(Posted in Quora) For Plato there are 4 types (or degrees) of government; the first is that of the best (‘philosopher-kings’), which in reality is an aristocracy. Then there is a veritable dégringolade, as Ananda Coomaraswamy would say: plutocracy, oligarchy, enlightened despotism (not that bad!?), and then democracy, where law and order disintegrate, giving way to tyranny (the worst). That classification has a lot of merits, and has had different interpretations in the course of time (as The Republic has had). The philosopher(king) Plato always came very close to the truth… as far as the truth can be described by language – and understood by men.
A few relevant sayings on democracy:
“Of all forms of government, democracy is the least accounted amongst civilized nations” – George Washington. (I think Lincoln said something similar).
“It is now democracy that is the last refuge of the scoundrel” – Joyce Marcel (British free-lance journalist)- a follow up on Dr. Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.
Or take Marcus Aurelius: “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane”.
But, as Churchill (a scoundrel) said: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for the rest.”