ve been a teacher for 33 years and was fortunate to see excellence in education prior to coming into the public education sector and I can tell you this: there is nothing even remotely successful about the aims of progressive educational theories. And you write like an intelligent person, yet you can’t see the wreckage around you.
      Speaking of the “tyranny of the majority,” sir, and something you left out of the concept of majority rule–rights of the individual–what did the Framers say about this tyrannical majority and what did they say would calm its effects?

      • Veritas

        Also, what did the Framers tell us about classical Greek philosophy as a necessity for the successful operation of a democratic republic? When you put those missing items into the equation, you realize the answer to Franklin’s, “How long can you keep it?” (the new republic) is “Not much longer.”
        Some of us here care about that problem.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Jules Ferry, the founder of the modern French public school system, was simply more candid than most, when he defined its purpose: to cast the nation’s youth in the same mould and to stamp them, like the coinage, with the image of the Republic.

    • JD

      Of course the absurdity of your comment is its hyprocrisy. Typical of the left, you accuse your enemy of the very crimes you commit. It is your ilk who have had control of education, the liturgy, the Church, and everything else under the sun for the past 40+ years which is largely why we’re in such a mess. The left are the totalitarians my friend, not those like Esolen.

      I’m astonished that anyone would defend Dewey, a typical leftist who thought the common man too stupid and undeserving of a classical education that formed the whole person, and wanted it replaced with our modern, ever devolving system of technical schools in which our people know more and more about less and less.

  • Robert Cerefice

    I disagree with Prof. Esolen. Democracy is not yet dead, but it is on life support.
    My belief is that there are many contributing factors to Prof Esolen’s
    stance. First there is The Press (what a joke). Sometimes I believe that
    they are merely the mouthpiece for the government or the “establishment” and
    nothing more. Then there are the courts both Federal and State which are
    no better. Those erudite oligarchs who man them supposedly there to
    protect our rights exercise power. What a fine job they have done overruling
    our rights, making us less democratic. The Executive Branch of Government
    cannot escape scrutiny either, it has become more and more monolithic. Our
    government (those of the States as well as the Federal) appears only to lust
    for more power. And the legislatures believe that they must pass another law;
    they have never seen a law they didn’t like!

    But there are beacons of freedom and democracy which still shine. There are freemen and women who still possess that spark of liberty. They are few and becoming
    fewer as time passes. But they are there and sometimes I find them to be
    fearless. Journals, such as this one, proves it. There are others.
    There are some other media outlets as well. Some TV still endeavors
    to be impartial and free. There is some talk radio as well.

    Maybe I should name them. I really don’t think that
    is necessary. Yes, all is not well but dead? As long as there are
    men and women of good will democracy and freedom will never die.

    • Kate

      I think you are naive in thinking the main problem is at the top. The problem is at the “bottom” with the common people. Ours is a cultural problem (as has been pointed out in quite a few Crisis essays) which I think has its roots in the glorification of money/capital/consumption at the expense of higher goods. Reading de Tocqueville’s “Democracy is America” one can see where this experiment in democracy was headed. Many novelists, like Sinclair Lewis and Willa Cather, saw more deeply into the American sickness than was appreciated.

      • AquinasMan

        The political spectrum is a symptom of the illness gripping our culture. Of course we get Obama. He’s the face of society.

        That said, it started at the bottom, but it was supercharged in the middle — the media/pop culture. Now we don’t even demand leaders. We just demand candidates. And there’s never a shortage of those.

  • Giovanni Cattaneo

    Democracy is a fine thing to have in a society as long as people agree not be ruled by it.

    The Founding Fathers knew what would happened if the society devolved in the way that it has, and the enemies of democracy their actual enemies not the made up lies of the so called tyrants of monarchies lore, have seized upon those weaknesses and brought what used to be a great country to its knees.

    Aside from the example of the American Republic, democracies have had little success in delivering anything to the people except the institutionalized destruction of the culture in mass. In Europe alone it has taken democracies only a hundred years to destroy, belittle and humiliate what Christian-Catholic Monarchies had taken a thousand years to build.

    • Clare Krishan

      um… No.

