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Democracy Is Bad

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"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."

For most of history, 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 because the forms and ideas of democracy shifted and are radically different. Today we would distinguish between what's called "representative democracy" and "direct democracy."

In Athenian direct democracy, nobody elected representatives. Every voting citizen represented only himself (and it was himself), and his political influence came down to his own personal wealth and charisma. The Roman Republic was a representative democracy, with candidates being elected to act on behalf of voting citizens. That being said, the Athenian direct democracy and the Roman representative republic were both united in their acceptance of slavery, limited and exclusive franchise and suffrage, and an elite constituency that for all intents and purposes qualified as an oligarchy. In fact, it was the only way a direct "democracy" like Athens could even work in the first place, as every male citizen was basically a full-time politician. All the work of actually keeping the city functioning (farmers, craftsmen, and other laborers) was done by slaves or non-voting residents.

When historically people criticized democracy as "mob rule" or unworkable, they largely had in mind Athenian direct democracy. The more utopian forms of "direct democracy" advocated today by anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists were criticized by The Enlightenment theorists for being unworkable for governing a large expanse of land, especially as The Republic was evolving from being the government of city-states to nation-states, and the latter idea of democracy (representative but with a progressively expansive and inclusive franchise and suffrage) is the system that has consensus today.

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!

Historically, to avert this, sometimes people have used Insistent Terminology to define their ideal government as a republic, as opposed to democracy. This definition did make sense at one time, and still occasionally shows up today with some people claiming a country is "a republic, not a democracy." Modern terminology would consider this a contradiction, however. A republic is a form of democracy, and there is no mutual exclusivity between them.

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. Nothing to do with negative opinions of a certain video game series, either.


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    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 (said 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 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; after the population decreased to three people, he and his wife voted against and executed their mutual friend when the latter tried to leave, then his wife died of an illness.
  • 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. The OVA spin-off Akito the Exiled, which is set in Europe, 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.

    Comic Books 
  • The DC Comics character Anarky's made several statements denouncing democracy on the basis that it is compromised and corrupt. A Secret Origins introduction for Anarky carried "Democracy is the tyranny of the minority!" as its tagline. This is a twist on the classic "tyranny of the majority" phrase. For Anarky, mob rule isn't the problem behind democracy— oligarchy is.
  • 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.
    • 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; the catch is that it only happens when he kicks, prods and curses the people into using it - and after he's been mauled by cops and/or had his life systematically ruined by politicians. Basically, Spider says "Democracy Is Bad - But It Shouldn't Be."
  • Judge Dredd revolves around a literal Police State and questions what the dispension of civil rights mean for this dystopian society. The Judges claim that the citizens need rules to live by and that democracy simply became unworkable (the last elected President having started a global nuclear war), but even Judge Dredd has been deeply conflicted over the legitimacy of the Justice system. After the Necropolis disaster a referendum is held in Mega-City One 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. The run-up to the last election before the Day of Chaos was essentially a media circus between a number of candidates with no real political platform, including a sudden merger between the Liberal Party and the Illiberal Party to form the Illiberal Liberal Party. It's because in the setting, most Humans Are Morons. Some of Mega-City One's citizens even argued that Judge Death was a "political prisoner" and started a campaign for his release. Interestingly, the Judges did introduce a form of limited democracy among their own ranks to select the new Chief Judge, but restricted the vote to Senior Judges (25+ years of experience), which is more in line with Athenian democracy. Originally, the Council of Five alone made this decision.note 
  • 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! Given that Doom's entire life mission is to prove that Reed Richards Is Useless, this actually makes sense though.
    • The in-continuity Emperor Doom graphic novel also examined this. Essentially, Doom mind controls the world and eliminates war, poverty, and all his former enemies are happy to help.
  • 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.
    • Also, 'Civil War (2006)'' is essentially a fight between heroes who are enforcing a law passed by duly elected officials and heroes who believe they should have the right to act however they see fit. Yes, Captain America fought against democracy.
  • In the infamous Kauka translation of Asterix, 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.
  • In the Project Superpowers universe, America's democracy has been corrupted by the Supremacy, which has put one of their agents, Power Nelson, in the White House as the duly-elected President Gene West, which thus justifies the heroes overthrowing the government in the second series. Meanwhile, in Europe, the heroic Boy King's goals include restoring his kingdom of Swisslakia, which fell all the way back during World War II; no mention is made of what will become of the government that has arisen since then, although the Boy King insists that there's no assurance that a democracy would be better than the magically-enforced monarchy that he plans to set up.
  • Even though Democracy tells how this system was created. Echekratis and Isagoras are not fond of it, being aristocrats. In fact, Isagoras refers to it as a "cunning plan" for Cleisthenis to regain his power. King Kleomenes believes that this system will destroy both Athens and Sparta.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, the Trans-Galactic Republic is just as "prone to corruption, demagoguery and takeovers by radicals" as its ancient ancestor mentioned on this very page was. So far, high on the "ineffectual," not quite "let a Sith Lord plot under our noses" as Palpatine did. Then again, there seem to be no Jedi to get in the way, and the Republic Intelligence Service seems to be up to no good...
  • This is a prominent belief of Tristanian nobles, Karin in particular, in Halkegenia Online, but is also justified given their experiences with societies which were democratic. Colbert himself notes that for the Faeries, it probably only works due to widespread literacy and a greater knowledge base to start from.
  • Sudden Contact: Stukov flat out calls democracy a waste and a "tyranny of uneducated masses".
  • In Darwin, numerous characters consider democracy inefficient at best and outright worthless at worst, with different private interests clashing too much to get anything done, especially during a war. As a result, the newly freed Japan is made a monarchy and there's calls for the E.U. to become an empire.

