Democracy Is Bad

"Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch."

In some works democracy is bad. It is generally presented as an ineffectual form of government highly prone to corruption, demagoguery and takeovers by radicals and, in some portrayals, as a form of mob rule which tramples on individual rights to appeal to public sentiment.

It can also be presented this way by authors who don't necessarily approve of other forms of government, but are cynical enough that they consider all forms of government to be flawed (with the inclusion of no government at all). As Winston Churchill put it "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other methods that have been tried".

Indeed, before the Dutch Republic, the term "Democracy" was more-or-less synonymous with "Anarchy" or "Mob Rule," believed by many to be a utopian idea that could never work in practice and would lead to the collapse of society. The term is rarely used this way today. Indeed the main Anarchist critique of Democracy as it exists today is that they see it as not really democratic at all. Also, they would distinguish between what's called "representative" democracy (in their view a small elite leading people by the nose) and participatory or direct democracy in a voluntary form-i.e. if you want to live by yourself that's okay too. Below is more on the representative style.

This can sometimes be an aversion (or an inversion) of Good Democracy Evil Empire, and has its roots in a number of philosophical objections to democracy. To avoid Flame Bait, No Real Life Examples, Please!

As a point of interest, a popular but incorrect belief is that most modern governments, being republics, aren't actually democracies. This is false: the definition of "republic" is, "any form of government which is not a monarchy or theocracy," and any system in which a large electorate or its elected representatives wield power can legitimately be called democratic. The distinction being made is actually that between direct and representative democracy; the former, in which all issues are discussed by the electorate at large and put to a popular vote, is seen as more legitimate by certain strains of political thought, though it is also generally considered impractical on a large scale. Representative democracy relies by contrast on elected agents of the people, whose job it is to to draft and vote on laws full-time, in theory in accordance with the values of the voters they represent. Both systems have certain weaknesses, but both are democratic by definition.

Can be perceived as a type of Family-Unfriendly Aesop in countries where Democracy is seen as the norm by citizens, but not so much in countries with historically more autocratic traditions of politics. Compare and contrast Fascist, but Inefficient. See also Hobbes Was Right. For a similarly critical version which still takes democracy's side, see Democracy Is Flawed.

Not to be confused with Disaster Democracy, which is about the reinstatement of democracy after a great societal upheaval.


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    Multiple Media 
  • In Star Wars, the Republic is frequently shown to be prone to corruption, demagoguery and takeovers by radicals. On the other hand, the Republic's failures are usually linked to Sith sabotage, and life under the Empire is much worse. This is even more prominent in the Expanded Universe. The post-Empire galactic governments are massively ineffectual due to internal politics, to the point where collapsing the whole system repeatedly is incredibly easy and a recurring theme is that the government has fallen, been taken over or is failing to respond to a galactic crisis. Nowhere is this more prominent than in the extremely controversial Legacy of the Force series, where the Galactic Alliance senate allows itself to be a rubber-stamp for a Sith Lord (Darth Caedus, a.k.a. Jacen Solo) to pull an exact repeat of Palpatine's takeover in Revenge of the Sith, and nobody notices the similarities except Leia.
    • David Brin's caustic critique of Star Wars centers around what he views as George Lucas's monarchist and anti-science views, saying the Star Wars films (he did not count the Expanded Universe) are an argument for a return to rule by hereditary monarchy and a self-selecting elite priesthood.
    • This may finally be getting better, as the most recent Star Wars novel series ends with a Reasonable Authority Figure in charge, rather than an insane military figure, a Sith Lord, or an Eldritch Abomination. And this is the same series to feature an interstellar representative democracy lasting more than 25,000 years, longer than the sum total of human civilization period on Earth. Star Wars has a complex relationship with democracy owing to the franchise's High Fantasy roots.
  • Pretty much every single work produced by a Nazi German, Italian fascist, Pre-1980s Kuomintangnote , tsarist, Japanese Imperialist, Pre-1970s Spaniard, Islamist, or monarchist ever. Communist countries are an exception due to claims that they're a true democracy.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes skirts close to this trope at times: The democratically elected politicians of the Free Planets Alliance (incarnate in Smug Snake Job Trunicht, who holds important ministry positions during several administrations) are a nepotistic, incompetent, corrupt, self-serving and increasingly pro-fascist bunch who are, if anything, just as detrimental to the League's well-being (and especially that of Yang Wenli) as The Empire the Alliance is fighting with (The Empire, admittedly, suffers from much the same problems until Reinhard effectively takes over the whole thing). For all that, though, the Alliance still contains the lion's share of the main characters that are of the 'slightly less flawed than the average' sort.
  • Kino's Journey has devotes the last part of the fifth episode to showing "tyranny of the majority" at its extreme. In a perfect example of Full-Circle Revolution, the people started executing all minority voters, no matter the reason, and had to vote on any issue. Of course, this means there was eventually only one guy left.
  • The European Union in Code Geass is the only one of the three initial superpowers that is democratic, and it gets torn apart by the Brittanian Empire without any real screentime during the second season. However, the rebellion ultimately forms a democratic United States of Japan. The recent OVA spin-off gives the European Union a lot more focus and attention, which is fair enough, but this also confirms that the country was in a state of decadence before its fall.
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, any of the nations that lack a singular divinely-appointed and immortal monarch are subject to little defense against wandering ravenous monsters, and often internal civil wars stemming from the conflicting ambitions of flawed human warlords.

