Democracy versus autocracy is the big fight that always haunts mankind. Democracy and freedom is something I hold very dear and I have it because my ancestors fought to acquire it.
I am a Swede and I am proud of that, I am proud of how my ancestors worked hard to establish a democracy in the Swedish territory. Now that democracy is under threat both from within and without in many countries I think it is important to consider our options here.
Sweden as most other countries have had many dictators in the form of kings and queens. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Sweden even had a time when we were a great military power between 1630 and 1720.
I am very interested in genealogy, my ancestors comes from all parts of Sweden (Norrbotten, Skåne, Östergötland, Småland, Blekinge and Gotland). I can trace most of them down to early 1600s and some of them down to 1400s. I can also see what they have been doing all the way down to the 800s.
All my ancestors are either farmers and/or militaries. The farmers were sometimes poor and sometimes extremely wealthy. But living in Sweden meant hard work, particularly for my mother's ancestors living in the northern parts of Sweden. However one reason to settle in the north parts of Sweden was definitely the freedom it gave. No kings, no sirs and such thing. Each family had its freedom to choose their way in life.
My ancestors have been involved in global trade for more than one thousand years.
This changed with kings coming to power in Sweden around 1520. Some of the development during those kings was very good for Sweden. However the rise to military power was very costly to the Swedish population.
As part of my genealogical research I went through each and every death recorded in the parish of Luleå between 1696 and 1754. The statistics of this research is very telling for the cost of being a military power in an autocracy.
In those years there were 2200 deaths in Luleå. The number of women that died was 1400, the number of men were 800. Thus a simple calculation shows that 600 men didn't die in Luleå, but elsewhere.
In those years when you died outside your home parish it meant that you died at war, either fighting or more likely through some sickness acquired in the military camp. The number of women dying implies that about 25 males should be born each year.
So what happened in those years in Sweden. Sweden had peace between 1679 and 1700. Then Sweden was attacked from 3 countries at the same time, Denmark, Poland and Russia. After that Sweden was involved in wars until 1718. Those years cost the population in Sweden 25 years of males, thus more than half of the males in those years died from the wars.
This is the true cost of rising to military power. This can be seen all over the world, there is a high cost to conquering other nations for gain. Those that want to do that are fully willing to sacrifice more than half of their population for their egoistic aims.
In Sweden the people got sick of kings with dictatorial powers after that. The move to full democracy in Sweden was a long story that started with "hattar" and "mössor" in the 1720-1770s. Then a short new period of dictatorship came back. Again the king decided to start a war and cost about 50.000 people their life. At least 3 of my ancestors died as part of that war. The last swedish king that was a dictator was removed when he lost Finland. Sweden still has a king, but he has now more of a ceremonial position and no political power.
After a short war with Norway after that Sweden has now had more than 200 years of peace and has used this peace to continue establishing the democracy.
Everyone knows that democracy is not perfect. But the reason humanity strives for democracy is that it is so much better than the alternative of dictators. Democracy requires patience and it does require military force to protect the democracy from external forces. At the same time a democracy can only survive if the people respects their choosen politicians and with free press that provides protection against corruption sneaking in.
Mankinds largest challenge is our own egoism. I have noted that in the family division and fights starts immediately when one part is being egoistic. Surely the same thing happens in the political world.