  • In Mel Gibson's The Patriot (2000), Benjamin Martin is cynical about eliminating British rule over the colonies. "Why should I 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." Incidentally, this is a paraphrased version of a line spoken by an actual Loyalist named Mather Byles.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Galactic Republic in the prequels is generally depicted as a democracy on its last legs—corrupt to the point that corporations get government seats, deadlocked by factionalism, and hopelessly unable to protect its member states due to not even having any kind of military until the Clone Wars. Its transformation into the Galactic Empire was largely a result of Palpatine exploiting gaping holes in the system, with his predecessor, the well-intentioned but incompetent Chancellor Valorum, failing to come up with a coherent response to the Naboo crisis and giving Palpatine room to slide right in.
    • The fledgling Rebel Alliance nearly votes to surrender upon learning of the Death Star's existence, and after the Empire is defeated Leia must start another rebel faction because the new senate votes to demobilize its fleet and ignore the First Order right up to the moment of their own genocide.

  • 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 - as in they have so little power that the characters never bother to describe them, let alone interact with them.)
    • 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 Federal Service veterans, who (it is argued) have at least some idea of social responsibility. Though unlike in the movie this is in no way portrayed as fascism; what we see of Federation society indicates that Heinlein had an idealized version of his own country in mind.
      • More specifically, the book attempts to make the case for a kind of selective democracy where anyone can vote, but may only do so by first proving they are socially responsible - i.e. by serving the nation for at least two years. Crucially the book makes it clear that the Federal Service has no choice but to take anyone who signs up. As long as they are capable of understanding the oath of service, a place must be found for them somewhere in the various armed forces or civilian-oriented branches to allow them to prove they are socially responsible and thus can vote. When later questioned if other ways to earn the vote were available or if it was strictly veterans who should be able to vote, Heinlein made it clear that while the book didn't show it, he did believe there should be other non-combat careers or efforts able to demonstrate the social responsibility required to vote.
      • The book does demonstrate that anyone can earn the privilege to vote, and though not everyone can earn it by a non-combat role, some can, as explained by the doctor who says that: "if you came in here in a wheelchair and blind in both eyes and were silly enough to insist on enrolling, they would find you something silly to match. Counting the fuzz on a caterpillar by touch, maybe". Some people sign up for space mining or terraforming work and get their voting rights that way, so the military is not the only way.
      • However, to be eligible for the office of Sky Marshal, a high military rank, a candidate must have commanded both a Mobile Infantry regiment AND a Navy vessel in combat. The Federation's actual governing body is not explored in any detail so it's unknown how many offices are restricted to ex-military types.
    • 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. Though his opinion of the government is still far better than what he expects has happened to the colony where the Chairman relocates the egalitarian movements that crop up every so often.
  • 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 "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 though 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. Patricians also appear to be elected by some subset of the city's nobles and guildmasters whenever the incumbent is removed from office.
    • 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."
    • In later books, Vetinari started assigning disruptive people in large meetings to side committees on the subject of whatever side issue they're arguing about. These inevitably never reached useful conclusions, but their main function was to get rid of the members for a few hours.
    • The King of Lancre attempted to make the country more democratic with the institution of a Parliament. Naturally the people complained that he was trying to get them to do his job for him.
  • Anthony Ryan's Draconis Memoria series plays with this. The setting is roughly equivelant to post-industrial revolution in terms of cultural and technological development, but it has not had the benefit of a French Revolution (though the corvantine empire is nearly constantly hit with revolutions trying to overthrow the royalty), so democracy is still considered a fringe ideology with little popular support and general consensus is that it is hopelessly idealistic and never going to work. Monarchy, however, is also considered outdated, and most of the world with the exception of the ancient Corvantine Empire considers corporate meritocracy to be the ideal type of state, with political weight measured in company shares. By the end of the last books, however, the Corvantine empire has collapsed, with a pesudo-republic rising in its place, and one of the world's largest cities is led by a proponent of democracy, implying that things are changing.
  • One 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, as the people of Anderith vote for neutrality, which then gets them massacred by the Imperial Order whom they won't/can't fight against.
  • 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.
  • The Aristillus series hammers on this point directly, as the Lunar colony located in the titular crater is founded on principles of radical libertarianism, whilst the Earth governments have gained control of a stagnating global economy. thanks to this trope. Anytime the idea of democracy is mentioned, it is likely to evoke an immediate angry reaction from one of the main characters, including the sentient dogs.
  • 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 they're 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.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Forward the Foundation":
