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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Or, in Other Words...

I posted bitterly yesterday about corruption in the West. We have been smug and complacent about our institutions: our incorruptible civil servants and our legislatures, full of selfless, disinterested men and women, eager to use their talents only in the service of their fellow men. We have contrasted our rulers with those of benighted times past and societies distant.

I, myself, believed, for most of my life, that, to a degree, our aspiration was to imitate Our Lord, who presented himself as the servant of his friends, whose feet he washed. I knew, of course, that this aspiration was not more than an aspiration, which I and all the human beings I had ever met fell short of the ideal.

Our faith in Democracy could be justified negatively, to paraphrase C S Lewis: We embraced it, not because the majority are so virtuous that they deserve to rule, but because we could never trust any fallen human being with authority over us. This makes a lot of sense. Pretty well everything which emanates from Christian theology does. We recognised that Democracy was untidy, that it required endless compromise. We smiled with knowing self-satisfaction at Churchill’s characterisation of Democracy as the worst form of government apart all the others that have ever been tried. He may have been right. All those other forms have been tyrannies of one sort or another, including (perhaps especially) those which based their legitimacy on egalitarianism.

I am an admirer of Rudolph Rummel, the brilliant Hawaiian historian. His, not quite unique, insight is that no two democracies have ever been to war with each other. I have an earlier post on this great man. The facts that he presents are strongly supportive of Democracy. Given the choice between North Korea and Sweden, there is no contest.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the Constitution’s framers had constructed, he replied, “A Republic, if you will keep it”.

He and his heroic fellows did indeed construct a sublime document. He, and they, lived in an era in which “moral sentiments” were closer to the surface of every day discourse than in the 21st century. We suffer from a sort of moral illiteracy. We live in an era in which the Sunday Times could poll its readers with the following question: Is marital infidelity a sin or a temptation? You do get it, I hope. This is a morally illiterate question. Forgive me for belabouring the point. To ask it, you must not know the meaning of “sin” or “temptation” in English. If they had asked whether marital infidelity was a big deal there would have been intelligible responses, including: Yes, No or Compared with what?

I am very depressed to conclude that Democracy has slid into Corruption. The US founding fathers recognised that for their constitution to work the electorate required a moral compass, that people needed to be moral, not to be saints (saints are regrettably rare) but that Right and Wrong should figure as poles.

Corruption is a disease and one which spreads easily in democratic societies. We electors infect our rulers. Focus groups tell them what we would like. They infect us. They promise to favour our group if we vote for them.

Are we doomed? Perhaps. Are there alternative outcomes? Perhaps.

Hans Herman Hoppe is an “Austrian” thinker who has exposed the Democratic Dilemma. We should pay attention. There are smart people in the Libertarian movement who think that we can and should allow/encourage institutions to arise from the market, to emerge from the endless transactions between individuals, independently of what tyrannical governments mandate.

The bigger the political entity the more likely it is to be corrupt. The government of the US has this century trampled on the constitution. You do not need an IQ to see that Income Tax and Obamacare are violations of the Constitution, just a pulse. You do not need a degree in international law to notice that Greece’s admission to the Eurozone was contrary to the instruments which brought the Euro into being.

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