Andrew Sprung joins the debate:

I'm not sure that the various goods under discussion can be placed hierarchically.  With that caveat, I"m not sure that preservation of "thought, conscience and speech" is the primary good of democracy. In my view, democracy is essential because it holds governments accountable, and gives the people the power to throw the bums out, and so allows for course corrections when government policy is leading to disaster or when it allows those in power to steal all the wealth.  An elected president who curtails freedoms, but nonetheless allows for an unrigged election -- if such a thing has ever existed -- would be preferable in my view to an enlightened despot who hands absolute power to an inheritor of unknown disposition.