    • During "Eto Demerzel", Laskin "Jo-Jo" Joranum is thumping for political reforms of the Galactic Empire (an absolute monarchy that is said to have brought peace and prosperity for millennia). His movement is shown to have much popular support, but Seldon points out that Joranum doesn't believe in his own rhetoric and is planning on using demagoguery, lies, and manipulation to take and hold power.
    • During "Cleon I", Joranum's rhetoric is called democracy, but the leaders of the group dismiss it as a system of government that was tried a few times throughout history, but was always unstable and short-lived.
    • During "Wanda Seldon", Emperor Agis XIV and Hari Seldon discuss the intrusion of democracy in the benevolent imperial system. Agis decries it on the basis that each of the hundreds of members must agree to his idea before any work gets done, which takes months-years at best.
      "The Emperor Cleon," said Agis impatiently, "had two first-class First Ministers-Demerzel and yourself-and you each labored to keep Cleon from doing anything foolish. I have seventy-five hundred First Ministers, all of whom are foolish from start to finish."
  • 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 between The Heritage of Shannara and High Druid of Shannara. The monarchies of earlier novels, which were supplanted by the Federation, are generally portrayed positively, if sometimes insular. The Federation as a polity is mostly presented as Lawful Neutral apart from being an Anti-Magical Faction, but it seems particularly prone to coming under the sway of evil demagogues.
  • 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. As does his disciple Aristotle in his Politics. To be fair, the democracy in Athens does not much resemble modern representative democracy (it often devolved into mob rule, because the Assembly could vote basically anything through). What they would have thought of modern democracies is hard to say, but it might have been more positive overall. Aristotle also bifurcated the three political systems he identified into two forms, good and bad: "democracy" is the bad form of a system where power resides with the masses, whereas "polity" is the good form.
  • Many of James Fenimore Cooper's political tracts and some of his novels, most notably the Littlepage Manuscripts trilogy, bespeak of a growing scepticism towards the American political system, which in many ways overlaps with Democracy in America by his contemporary Alexis de Tocqueville. Cooper was a bit of a social conservative who found the emergent Jacksonian democracy, where the masses' influence gradually eclipsed that of the landed and propertied classes, off-putting. The fact that American democracy in his day happily coexisted with slavery and that Cooper sympathized with the American Indians, who were definitely getting the short end of the stick under Andrew Jackson and the administrations that followed, cannot have helped. Still, more an example of "Democracy is flawed" as Cooper generally portrayed the American republic as superior and more progressive in comparison to the monarchies of old Europe.
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures democracy is seen by foxen as a bizarre human thing, and that their feudal caste system is better because their leaders are trained for the job from birth, if nothing else.
  • The opinion of the Empire of the Starnote  in the Eldraeverse is that democracy, representative democracy at least, is simply another form of tyranny. As shown in the story "The Drowning of the People" which recounts what happened after the Empire's precursors overthrew their feudal lords and someone suggested elections.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Rough Draft books, the protagonist ends up having a conversation with a man from the world of Veroz (AKA Earth 3). The man explains why their people jokingly refer to our world (Earth 2) as "Demos". This is due to the prevalence of democracy as a form of government. The people of Orysaltan, a predominantly Muslim city-state located where Moscow is in our world, practice an "evolved" form of democracy that marries it with capitalism. According to the man, democracy is inherently unfair because it grants each person an equal vote no matter his or her actual contribution to society. Their version grants votes to those citizens who not only make more money but also choose to keep it in the city bank, thus literally investing in their city's future. Those who hoard their wealth have as much vote as those who don't make much money. They are very proud of their "enlightened" system and strive to be a Proud Merchant Race.
  • The titular protagonist in Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise recounts a theory to this effect, although he admits that it seems to simplistic for him. Humanity is The Ageless in this 'verse (set 20,000 years from now) and has settled thousands of planets. But interstellar travel is a very expensive proposition, which means an Ungovernable Galaxy. There are, at most, a few hundred starships in existence, and most of them belong to space traders, who prowl the trade lanes at relativistic speeds, connecting the scattered colonies. French has been around since the late 21st century and has seen the various forms of government created on the many planets. According to the theory, democracy is too flawed to survive for long (read: many centuries) and will inevitably lead to radical elements gaining power through legitimate means (as the hamstrung government is unable to do anything to prevent it). After a period of tyranny, the people will revolt, resulting in a bloody civil war. This usually allows some fringe religious group to seize power and impose a theocratic rule, while rebuilding society. Eventually, the people will get tired of casting their eyes downward and praying and replace the religious leaders with a new democracy. And round and round we go. According to French, a monarchy is the most stable government, as long as it's done right. For example, the planet Malacandra has been ruled by a monarchy for millennia, and the rule has been so good that no monarch has been met with a violent death that wasn't the result of an accident or his own negligence (e.g. many of them love hunting dangerous beasts). In all those millennia, there have been less than 30 different monarchs. It also helps that all the regional governors are bastard children of the monarch, helping to maintain stability and loyalty. The monarch himself doesn't do much, as his role as legislator is largely ceremonial, since all important legislation has been done long ago by his predecessors. He mostly relaxes, while his son, the crown prince, does all the work as the planet's executor.