  • The DC Comics character Anarky is, well, a teen anarchist with strong views on how democracy has failed and should be overthrown.
  • Transmetropolitan:
    Spider Jerusalem: You want to know about voting. I'm here to tell you about voting. Imagine you're locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain't allowed out until you all vote on what you're going to do tonight. You like to put your feet up and watch "Republican Party Reservation". They like to have sex with normal people using knives, guns and brand-new sexual organs that you did not know existed. So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as the eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades. That's voting. You're welcome.
    • This troper would like to point out that, judging by Spider Jerusalem's diatribes, it's not democracy that's bad, but mindless belief in the authority. Most of his victories are examples of democracy working as it was intended and he mostly just kicks, prods and curses the people into using it. So the trope is averted if not subverted outright.
  • Used in a Judge Dredd storyline. A referendum is held in Mega-City One - a literal police state - about whether to restore democracy. But at this point, the city has been a dictatorship for over 40 years, so the overwhelming majority of those who even bothered to vote choose to maintain the status quo.
  • Marvel often dips its toe into this in issues of What If...? where Doctor Doom does in fact conquer the world. Without all that meddlesome democracy getting in his way, Doom usually ushers in a glorious Utopia that just so happens to line up with the writer's own beliefs. Remember, kids, benevolent fascism is the way to go!
  • Also in the Marvel Universe this is especially demonstrated as being very much the case with humanity's reactions towards mutants. Several dystopian alternate futures have been depicted where the United States government has become tyrannical and made a mess of society in their zeal to hunt down and exterminate mutants. Yet it is usually shown that this happened with the full support of the general public, and the evil government is nonetheless duly elected.
  • In the infamous Kauka translation of Astérix, the bard was renamed "Parlamet", one letter removed from the German word for "parliament". And it's mentioned that all the other folks in the village wish that he'd finally shut up.

    Fan Fics 
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the later stages of the Equinus Republic, a corrupt, ineffectual shell of its former self show off the problems with democracy in spades, namely in their inability to get anything done in their continuous bickering to fulfill their own agendas. The only times when they happened to agree on something usually turned out to be disastrous calls, such as sending all of their political critics to the Pits of Tartarus, effectively turning the public even more against them, and strangely enough, their decision to eliminate all the penalties for homicidal evisceration after only an hour of debate. The In-Universe historians agree that if it wasn't for the rise of Discord, they would've been overthrown by the populace eventually.
  • In Jempewol, Chapter 9 of "Game of Doctors", it is claimed Callidus Dominus and the Malphans believe that "democracy is basically mob rule" and placing the Galaxy under benevolent dictatorship will be better.

