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One of Winston Churchill's famous quotes is that democracy is the worst form of government except for all others

I've used this quote in past blog posts to express a world-weary, second-best opinion of elected officials, political campaigns, or voter ignorance. It's hardly inspirational.

In research an article that I'm writing about Churchill, though, I've come to see that his quote was very different. 

Here is what he actually said (in a speech to the House of Commons in 1947):

[I]t has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, and that public opinion expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.

This conveys a completely different. Churchill was not saying that he thought democracy is the worst form of government except all others. Indeed, he was rejecting that notion in favor of popular rule. And if you look at his speeches over many decades, you find a consistent theme in support of democracy as an ideal that he cherished. 

Gerard Magliocca on January 31, 2019



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