“For politicians not only represent us…They are the hardest working professionals; they must continuously learn new masses of facts, make judgments, give help, and continue to please. It is this obligation, of course, that makes them look unprincipled. To please and do another’s will is prostitution, but it remains the nub of the representative system.”
— Jacques Barzun
Is Democratic Theory for Export?: “Cultural historian Jacques Barzun argues that democracy is not an ideology that can be exported but a historical development and mode of life peculiar to the political context in which it developed. Extrapolating from this, we can say that attempts to base a foreign policy on the idea of exporting democracy—as sought by both the Reagan and Clinton administrations—will forever be doomed to failure.
A prominent feature of American political consciousness is a desire to propagate democracy throughout the world. In our enthusiasm to share what we enjoy, Jacques Barzun sees that little attention is paid to exactly what we are trying to distribute. Through a brief historical survey of democracy, he shows that our popular conception of the term does not correspond with any particular definition. U.S. democracy has no central text and is distinctly different, in theory and in practice, from the democracy of other states, both historical and contemporary. Democracy is an abstract ideal that is a function of time. Its present incarnation in the United States emphasizes freedom and equality through the means and language of specific personal rights. Barzun sees an internal tension in this formulation, one that ultimately threatens both freedom and equality if exported to the rest of the world.”
Jacques Barzun on Cornell Woolrich – Christian Bauer