      Christian-Catholic Monarchies did a lot of sinning amidst that building too, the roots of the rot of dynastic idolatry in the inbred genes of the Hapsburg progeny are legion.

      | Exhibit 1 | the current ‘legitimist’ pretender to the French throne under Salic primogeniture en(.)wikipedia(.)org/wiki/Louis_Alphonse,_Duke_of_Anjou doted on by many RadTrad lavendar-mafia sedevacante Lefebvrists (and distaff line great-grandson of a non-male-fecund El Generalissimo Franco) is the illegitimate son of his parents annulled Roman Catholic non-marriage, whose only aristocratic claim to the sang royale is by dint of a Polish-Catholic-apostate Lutheran inlaw, Julia Hauke mother-in-law to Queen Victoria’s daughter, whose Teutonic father-in-law covered up the putative shame of a morganatic marriage by awarding the lowley hussy the princessy-sounding title of Battenburg so any new shoots of his spurned family tree could still be ‘of the blood’ in nothing but a blatantly pagan might-makes-right sense (in Salic law, children of morganatic marriages foresake their paternity, to this day in Great Britain: marry a Catholic, dis-inherit your children’s right to the throne).

      The Radiation of Fatherhood lies in the feminine genius not in macho power grabs.

      • Clare Krishan

        Read Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’ for a canny retelling of a more ancient morality tale on the perils of the tyranny of relativism known as fascism.

  • Tom

    Excellent as always. Anthony Esolen is one of the few sane and balanced minds out there today. I hope Dr. Esolen knows there are some cadres of hopeful folks across this once great land who are striving to return education to pedagogy and away from self-expression and test preparation. I am fortunate to be among this “happy few”.

  • Tony

    I should make it clear that I’ve never been as sanguine about democracy as it actually works as Chesterton is. But I agree with him entirely about the fundamental spirit that animates the best of democracy, which is a trust in the ordinary man. Now if all that you entrust to the ordinary man is the machinery of elections, wherein his actual influence upon the machinery of government is that of a flea on an elephant, then forget it, please bring back a landed gentry, and let me live under a buffoon of a local lord, rather than under that worst of creatures, the winner of a national meritocratic sweepstakes.

    If we no longer believe that ordinary people can teach their children, marry, run their town meetings, police their streets, come together in common civic and religious celebrations, take care of the poor among them, and so forth, then let us say so, but let us stop peddling the nonsense that we are “democratic” or even “republican” in the classical sense.

    • Fritz Freleng

      I am interested in what you have to say about John Dewey. He was not actually the father of the child-centered classroom, but he made it popular, and I think (though I can’t yet prove) that this is the source of client-centered psychotherapy, which, I believe, has hastened exculpatory relativism in personal life. What is the relationship between democracy and legitimate authority, I wonder.

      I was also interested in your sheaves of statistics comment. There is an erudite Thomist psychologist working at OK State, Dr. James Grice, who has developed a rigorous critique of contemporary aggregate statistics, being based, as they are, on a flimsy idealism. Dr. Grice explains this much better than I can at his webpage and in his book Observation Oriented Modeling. This is a difficult book, but it shows that everything we “know” of modern social science is quite probably wrong.

      Thanks, always a pleasure to read what you have to say.

      • Fritz Freleng

        PS. Ed Feser posted this famous quote in an article on so-called tolerance:

        Democracy is the theory that the
        common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

        H. L.

        Which seems to exemplify, perhaps, the conventional view of democracy

        • Tony

          If Chuck Jones may respond:

          I have a book by Dewey, “How We Think,” evidently owned and used by a graduate student in the 30’s at Teachers’ College, Columbia. The marginal notes and underlines give you a fascinating and appalling look into the beginning of the end of locally administered, classical, faith-friendly education in American public schools. In the words of the old television show, “You Are There!” You are there, when Dewey says that nothing but what can be tested or measured counts as knowledge, and nothing but hypotheses about what can be tested or measured counts as thought. All else is mere “opinion” …

          And with that most useless of philosophies, utilitarianism, Dewey has just consigned all the arts and letters to being at best the lacework to set off the “real” work of the mind, which is technological. Common Curse is merely the latest sour regurgitation of the same bad food.

  • disqus_gEynqDDvb8

    Disparity in money equates to disparity in power, which definitely undermines democracy. Pope Francis has pointed out the “contaminating influence of money in our democracy.” As an example, when Colorado citizens tried to launch a ballot initiative to give local municipalities some say about fracking, fracking firms such as Anadarko Petroleum, Whiting Petroleum, and Encana pledged $50 million to fight the initiative. It is difficult for the best interests of the people to prevail against a wave of high-priced lawyers and public relations experts.

