Thoughts on some effects caused by democracy – the illusions and problems caused by having no one in charge, with remarks about the “leader”

I started this some time ago.  I think its still relevant to record:

I’ve always said that the fact that there is no one in charge, or no “leader”, in democracy creates many illusions and many problems, such as:

  • Since there is no leader to blame it can give an illusion that there are no problems.  This is because there is no image to “fix” blame on.
  • Because there is no image to blame many problems “fizzle out” over time.  I’ve often thought this is one of the great positive aspects of democracy, as it allows the blame or conflict to “dissipate”, oftentimes.  But this quality is generally offset by many other problems described below.
  • With no leader there’s no one to resolve conflicts so problems never get resolved.  I’m often amazed how nothing ever gets done in the U.S.  Sometimes, it amazes me that anything does get done at all.
  • Because there is no leader there is no definable image to blame problems on.  Sometimes, this makes it hard for problems to develop a definable form which prevents a resolution.
  • The lack of definable image causes a tendency to blame blindly when there is a problem.  This can often get out-of-control to the point that anyone can get blamed that is convenient.  This creates a tendency of false accusation.
  • Since there is no one to blame conflicts onthere often becomes a tendency where a group of people blame another group of people.  This ends up causing unnecessary tensions between different people.  It almost seems to me that democracy causes more tensions between people than any other social system.
  • Since there is no leader to direct things blaming often gets out of hand.
  • Since there is no leader there is no one to represent anything.  Despite what they say, in a democracy no one is really represented because there is no leader to represent them.  In a democracy, you’re just a number among many numbers.  At least, that’s what my observation has shown.
  • With no leader there tends to be problems of authority.  I’ve often remarked that “In America, I have to be my own authority”.
  • Having no leader tends to put great stress on the individual.  There is no leader or authority to look up to.  The weight rests on the individual.
  • Having no leader tends to put great stress on social groups.  In many cases, the social group has to take on the role of a leader.
  • The absence of a leader tends to cause a sense of vulnerability.  It makes a person feel unprotected.
  • The absence of a leader makes one feel that one is not accepted or that one does not belong.
  • The absence of a leader causes a lack of unity.  Any sense of unity tends to be based in other things, such as race, religion, etc.
  • The absence of a leader tends to cause problems of identity, of who one is and where one belongs.
  • Since there is no leader there is a tendency to emphasize idealism and idealistic images as a substitute.  This can create a tendency to utopianism and blind idealism, chasing after fantasy land dreams, and “having ones head in the clouds”.

To me, living in a democracy is becoming a lesson in the importance of a leader more than anything else.  Everywhere I turn I see examples of the void created by the absence of a leader.  Notice the word I use:  void.  Something seems absent, gone, missing.

It also seems that a lot of democratic society seems more like an attempt at trying to “fill in” the void left by an absence of a leader.  Notice the word I use there:  attempt.  It doesn’t seem all that successful to me.


This shows the importance and need of a leader.  To me, a leader is part of the way of human reality.  To have no leader is to deny, in a sense, our humanity.  In this way, democracy seems to be almost anti-human at times.

I should point out that a “leader”, as I use it here, has qualities such as:

  • It unifies
  • It has authority
  • It contains a definable “image”
  • It has a presence and reality in life
  • It gives a direction in life
  • It brings a security

One of the myths is that the “leader” has to be a person.  This isn’t always the case. It could be a way of life (such as seen in primitive tribes), a religion, a culture, and such.  When a person becomes a “leader” it generally means that they “embody” the qualities above, as a representative, not necessarily that they are the ACTIVE leader who controls everything.  In this way, the leader-as-a-person is generally a representative of the leader rather than the acting leader.  In this way, the phenomena of the  “leader” actually transgresses and goes beyond any single person.  

The Leader-as-a-Person

When the “leader” appears as a person it often creates a center point about which society revolves.  This can have a number of effects:

  • It can unify people
  • It can divide people by causing divisions between people

A leader-as-a-person also tends to be a director of power.  This can cause problems such as:

  • It can manipulate the power in beneficial directions
  • It can manipulate the power in bad directions

What we seen, is that the leader-as-a-person can be both good and bad, depending on situations.  It can be the most powerful of things and the most tragic of things, as history shows.


It seems, to me, that democracy tends to create a “leaderless condition”.  It tends to create a situation where there is no leader at all in almost every form . . . political, religious, social, etc.  In other words, democracy seems, at least to me, to create what I would describe as a “void society”.  This seems an unnatural condition.  It also doesn’t happen naturally.  It was artificially created.  This becomes apparent in its origins . . .