  • Repeatedly visited in Larry Niven's works; the worst elements of his societies are always a result of a majority vote, and downright horrifying to individuals subjected to those elements.
    • Known Space is full of democratic laws which cause immeasurable suffering; When organ donation was tied to the death penalty, within a generation it was the only punishment for any crime. The UN engages in mindwipes, mass hypnosis and editing history to prevent war - this nearly results in humanity's extinction when the Kzinti show up looking for tender meat. Entire cities can be terrorized with a single handgun because so few lethal weapons exist - hell, one man with unarmed combat training can kill dozens of people because all martial arts have been outlawed by popular vote, under the same distinction as weapons.
    • The enviro-fundamentalist regime of Fallen Angels is entirely democratic; scientists and science fiction fen are a tiny percentage of the voting population, the majority of which believes that science is responsible for the world's woes - specifically an ever-worsening ice age.
    • The core conflicts of the Heorot duology are due to the majority of the population suffering from brain damage, and thus unable to respond properly to threats the few moderately competent among them can recognize; in the first book, no-one save the single soldier believes a man-eating monster could be stalking their exosolar colony. In the second, they have become so reactionary that a handful of deaths is enough for them to abandon a branch colony rather than figure out what the hell killed them.
    • In Lucifer's Hammer, democratic government does absolutely nothing to prepare for a comet impact, so as not to disrupt society.
    • In Foot Fall, the President of the United States nearly lets invading aliens wipe out the human race because he loses his nerve during the final battle.
  • During a discussion in the Belisarius Series, Ousanas makes an offhand remark that it's unfortunate that democracies don't work, based on the experience of the classical Greek city states. In this case, a Justified Trope as that's what an educated 6th Century person is likely to believe.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: No highborn noble in the series, whether they of heroic or villainous bent, expresses any support for democracy in a highly feudalistic setting like Westeros, where birthright determines who leads than their merits. Even sympathetic characters like Tyrion Lannister sneer at the Mountain Clans and the Free Cities for settling their issues on popular vote as well as finds the notion of women voting ridiculous, and even then they are respectively barbarian tribes and corrupt oligarchies that rely heavily on slavery. The closest thing to democratic practices in Westeros is the kingsmoot by the Ironborn, who tend to be reviled as a nation of reavers and pirates by the rest of Westeros, and the Night's Watch's election, where their Lord Commanders are chosen by its members, all of them regardless of position have a right to equal vote and any of them can campaign for the position (given they have necessary support), although they are a monastic knightly order rather than a kingdom.
  • The only democracy in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth works is Esgaroth, the Master of which is shown as an extremely unsavory character. The movies seem to have changed it, with him laughing at the idea of elections.
  • Journey to Chaos has both a straight example and an aversion.
    • Acemo is a democratic country on the northern edge of the Israyu continent, and it is regularly the butt of jokes by the rest of the continent because its government is perpetually unstable. No one lasts long in office before they are voted out, and its laws and diplomatic relations are frequently changed. Queen Kasile of the Theocratic Limited Monarchy of Ataidar, calls the place a mess and the reason why a royal family is needed to get keep things running smoothly.
    • The Eastern Azure Republic is not the butt of jokes like Acemo is, but little is known at all about the Eastern Azure Republic.
  • WWW Trilogy: The Chinese President takes this view, believing it threatens his country while also not really existing anyway. He is forced to cede power, along with the Communist Party, and let China be a democracy near the end of the trilogy.
  • Star Wars Legends: The trope gets Zig-Zagged quite a bit from the film example. Yes, much is made of the "slow," "inefficient," "corrupt," and "bloated" Republic as compared the various versions of the Empire, which tries to play itself as Fascist But Efficient and transparent about how they operate. The reality is that the Empire is only fast, efficient, and well-equipped to do one thing; wage war. The infrastructure is on par with a Third World backwater. They have a slave-based economy, wasting most of their talent pool on Fantastic Racism (anyone not human, Sith species, or maybe Chiss gets treated like crap), and their "government" is an Ax-Crazy theocratic cabal of Sorcerous Overlords unanswerable to law and more interested on internal scheming and power games than actually running anything. When they don't have an enemy to be pointed towards, they inevitably self-destruct. As "inefficient" as the Republic might be, it doesn't have to do anything but survive long enough for the Empire to self-destruct. And as "corrupt" as they might be, Senators and Jedi are answerable to the rule of law and can be removed from office and/or jailed while a Sith can rape, main, murder, and worse and the law cannot touch them. A Muggle, especially a non-human muggle, is far better off in the Republic on a bad day than the Empire on its best.