  • In Mel Gibson's The Patriot, Benjamin Martin is cynical about eliminating British rule over the colonies. "Why should I be willing to trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a King can."
  • In 300 Leonidas mocks the democratic Athenians as "boy-lovers" who are incapable of defending themselves. Never mind the fact that in real life Athens and its allies drove off Xerxes' father without Sparta's help and the only reason Leonidas joined the fight against the second Persian invasion was so those "boy-lovers" wouldn't show him up again. And Sparta was just as guilty of pederasty (if not more so) as Athens.
  • The Star Wars films are on odd example. If the films had been made in chronological order, it's entirely possible that the apparent lesson of the prequels would be "Democracy Is Bad because it inevitably gets corrupted and subverted". The lesson of the prequels taken in context of the originals seems instead to be "A bad democracy is still better than tyranny".

  • There are many non-fiction works from philosophers who thought that democracy was evil. Important figures associated with anti-democratic thinking include Martin Heidegger, Hubert Lagardelle, Charles Maurras, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Carl Schmitt, Oswald Spengler, Elazar Menachem Shach, Julius Evola and Nicolás Gómez Dávila. The Other Wiki gives more specific examples
  • Any ten novels by Robert A. Heinlein include eleven different forms of government, so he frequently invokes this trope. (The governments of his utopian societies are left deliberately vague.)
    • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the brand new Lunar government is a democracy... rife with obstruction and corruption. Before the revolution the totalitarian Lunar Authority was pretty much ignored, unless the guards got too close to the women, so most everyone lived in what was effectively peaceful anarchy.
    • Starship Troopers famously restricts the rights to vote and run for office to veterans, as they have some idea of social responsibility. Though unlike in the movie this is in no way portrayed as fascism.
      • Clarification; while veterans who vote are focused on, the franchise is given simply with federal service. By law, they are required to find a job for anyone who wants to vote ("But if you come in with no legs, one arm, and blind in both eyes, we'll need to find something equally silly for you to do, such as sorting caterpillars by the fuzz on their backs), and service in the military is strictly optional, with a few years hard labor being more common. According to an interview that Heinlein gave, something around 5% of voters got their right through military service. The military is just more obvious because that's what the book focuses on.
      • That said, the book implies signing up for Federal Service implies consent to serve in the military if that's the job you're assigned. Most people might not end up in the military, but you don't control whether you do. If you don't like the job you're assigned, you can resign and get on with your life - but you don't become a citizen that way. If you're an outright pacifist you can specifically refuse military service, but it's implied you'll get an unnecessarily awful job as an informal punitive detail if you do. The example mentioned is something along the lines of "testing environmental suits on Pluto."
    • In Methuselah's Children, the head of the democratic world government seriously considers sterilizing and/or executing every member of the Howard Families because the sheeple are convinced that they have an immortality treatment instead of good genes. He ends up joining them in exile as their de facto leader. Heinlein shows nothing but respect for a man who is prepared to re-enact the Holocaust for pretty much the same reasons as in reality (a minority is vilified by the majority), saying that it's simply democracy in action. Hell, yes, Democracy Is Bad.
      Zaccur Barstow: My people are being persecuted!
      Slayton Ford: Your "people"... ...are a fraction of a tenth of one per cent of all the people... and I must find a solution for all!
    • In Time Enough for Love Lazarus Long states that he set up Secundus as a "constitutional dictatorship" where the ruling class has some say in government and the common folk, "bless their flabby black hearts", get none. But he's a little surprised that the government has persisted for nearly two thousand years, he expected it to collapse in a century or two.
  • Even Discworld has the occasional stab at committees and one off-hand joke about a species of Republican Bees, who spend most of their time in the hive, voting for more honey. Really, Pratchett seems to prefer the idea of Philosopher Kings. Ephebian 'democracy' (it's a country in Discworld) is referenced on occasion, and criticized for its ironic preclusion of women, poor people, idiots, people who weren't our kind of people, et cetera. Ephebe is basically a humorous version of Athens at its height, and is a fairly accurate description. Athenians invented Democracy, or rule by the citizens. What modern people forget is that in Athens, the citizens were a minority of the total population. In Pyramids, Pteppic notes:
    Philosophers didn't listen to each other, and didn't stick to the point. This was probably mocracy in action.
    • Then there's benevolent tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, who considers his job much more difficult than any elected head of state's: after all, they can always tell the public that it's their fault for voting for them. in the latest offering, "Unseen Academicals" we discover nearby city state Pseudopolis has apparently become a republic of some kind, and Vetinari and a few others enjoy making comments about this. Apparently the citizens voted not to have any taxes for one thing.
      • It's noted thought that there is a sort of democracy going on, i.e., those former patricians that made too many enemies got 'voted' out of office, permanently.
    • Sam Vimes, cynical bastard that he is, notes in "The Fifth Elephant":
      [Vimes] had been rather interested in the idea that everyone had a vote until he found out that while he, Vimes, would have a vote, there was no way in the rules that anyone could prevent Nobby Nobbs from having one as well. Vimes could see the flaw there straight away.
    • This is probably because his ancestor "Old Stoneface" Vimes (an expy of Oliver Cromwell) had a bad experience with it:
      "He introduced democracy to the city, and the people voted against it."
  • The Amazon review for the Sword of Truth book "Soul of the Fire" notes much fantasy has this trope implicitly, and that that book makes it very very explicit.
