Friday, October 16, 2009

Dysfunctional Democracy

A democracy is a "rule by the people" (δῆμος "people" and κράτος "rule") which, allegedly according to Alexander Tytler, goes through the following cycle:
  1. From bondage to spiritual faith
  2. From spiritual faith to great courage
  3. From courage to liberty
  4. From liberty to abundance
  5. From abundance to complacency
  6. From complacency to apathy
  7. From apathy to dependence
  8. From dependence back into bondage
St. Thomas Aquinas, commenting on Aristotle's Politics III, 8 in In Libros Politicorum Aristotelis Expositio, Lib. III, lect. 5-6., says:
[Pol. III, 6-10: The names of the perverted constitutions.]
[...] They are as follows: The perversion of kingship is called tyranny; the perversion of aristocracy, oligarchy (which means: power of the few); finally democracy (meaning; power of the people, or rather the vulgar mass) is the perversion of that polity in which the many dominate but on the basis of at least one virtue, viz., military bravery. Hence, Aristotle concludes, tyranny is the dominion of one man aiming at his own interest; oligarchy is the dominion of a few aiming at the interest of the rich; democracy is the dominion of many aiming at the interest of the poor. None of these constitutions takes thought for the common good [...]

[Ibid. 8; 1279b 34-1280a 6: The criterion of number is not adequate.]
[After closer examination of these definitions] it appears that, in the case of democracy the large number of the holders of power is an accidental circumstance; and likewise, in the case of oligarchy the small number is merely accidental. For it is nothing but a fact that everywhere there are more poor than rich people. The above mentioned names, therefore, owe their origin [not to a universally valid reason but] simply to a fact which happens to be true in most of the cases. Since, however, a specific differentiation cannot be obtained on the basis of what is merely accidental, it follows that, per se, the distinction between oligarchies and democracies cannot be made in virtue of the larger or smaller number of the rulers. Rather their specific difference results from the difference between poverty and riches. If a regime is ordained to the increase of the possessions of the rich, its very species is determined by this end and it is for this reason that it differs specifically from a regime whose end is liberty, which regime is democracy. Hence, wherever the rich hold political power, no matter whether they are many or few, there will be oligarchy; and wherever the poor hold this power, there will be democracy; and that the latter are many and the former few is nothing but an accidental circumstance. For only a few have riches yet all partake of liberty. This is why both classes fight each other. The few want to dominate for the sake of their possessions and the many want to prevail upon the few since they believe that, by the criterion of liberty, they have just as good a right to political power as the rich.
"Democracy is the dominion of many aiming at the interest of the poor" which does not take "thought for the common good" and "whose end is liberty." What is liberty? If it is freedom from tyranny, then democracy is a self-defeating constitution since it seeks to defeat precisely what it is.

"The criterion of number" is indeed inadequate. Why should, e.g., a 49% to 51% vote on something, say, abortion, determine if it is lawful or true? It could have been a 48% to 52% or even a 10% to 90% vote. The rule by the majority is very arbitrary and implicitly assumes a relativism of truth, i.e., that there is no absolute truth or moral law.

No wonder Pope John Paul II spoke out over 56 times against the war in Iraq, whose goal has been to impose democracy, an intrinsically dysfunctional form of government, on a country not susceptible to it.

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