Thursday, September 23, 2010

Democracy is Not Enough


"Democracy is not enough. Democracy is but a wineskin into which may be poured wine or poison. As T.S. Eliot warned, democracy does not contain within itself the requisites for a good or moral society.

The term "democracy," as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces you dislike—it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler and Stalin.

John Adams expressed a similar sentitment: "Our Constitution was written for a religious and virtuous people; it will serve no other."

Burke anticipated Eliot when he wrote to his constituents in Bristol: "Believe me, it is a great truth, that there never was, for any long time… a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any kind." It is not the system that determines the character of a country, but the character of a people that determines the kind of country it will be. On reading of Sunni insurgents, Shia militias, and Al Qaeda suicide bombers, one recalls Burke's words:

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites… Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

The character of Islamic peoples, formed by their history, beliefs, and faith, has, for centuries, called authoritarians to power. If we dethrone their tyrants, dismantle their states, and disband their armies, when we depart, the character of the people will recreate the institutions we have torn down. Human beings are not clean sheets of paper on which idealistic Wilsonian Man can write his blueprints for a democratic society." Patrick Buchanan, Day or Reckoning, pages 104-105

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