  • Tom Holt's A Song For Nero features an allegorical aside in which a city-state tries to create the "perfect" system of government, by combining the best features of Athenian democracy (everyone gets a say) and oligarchy (rule by an elite). One suggestion is essentially modern democracy (you vote for the leaders, and then they're in total control for a certain period), which is derided as combining the worst elements of both. (Namely, that oligarchic elites spend all their time fighting each other for status, and leaders who are reliant on the will of the people give them what they want, not what they need.)
  • It can start looking like this in H. Beam Piper's Space Viking, as we watch the democracy of Marduk collapse under the influence of the Hitler-esque politician Zaspar Makann (the main character actually researches Hitler to figure out what Makann is going to do next), but the eventual Aesop is actually that it just has a few bugs that need to be worked out.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, after the Final Empire is overthrown, the heroes form a constitutional monarchy to administer the city. Ultimately, the elected parliament promptly votes them out of office and sides with their enemies. In retrospect, Elend shouldn't have written that clause into his constitution. In the end, he is forced to dissolve the government and declare himself emperor in order to save what's left of humanity.
    • However, by The Alloy of Law, set in the same world several hundred years down the line, the Empire has been dissolved and the government is democratically elected and runs seemingly smoothly outside of a fairly normal level of corruption. Elend is even referred to in the histories as "The Last Emperor". Ultimately, it's less the Democracy is Bad, and more that Elend's attempts to set one up were too idealistic and naive for the situation he found himself in.
  • In an old story (probably pre-The French Revolution) someone (probably a nobleman or such) tells a group of people who demand democracy a fable. Content: The animals set up a democracy. Then, the humans attacked. A part of the animals wanted to fight a war (like the lion, the tiger, the eagle, the bear, the wolf, and the horse) but the great majority was too afraid and voted against it, thus there wasn't a war, the humans won easily and killed many animals. Yep, not only Democracy Is Bad, but Pacifism Is Bad too.
  • Rudyard Kipling's "As Easy as ABC" has the people of mid-21st-century Chicago outraged by a group that wants to institute democracy. They regard this as an invasion of privacy, since it means people who may be total strangers to you are <shudder> voting on, among other things, how you go about your life. A sinister example of how this can be abused is a statue portraying a black man evidently being lynched, with the sarcastic inscription, "To the Eternal Memory of the Justice of the People."
  • In the third Temeraire novel a character converses with Captain Laurence regarding Napoleon. The character is half British but a virtual outcast due to his mixed race status, and reflects that in some ways Napoleon as a tyrant might be less of a problem than the British System, as a single tyrant can be removed, whereas three hundred scheming MPs could hold absolute control (granted this was hardly a time of a fair Parliamentary system either, but the principle remains). Laurence is not amused, though when witnessing some of Napoleon's great building projects in the heart of Paris he thinks it unfortunate that such beneficial, but disruptive and arbitrary, work could only really be attempted by a tyrant unilaterally making the decision.
  • Honor Harrington takes this all kinds of different directions. On one hand, the protagonists come from a constitutional monarchy and are fighting an oligarchic dictatorship. On the other hand, half of the series is devoted to the heroes being hamstrung by political machinations while the monarch is shown to be correct and yet unable to do anything in the face of opposition of the masses. But then again, the political machinations stem from corrupt and complacent nobles, and the house representing the common man has a majority that agrees with the monarch and the main character and is therefore correct, so basically Manticore is an inversion of this trope.
    • This achieves further granularity among different powers in the setting. The People's Republic of Haven, for example, had decades of ostensibly democratic rule, but the rulers were so interested in placating their electorate to stay in power that they had to increase the governmental dole to unsustainable levels, forcing them to resort to conquest, and deliberately kept the people dumb to more easily manipulate their votes. On the other hand, the Andermani Empire operates on a strict basis of Realpolitik, and is distrustful of democracies, believing them too unpredictable and prone to wild shifts in policies between administrations. Then there's the Solarian League, which is technically a democracy but the legislative process is so slow and convoluted that non-elected senior members of the bureaucracy have been running the place to suit themselves for centuries without the legislature noticing, often in ways that blatantly violate the official constitution. Weber's main point seems to be, "Politics is a messy business, and no matter what kind of government you choose, at some point it will suck."
  • Implied in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish: "On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people, if they didn't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in." More precisely, a criticism of the "first-past-the-post" method of electing representatives, vs. some proportional representation (explained by John Cleese, whom Adams admired).
  • In Saki's short story "The Comments of Moung Ka", the titular sage notes that Britain is what is called a democracy. When he is asked what a democracy is, he describes it (paraphrased) as government by the people, for the people. His proteges express disbelief that any British laws exemplify this. You weren't paying attention. He said that Britain is what is called' a democracy.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, Ulysses objects to democracy because it's bound to lead to Bread and Circuses.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler's non-fiction book The Decline of the West.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Tzenkethi nation holds this opinion, which is why they're so opposed to the United Federation of Planets. Tzenkethi are assigned to politics if they pass a series of tests determining intellect and other qualities. In Star Trek: Typhon Pact, a Tzenkethi agent reflects on the concept of allowing anyone a political voice:
    "Those mediocre and substandard minds - uneducated, self-centered, avaricious, prejudiced, chauvinistically patriotic - would ultimately bring about the downfall of their society".
