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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Poor Man's Democracy

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been re-elected after winning what he describes as a free and democratic election. The people living in Iran's largest cities and the liberal public voted for his opponent, Mir Hussein Mousavi, but the poor, simple people -- who make up the majority in Iran -- voted for Ahmadinejad.

There is an ongoing gasoline shortage in Iran, but no shortage of missiles. Simple, poor Iranians understand very well why there is no gasoline: The infidels and Jews are opposing the Islamic revolution. Why? Because Iran has gotten up off its knees and established its authority in the West.

Did you know, by the way, that Iran is on the cutting edge in nanotechnology? That is what you will be told at Iranian cultural centers in St. Petersburg and Kazan. At the Pedagogical Institute in Astrakhan, Iranian instructors instill an outstanding knowledge of Farsi and a deep sympathy for the ideas of the Islamic revolution into their students. Graduates of that institute often go on to work at the Russian Embassy in Iran.

Iran spends huge sums of money on the Islamic revolution and on helping fellow Islamic regimes. The Soviet Union helped its friend North Korea, and Iran helps like-minded Hezbollah and Hamas. As I said, Iran spends so much money on Russia that supporters of the Islamic revolution work in the Russian Embassy in Tehran, so then-President Vladimir Putin looked like a complete fool when in 2007, citing bad Russian intelligence reports, he told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Iran was incapable of producing ballistic missiles that could reach the greater part of Western Europe.

All of Tehran's pet projects -- Hamas, Hezbollah and its "peaceful" nuclear program -- are tremendously expensive. That is why Iran has high inflation and no gasoline. Everybody understands that Iran has a nuclear program thanks to Ahmadinejad and a gas shortage thanks to the West.

The Iranian vote demonstrates a simple truth that even Aristotle and Plato understood but that is frequently forgotten by fans of democracy today -- namely that democracy is one of the worst forms of government if the majority of voters are impoverished.

Have you ever wondered how it was that Mao Zedong managed to gain control over China? Mao was a bungling commander who lost every battle he ever fought. When his forces captured China in 1949, a terror already reigned in his base of operations, the Yanan province, that exceeded even the extraordinary cruelty displayed by Josef Stalin in 1937. But Mao got away with it because millions of simple peasants supported him.

What would have happened if Communist troops had not shot students on Tiananmen Square? Democracy would have come to China and 700 million impoverished peasants would have elected a modern-day Mao.

Over the past 2,000 years, democracies have come and gone with a rapidity that is unequaled by other forms of rule. All observers of democracy -- from Thucydides to Machiavelli -- have made note of one simple fact: If the voters do not own property, democracy does not differ from dictatorship and will inevitably end in tyranny.

That vicious circle was broken in the West only with the start of the Industrial Revolution and a sharp increase in the standard of living for a majority of voters accompanied by a gradual decrease in the price of consumer goods. A few countries -- such as Germany after the Treaty of Versailles, Iran following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union -- were unable to break out of that cycle.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.