Chesterton and Belloc on the nature of democracy

Chesterton and Belloc - nature of democracy

Source: The Wrath of Gnon – Twitter feed

The author of the “Wrath of Gnon” blog quotes G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc on the nature of democracy. Some interesting concepts, and worth considering, in my opinion! Reminds me of hagiographer James Kiefer’s reflection on the English King Charles I, who for his defense of the historic episcopate and the Book of Common Prayer is accounted by many Anglicans a martyr:

“On the scaffold, he said (I quote from memory and may not have the exact words):

“No man in England is a better friend to liberty than myself, But I must tell you plainly that the liberty of subjects consists not in having a hand in the government, but in having that government, and those laws, whereby their lives and their goods may be most their own.”

“That is to say, one may reasonably ask of a government that it establish justice in the land; so that judges do not take bribes, so that innocent men are not convicted of crimes, while the guilty are convicted and punished, so that honest men need fear neither robbers nor the sheriff. One may further ask that taxes be not excessive, and that punishments be not disproportionate to the crime. Charles would have said, ‘Do not ask whether the laws were made by men whom you elected. Ask whether they are reasonable and good laws, upholding justice and the public weal.’

“He would have invited comparison of his record in this respect with that of the Long Parliament (which sat for twenty years without an election, and whose members came to think of themselves as rulers for life, accountable to no one) and Cromwell (who eventually dissolved Parliament and ruled as a military dictator, under whose rule the ordinary Englishman had far less liberty than under Charles).”

There is much truth in the above. Both the ancients and our own Founders knew that democracy is inherently unstable, since it depends upon popular sentiment that can be easily swayed by a demagogue, and the closer it is to “pure” democracy, the thinner the line dividing it from demagoguery and dictatorship.

While I am not sure I would be entirely happy under the sort of absolute monarchy Charles I favoured, I do tend to agree both with King Charles I, as quoted above, and with the “Wrath of Gnon” author – who writes, referring to Chesterton and Belloc’s comments on democracy,

“Give me a Council of Elders to govern me, and a King to protect me.”

Advertisements

Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive | Grist

Cities where small businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks and more engaged citizens.

Source: Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive — and survive climate change | Grist

Let’s bracket out the “climate change” part of this, not because the climate isn’t changing – it is – but because intelligent people of good will can disagree on the extent to which those changes are anthropogenic (human-caused) and how much is due to natural cycles over which we have limited or no control. Obsessing over climate change can make enemies out of people who might otherwise be allies. Let’s just focus on doing the right thing, thereby generating positive, synergistic effects that will, in the main, benefit all of us, whether global warming is anthropogenic or not.

Case in point: I first ran across this article back in the dim and distant past (2013…), but the message is no less important, four years later! When I posted it on my Facebook account, I wrote, quoting the article,

“That there’s a connection between the ownership structure of our economy and the vitality of our democracy may sound a bit odd to modern ears. But this was an article of faith among 18th- and 19th-century Americans, who strictly limited the lifespan of corporations and enacted antitrust laws whose express aim was to protect democracy by maintaining an economy of small businesses.” Unfortunately, the bigger-is-better mindset of the 20th century blew this traditional American concept out of the water…

Indeed it did. And sadly so!

Our Founders – preeminently Thomas Jefferson, but others as well – were clear that the United States was intended to be a nation of smallholders: yeoman farmers, shopkeepers, tradesmen. They were staunch defenders of both private property and free enterprise, but having had to deal with the effects of oppression not only by the British Crown but by the East India Company, among others, they were understandably chary of giving corporations too much power. The kind of crony capitalism, corporatism, plutocracy and oligarchy we see today would, I am quite sure, have been anathema to them. Continue reading “Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive | Grist”

A warning, from “Founding Father” John Adams

John_Adams_Early_Years

“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either… Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

~ John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

Quote found on Favorite Quotes: Stephen Clay McGehee


If you liked this post, or found it interesting or helpful, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thank you very much in advance!

The insurgency against democracy | MelaniePhillips.com

Source: The insurgency against democracy | MelaniePhillips.com

More on the rather hysterical and disproportionate opposition to our new President:

President Donald Trump was brought to power by a cultural counter-revolution: a revolt by millions of Americans against a liberal progressive consensus and the establishment that embodied it.

Those who voted for him want him to overturn that consensus. He promised to do so. In his inaugural address he told them he would keep his word; he would take power away from that establishment and give it back to the people. What we are now seeing, on the streets of America and in its media, is an all-out attempt to stop him.

There are many anxieties to be had about President Trump. There are legitimate concerns about his character and temperament, his volatility and inconsistencies. Nevertheless, the opposition to him being mounted should alarm us more. [emphasis added]

For in deeming Donald Trump to be unfit to hold public office, in twisting and distorting what he says and does and then turning him into a vile monster on the basis of those distortions and in accusing him of fascism and Nazism and racism and every other form of evil, his opponents are setting themselves against the very democratic system they supposedly want to defend and are themselves unleashing the hatred and violence they affect to despise.

Precisely so. But then, the Left has generally tended to be tone-deaf to irony, hypocrisy, and double-standards…

Chesterton on the limits of democracy

Chesterton Democracy Plutocracy

Chesterton, as usual, makes a good point. At the very least, democracy devolves into plutocracy and oligarchy, absent the “eternal vigilance” which we are reminded is “the price of liberty.” And sadly, here in America, that vigilance has long been quiescent, lulled to sleep by the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses”: cheap food, cheap consumer goods, and cheap entertainment, on TV and the internet.

With the downfall of the Constitutional, representative republican form of government bequeathed to us by our Founders (“What kind of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin?” “A Republic, madam — if you can keep it!”), we are finding the ancient and inevitable decline into “pure democracy,” resulting in the aforementioned plutocracy and oligarchy, which is likely to yield demagoguery and dictatorship (perhaps following a brief descent into anarchy).

Sadly, save for our time as part of the British Empire under the British Monarch, we have no native tradition of monarchy to fall back upon…

(See earlier posts in this blog as to why that would be a good thing!)