  • Tris from the Circle of Magic books believes this (the book itself doesn't endorse her opinion, but no one ever contests it either). In Shatterglass, she's visiting the ancient-Greece-inspired city-state of Tharios, a republic with a serious Obstructive Bureaucrat problem, and reflects on how easy it is to pass the buck in this environment; when there's one ruler of a country, he or she might suck, but at least then everyone knows who to blame.
  • In Isaac Asimov's "Forward the Foundation" (the last prequel to the Foundation Trilogy), one of protagonist Hari Seldon's adversaries is a political movement that call for some vague reforms of the Galactic Empire (an absolute monarchy that is said to have brought peace and prosperity for millennia). The movement is shown to have some popular support but also to be prone to demagoguery, lies, manipulation and terrorism. At one point two leaders of the movement discuss their goals and one of them fears that the regime they are actually trying to establish is a "democracy" which he describes as a now-forgotten regime that was tried a few times through history but was always unstable and short-lived.
  • A running theme in Raymond E. Feist's work - strong monarchies are good; influence by commoners is bad; democratic republics are outright immoral and corrupt. Oh, and foreigners are a corrupting influence in the monarchy, exploit child slavery.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, the danger of a Royalist pretender is that it might bring about the Rightful King Returns because of the problems with republics.
    the King has crept back among you. It is not your fault. Republics might be all right if Republicans were as honourable as you are; but you have confessed that they are not . . .
  • Democracy is never even brought up in any Dune novel, as monarchy, coupled with a Feudal Future, is seen as perfectly natural. It seems Frank Herbert is not a big fan of democracy.
    • In God Emperor of Dune, Leto or Moneo says that setting down a committee to decide which action to take is to make sure that no action is ever taken. This is the closest they get to discussing actual democracy.
    • In the preceding book, Children of Dune, a younger Leto muses that while Feudalism is a brutal mess, it is the only form of government that works in the setting. Humanity is spread over thousands of worlds, interstellar travel is dominated by a single corporation which in turn is fully dependent on a substance that is found only on a single planet and can't be artificially made. Add in that all but the most simple computer systems are banned under threat of death — and that means nuking the entire planet of the inventor, just to make sure.
  • In the Shannara series, the Federation is ostensibly democratic and is the villain of later novels. The monarchies of earlier novels, which were supplanted by the Federation, are generally portrayed positively.
  • Germany's most famous classical author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in his Maxims and Reflections that any majority is made up of a few strongmen going ahead, some scoundrels adapting, some weaklings assimilating and the masses who don't know what they want following them. And democracy is rule by majority...
  • Plato makes his opinions clear on the subject of democracy in The Republic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ever wonder why Yes, Minister shows nothing from the parliament and first starts as the election results are known? Because, according to the authors, politic is made in the offices, clubs and other discreet meeting points. But okay, with one party having the majority (the usual in Great Britain) the leading people do, of course, not need to care about the opinions of other people than themselves...
    • The politicians do care about the opinions of people; Hacker is constantly going on about opinion polls and the chances of re-election. The trouble is, he just thinks he's in charge; all the decisions are actually being made by Sir Humphrey. Hacker does have quite a bit of pull (more in later seasons as he gets a better handle on things), but the problem is he is more concerned with opinion polls and elections than with actually running the country in a sensible long term manner. Humphrey, on the other hand, is busy thinking about the government's (and occasionally the country's) best interest long term, but since he doesn't care at all about opinion polls and elections he feels no reason to change the inefficient system that raised him to his current position. As such, both are self interestedly neglecting the greater good, just in different ways. Pure, simple game theory.
    • And part of this is the nature of the British system of politics; whilst the party which forms the government may change periodically due to elections, the civil service which enacts the policy is ever-present and in-theory politically neutral, favouring neither party over the other. And they have immensely good job protection; it's frequently asserted that it's nearly impossible for a civil servant to be fired. So whilst politicians usually disappear after a few years, to a Cabinet reshuffle if not a lost election, the bureaucrats are there until they retire.
    • All the above being said, Humphrey and Hacker get a roughly equal number of plots when they are portrayed as clearly, unambiguously in the right.
  • In the Doctor Who serial Castrovalva, when asked the quickest way out of town, a group of women all point in different directions. The Doctor: "Yes. Well, that's democracy for you..." More recently, in "The Beast Below", the Doctor comments, "And once every five years everyone chooses to forget everything they learned. Democracy in action."
    • The trope becomes a theme that is explored in the climax of Genesis of the Daleks. The Kaled rebel leader Gharman proposes that the Dalek project be scrapped and the Kaleds continue under a democratically elected leader. Using Gharman's proposal of democracy to his advantage, Davros demands a vote between loyalty to Gharman and his plans, or continuing the Dalek project under himself. In private, he says the following to Nyder: "They talk of democracy, freedom, fairness. Those are the creeds of cowards. The ones who will listen to a thousand viewpoints and try to satisfy them all. Achievement comes through absolute power, and power through strength." Davros gains support in the election by calling on old favours he did for members of the opposition. And after still losing out in the vote, Davros decides to kill off Gharman and his opposition by inviting the Daleks to join the election.
    • In Asylum of the Daleks, we learn that Daleks have a parliamentary democracy, which falls under this trope by default.
    • Also in Vengeance On Varos, Varos is depicted as a dystopic democracy where most of the population watches executions for entertainment and will vote for the death of leaders they dislike, which apparently they do pretty often.
  • In Earth 2, the Terrians view democracy as primitive and inefficient. However, as one character points out, humans aren't psychic like the Terrians and can't reach consensus this way.

