Democracy, Oligarchy, and Freedom


Registered Member
Are freedom and democracy necessarily connected? H.G. Wells certainly didn't think so. He hated democracy. All his life, he continually fought for technocratic control of government and the economy, i.e. rule by engineers, scientists, psychologists, industrialists, and all of the other related professions. His goal was a planned, ordered, controlled planet, where every individual was prosperous, free-thinking, well educated, and free to do as he pleases, so long as he doesn't harm others. His tome "The Shape Of Things To Come" is his most detailed description of his vision. It is written as a future history of the years 1900 to 2105, from the perspective of the utopian 2105. In it, scientific and technical men and women take form an organization called the Air & Sea Control, which seizes control in a short time of all air and sea travel, using it to force the nations of the world to behave. Over time they form a planetary government, run by the best and brightest the world has to offer. After a series of wars to eliminate religion, nationalism, and prejudice from the earth and instill a strong sense of rationalism and progressivism to the world, the world is at peace, and mankind seems to be living its dream.

Now, is that even possible? Could oligarchical control of government actually sustain freedom, or would it inevitably revert to the tyranny of Orwell's Oceania? I am uncertain. It may be possible that an oligarchy set up in the right way may just be able to work towards freedom and prosperity for all, rather than purely maintaining its own power. I myself have been routinely absorbed by Wells' vision, but I always come to believe it is simply unworkable.

What do you think? Can oligarchy maintain freedom? Or is democracy the only way? Can democracy even survive indefinitely, considering the trends we have seen in every democracy in history? The people always grow complacent, and inevitably a small oligarchy destroys democracy and liberty and utilizes its power for personal gain. Can it ever be different? Or is it always the case that democracy must fall to oligarchy, and oligarchy must always be tyrannical and purely motivated by self interest?