Monday, March 3, 2008

Democracy in Action

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, probably the most erudite political philosophers of the twentieth century, writes:
Not only the democratic government, but the "dear people" were opposed to Socrates, and he can, without exaggeration, be called a victim of democracy, of the vox populi.

Salvador de Madariaga has said that Western civilization rests on two deaths – the death of Socrates and the death of Christ. And indeed the Crucifixion was also a democratic event. When our Lord was brought before Pilate, He told him that He had come as a witness to the Truth, and the governor, a true agnostic, asked Him, "What is Truth?" And without waiting for an answer, he passed Him by and consulted "the people." The vox populi condemned our Lord to death as it had Socrates more than three centuries earlier. But if we despair of truth, if we believe that truth either does not exist or cannot humanly be attained, we are left with two alternatives: we have either to leave things to chance, or we must be content with preferences – personal preferences or "preferences statistically arrived at," which often means accepting the "verdict of the majority." The latter, although a handy way to settle differences of opinion, neither tells us the truth nor offers us rational solutions to burning problems.
From Leftism Revisited: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot. (If you're at all tempted by Jonah Goldberg's new book, skip it and read K-L instead).

Photo: The democratic process in action.


Nomodiphas said...

I agree totally with your post. The examples of Socrates and Jesus (as well as the writings of the founders) should be sober warnings for anyone who blindly believes in the will of the people. I will never understand the modern fetish with democracy. Even a radical like Rousseau said that while the general will is always right, we need to be warned that the judgment that guides it is not always enlightened.

I am curious to know, what do you make of Aquinas’ notion? In question 105 of the Summa Theologica he says that the best form of government is modeled demonstrated Moses and the ancient Hebrews. It had elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Moses was the wise king figure, at the advice of his father-in-law Jethro (Exodus 18) he appointed wise men to hear cases throughout Israel (the aristocratic element), and at other points in the Decalogue it is said that the people are charged with picking wise and honest men to act as local judges (the democratic element).

Felix Culpa said...

Could you please give a full citation for your reference to Aquinas: book, question, article?

Problem with Rousseau,of course, is that it's not the people themselves who are able to speak their general will: it's their Big Brothers upstairs!

Fr. Milovan Katanic said...

Great blog! I recently discovered it and it's quickly become my favorite.

Felix Culpa said...

Fr Milovan,

Just found your blog today as well!

Are you the brother-in-law of my friend Nikolaj Kostur?

Nomodiphas said...

The citation is book two, question 105, the first article, in the section where Thomas answers. Here is an online link to it:

Fr. Milovan Katanic said...

Yes, Nikolaj is my brother-in-law.

I spoke with him today and he told me that you are, in fact, the one I was asking him about some time ago regarding an excellent review I read in Orthodox Life about one of the worst books ever written, The DaVinci Code. Wasn't that you?

That was the only thing I had read arguing that book (among Orthodox circles) that was worth reading! Everyone else said essentially the same thing, no one else pointed out the obvious: the book is garbage (!) and, as you put it, a "failure at literature".

To see books like that (and there are plenty) on the bestseller lists should serve as an insult to people.

Felix Culpa said...

Fr Milovan:

Yes, I'm the author of the review in question. I really couldn't get over just how *bad* The Duh Vinci Code was. The ideas were all old hat, plagerized mainly from 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail,' and therefore nothing to get overly worked up about. I was really more shocked by how badly written it was than by its (stupid and unoriginal) ideas.

Nomodiphas: I'll respond to Aquinas as soon as I've put my Brain on for the day.