Considering Democracy, Part 1
No discussion of a biblical basis for civil authority could take place if we do not rule out which forms of government are manifestly opposed to biblical precepts and principles. Previously we’ve discussed some precepts that the Bible applies to civil government. It is fair to say that there is no constant polity of civil government that the Bible prescribes for all times and all situations, but it is also safe to say that there are paradigms of civil government which violate a Christian view of civil authority. I believe that illegitimate models for government converge on one of two extremes. One is tyranny, which is predicated upon absolute and arbitrary authority, and another is anarchy, which is predicated upon a complete breakdown of godly order and authority. Interestingly enough, these two extremes are in fact simply opposite sides of the same coin. Tyranny emerges and rebellion ensues. Anarchy emerges from the ashes of crushed tyrants, and in order to restore some semblance of order a leader emerges who exerts tyrannical control over the lives of those whom he has come to command. The only hope for avoiding this endless vicious cycle is to be equipped with a proper understanding of God’s revealed will for civil authority, and understanding how this is related to the authority of the family and the church.
It should be evident that totalitarian government is contrary to biblical principles. Totalitarian dictatorships recognize no authority other than themselves. Inevitably, totalitarian regimes aim to stamp out competitors for authority, the church and family chief among them. There isn’t much need to delve too deeply into the existence of totalitarian dictatorships. The fact that these governments inherently reject Christianity and actively seek to root out Christian, civilized order makes it evident that a Christian should outright reject something so ostensibly anti-Christian. Totalitarian dictatorships have been the scourge of humanity, and over the course of the twentieth century, totalitarian government has been the source of unparalleled human suffering beyond what even the worst statesmen under Christian order ever could have imagined. No human can claim absolute authority, since this is reserved for Christ alone (Matt. 28:18); any government that makes this claim must be rejected.
While it is important for Christians to continue to oppose the tyranny of totalitarian regimes, such as those which arise from communism, it is equally important for Christians to realize threats to godly order that exist in our own backyard. It takes virtually no moral courage to denounce corrupt totalitarian regimes from other times and places, but it takes considerable moral courage to protest against tyranny that exists here and now. In twenty-first century America, that means protesting against the excesses and abuses that persist in democracy. For this reason, the bulk of this essay is aimed at debunking myths about the positive aspects of democracy, and at persuading God-fearing Christians that democracy is a major source of America’s political woes. Christians who love God’s law should expect our current problems to continue as long as the spirit of democracy reigns, and should seek to transition American political life to a more traditional paradigm of government.
Democracy, the Hope of the Post-Modern World
Democracy is primarily premised upon the concept that civil authority is derived from the consent of the governed. This theory is fundamentally flawed, as Rev. Robert L. Dabney points out: government is not now, nor has it ever been, derived from the consent of those who are governed. “Just government is not founded on the consent of the individuals governed, but on the ordinance of God, and hence a share in the ruling franchise is not a natural right at all, but a privilege to be bestowed according to a wise discretion on a limited class having qualification to use it for the good of the whole.”1
Given the fact that the Lockean theory that civil authority derives from the consent of the governed is a political and historical fiction, it stands to reason that the any political paradigm that is dependent upon this theory is false. The chief form of government rooted in the Lockean theory of consent of the governed is democracy. For several generations, people in America and throughout the West have been thoroughly inculcated in the values of equality, abstract freedom, and universal abstract “rights” that apply to everyone everywhere. It is upon this unstable foundation that modern democracy rests. Recognizing that government is not based on “express” consent, John Locke, in his Two Treatises on Government,2 writes:
The difficulty is, what ought to be looked upon as a tacit consent, and how far it binds–i.e., how far anyone shall be looked on to have consented, and thereby submitted to any government, where he has made no expression of it at all. And to this I say, that every man that hath any possession or enjoyment of any part of the dominions of any government doth hereby give his tacit consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to the laws of that government, during such enjoyment, as anyone under it, whether this his possession be of land to him and his heirs forever, or a lodging only for a week; or whether it be barely traveling freely on the highway; and, in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of anyone within the territories of that government.”3
Hans-Hermann Hoppe also has useful commentary to provide on Locke and the doctrine of the consent of the governed:
As Locke before them, Buchanan and Tullock recognize that no government, anywhere, is based on express consent or explicit contracts. But not to worry, they assure us, for this does not mean that governments do not nonetheless rest on unanimous consent. Even if actual disagreements and real nay-sayers exist, this fact might merely obscure some underlying and more profound agreement and unanimously shared consensus on the level of “constitutional choice” and decision making. However, this underlying deeper agreement on the “rules of the game,” we are then told by Buchanan and Tullock, is also not an actual agreement — in fact, no constitution has ever been expressly agreed upon by everyone concerned. Rather, it is what they refer to as a “conceptual” agreement and “conceptual” unanimity. In so twisting a real “no” into a conceptual “yes,” Buchanan and Tullock then first come to diagnose the state as a voluntary institution on a par with private business firms: The market and the State are both devices through which cooperation is organized and made possible. Men cooperate through exchange of goods and services in organized markets, and such cooperation implies mutual gain. The individual enters into an exchange relation in which he furthers his own interest by providing some product or service that is of direct benefit of the individual on the other side of the transaction. At base, political and collective action under the individualistic view of the State is much the same. Two or more individuals find it mutually advantageous to join forces to accomplish certain common purposes. In a real sense, they “exchange” inputs in the securing of the commonly shared output.” (The Calculus of Consent, p.19)
Moreover, by the same token, Buchanan claims to have discovered a justification for the status quo, whatever it happens to be. “The institutions of the status quo” always embody and describe an “existing and ongoing implicit social contract.” Even when an original contract may never have been made, when current members of the community sense no moral or ethical obligation to adhere to the terms that are defined in the status quo, and when such a contract . . . may have been violated many times over. . . . The status quo defines that which exists. Hence, regardless of its history, it must be evaluated as if it were legitimate contractually. . . .
In effect, according to Locke, once a government has come into existence, whether one has expressly agreed to its rule in the first place or not, and no matter what this government does in the following, one has “tacitly” consented to it and whatever it does as long as one continues to live in “its” territory. That is, every government always has the unanimous consent of everyone residing under its jurisdiction, and only emigration i- “exit” i- counts as a “no” vote and the withdrawal of consent according to Locke.[4. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, p. 228. Hoppe here cites Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty, pp. 96, 84-85 and Locke, Two Treatises, sec. 121.]
Democracy’s foundation of civil authority being derived from the consent of the governed is premised upon the equality of everyone regardless of age, gender, race, or social class. Is this true? Perhaps one of the greatest taboos of our time is questioning the doctrine of equality. It is readily apparent that everyone is most certainly not equal. In fact, as the great M.E. Bradford put it, equality “is the antonym of every legitimate conservative principle.”4
Equality does not exist either as a political principle or in nature. John Randolph of Roanoke had no illusions about equality. He dismissed the prevailing platitudes about equality as unrealistic and absurd, and he certainly didn’t mince words when rejecting the doctrine of equality, even though it was enshrined by his distant cousin Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.
Sir, my only objection is, that these principles, pushed to their extreme consequences—that all men are born free and equal—I can never assent to, for the best of all reasons, because it is not true; and as I cannot agree to the intrinsic meaning of the word Congress, though sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States, so neither can I agree to a falsehood, and a most pernicious falsehood, even though I find it in the Declaration of Independence, which has been set up, on the Missouri and other questions, as paramount to the Constitution. I say pernicious falsehood—it must be, if true, self-evident; for it is incapable of demonstration; and there are thousands and thousands of them that mislead the great vulgar as well as the small. . . . All these great positions, that men are born equally free, and faith without works, are in a certain sense, in which they are hardly ever received by the multitude, true; but in another sense, in which they are hardly ever received by the multitude, true, but in another sense, in which they are almost invariably received by nineteen out of twenty, they are false and pernicious.”5
Equality is not tenable as a political principle, since this assumes that everyone has the same political interests, which they do not. Virtually every election cycle in democratic countries continues to prove that men tend to vote differently than women, whites than blacks, and the rich than the poor. The one person-one vote paradigm fails to account for these discrepancies and operates under the assumption that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. There are many instances of states simply being ruled by large cities. My home state of Illinois is a perfect example. In the recent gubernatorial elections this last fall of 2010, the Democratic candidate won the election by carrying only three counties in urban areas! Virtually the entire state voted differently, yet under the principles of one person-one vote democracy, most of the state had to relinquish sovereignty to the population centers around Chicago and St. Louis.