    • However, later entries in the franchise show the New Republic's transition into the Galactic Alliance, and how terrifyingly close it comes to repeating the mistakes of the Old Republic. For example, Jacen Solo was able to take advantage of his position to essentially seize dictatorial power of the Galactic Alliance as he gradually fell to the Dark Side. Then, after Jacen is ousted and killed, he's replaced by Natasi Daala, an Imperial war criminal who also quickly descends into tyranny and is subsequently ousted. After that, the Galactic Alliance somehow tops itself by unknowingly electing an Eldritch Abomination and her army of Sith infiltrators to be their president. This, of course, doesn't end well. Throughout these story arcs, the Galactic Alliance civilian government is shown to be utterly incompetent and incapable of policing itself, requiring multiple interventions by the Jedi Order to set things straight. The Imperial Remnant, meanwhile, shows none of the internal strife or instability the Galactic Alliance experiences and largely stays neutral during these events.
    • The legends continuity ends on a sort-of compromise with the Galactic Triumvirate. Originally they merely served as head of the Senate, and consisted of an elected senator, the leader of the armed forces, and the Jedi Grand Master. After Krayt's empire's collapse, the triumvirate was reestablished, except with the hereditary Empress in place of the elected senator, and implied to have far greater political power.
    • Stories written from the perspective of sympathetic Imperials tend to take this view In-Universe, by arguing that the Empire, for all its fascism, isn't entirely without virtue, and does have genuine supporters. Both the Imperial Handbook and the Book of Sith discuss democracy in a negative light. However, seeing as the ones discussing this are Wilhuff Tarkin and Sheev Palpatine, their views should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Grunts! plays this for comedy in a High Fantasy setting. The Dark Lord, tired of always losing the grand epic battles of Good vs. Evil, decides that invasions are old fashioned, and that it's better to try and take over the world through democratic elections. A halfling noble on the side of light, when told about it, is horrified at the concept of an election, aghast at the idea that a noble could lose power through the will of peasants! Of course, the Dark Lord didn't say anything about needing elections to be fair, so his orc minions immediately get to work rigging the process.
  • The writers of the Federalist Papers were strongly opposed to democracy (which is why many sticklers insist the U.S. is a republic). As explained by these essays, many of the innovations in the U.S. system were intended to mitigate the dangers of mob rule, although how effective they were (and are) is still vigorously debated.
  • It's understandable that many of the protagonists in The Royal Diaries would feel this way, considering they're princesses and queens, but the trope ranges from exaggerated (Marie Antoinette feels no one can be truly handsome if they're not of noble birth) to realistic (having grown up with an absolute monarch for a father, Anastasia finds the idea of her father sharing his power bizarre) to sympathetic (Kaiulani's distrust of democracy comes from the fact that a democracy overthrew her aunt's government) to averted (Empress Elisabeth sympathizes and seems to have preferred a democracy) to inverted (the kingdom of Silla, Sondok's home, requires a unanimous vote before enacting any important law).
  • The Last Lies of Ardor Benn combines democracy with a Hive Mind. Upon entering the mind, all minds in it are adjusted to think like the majority. The villain who came up with this setup creates the initial framework with himself and his most fanatical followers, and then is always careful to only add more people to the hive in groups smaller than 50% of its current size. Thus, he always has a controlling majority as he slowly subsumes the world, even though his mindset is a distinct minority of humanity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: In "The Waldo Moment", namely, politicians are all manipulative, clueless frauds and the people are stupid enough to vote for a foul-mouthed cartoon bear just on the basis that at least admits he's a manipulative fraud too. What's more, Waldo represents cynicism and anger at the representative political system and a push towards a new technology-based direct democracy, which descends into a brutal ochlocracy by the epilogue of the story.
  • 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. There's also a roughly equal number of times where they are attempting to manipulate the situation for their own personal benefit.
  • Doctor Who:
    • 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 "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..."
    • 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 they apparently do pretty often.
    • In "The Beast Below", the Doctor comments, "And once every five years everyone chooses to forget everything they learned. Democracy in action."
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: The Klingons have a very dim view on the ten year-span of their history where they were a democracy, calling it the "Dark Time". It ended when the people responsible were killed, the imperial family restored (well, they had to find some replacements, since the imperial family was dead) and the Klingons have never looked back. Jadzia Dax once pointed out, to a Klingon she was doing her best to irritate, that despite this, several reforms and policies implemented during that time have actually stayed in place since.
  • The Orville: "Majority Rule" has a world where everything is decided via social media and even facts (like whether an area is filled with dangerous radiation) are subject to public opinion. Too many "down" votes, and you get lobotomized. Something as overtly stupid as defacing a public monument or as innocently insensitive as wearing the wrong kind of hat can get you enough down votes to be hauled off and executed. Even though the Planetary Union in the series is a democracy, the point is that direct democracy in a world where citizens are too lazy to be informed and without the rule of law is a nightmare.
  • The final episode of Game of Thrones has all the (surviving) lords and ladies trying to decide who will rule. Samwell Tarley suggests giving some form of role to the common people; everybody, even Sansa, laughs at how ridiculous the idea is. At Tyrion Lannister's suggestion they do adopt an Elective Monarchy, but only the high lords vote.