  • Arrow's Impossibility Theorem states that no rank-order voting system can ever exist that fulfills the following three (entirely reasonable sounding) criteria if more than two candidates or positions are competing against each other:
    • If every voter prefers alternative X over alternative Y, then the group prefers X over Y.
    • If every voter's preference between X and Y remains unchanged, then the group's preference between X and Y will also remain unchanged (even if voters' preferences between other pairs like X and Z, Y and Z, or Z and W change).
    • There is no "dictator": no single voter possesses the power to always determine the group's preference.
      • Note that although rank-order voting systems are by far the most widely used, they are also far from the only way to vote, and in fact the theorem is not one against voting (or democracy) altogether. The most common way to get around these issues are cardinal utility voting systems, where the degree of preference for each candidate or position is also noted. However, this family of voting system is still susceptible to strategic voting, and sometimes even more so. It is also more complicated, and, given most people's use of similar systems online, would likely act as rank-order voting systems in practice anyway.
  • The Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem proves that there is no voting system whatsoever which does not have at least one of the following undesirable properties if more than two candidates or positions are competing against each other:
    • The rule is dictatorial (i.e., there is a single individual who can choose the winner), or
    • There is some candidate who can never win, under the rule, or
    • The rule is susceptible to tactical voting, in the sense that there are conditions under which a voter with full knowledge of how the other voters are to vote and of the rule being used would have an incentive to vote in a manner that does not reflect his or her preferences.
      • Thus, EVERY voting system is inherently flawed in some fashion.

