Churchill’s “Democracy is the Worst Form of Government…”. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” I see this alleged Churchill quotation often
Is it genuine, and if so, where and when did he say it? —D.C., Bogotá, Colombia. He said it (House of Commons, 11 November 1947)—but he was quoting an unknown predecessor (note bold face below)
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise
I write this on Thursday, having just delivered an assembly to the boys on democracy and voting (somewhat bizarrely I delivered it from the set of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I am really looking forward to seeing tonight). The main aim was to encourage boys to vote in our School Mock Elections and to engage positively with our political process
Churchill, of course, knew a lot about the subject; twice Prime Minister of Great Britain, prolific author of political histories and the architect of our struggle to defend and preserve democracy in the face of its two greatest threats last century – fascist aggression and communist expansion. I awoke this morning deflated about the prospect of voting in another General Election
I was most impressed with our excellent School candidates who spoke with insight, clarity and sincerity in our hustings. But I will admit that I have found the choice of national candidates far less inspiring (the public agree; collectively they have stunningly low approval records)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned editing Op-Ed essays over the years, it’s that when I see a stirring sentiment attributed to Thomas Jefferson, I’d better reach for my Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.. Enlisting a famous thinker like Jefferson may seem like a foolproof way to buttress your argument about, say, abolishing the Electoral College, but it’s not without peril
Maybe because it seems such an unlikely thing for Lincoln to say, people quickly pointed out that there’s no evidence that he ever did, and that the genesis of the quotation perhaps was a 1947 advertisement for a book about aging by one Edward J. In my experience, Lincoln is a popular source of dubious quotations for Op-Ed contributors, but he pales in comparison with Winston Churchill and Jefferson.
But he didn’t say it, and even what he did say, in a House of Commons speech — “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried” — he attributed to somebody else, as the Churchill scholar Richard Langworth has pointed out.. Similarly, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” sounds like a plausible Jeffersonian line to drop into an essay about government surveillance (and to be fair, Jefferson was a quote machine, taking up nearly three pages in my version of Bartlett’s)
Five years ago, during a previous government shutdown, I used my downtime to research one of the most frequently cited quotes about democracy, which I then shared with a small group of friends and colleagues. Given the seeming “no way out” of the current predicament and the growing frustrations with the dysfunctional U.S
Like many, I have frequently referenced the Churchillian quote that “democracy is the worst form of Government except all other forms that have been tried from time to time.” However, I have always wondered about the context of the quote. The source is a 1947 speech in parliament during a period when Churchill was the head of the opposition Conservative Party.
The Labor Party, which had obtained a surprise majority in the first post-World War II election, was seeking to reduce this delaying power from two years to one year. According to the Conservative opposition, the Labor Party motive was to set the basis for more quickly nationalizing the steel industry, which would, in the Conservative view, radically and irrevocably transform the British economy.
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” by Wiston Churchill.. I guess it means, if democracy is the worst, then others will be even worse
But, I don’t know why if you have tried other governments, then you come up with democracy is the worst. How could other be even worse than the worst one? I am not sure if my sentence makes sense or not, if not please let me know I will try to explain it again.
So, democracy is still better than other governments. But, I don’t know why if you have tried other governments, then you come up with democracy is the worst
Criticism of democracy has been a key part of democracy and its functions. As Josiah Ober explains, “the legitimate role of critics” of democracy may be difficult to define, but one “approach is to divide critics into ‘good internal’ critics (those who call upon the constitutional regime to be true to its own highest principles) and ‘bad external’ critics who reject the values embraced and nurtured by constitutional democracy”.
Political thinkers have approached critiques of democratic political systems from different perspectives. Many times it is not necessary to oppose democracy by its simplest definition – “rule by the people” – but, rather, seek to question or expand this popular definition
For instance, some critics of democracy would agree with Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Other critics may be more prepared to describe existing democratic regimes as anything but “rule by the people”.