I have always considered democracy an “aberration” caused by intellectuals, so to speak.  It primarily came about as a result of neoclassicism . . . the revival of the Greek and Roman classics . . . which began in the middle ages.  Scholars rediscovered the old writings and then tried to re-implement them in the real world.  In this way, neoclassicism was an attempt at recreating the glories of the Greek and Rome empires as described in the books.  You see, the books were the basis.  From the beginning, then, it was based in idealism and utopianism.  These qualities would carry on down into democracy.

In this way, democracy is based in these things:

  • An idealized image
  • An intellectual background of “thinkers reading books”
  • A “book-based” image of society
  • An image of a past society
  • An attempt at recreating a past glory
  • A system that was not in existence or working
  • A system that was “forced” onto society
  • A system that did not naturally come about

I believe these facts are some of the major flaws of democracy.


It seems that a number of conditions happened in Western Europe that caused what could be described as a “leader-problem” in Western Europe, such as:

  • The Christian conversion.  This basically told people that their old “leaders” are bad and they have to convert to the new “leader” of Christ.  This actually began a disillusionment of leaders and what a leader is that continues on down to today.
  • The Crusades.  This caused a dominance of the Papacy and Roman Catholicism in Western Europe which, because of the situation, became very controlling and dominating.
  • The rise of nations.  This caused many governments, headed by Royalty usually, who were trying to maintain power often having to go to great extremes.  This caused many conflicts, wars, and disputes between people that continue down to today.
  • Overpopulation.  This would cause conflicts between groups of people with different “leaders” each trying to have their way.  It also made it difficult for the leader of the country to reconcile the problem.

So we see that Western Europe had many “leaders” fighting for dominance in each countries.  This caused a lot of problems which caused a disillusionment in the general population, a “leader problem”, reflecting these things:

  • A doubting of the leader
  • A questioning of who the leader is
  • A questioning of what the leader is
  • A questioning of who the leader represents
  • A questioning of what the leader represents

This “leader problem” exploded in two phases:

  1. The Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s.  This was primarily religious in orientation.
  2. What can be called the “Democratic Reformation” in the 1700’s.  This was primarily political.

What it really shows, or so it seems to me, is that Western Europe lost faith in the “leaders” then existing as a result of the disillusionment.  As a result, there was a need to look for another leader or leader substitute.  Because neoclassicism appeared at this time, it offered a new substitute:  democracy.

Democracy, then, is reflective of an abandoning of the old established leaders caused by the disillusionment.  In many ways, this disillusionment caused a tendency where the “idealistic image of democracy” had an appeal.  Democracy is a utopian image of society, that was not based in existing social structures, or leaders, and that was based in an image of a past glory era.  It gave an idealized alternate  to the “leader problem”.  This shows an interesting fact: the failure of the leader tends to cause a tendency to utopianism, idealism, and fantasy land ideas. 


What all this shows is that, behind the idea of democracy is a “leader problem” reflecting a disillusionment and abandoning of a leader and the favoring of and idealized image of society.  Much of this would manifest itself in the U.S. where this whole problem, and a lot of neoclassicism, would be demonstrated.  It’d appear in ways such as:

  • There is an attempt to have no or minimal “leaders” whether it be a leader-as-a-person or in any other way
  • Written laws, the Constitution, etc.  reflect the “power” that a human leader would normally hold so that there is no power in a real leader . . . the written word rules! (this is interesting in that democracy is based in the readings of the classics . . . the “written word”)
  • The ideals of individualism which makes each person be their own “leader”
  • The idea of opportunity which made it so that each person could have the power to be their own “leader”
  • The ideas of utopianism which would inspire people to invent, create machines, etc. as a way to create this utopia
  • The idea that we can make society however we want it showing idealism and utopianism
  • The idea of “freedom”, which is really saying “without a leader” . . . “no one to tell us what to do”

So we see that the U.S. is heir to the “leader problem” of Western Europe and reflects an attempt at remedying the problem.  Much of this remedy is based in neoclassicism. In many ways, it shows that the U.S. can be called a “neoclassic country”

But, in my opinion, neither the U.S. or democracy solves the “leader problem”.  It doesn’t create a new leader . . . the void remains . . . the problem remains.  Because of this, it seems that the U.S., and democracy in general, is struggling with the void of a “leader”.  This is what I see anyways.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Government and politics, Modern life and society, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Society and sociology, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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