Democracy: Reflections on the 2012 JRC Meeting
Democracy could “work” if it was a democracy of and for and by the right people, but that model is fit only for the Post-Raptorial Republic of Angels. In a non-Utopian world it cannot work because “We the People” is a corrupt mélange of mostly coarse individuals pretending to be Gods. Democracy has duly ruined the remnant of what used to be Christendom. The final stage of the process is proceeding apace: having divorced reason from faith, the West is rapidly sinking into moral, cultural and demographic self-destruction. The Citizen’s self-validating reason guarantees that there are no checks and no balances.
It is not just that monarchy, under a good Christian king, is the best possible form of government—which it is—but that democracy is always a lie, its exact opposite. It is almost as bad, in fact, as monarchy under a bad pagan king. The fruits are the test. The fruits of Hellenic and Roman antiquity, of Byzantium before Manzikert, or those of the West in 12th century, were glorious. The fruits of our “liberal democracy” are poisonous. Its birth in 1789-1793 is the darkest chapter in the history of civilization. The tragedy of 1914 and the end of Christian monarchy in Russia in 1917 were a prelude to the end of all good things everywhere: a sure sign of the withdrawal of Grace from a condemned world. The only bright spot is that millions of Americans and Europeans—let’s call them demoskeptics—are beginning to grasp that the system is evil and dysfunctional, even if they do not understand the roots of its corruption. For helping that sobering process, if for no other reason, Obama’s reelection is not all bad.
The learned scribes are failing them, however. Even those authors commonly described as conservatives fail to grasp the essence of the problem. Roger Scruton thus finds the essence of the West in what he calls the “personal state,” which he approvingly describes as characterized by constitution, rule of law, and rotation of office-holders: “Its decisions are collectively arrived at by a process that may not be wholly democratic, but which nevertheless includes every citizen and provides the means whereby each citizen can adopt the outcome as his own.”
This is rubbish. The personal state—the “society of individuals”—is the bane of the West, the poison at its core. It has many secondary manifestations—multiculturalism, one-worldism, inclusivism, antidiscriminationism—that demand “engagement” abroad and the gates wide-open to immigration at home. It reflects the collective loss of nerve, faith, and identity of a diseased society. This “society of individuals” holds that certain enlightened abstractions—democracy, human rights, free markets, etc.—can and should be spread across the world, and are capable of transforming it in a way that will, for example, transform Muslims into global consumers and tolerant neighbors. It believes that Man is inherently virtuous and capable of betterment. This is a Western heresy that has grown out of the Renaissance. Its fruit is “democracy” of our time.
Demoskeptics should not despair and remain on the sidelines of political life, however. Much can be done—even if only for a time and in only a single nation. The focus needs to move away from systems of government (the fixation of the Right) and from social “structures” (the Left’s obsession), to the plain matter of political rule, of power. All regimes depend upon some degree of popular support, all regimes ultimately end up with some people ruling other people, and the rule of some people over other people is not made more just or legitimate by the mere fact that the rulers outnumber the ruled. Politics is unavoidably personal, and demoskeptics are naturally inclined to accept that justice exists outside the political arrangement. Pace St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, xxiv, 3:
For by the law of the same Being as calls men into existence are kings also appointed, adapted for those men who are at the time placed under their government. Some of these are given for the correction and the benefit of their subjects, and for the preservation of justice; but others, for the purposes of fear and punishment and rebuke; others, as [the people] deserve it, are for deception, disgrace, and pride; while the just judgment of God, as I have observed already passes equally upon all.
In a similar vein, Fr. Seraphim Rose warns in Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age that the denial of Truth, the dictum that all truth is relative, is not only the basic philosophy of our time but also the dominant political ideology:
A government must rule by the Grace of God or by the will of the people, it must believe in authority or in the Revolution; on these issues compromise is possible only in semblance, and only for a time. The Revolution, like the disbelief which has always accompanied it, cannot be stopped halfway; it is a force that, once awakened, will not rest until it ends in a totalitarian Kingdom of this world … A politics that rejects Christian Truth must acknowledge ‘the people’ as sovereign and understand authority as proceeding from below upwards, in a formally ‘egalitarian’ society. It is clear that one is the perfect inversion of the other; for they are opposed in their conceptions both of the source and of the end of government … Nihilist rule—whose most fitting name, as we shall see, is Anarchy—is government established by men, and directed solely to this world, government which has no higher aim than earthly happiness.
From a believer’s perspective, Christian monarchy is seen not merely as a political institution but a sacramental one. Once upon a time Christian monarchs were anointed, thus becoming like priests of Israel. What their powers should be, or what to do about bad or inept kings, could be discussed; but all along monarchy reflected a society’s recognition that, as Christ said to Pilate, all authority comes from God.
The notion of democracy is founded upon the lie that government is not ultimately personal, that there is no Person to whom “We the People” must answer, and that therefore “We the People” can do whatever they please. That is its appeal to those who refuse to be bound by any external standards of truth and justice, not to mention the lumpen-proletarian multitudes who just love living off other people’s labor.
Democracy is not only unworkable, it is evil. The idea of "popular" government is but the rejection of the sacred in national life in favor of the blasphemous superstition that authority derives from below—in this case, from much farther down below than we imagine.