  • Susan

    It (life) will always boil down to good vs evil. In these US of America, we are living through the ‘fruits’ of sinful generations. Virtue was thrown out of schools and homes, replacing it with entertainment tools to fill the time. No sense of striving for virtue in the ordinary life = vices grow and chaos becomes the ‘way of life’.
    We all have our role in this. Work on making things right one person at a time, beginning with ourselves.

  • Carl

    Democracy was never alive. Democracy is a symptom of a dying culture.
    Democracy is everyone voting their “fair share.” (communism)
    Democracy is everyone’s opinion is correct. (the madness of relativism)

    Our representative democracy-limited government staved off the evils of pure democracy for nearly 250 years. Quite an accomplishment really.

  • jeremiah_methusela


    Thank you for this excellent piece, which I shall retain. But please be a little more understanding to those of us whose faces split into huge smiles when God’s beautiful sunshine comes along. We’re not hypochondriacs, nor sickly people, we just have the “SAD”s.

  • Noah Bama

    traditions past down from generation to generation is a much more efficient way to maintain order in a society than the law.

  • LibertyFirst

    Good. Democracy is crap. That is why this country was founded as a republic.

  • AugustineThomas

    Whatever it is, it’s wicked. Any country that murders sixty million of its most innocent citizens is wicked to the core.

  • Jude

    I love this! This was my little moment of sanity for the day. It reminded me why I homeschool, when I could be having seven or eight hours a day of quiet.

  • schmenz

    Mencken said it best: “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance”.

  • hombre111

    An odd article. “Democracy is dead.” Then point to the little stuff: like the local school board losing final control over education, or a cop arresting a kid for shoveling snow for money because it is against the law. The triviality of his examples leaves my head spinning. Was Mr. Esolen hired to distract us from the fact that American democracy has become a plutocracy? Not a word about a Supreme Court decision that money is free speech, allowing the big bucks to decide the fate of elections. Not a word about the dominating influence of the .01%. Or the fact that we are under constant surveillance by government and corporation alike. Or the highly honed ability on the part of both government and corporation to warp our perceptions and tamper with our minds. And so on.

    • JD

      Perhaps your head spins because your mind is too small to comprehend the picture Esolen painted. By using “little stuff” he illustrated how thorough and overarching government intrusion has become- that it’s not only the Feds that are out of control its all the way down to the school boards and municipalities.

      A typical Democrat response, blame Citizens United, because (like todays Democrats) you only like the 1st Amendment when it is to your benefit. I’ve never understood the leftist argument that money buys elections. Money can only buy elections if it can first buy people, and only the corrupt can be bought. The Democrat, like the Bolshevik, blames the rich. The democrat blames the corrupt.

      • GG

        Well said.

      • hombre111

        Typical Republican response: side with the people who are doing the real harm.

        • JD

          I’m no Republican. I have nearly as much disgust for them as the Democrats. But I’m certainly not stupid enough to think our problems would be solved by another Bolshevik Revolution.

          • hombre111

            Who said Bolshevik Revolution? I think we are stuck with the situation we have: A growing plutocracy, an emerging underclass, chronic low wages, consumer goods to pacify the masses. Election after election whose results have been engineered. Endless wars and an ever enormous defense budget.

            But to me, and ideal would be a mixture of the market system and some kind of socialism as we see in Canada and in Scandinavia.

            Not going to happen, though. The power of the one%, with its insatiable greed, is beyond calculation. The government’s power of snooping and coercion are too powerful to allow any kind of revolution. When Government and mega-corporations rule together, change is not coming. I don’t know how long it will last, and I can’t predict the situations under which it will finally collapse, but I don’t even want to think about the chaos and violence that will come when it finally all breaks down.

        • JD

          Stockholm syndrome is when a captive empathizes with his captor. I’m not sure what Copenhagen syndrome is…an addiction to snuff?

          • hombre111

            Hey, pretty good! :>). I got the two places mixed up. Wonderful reply. My smile wipes away the egg on my face.

      • Clare Krishan

        the USA is technically bankrupt, the federal reserve note ‘money’ certainly is nothing more than free speech – the connection between speaking it into being by FIAT and believing in its worth remains to be tested, the record for FIAT currencies isn’t good…

        so there is no subject or object to the predicate “blame the rich” its simply a battle for the spoils ie whose kids will service the debt we’ve already accumulated and is deposited as savings in the treasuries of our allies, we cannot repudiate it that easily.

        • Enders_Shadow

          ‘the USA is technically bankrupt’

          On what definition? It’s debts are greater than its assets? So what? It has the ability to raise taxes, and the debts will be ‘rolled over’ by people willing to believe that they will continue to receive a flow of payments in interest.

