Courtesy Reuters

The Present Crisis in Democracy

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THE SUBJECT I have been asked to treat is as vast and complex as any that has occupied the mind in relation to human affairs. It will engage men's thoughts and fill the time of publicists and historians as long as life endures upon this planet. Anything that one can write about it briefly must be fragmentary and superficial -- at best a touching of a few obvious points, like the description by an aviator of the life in a great city gathered from a flight over its dwellings, temples and skyscrapers, with a vague glimpse of the throngs in the streets.

We are, no doubt, nearer to a time when a rough estimate of the working of democracy can be made than we were in the past, because the extension of the suffrage to all adult men and women has reached its limit in several large nations. Heretofore, sanguine folks among the discontented could always attribute the defects they saw to the lack of representation of some element in the people. But now we are all aboard the ship, elect our officers, vote on the course to be taken, and hope it will bring us to the harbor we long to reach. We are not all agreed upon the precise harbor, and none of us are expert navigators; but we trust that we are learning how to steer and whither we are bound. At any rate, in a complete democracy no one can complain that he has not a chance to be heard. In that sense democracy has come of age, and its qualities and temperament can at least be estimated.

On the other hand, the whole world is in a state of hysteria caused by the nervous strain of the World War, which was followed here by the intoxication of unusual prosperity, and then everywhere by the harassing uncertainty of the depression. All of these are perfectly natural consequences of the war; but they indicate material and mental states

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