  • Addressed in-story in Suikoden II. Jowy's Face-Heel Turn is provoked by observing how the democratic City-States are paralyzed by bickering in the face of crisis. Though the city-states do end up winning the war... but only because Riou, The Hero, stood up for the city-states, set straight the bickering leaders of the States (Teresa, Makai, Gustav, and eventually Jess) by helping them if they're not dead yet (or just plain jackass or evil to be appealed, like Gorudo). By the end of the game, the city-states are purged of the bad parts of the democracy that it does have a shot to be better.
  • Possibly unintentional example in the Sonic games, but one that gets slowly reversed. The military is notably absent from the 2D games. In Sonic Adventure, the police are ineffective against Chaos, to say the least. In Sonic Adventure 2, the government takes Sonic prisoner and is responsible for the whole mess due to its own double-dealing and distrust. In Shadow the Hedgehog, Shadow has to bail out the democratic United Federation against the aliens; its president is portrayed as somewhat wimpy and ineffectual and its military commander is obsessed with the past to the point of making him unable to cope with the present. Some might read the ending of Shadow as hinting at reform in the government inspired by Gerald and Maria Robotnik, though.
    In Sonic Chronicles the military works with Sonic and his crew readily, but that is not canon. Same with Shadow's apparent military connection in Sonic 2006. The comic books have been accused of this; one arc had Tails' father instigate a revolution, and after a good deal of infighting and Sonic struggling to not let anyone get killed, they eventually settled on a compromise, along the lines of a Constitutional Monarchy (kinda like Britain). Looks like not everything is better with princesses.
  • Anachronox has the planet Democratus, who vote on anything and barely ever get anything done. Only when faced with oblivion do they come to a quick agreement, but they still have to vote on it.
  • In the Adventure Game Ceville, the council election drives the overthrown king to this conclusion: "the one in charge [of a democracy] is just as tyrannical as I was, but they hide it better."
  • Occasionally invoked and discussed in Deus Ex. For example, in the first game J.C. Denton can get into a political discussion with a bartender in a Hong Kong nightclub. J.C. argues that the checks and balances of a western style government allow democracy to flourish by addressing and pre-empting the potential weaknesses of individuals that it would otherwise suffer. The bartender on the other hand has a pro-authoritarian view, arguing that a government that recognizes the weaknesses of the people involved in it would only encourage those same weaknesses in them, and that a government that makes no allowances for such weaknesses would be more effective. Later, J.C. has a similar conversation with the A.I.s Morpheus and Icarus about the benefits of centralized authority versus distributed democracy.
  • BioShock: "Is a man not entitled by the sweat of his brow? No, says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor!" Andrew Ryan is an Objectivist and naturally doesn't think too highly of other forms of government, either. The overall message of the game, however, is that extremism in any form, be it over Objectivism, capitalism, democracy, etc., is bad.
  • Vault City in Fallout 2 considered democracy (or indeed, anyone outside their system) to be bad. First Citizen Lynette refers to the NCR's democratic style as "mob rule". So they instead run their state as an elitist, racist, oligarchy that fuels the slave trade. This does not appeal to the rabidly anti-slavery and pro-democracy NCR, to say the least.
    • Though it is unclear how much of the anti-democracy rhetoric is Vault City's, and how much is Lynette being Lynette (it can be noted that she can go on a defence of Vault City's autocracy despite the First Citizen of Vault City not actually being an autocrat, as Vault City has a Council that can and in some endings does override her decisions). And, in fairness, their slavery is pretty disconnected from the main slave trade of the Wastes (Vault City pretends they are actually opposed to slavery. What they have are servants under long-term contracts).
  • Caesar and Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas independently think that democracy is bad, and both tell you that all you need for proof is to look out at the wastes. The corruption of the NCR's upper echelons and the obstructive bureaucracy that keeps much from actually getting done does not help democracy's case either. And neither does Vault 11. On the other hand, the NCR is the most karmically good faction in the game, and they form almost universally good relations with everyone if you help foster peaceful resolutions with the various factions and lead the NCR to victory in the final battle. By comparison, Mr. House will have several groups destroyed or driven out of New Vegas if he wins (and his ending requires the annihilation of the Brotherhood of Steel) while the Legion will massacre, torture, or enslave various groups should they win. And the only other option besides those is the Courier taking over, which results in some good endings and some bad endings as chaos grips certain regions of the Mojave because the Courier just doesn't have the presence and resources to totally control everything outside New Vegas.

