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Being Grateful

I don’t think I am thankful enough for the fact that we have a democracy in this country.

I tend to justify this lack of gratitude because of the idolatrous attitude that many people have towards democracy. I am so sick of hearing democracy touted as this great cure-all that I forget how good it is to live in a country that is a democracy.

The things that make me grateful to live in a democracy have nothing to do with the right to vote or the government reflecting the will of the people. If anything, those things are to democracy’s detriment.

But it is a wonderful thing to have one’s leaders change so often. History demonstrates that even great men go bad when they rule for a long time. So it is better to replace a genius with an idiot than it is to let the genius rule forever. Change in one’s rulers is a fundamentally good thing, even if makes things worse temporarily.

Obviously it is possible to take this principle too far (see Italy, for example). But still, I would rather live in Italy than a lot of other places I could name.

A more pressing exception to the rule “change is good” has to do with the nature of the change. Nobody wants to live in a country where the ruler is changed by bloodshed every time you turn around (see various African countries).

And that brings me to the second reason that I am grateful that I live in a democracy. Bush willingly gave up his power to Obama. Brown is being willingly given the “Kennedy seat.” And it is wonderful to have leaders that are willing to give up power. Most of the rest of the world do not have such leaders.

So as long as our leaders keep changing and they keep giving up power without bloodshed, I will try to be grateful for democracy even as it gives us Nixons and Carters and all the rest of the politicians that we love to hate. Better them than some great man come to rule forever.

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