There is implicit in the Greek’s remarks that a democracy is a kind of association where decisions are made by the majority of the people. But Aristotle does not believe the predominance of the majority in making decisions is worth much unless it is subject to some serious conditions.. "A government that centers all its power in the votes of the people cannot be a democracy; for their decrees cannot be general in their extent." In other words, what is superior to the will of the majority, he says, is the supremacy of law. The Greek term was originally "Isonomia" which, over time became "equality before the law." Herodotus called "isonomia" the "most beautiful of words."
Aristotle says that a democracy, personal liberty, is the result of such laws, not their cause. Freedom, personal liberty, is dependent upon the soundness and comprehensiveness of laws, and in this Aristotle is clearly attacking the idea that simply because the majority wants a thing or believes it to be good, does not make that thing good or desirable. Clearly, democracy is the best way of achieving certain ends, but it provides only a means of achieving those ends. It is not the ends themselves. In other words, democracy is not an absolute value.
Democracy has to be judged by what it wants to achieve. If its development was intended to curb absolute power, the will of the majority cannot then become another form of absolute power itself for you have only substituted one species of subjugation for another. Even the majority has to enjoy its freedom within the restraint of common principles or laws.
The extension of democracy to all places and climes is an illusion Yet on the part of some, democracy is presented to us as if its extension is entirely desirable and should occur in as many cases as possible in any many areas as the idea is able to reach.
Democracy is a delicate plant and won’t take root in any and all soils. Even in our own democracy, it is subject to conditions: suffrage isn’t infinite --people have to be 21 to vote, criminals can’t vote, resident foreigners can’t, etc.
The current theory of democracy in America suffers from the fact that it has developed within a very homogeneous community which then applies it to instances that are defective and draws the wrong inferences from the failure.
Democracy is supposed to be the best means discovered for peaceful change, yet the ignorance of the public can pervert democracy. Hobhouse once wrote that the average man "has not the time to think nor will he take the trouble to do so if he has the time." It was a democratic election that brought Hitler to power. And there seems little doubt that, if democracy were allowed in many Muslim countries, their peoples would elect a thousand little bin Ladens.
With greetings to all,