  • Credomar habitat in Schlock Mercenary was "founded on the principles of Democracy" and when the eponymous mercenaries arrived (to distribute food) it was near anarchy with at least six different factions fighting for control. Then a robot dictator took over and now the trains run on time. Although Kevyn is quite convinced that Robot Dictatorship Is Also Bad.
    Lota: "Lota is not susceptible to crazy whims, Commander."
    Kevyn: "Oh, good. Now, what about premeditated atrocities?"
  • Seems to be the attitude of the Collective of Anarchist States in S.S.D.D, they're a meritocracy.
    • Even after centuries an advisor vote has only been called once, but many advisors have been dragged out into the street by angry mobs.
    • And there's what their founder had to say on the subject.
      • Though the system they do use has at least one major flaw.
  • Played with in 8-Bit Theater here.
  • Parodied in Sandra and Woo a squirrel, a fox and a raccoon vote on what to have for dinner.
  • In Sinfest, Satan loves democracy -- he voted twelve times!

    Web Original 
  • From Death Note Abridged (Dogface701) when Matsuda gets outvoted by the rest of the taskforce:
    Mr. Yagami: Anytime Matsuda says over three words we slap him, all in favor?
    Matsuda: Wait, that's not fair! [Slap]
  • "Democracy mode" in Twitch Plays Pokémon filters the commands that are sent through the chat and selects the most popular one (as opposed to Anarchy mode, in which all the commands are put through). Most people feel that it slows down the game and takes the fun out of it, and the mob refuses to use it unless push comes to shove. If Democracy turns on it's inevitably followed by a call for a "start9 riot" (mass voting for a command that rapidly pauses and unpauses the game nine times, rendering progress impossible).
    • After the events of Bloody Sunday, however, the Mob has begrudgingly allowed the trope slip into Democracy Is Flawed territory. They don't like it, but it's practical.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Comet", the town was going to be struck by the eponymous comet, and Congress' bill to evacuate the town was voted down thanks to a pornography rider attached to it. Kent Brockman's response? "I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work." This line is echoed by Homer in "Much Apu About Nothing", after a proposition is passed that requires all illegal immigrants to be deported.