Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Philosophy

Democracy in Action

The riots in Britain are a case study in democracy run amok.  Consider this post form the Standard:

The issues raised by these riots are generational and cannot be resolved, necessarily, by the government. Traditional structures of authority in the UK have been eroded. Parents have no ability to control their children and instill basic levels of morality and respect. The police--powerless to stop young rioters destroying businesses and private property--have been utterly emasculated. As one officer said, "We can't cope. We have passed breaking point." . . ., The British home secretary, Theresa May, recently announced, before having to backtrack, that the British way was not to enforce the laws. "The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon...the way we police in Britain is through consent of communities," May reportedly said.

Now consider Plato's account of democracy, as reported by John Adams in his Defence of the Constitutions (which I quote because I happen to be reading it lately, and I know exactly where to find it online):

Magistrates who resemble subjects, and subjects who resemble magistrates, are commended and honored, both in public and private; in such a city they of necessity soon go to the highest pitch of liberty, and this inbred anarchy descends into private families. The father resembles the child, and is afraid of his sons. The sons accustom themselves to resemble the father, and neither revere nor stand in awe of their parents. Strangers are equalled with citizens. The teacher fears and flatters the scholars, and the scholars despise their teachers and tutors. The youth resemble the more advanced in years, and rival them in words and deeds. The old men, sitting down with the young, are full of merriment and pleasantry, mimicking the youth, that they may not appear to be morose and despotic. The slaves are no less free than those who purchase them; and wives have a perfect equality and liberty with their husbands, and husbands with their wives. The sum of all these things, collected together, makes the souls of the citizens so delicate, that if any one bring near to them any thing of slavery, they are filled with indignation, and cannot endure it; and at length they regard not the laws, written or unwritten, that no one whatever, by any manner of means, may become their master.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Sir, surely you jest. In fact, I cannot believe your naivete. We cannot look to the past for help on the dangers of pure democracy because it was all done by dead white males--both the doing and the writing about the doing. You must know this.

Only when we have a collapse from a multi-cultural pure democracy will we finally be able to draw the correct lessons for ourselves and the future. Until then, we only have racist trash to read--stuff that would best be left alone, lest today's youth get the wrong ideas about their potential. Theerfore, consider yourself chastised.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will now read about how Sojourner Truth split the atom with the help of her transgendered roommate...

This is life imitating art.
Take the 1993 movie "Demolition Man" starring Sylvester Stallone as an example.

Erwin: We're police officers! We're not trained to handle this kind of violence!

Read Gordon Wood's EMPIRE OF LIBERTY. The Federalists made the same claims about the United States in the 1800s.

I have read Wood, closely. The trouble with his claim is that "The Federalists," at least in this regard, excludes Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and Marshall, among others, unless I am mistaken about the sources of his quotations, and their opinions. Wood's "Federalists" are Fisher Ames and a few others, in this regard. But it's true that a few people did hold a similar opinion during Jefferson's administration.

The correct phrase is, I believe, "high toned Federalists" or "crypto-monarchists".

I think we need to remember that both Jefferson and Adams might have conceded the point about raw, pure democracies--"A nation that wishes to be ignorant and free....", and "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Their greatness--and especially Jefferson's--is that they were willing to try out a Republic anyway. We always need to remember that there is little in *pure*, unrestrained democracy that is inherently stable in and of itself or that maintains virtue in and of its own--and much in it that runs counter to those aims. Just because a majority wants something does not mean it is automatically righteous.

John, which "same claims" are you referring to? Those of the Adams' quote (which are just the Republic's account of democracy paraphrased)? Or do you have others in mind?

Maybe page numbers to Wood's book might help.

Or, "Franklin," do you know the passages from Wood John's referring to?

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: