On 'democracy' and other shibboleths of our age
0 comment Monday, September 15, 2014 |
In the wake of recent events in Egypt, it is disheartening to see so much eagerness among some to intervene there in the cause of 'democracy', 'freedom, or whatever high-flown concepts. And this is after we have seen the results of our intervening in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else we have left our footprint.
I find it troubling that many people on the right apparently do not know that 'democracy' is not only no panacea for all human ills, but that many great thinkers through the centuries have spoken very bluntly against democracy, and not only against democracy, but against representative government in the case of peoples who are ill-suited or ill-prepared for it. It goes against the egalitarian romanticism of our age to point out that not all peoples are able to be self-governing. The idea is -- well, racist and unfair!
And it's good to remind some of the idealists out there that a great deal of evil has been wrought in the name of 'democracy', and a great many scoundrels have pretended to be acting in the name of 'democracy.'
"Democracy does not exist for a long time - it wastes, exhausts and destroys itself. There was never a democracy that didn't kill itself" - Samuel Adams
"The American form of government is the republic. The true freedom does not exist either under despotism or excesses of democracy" - Alexander Hamilton
"Democracy always leads to conflicts and instability, but never provides for the security of the citizens or their property. Usually it is very short at life, and very bloody at death" -- James Madison
"Democracy is the rule of mobs, tempted by newspaper editors" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Democracy - it's the rule of the wishes of the mob, or to be exact ambitions and vices of its leaders. The Founding Fathers of our constitution created a republic, which is more different from a democracy, than a democracy is different from despotism " - Fisher Ames
"I have been always sure, that democracy sooner or late will destroy freedom, or civilization, or both" - Thomas Macaulay
"Democracy - it's the tyranny of majority, or more exact, the majority party, which through fraud or cohesion is manipulating the electoral process" - Lord Acton
''Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion�are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.'' - Charles Carroll, Signer of Declaration of Independence, to James McHenry, November 4, 1800
"Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact." - Balzac
"It doesn't really matter what one writes into a constitution. The important thing is what the collective instinct eventually makes of it." - Oswald Spengler
''The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.'' - Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution
"Democracy is undone by the same vice that ruins oligarchy. But because democracy has embraced anarchy, the damage is more general and far worse, and its subjugation more complete. The truth is, a common rule holds for the seasons, for all the plants and the animals, and particularly for political societies: excess in one direction tends to provoke excess in the contrary direction" - Plato, The Republic
"I wish I could give better hopes of our southern brethren. [Mexico]� what will then become of them? Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of self-government. They will fall under military despotism �" Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis de Lafayette, 4 May 1817
"Before the French Revolution, it was the prevailing opinion of our countrymen, that other nations were not free, because their despotic governments were too strong for the people. Of course, we were admonished to detest all existing governments, as so many lions in liberty�s path; and to expect by their downfall the happy opportunity, that every emancipated people would embrace, to secure their own equal rights for ever. France is supposed to have had this opportunity, and to have lost it. Ought we not then to be convinced, that something more is necessary to preserve liberty than to love it? Ought we not to see that when the people have destroyed all power but their own, they are the nearest possible to a despotism, the more uncontrolled for being new, and tenfold the more cruel for its hypocrisy." - Fisher Ames. The Dangers of American Liberty (1805)
"� it is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty. [Liberty] is a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike � a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving � and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it. � [A]n all-wise Providence has reserved [liberty], as the noblest and highest reward for the development of our faculties, moral and intellectual. A reward more appropriate than liberty could not be conferred on the deserving � nor a punishment inflicted on the undeserving more just, than to be subject to lawless and despotic rule. This dispensation seems to be the result of some fixed law � and every effort to disturb or defeat it, by attempting to elevate a people in the scale of liberty, above the point to which they are entitled to rise, must ever prove abortive, and end in disappointment. The progress of a people rising from a lower to a higher point in the scale of liberty, is necessarily slow � and by attempting to precipitate, we either retard, or permanently defeat it." - John C. Calhoun
"When the men of our State Department, especially after World War II, went all over the world trying to implant our form - freedom, balance in government, downward on cultures whose philosophy would never have produced it, it has, in almost every case, ended in some form of totalitarianism or authoritarianism." - Francis Schaeffer
"Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home.'' - Rep. Howard H. Buffett, during the Korean War
"After each war there is a little less democracy to save." - Brooks Atkinson
"If you want government to intervene domestically, you're a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you're a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you're a moderate. If you don't want government to intervene anywhere, you're an extremist." - Joseph Sobran
"Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. Their mutual antipathies are much stronger than their jealousy of the government... Above all, the grand and only effectual security in the last resort against the despotism of the government is in that case wanting: the sympathy of the army with the people. Soldiers to whose feelings half or three fourths of the subjects of the same government are foreigners, will have no more scruple in mowing them down, and no more reason to ask the reason why, than they would have in doing the same thing against declared enemies. - John Stuart Mill: Considerations on Representative Government

"There is no social engineering that can radically renovate a civilization and change its character, and at the same time keep it going, for civilization is an affair of the human spirit, and the direction of the human spirit cannot be reset by means that are, after all, mechanical. The best thing is to follow the order of nature, and let a moribund civilization simply rot away, and indulge what hope one can that it will be followed by one that is better. This is the course that nature will take with such a civilization anyway, in spite of anything we do or do not do. Revolts, revolutions, dictatorships, experiments and innovations in political practice, all merely mess up this process and make it a sadder and sorrier business than it need be. They are only so much machinery, and machinery will not express anything beyond the intentions and character of those who run it." - Albert Jay Nock, Journal Forgotten
''[In reference to the 'divine right to self-government' of all peoples]'What troubles me is that any civilized White man should write such nonsense. It discloses a total failure to understand or appreciate his own civilization. He has forgotten, if he ever knew, what centuries of effort it took to develop the capacity for self government. He has no real comprehension of the worth of what his forefathers bequeathed him. Consequently, he can have little pride in himself as the legatee.'' - Carleton Putnam, Race and Reality

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