  • 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.
  • The Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem (based on the previous) 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Democracy did not fare well in the BT universe, to say at least:
    • In the early days of colonization before the HPG communications became the norm, the democratic style of government was simply ineffectual, and even detrimental, for managing a large interstellar nations.
    • Terran Alliance, in its efforts to get rid of the large amount of problems it had managing the unruly colonies, voted to simply abandon the colonies past a certain distance, leading to associations with isolationism.
    • The democratic process in the Free Worlds League over the centuries has degenerated into a farce.
    • The Democracy Now! movement in the Lyran Commonwealth turned into a secessionist one during the Jihad.
  • The official narrative of the Imperium in Warhammer 40,000. While some planetary governments practice democracy to some degree, the threat of Chaos is believed to be so great that the people should not be allowed to decide for themselves, and they should be under the constant watch of the Imperial Inquisition. Additionally, large-scale democracy is physically impossible for the Imperium. Travel and communication are so slow and unreliable that they have only a vague idea how many member worlds they even have, much less trying to organize a vote.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
    • Vault 11 doesn't help democracy's case either. The computer running the Vault demanded the sacrifice of a member of the Vault once a year or else it would exterminate the entire Vault population. The citizens of the Vault decided to make the Overseer, who knew about it, double as the sacrifice, and then decided that this would be the case every year, with whoever was elected to be the new Overseer ruling for a year before being sacrified. This led to hilarious 1950's Smear Campaign posters with stuff like "Haley is a known adulterer and Communist sympathiser! Vote for Haley!" To make this even worse, a group of people formed a corrupt "tyranny of the majority" and found a way to rig the vote system, so they could effectively choose who would be elected and would never be elected themselves. This changed after they extorted sexual favors from a woman in exchange for not voting for her husband and then voted for him anyway. The woman started murdering party members, causing the party to vote for her as the next Overseer, which is exactly what she wanted. She used her authority as Overseer to do away with the entire election process and make it so that all future Overseers would picked at random by the computer instead. With their power now gone, the corrupt party got majorly pissed off and started a civil war which led to the deaths of nearly everyone in the Vault. By the end of it, there were only five people still alive. They went down to the computer and told it to finish the job since they were done making sacrifices to it... only for the computer to reveal that the whole thing was a Secret Test of Character and that they were going to be rewarded for their selflessness in refusing to sacrifice anyone. Realizing that everyone in the Vault died for nothing, four of the five survivors committed suicide, and the fifth left the Vault to wander the wasteland, fate unknown.
  • In StarCraft the Terran Confederacy was corrupt and oppressive, in the backstory they nuked a planet that attempted to secede and in the first game they attempted to weaponize the Zerg to take out rebellions with plausible deniability. Granted, Arcturus Mengsk is at least as bad when he takes out the Confederacy and sets himself up as Emperor of the Terran Dominion, but his son Valerian at least claims to end the tyrannical oppression when he ascends to the throne by replacing all the corrupt officials to make sure the people have a voice.
    • The Umojan Protectorate is a subversion, they don't practice conscription, they don't use WMDs on their population, and they're democratic. They're basically the closest thing to a "good" human polity in the game (compared to the ostensibly democratic Confederacy, absolute monarchic Dominion, fascistic United Earth Directorate, and corporatocratic Kel-Morian Combine).
  • Played with in Tropico. Running a theocratic state or a ruthless dictatorship is universally a heck of a lot easier than running a fair and liberal democracy and generally doesn't require as much ethical governance and high living standards, but the difficulty in maintaining a democracy varies between each game. Of course, even if you choose to run a "democracy", you're still expected to engage in a little vote-rigging, bribery and Bread and Circuses.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Some factions will attack you for having a democratic government, with different justifications. Chairman Yang of the Human Hive opposes democracies as his whole ideology is authoritarianism and collectivism taken to the logical extreme; in his words, "democracy is the first cousin of anarchy". Sister Miriam Godwinson of the Lord's Believers has her own take on democracy, opposing it due to the secular nature of such a government and advocating a theocracy instead.
  • In Mass Effect 3, of the three Council races invaded by the Reapers (the salarians were essentially untouched), the democratic human government and democratic asari republics did essentially nothing to prepare for the Reaper invasion, while the turians, whose government is essentially a benevolent military dictatorship, are the only ones who do anything, even half-heartedly, to prepare for the invasion.
  • The Big Bad of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare doesn't believe that democracy doesn't work in a lot of places of the world as he believes they don't have the basic social facilities to support a democracy. Instead he wants to take over the world by giving said places what they supposedly really want so they'll follow him.
  • Subverted in the second dungeon of Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. The party encounters a group of herbivores who operate based on majority vote, and force everyone to go along with the group's decisions, even if it involves abandoning someone who's in danger or ostracizing someone else. While this would paint democracy in a bad light, the protagonists point out that deciding things through majority vote isn't a bad thing in and of itself, as long as the people involved actually talk things over and come to a decision based on what they believe in, rather than submit to the herd mentality out of fear.
  • Meta example: in Stellaris, democratic government is considered by many players to be underwhelming because it confers much weaker and more situational bonuses than the other available government types. Whereas leaders in other governments get Agendas that confer fairly powerful bonuses, democratic leaders get Mandates, sidequests that require you to build certain structures in your empire (and possibly going against your plans for developing various planets) in exchange for... Unity, a fairly minor resource in the grand scheme of things. And not even that much, at that, either six months' worth of your current production or 1,000 Unity, whichever is lower — and by midgame, it's likely the latter even if you're not trying to specialize in Unity output. The only reasons to play a democracy are either for roleplaying purposes or if you're going for the Shared Burdens civic, which requires one of your empire's ethics to be Fanatic Egalitarian. What's more, while Egalitarian is itself a very powerful ethic because it boosts the resource output of your specialists (who produce research, consumer goods, and alloys for ship production), it is possible to take the standard, non-fanatic form of it and run a far more powerful oligarchic government.

