Israel goes from one restructuring crisis into another. Socialism, successive waves of aliyah, near-bankruptcy in the arms race, and ideological changes from mini-state in 1948 to mini-empire in 1967 to defeatism since the 1990s, all strain the government’s credibility and make Jews doubt if the nation has any ideology to sustain statehood. Democracy is a comfortable order for established societies, but in times of crises, the Romans appointed dictators. Voting for personalities invokes more responsibility than for parties; Israelis who vote for Kadima might not vote for Olmert. Strong presidential republics where the president is elected directly by the public weather crises better.

Mass democracy, however, is inherently evil. Politically active, engaged populations seek to determine policies and control politicians, but such control is short-lived. People hate doing useless jobs, and control of the elected government soon proves useless. People hate responsibility, and political demagogues urge them to trust the government. When someone promises to care about you, and everyone around seems to concur, you also tend to concur.

Small groups are still reasoning entities, but reason disappears from large populations. The major reason for that is the tendency of a mob to sink to the lowest common denominator: people shrink from offending others, realizing subconsciously that that may be dangerous, and seek common ground with them. The common point is the lowest common denominator, and for a large country this denominator is really low.

If the problems are serious but not imminent, people prefer avoiding them. So the sweet-talking demagogues are voted into office even though their promises are evidently absurd. “The sleep of reason produces monsters.” Any candidate who tells the unpleasant truth to the mob has no chance of being elected.

In the era of mass media, election campaigns are expensive. Grassroots financing is a fairy tale: once a candidate becomes widely known and his chances appear somewhat realistic, large donors flock to him. That is venture financing in the political sphere: the risks are large, but the potential profits are staggering, as the first large donors will likely remain the new ruler’s closest confidants throughout his career. And so we saw German industrialists financing Hitler, and Jewish American businessmen backing Obama. An honest candidate stands no chance of securing sufficient financing, as he is not sufficiently corrupt to shower his benefactors with government contracts and subsidies upon reaching office.

In large countries with a history of freedom, mass media are somewhat able to check corrupt and obviously wrong policies. The minuscule Israel, with its history of socialist oppression, is exactly the opposite. A few oligarchs who control the Israeli media critically depend on the government for contracts, permits, and non-extradition. Israeli media are therefore completely subservient to the establishment.

Democracy is a very accidental political system. It was never practiced on a large scale in antiquity, but only in small cities where participatory democracy remains viable. In all cases, democracy quickly eroded into demagoguery, tyranny, and then monarchy. Modern states erroneously identified as democracies are actually republics, the difference being that some basic values in republics are closed to democratic discourse; on the other hand, even theocracy allows democratic decision-making on mundane issues while the core values are kept non-negotiable. Democracy gained popularity during the Renaissance, when westerners marveled at everything ancient. Unlike the classic art, democracy remained popular because it allowed the ruling classes to rule as if by popular consent (manufacturing and twisting that consent) and provided academics with the opportunity to legitimately influence societies with social theories.

There are three viable alternatives to democracy. Two of them are biblically sanctioned: anarchy and monarchy, while the third was employed by Jews throughout most of our history—theocracy. Anarchy operates as a network of townships bonded together by mutual defense agreements, common and criminal law. The legal system is kept to a minimum, and people are free to a great extent.

Jewish monarchy is a constitutional one, in which the king is bounded by myriad restrictions. Short of a very bad king, such a system is well suited for opinionated Jews, whose perpetual debates and vacillations it crushes. If the king proves very bad, he can be removed both on religious grounds (as a traitor) or simply by the masses exercising their right of insurrection.

Theocracy is also not bad. Someone like Ovadia Yosef, for all his shortcomings, wouldn’t be a worse leader of Israel than Olmert or Netanyahu. At least, Rabbi Ovadia has Jewish ideas and convictions. Theocracy served the Jews well for nineteen centuries. It wasn’t perfect, but it was workable.

No realistically electable politician in Israel is better than Olmert. But there are viable forms of Jewish government better than democracy, in which the likes of Olmert would never succeed.