While democracy is considered as the best form of government, this form of government also has its own inherited demerits. The proponents of democracy have often used Sigmund Freud’s principle of psychoanalysis and crowd mentality to spread favorable environment for democracy. However, the most ardent proponents of democracy have found that it is difficult for individuals to remain free under a democratic government. Let us analyze the views of Edward Bernays and Ayn Rand about democracy.
The founder of Psychoanalysis, he was a genius who knew how to understand human beings. Obviously it is not so easy. His researches produced marvels. Yet, not everybody was impressed by his theory of psychoanalysis. In fact, many of his critics accused that major part of his theory is nothing but a result of his use of cocaine and hence is unreliable. Sigmund Freud was one of the most ardent proponents of cocaine use and he advised cocaine use as a stimulant and an analgesic to his patients.
He was the one who used Freudian theory to its maximum. The founder of PR used the concept and importance of unconscious mind in understanding the conscious thought and behavior of human beings. Edward Bernays successfully exploited Freudian theory of dreams, unconscious mind and psycho-sexual development of human beings to create something new out of the crowd psychology proposed by Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter. He along with Ivy Lee became the founding father of Public Relationships, propaganda theory and manipulations. According to him, the society is an irrational crowd and the herd instinct of the crowd potentially makes it a dangerous force.
We have experienced this dangerous force many a times. Recently, the April Spring that created ripples of revolution throughout the Arab world is a prime example of this. The Indian agitation against corruption lead by Anna Hajare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prakash Bhushan is also a prime example of the herd instinct of society, or the crowd.
It should be noted that Edward Bernays played an important role in bringing democracy to all of Europe. He worked as a member of Committee on Public Information in the administration of Woodrow Wilson during the World War1. His experiment to propagandize democracy as favorable for the crowd proved to be a huge success in the United States and abroad. After the World War 1 during the peace time, he worked on his idea of Public Relations. Edward Bernays didn’t use the term propaganda because of the negative feeling associated with it as the Germans also used Propaganda during World War1.
Despite supporting and propagandizing in favor of democracy, Edward Bernays was not assured about the good of democracy and he felt that democratic judgments cannot be relied upon. His daughter Anne Bernays during an interview explained more about her father’s idea about democracy when she shared her father’s thought about democracy and the crowd, “they [the American public] could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above.” Anne believed that her father supported the idea of an enlightened despotism. It is difficult to say if Anne Bernays was right in interpreting her father’s ideas yet, it can be said with conformity that Edward Bernays, the major force who propagated democracy in the whole Europe and strengthened it in the USA was himself not sure of democracy and was expecting a better model of society. Edward used the same idea of unconscious desires to manipulate the masses and to create an irrational demand of things which people didn’t really need. He used manipulations, news industry and propaganda to influence the public in a way which he thought was favorable for the public and the industrialists both. He easily succeeded against one of the biggest social taboo of his time, women smoking freely. He represented cigarette as a symbol of freedom and smoking as a right to enjoy. Edward Bernays deliberately used Freudian psychoanalysis and the crowd psychology to influence the consumers and he succeeded.
However, the same principles of PR were used by those who were in power after the world wars. America used Freudian concept of unconscious mind and desires to manipulate and control masses not only in America but also in different parts of the world. The recent episode of April Spring can also be suggested as a result of the propaganda and public relations to influence the masses. In India, the Non-Government-Organization of Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hajare has been accused of gaining huge amount of money in dollars from American donors.
Ayn Rand is often considered as one of the pioneers of Libertarianism. With her two novellas, she encouraged masses to seek for the self-governance. She criticized the growing grip of government over the economic sector and individual life. She was a proponent of minimal governance and Free Market. She advocated democracy under a constitutional republic. Just like Edward Bernays, Ayn Rand was not very sure of democracy as a proper system.
However, she was much staunch opponent of Democracy as she compared democratic government with a totalitarian government and said, ” Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom. . . .”However, both Edward Bernays and Ayn Rand supported individualism, the triumph of self over collectivism. Edward propagandized individual freedom and represented democracy as the means to attain self-governance and freedom. Was he right? He himself was not convinced and criticized democracy. Ayn Rand opposed democracy as she knew that a democratic government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. Ayn Rand also used the cigarette as a symbol of freedom and capitalism in her book Atlas Shrugged.
“I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind–and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”
Unlike Edward Bernays, Ayn Rand didn’t imagine some enlightened despotism. Rather she believed that a rational constitution can help a society to remain intact on its reasonable principle of individual freedom.
The futility of Ayn Rand’s idea was proved with the increasing influence of the US government over its citizens. The majority democracy of the USA forced the original constitution to change from time to time. Now under the leadership of Obama, the United States is no less than a democratic socialist state with a Big Government controlling everyone, everything and hence causing huge wastage of resources, bringing down the life of individuals.
What now: Individuals are the basic unit of a society, however, in a group; it is hard to come against the herd instinct. This is the reason why any form of miniarchist or enlightened despotism government cannot sustain itself. Miniarchy is unable to sustain itself against the centripetal force of controlling government which tends to increase the power to create a big government. Individual freedom is possible only in an Anarchocapitalist society with no central government to control individuals. Democracy under a set of rules is just a mirage that makes people feel that they are in charge, however, this is a false propaganda by the government and corporate world that works for the growth of the mass-consumer society and often succumbs to the boom-bursts-inflation cycle leading to wastage, mal-investment and poverty in masses.
Further research: The Century of the Self