  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The Credomar habitat 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?
    • It's worth noting that while Lota is really only called a "dictator" by people who don't like the idea of a robot in charge, Lota does effectively seize control of the station through force, but only to complete the mission of distributing the emergency food shipment in a way that will actually feed the people instead of propping up one of the competing factions. Lota then holds elections and is voted into office in a landslide. Lota uses Lota's near total authority to run the place incredibly efficiently including evacuating the whole place and effectively disbanding the colony for the citizens' own safety (turns out the station was actually an ancient doomsday weapon).
    • The United Nations of Sol, the main government for Terra-native species, was originally portrayed as this. As it turns out, it's so complicated that calling it merely a "democracy" is simplifying it to the point of parody; some seats are elected in ways we would recognize, yes, but others are appointed, and at least some selected by lottery. Our clearest view of the inner workings of the UNS comes when the mercenaries are hired as bodyguards to some ambassadors who want to speak to the plutocrats, those representatives who explicitly and publicly buy their seats.
  • 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.

    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.

    Web Videos 
  • In Rainbow Dash Presents Captain Hook the Biker Gorilla, the pegasi definitely did not want to grind up foals to make rainbows but had been outvoted by the other two races. And the only reason the vote came up in the first place was because the electorate demanded it and Celestia was unable or unwilling to provide it.
  • In Door Monster, the two citizens are certain that the group that voted yes to "We Love the King Day" are a vocal minority that's being blown out of proportion.