Is Democracy the End of History?
One neoconservative 6 writer named Francis Fukuyama has argued that the transition to democracy actually represents the “end of history.” Fukuyama is using a radical approach to what is commonly called the Whig view of history, which supposes that history has been marked by the relentless march towards more freedom and liberty extended to everyone. For Fukuyama, the collapse of the Soviet Union towards the end of the twentieth century left Western-style democracy as the only major form of government left with any legitimacy. Fukuyama asserts that this event constitutes the “end of history,” and summing up his own thesis, Fukuyama writes that he
argued that a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal [i.e., social-democratic] democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism. More than that, however, I argued that liberal democracy may constitute the ‘end point of mankind’s ideological evolution’ and the ‘final form of human government,’ and as such constituted ‘the end of history.’ That is, while earlier forms of government were characterized by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions. . . . This did not mean that the natural cycle of birth, life, and death would end, that important events would no longer happen, or that newspapers reporting them would cease to be published. It meant, rather, that there would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled.”7
Fukuyama’s analysis is stunningly off base for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is that his perspective on history is terribly askew. Fukuyama and other neoconservative thinkers are rooted in a materialistic perspective that sees history being driven by supposed political and economic progress. Whatever political paradigm we might favor, it ought to be clear to Christians that history can never be defined merely by material progress, either for the better or for the worse. In the Bible, we read that God is in control of everything and that history is the result of the unfolding of divine providence. God informed Jacob’s son Joseph that what his brothers had intended for evil, God had caused for good (Gen. 50:20). God also informed the prophet Isaiah that He would do all of His pleasure, and that even heathen kings performed his will without realizing it (Is. 46:9-11). Even evil and disaster are under God’s control (Amos 3:6). Christ taught that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26; Mk. 10:27). The Apostle Paul teaches that Christ is before all things, that all things were created by Christ, and that all things consist by Christ (Col. 1:16-17). Paul further states that God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), and that in God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ upholds all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).
For a Christian, history is an outworking of God’s sovereign will which will ultimately accomplish God’s purposes. This is precisely what gives life and history meaning! To state that something as pedestrian as the triumph of democracy could be the “end” or goal of history is to make an idol out of democracy. This modern idol has replaced what Christians used to consider true and ultimate progress. Traditionally, Christians anticipated the eventual triumph of Christ’s Kingdom until all things were subjected to His direct rule and authority (Matt. 13:31-33; 28:18; Mk. 4:31-32; Lk. 13:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Eph. 1:20-22; Heb. 2:7-8). This ultimate victory of Christ over all nations and institutions has been replaced by the idea that democracy will eventually spread to all nations and institutions. This is clearly an example of a secular concept borrowing capital from the Christian faith in order to replace the genuine article. Christians must for this reason absolutely reject the materialistic perspective of neoconservatism in general, and Fukuyama’s idolatrous posturing to democracy in particular.
Furthermore, Fukuyama’s thesis is false, simply because democracy most certainly does contain “grave defects and irrationalities,” and these are arguably far worse in a democracy than in more traditional and biblical paradigms of government. No form of government will ever work flawlessly as long as humanity remains in his fallen state, but democracy is characterized by a particular rejection of biblical truth in favor of post-modern egalitarian and humanistic myths. For this reason, democratic governments are susceptible to the same laws of entropy and decay to which all degenerate societies are subjected. As we will clearly see in the not-too-distant future, democratic government will experience its collapse as it is carried out to its logical conclusion.
In the next section we will investigate those grave defects and irrationalities that Fukuyama says don’t exist. We will analyze the problems of democracy and how important moral questions are handled. We will see how democracy actual restrains rather than promotes freedom and liberty. We will see that democracy distorts the concept of rights and consequently destroys rights traditional rights and freedoms. We will question the conventional wisdom that suggests that democracy is more peaceful. Finally we will see if the people are really in control under a democracy, or if they are actually controlled by political and financial elites.
