Democracy is valuable and preferable because at its best it does the diametrical opposite of what it claims to do. – When democracy functions well it prevents the majority or any sizeable minority from exercising power over any other part or indeed the whole. It creates weak governments, and this is its principal virtue. Far from giving expression to the will of the majority, democracy frustrates every will, and though to a degree frustrated in their wishes the individuals in a democracy are protected by the absence of an overwhelmingly powerful control.

But this desirable quality is transient, or at least unstable. Two other conditions are at least as common, and perhaps more enduring.

Firstly, democracy is vulnerable to demagogic leadership, and demagogues are the creatures and the parasites of majority opinion. Since almost all democratically elected leaders are in fact demagogues to some degree this results in the oppression of the individual by the majority or by substantial minorities within the population. Judging from recent history, since 1945, this is a common and long-lasting condition.

Secondly, when the apparatus of state within a democracy becomes enlarged the civil servants and state clients, including corporate bodies, themselves form an interest group that supersedes elected politicians, evades control and becomes truly and lastingly powerful. This outcome is inevitable when state employees are permitted to vote, and perhaps highly likely even if they are disenfranchised.

We must therefore reconcile ourselves to the fact, evident from the historical record, that the best conditions for an individual occur transiently in the dynamic processes of political development and decay. Here is no abiding city.