    Western Animation 
  • In one of the first episodes of Beast Wars, Optimus Primal goes missing and the remaining Maximals have to figure out who's going to lead in his absence. Dinobot being a former Predacon believes as the strongest he should be in charge, but Rattrap refuses to let his best frenemy rule and challenges him. Rhinox has the four Maximals put it to a vote, but they come to a tie between Rattrap and Dinobot. The pair almost come to blows to settle things via combat, but luckily Optimus resurfaces and appoints Rattrap leader until he returns to settle things. Funnily enough, the next time Optimus is gone and Dinobot begins trying to take over, Rhinox has none of it and chokeslams him into submission due to the dire situation they're in.
    Dinobot: Ha ha, great system, your "democracy." No mechanism to break a tie!
  • The Simpsons:
  • The Lion Guard has an example in the vulture parliament, a group of recurring villains. They are cowardly, haughty, and will often stop to take a vote when in imminent danger despite always falling in line with what their leader, Mzingo, says. In a later episode, it is implied that beyond these flaws, their democratic parliament is also outright corrupt and is willing to give Mzingo additional votes.


Video Example(s):


"Simply Doesn't Work"

Congress's bill to evacuate Springfield as a comet hurtles towards it is ruined thanks to a random politician attaching a pornography rider to it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / DemocracyIsBad

Media sources: