Cardinal Erdo: Democracy’s foundations are ‘shaking’

Cardinal Peter Erdo_Credit Thaler Tama?s CC 3.0_CNA

A Hungarian cardinal has said that free societies must depend on the wisdom of religion to address the moral and social problems of the modern world.

Source: Cardinal Erdo: Democracy’s foundations are ‘shaking’

Addressing Columbia students and faculty, Erdo warned about the dangers of moral relativism, and discussed the necessity of the Church in a secular state.

The cardinal said that relativism— the inability to declare something as objectively right or objectively wrong—is a “grave crisis” of modern secular states. Without a foundation in natural law, he argued, societies become unstable, and moral evil becomes permissible.

“It is difficult for the state to decide what is good for man,” said Erdo, without some foundation in natural law and a religious worldview. Absent natural law and “by a weakening of belief in the rationality of the world,” societies lose trust in democratic institutions.

”Even the majority can end up with wrong or harmful decisions, especially if the concept of the common good becomes uncertain, because there is no consensus even on the anthropological foundations of law,” explained the cardinal.

Erdo said that until the philosophical Enlightenment, societies were effectively governed with an understanding that moral law was based on transcendent realities.

“Law, morals and religion prove to form an organic whole, which is characteristic of Western society right up to the age of Enlightenment,” Erdo said.

Our Founders were well aware of this problem! I am reminded of the famous quote by John Adams, in an address to the Massachusetts Militia on 11 October 1789, in which he reminded them that

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And no less a personage that George Washington, in his Farewell Address on 19 September 1796, enjoined his countrymen to recall that

“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”

And the growing number and intensity of laws, passed in an attempt to reign in the unleashed appetites of humans who have forgotten moral obligation, religious duty, and philosophical self-control alike, is a reminder of the pithy observation of G.K. Chesterton, who, though neither a Founder nor an American, aptly noted,

“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they will be governed by ten thousand commandments.”

Chesterton also observed, along the same lines, “When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.”

We often – and by “we,” I mean not the readership of this blog, but the larger secular society of which we are a part, or at least within which we find ourselves constrained to operate – often think of religion and morality as constraints upon freedom, liberty, and democracy (although we in the United States are not and were not intended by our Founders to be a democracy, but a representative, constitutional Republic, characterized by an ordered liberty grounded in classical moral standards).

But as the words of Cardinal Erdo, and the others quoted above, make clear, religion and morality are not the enemies of liberty, but its foundation.

Advertisements

John Stuart Mills on free institutions in a multicultural society | Wrath of Gnon

“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”

Source: WrathOfGnon : Photo

Somewhat ironic, in light of current events, that a philosopher known as “one of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism” would say something like this! The full text that this is taken from follows:

“Where the sentiment of nationality exists in any force, there is a primâ facie case for uniting all the members of the nationality under the same government, and a government to themselves apart. This is merely saying that the question of government ought to be decided by the governed. One hardly knows what any division of the human race should be free to do, if not to determine, with which of the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate themselves.”

I agree with him, and that is precisely the cause that both our Founders, and our Confederate forebears (for those of us in the U.S.), fought so bravely and nobly to defend! But Mills goes on:

“But, when a people are ripe for free institutions, there is a still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts, are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another.”

Or, in this “information age,” one may have the opportunity to know, but instead tends to gravitate – understandably – toward those sources with whom one is in sympathy, or vice-versa: it is becoming increasingly rare for the same people to, say, watch Fox News and listen to NPR, still less read both HuffPost and Breitbart! And I have a great deal of empathy for this; some “news” sources are becoming increasingly difficult for me to stomach, myself. The problem, of course, is that this increases the fragmentation and polarization:

“The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities, than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler, is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance; the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favour of the government against the rest.”

— John Stuart Mill, 1861

Methinks our contemporary “liberals” ought, perhaps, to read a bit more Mills! Or maybe they’ve read too much, and took this (like Orwell’s 1984) not as a warning, but a blueprint.

In any case, if that’s not a good (if disheartening) description of our present situation, I don’t know what is. But of course, the break-up of society into a people apart, isolated, entirely lacking in “fellow-feeling,” seems to be part of the Leftist agenda, leaving us isolated and vulnerable, precisely as Mills suggests. If so, importing large numbers of disparate peoples from disparate nations, regions, and cultures seems like a very effective way to disrupt and destabilize the host culture… 😡

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.”

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!)