          ‘the record for FIAT currencies isn’t good…’

          Huh? The use of fiat currency since WWII has enabled a growth in economic prosperity unparalleled since time began. Yes, if it is used badly, then it will blow up, but used wisely – and the last 70 years has seen some very responsible stewardship of the currency – and the result is over a billion people raised from absolute poverty. Off to Economics classes for you, I suggest, with a focus on history.

      • Josh

        The typical Democrat (with a big “D”) blames the corrupt of others or the system to divert attention away from his/her own corruption, whether personal, social or political. The democrat exposes corruption in order to improve him/herself, the neighbors and society at large. But it starts with self, not the system.

  • Ron

    Perhaps rather than borrowing the quote attributed to Churchill, you might consider Cicero’s take on democracy being the worst of several good States.

  • kendallpeak

    Wonderful article. An insidious part of this “newspeak” is the collective mentality fostered by mass media and the talking heads. This newspeak diverts our attention from the only effective battle against this dictatorship. We still can fight back when we realize the solution starts at home. I will not live their values, my wife and children will not, then my neighbor.

  • Clare Krishan

    May I also proffer these petits bon mots re: pilgrimage of grace banner and reviving a devotion to the 5 holy wounds… hopefully Pope Francis (and the curia who will help him pen his address to congress) is studying Bl.Antonio Rosmini Serbati’s classic ‘The Constitution under Social Justice’ for, before he died in 1855, the philosopher-priest promoted a humble reflection on the ills of his post-revolutionary (francese and anglosassone) elite contemporaries who inherited the world after Philadelphia’s declaration of independence in 1776:
    Perhaps he felt TPTB at the time didn’t pay him enough heed, for some years after his death (but way before his beatification by St. JPII) a humble nun in France took up an echo of the very same meme:
    in words “O Jesus, Divine Redeemer, be merciful to us and to the whole world. Amen.
    Holy God, Mighty God, Immortal God, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen”
    uncannily reminiscent of St Faustina’s DIvine Mercy (aka a ‘centering-prayer’ on just one wound, our Lord’s pierced-side/Sacred Heart?)

    Those who have ears…

  • Enders_Shadow

    The anti-vaccination campaign of recent months helps earth this discussion. It is clear that the rejection of vaccination by the parents of some children is damaging to the health of the wider community. The issue is thus one of what level of coercion is appropriate to encourage greater take up. My own feeling is that the parents should be deemed financially liable for the financial consequences of the spread of the disease if it can be proved in court that their failure to vaccinate was responsible for an outbreak. I also suspect that they should be required to home school their children. However I would oppose anything further. Thoughts?

    • Tony

      Vaccination against readily communicable diseases is by its nature a matter of public, not merely personal, health. So if the disease is grave and if the threat of its resurgence is real, and if the vaccinations are safe — three important conditions there — then it is the duty of the parents to the common good to have their children vaccinated.

      • Enders_Shadow

        Haven’t you just missed the whole point of the article? The claim of the educationalists is that they know better than society what is right for children – so the curriculum must conform to their standards; if it doesn’t include certain subjects / knowledge the adults it produces will be a danger to wider society?

        Which is why I offer a compromise on the issue of vaccination; I’m not prepared to enforce it over the objections of a parent – but will require them to accept the consequences of their decision.

        • Marie

          I think it’s fair to enforce a quarantine (whole family) if a family with a communicable disease doesn’t voluntarily isolate. That is a public health measure taken often in the past, on those very grounds — your private right to be unhealthy can’t take away the right of the public not to catch whatever your disease is.

        • Tony

          Enders, my dear — and I’m not being sarcastic — I wrote the article.

          There are certain things that by their nature, and by necessity, are “public,” one of them being the easily communicable diseases. Notice that I did NOT say sexually communicable diseases. I mean those diseases that are spread by casual contact or by breath.

          I did place three pretty clear conditions on any moral requirement that you have your kids vaccinated. I’m not persuaded that the conditions in the case of all the diseases that we vaccinate for can now be met. I agree wholly with Marie above that day-care is responsible for all kinds of harm to the health of children.

    • Marie

      ” It is clear that the rejection of vaccination by the parents of some children is damaging to the health of the wider community”

      It is not clear, it is just widely believed. Failure to remember to booster, new strains, potentially less effective vaccinations, widespread mobility between the states, and common daytime housing of pre-vaccinated children probably accounts for much of the slight uptick (if that) in transmission that you see in measles, and the larger uptick in pertussis. As an example, because so many people are vaccinated for pertussis but incompletely, it’s easy for it to spread in a community because people think they just have a cough. Then the disease hits an unvaccinated member, like a child, with full strength.

