“The Battle of Kurukshetra was planned by the Lord to establish the real representative of the Lord, Maharaja Yudhishthira. An ideal king thoroughly trained by culture and devotional service with the martial spirit makes a perfect king. Such a personal monarchy is far better than the so-called democracy of no training and responsibility. The thieves and rogues of modern democracy seek election by misrepresentation of votes, and the successful rogues and thieves devour the mass of population.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.43)Download this episode (right click and save)
Friend1: What is your problem with democracy?
Friend2: Who says I have a problem?
Friend1: Nice. Play innocent. I know you’re constantly railing against it.
Friend2: This time I’m going to put you on the defensive. What is so good about it?
Friend1: The people decide. It’s fair. You put your ideas before the people, the ones who will be affected by the decisions. Then whatever the outcome, they can’t complain about it afterwards.
Friend2: Wow. So many holes in your presentation that I don’t know where to start. Let me ask you this. You think democracy came about as a way to make things more fair?
Friend1: Yes. Look at the United States. The colonists were unhappy with the decisions being made by the king of England. “No taxation without representation.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was the admission by England that the representatives sent by the colonists had no real authority.
Friend2: Okay, I’m glad you chose that example. It’s not necessarily that people wanted to have a voice. The idea is to guard against tyrannical rule. One man deciding everything for everyone. Democracy is a system where there is distribution of the decision-making process. It is more of a prevention mechanism.
Friend1: Let’s say that I agree with your assessment. What is wrong with that, then? Isn’t it a good thing to safeguard against tyrannical rule?
Friend2: You’re making the assumption that tyranny won’t result from democracy.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: Let’s say that the people are unhappy with a tax that a king passes.
Friend2: Are you saying that in a democracy the same tax can’t be levied?
Friend1: Of course it can.
Friend2: Well, there you go. You have a more distributed system, but the same result. How is that progress?
Friend1: But there is less chance for it.
Friend2: I beg to differ. Let me ask you another question. What is the definition of success in a democracy?
Friend1: People being happy. General welfare. One class not taking advantage of another. Fair and just laws.
Friend2: Wrong again. The definition of success in a democracy is swaying public opinion.
Friend1: That’s not true. Just because you convince people to believe a certain way, it doesn’t mean the choice is right.
Friend2: I’ve got news for you. The government can be wonderful, fair, and on top of things. But if public opinion differs, then the government is a failure. And judging by the amount of attention people pay to public policy, it’s entirely possible that most people remain in the dark as to what is truly going on.
Friend1: Interesting. You’re saying that the game is rigged.
Friend2: Nice choice of words. The system is there so that the people who are best at shaping public opinion will succeed. It’s as simple as that. They don’t have to be the best at protecting property and life. In fact, they could say that others have been stealing for so long that it is justified for the victims to break the law every now and then.
Friend1: But that’s not right.
Friend2: Right and wrong don’t matter. Votes do.
Friend1: So what is the ideal system? You want to go back to the king?
Friend2: It’s about ideal leaders, whatever the system you choose. One good king is enough to bring peace and prosperity for everyone. There are so many examples from Vedic history. King Yudhishthira is one. His enemy was never born, so one of his names was Ajata-shatru.
Friend1: He was a warrior, but he was never attached to the outcome.
Friend2: He felt bad about winning. Imagine that. He had no hatred, though he would have been justified in holding a grudge against the Kauravas, his cousins who tried to kill his family so many different times.
Friend1: Okay, so you’re talking about ideal circumstances. Right now we have democracy in most of the world. What is the solution to troubles?
Friend2: Obviously, if you can find a righteous person who is also good at shaping public opinion, you can do a lot of good. The problem is that the honesty is a large part of righteousness. The more honest you are in politics, the less popular you will be. Better to just stay at bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Try to make the people who are voting better informed about the aim of life, the true identity of the individual, and the future destination of the soul. The more informed people are, the more pious they become, the less they will be swayed by the liars and cheats.
Success when public opinion to sway,
And not when on righteous path to stay.
Democracy for liars and cheats is made,
By them best is that game played.
Vedic ideal for Yudhishthira like king,
Prosperity and fairness to bring.
For devotional culture most important of all,
As devoted servant of Hari to call.