- Rev. Robert L. Dabney. The Southern Magazine, Vol. 8: “Women’s Rights Women.” January 1871. p. 326. ↩
- For John Locke’s views on consent see his Two Treatises on Government, Book II, sec. 119-22. ↩
- John Locke. Two Treatises on Government, Book II, sec. 119. For a modem, even less convincing (or rather more absurd) attempt along the same lines, see James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962), and James M. Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975). ↩
- M.E. Bradford. “The Heresy of Equality: Bradford Replies to Jaffa.” Modern Age. Winter 1976. http://www.mmisi.org/ma/20_01/bradford.pdf ↩
- Randolph continues, “In regard to this principle, that all men are born free and equal, if there is an animal on earth to which it does not apply—that is not born free, it is man—he is born in a state of the abject want, and in a state of perfect helplessness and ignorance, which is the foundation of the connubial tie. . . . Who should say that all the soil in the world is equally rich, the first rate land in Kentucky and the Highlands of Scotland, because the superficial content of the acre is the same, would be just as right as he who should maintain the absolute equality of man in virtue of his birth. The rickety and scrofulous little wretch who first sees the light in a work-house, or in a brothel, and who feels the effects of alcohol before the effects of vital air, is not equal in any respect to the ruddy offspring of the honest yeoman; nay, I will go further, and say that a prince, provided he is no better born than royal blood will make him, is not equal to the healthy son of a peasant.” (John Randolph, quoted in Register of Debates, Nineteenth Congress, Second Session, II, pp. 125-129) ↩
- Hoppe writes regarding the history of neoconservatism: “The neoconservative movement to which Fukuyama belongs emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the American left became increasingly involved with Black Power politics, affirmative action, pro-Arabism, and the ‘counterculture.’ In opposition to these tendencies, many traditional left-wing (frequently former Trotskyite) intellectuals and cold war ‘liberals,’ led by Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, broke ranks with their old allies, frequently crossing over from the long-time haven of left-wing politics, the Democratic party, to the Republicans. Since then the neoconservatives, while insignificant in sheer numbers, have gained unrivaled influence in American politics, promoting typically a ‘moderate’ welfare state (‘democratic capitalism’), ‘cultural conservatism’ and ‘family values,’ and an interventionist (‘activist’) and in particular Zionist (‘pro-Israel’) foreign policy. Represented by figures such as Irving Kristol and his wife Gertrude Himmelfarb, and son William Kristol; Norman Podhoretz and his wife, Midge Decter, son John Podhoretz, and sons-in-law Steven Munson and Elliott Abrams; by Daniel Bell, Peter Berger, Nathan Glazer, Seymour Martin Lipset, Michael Novak, Aaron Wildavsky, James Q. WIlson; and joumalist-commentators such as David Frum, Paul Gigot, Morton Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Lind, Joshua Muravchik, Emmett Tyrrell, and Ben Wattenberg, the neoconservatives now exercise controlling interest in such publications as National Interest, Public Interest, Commentary, the New Republic, the American Spectator, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and they have close ties to several major foundations such as Bradley, Olin, Pew, Scaife, and Smith Richardson. See on this Paul Gottfried, The Conservative Movement, rev. ed. (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993); also George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America (New York: Basic Books, 1976).” This is as cited in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, p. 223. ↩
- Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest 16 (Summer 1989); The End of History and the Last Man, pp. xi-xii. Thus, writes Fukuyama, “For a very large part of the world, there is now no ideology with pretensions to universality that is in a position to challenge liberal democracy, and no universal principle of legitimacy other than the sovereignty of the people . . . we have trouble imagining a world that is radically better than our own, or a future that is not essentially democratic and capitalist . . . we cannot picture to ourselves a world that is essentially different from the present one, and at the same time better . . . it is precisely if we look not just at the past fifteen years, but at the whole scope of history, that liberal democracy begins to occupy a special kind of place . . . there is a fundamental process at work that dictates a common evolutionary pattern for all human societies — in short, something like a Universal History of mankind in the direction of liberal democracy . . . if we are now at a point where we cannot imagine a world substantially different from our own, in which there is no apparent or obvious way in which the future will represent a fundamental improvement over our current order, then we must also take into consideration the possibility that History itself might be at an end.” (The End of History, pp. 45-51). As cited in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed. pp. 222-223. ↩