      It’s my personal opinion that widespread early daycare is far more responsible for damaging the health of the wider community. If we had a national ban on collective child care for children under the age of 5, we would see far less social transmission of both illnesses that vaccines address and those they don’t.

      My family was able to use separate measles and mumps vaccines in order to avoid the rubella vaccine manufactured with a cell line from an aborted fetus. We would like to have the option to use the rubella vaccine not developed that way, used for over 20 years now in Japan, but we don’t. Other parents are not even able to use the separate measles and mumps vaccinations because they are no longer offered.

      There are many different ways to address an outbreak of a communicable disease. Those who contract the disease must isolate themselves, if they don’t it’s reasonable for the government to isolate those families. Whether those families vaccinated or not is irrelevant.

      • Enders_Shadow

        Interesting point about the rubella vaccine being based on an aborted foetus – very sad to hear that.

        However your general point about the evidence for the efficacy of vaccines not being ‘clear’ is unsustainable. The concept of ‘herd immunity’ is intuitive and clearly proven, and it is because of that a high level of vaccination is crucial to public health.

        As to your suggestions about winding down collective child care for under 5, it seems to reflect more your own agenda than any objective reality; the spread of diseases amongst school age children is likely to be as significant as that among under 5s.

        • Marie

          I did not say that the efficacy of vaccines is not clear, or that herd immunity is not a factor.

          Let me be more clear myself, your note that nonvaccinating parents were harming the community was not entirely wrong, obviously if a nonvaccinated kid passes measles to another kid that is a kind of harm done to the community (just as there would be harm if a vaccinated kid passed measles to a nonvaccinated one). But the implication is that recent outbreaks are both alarming, widely harmful, and caused by folks who reject vaccination outright. I think if you look past the headlines you will see that they are not alarming, not widely harmful, not substantially greater than outbreaks in other years (pertussis being an exception, due to the failure to booster and the new strains), and not caused exclusively (or even largely) by families that reject vaccination outright (those are few compared to those that decline some or alter the schedule). There are some very good reasons (like the one I cite) for parents choosing against some vaccines, and you do not see those reasons in your average news story. There are also solutions — simply make a usable MMR vaccine available and you will have more vaccinating parents — that don’t require coercion, but we are not pursuing those. Why? Why am I able to purchase 50 different kinds of dog food but only one MMR? It’s more complicated than they would have you believe, and jumping to government coercion (through liability or criminal punishment) without understanding those complications is a mistake.

          My other point is that there are many ways to address public health issues, we seem to have fallen onto vaccination as our only option. My agenda aside, toddlers grouped together will spread any contagion quickly and thoroughly, adults have a better chance of not catching whatever is in the room because they tend to not drool on each other. 😉 To a lesser but still substantial degree, schools and offices also tend to aggregate illness and then spread it as the folks in those places wander off at night to homes and grocery stores. We could reduce public outbreaks by returning to a culture without daycare, without public schooling, without large businesses, and without superstores. We aren’t willing to do that, because the down side is greater than the up side. We should consider the same trade offs when looking for ways to punish nonvaccinating parents.

        • Marie

          Disqus seems to have lost my long-winded reply — just as well.

          Certainly vaccines are effective and certainly herd immunity is a factor. But the issue of the recent outbreaks is more complex than is generally reported. The nightly news (and CDC) unreasonably raise the alarm level every chance they get (notice measles has not swamped America, despite the scare reports) and blame outbreaks on “antivaxers”. The real story is far less sensational and far more complicated.

          What you will not see on the nightly news, and you may want to look into: boosters and pertussis (sometimes they discuss that one), new strains of pertussis, transmission of measles and pertussis among the vaccinated, less potent new vaccines, recalls of vaccines for flu in Europe (because of narcolepsy) and rotavirus here (intestinal blockage), Guillian-Barre Syndrome, and fetal cell lines in several vaccines. You might also look at public health initiatives in other areas, such as public policy concerning TB and HIV.

          Bankrupting a few nonvaccinating families will not solve the problem of communicable disease transmission. Killing the scapegoat is a way to avoid solving a problem.

  • Guest

    “I say so because everyone else has ceased to believe in it.”

    Who has ever believed in democracy? The American founders certainly did not believe in it. That is because It has failed everywhere it has been tried.