Friday, June 03, 2011

Government by the people

Give us Barabbas!

Make us a golden calf!

Give us back the fleshpots of Egypt!

Some years ago, I was speaking with a pro-life campaigner who had been in the front of the political fight for many years. This is a person who has spent much of his life working with politicians, organising petitions, rallies, protests; having meetings with cabinet ministers, senators and MPs; making speeches, organising conferences... doing all those things that one does in a modern liberal democracy to try to get things done.

I was new and learning the ropes and was only just starting to understand what my opinions on it all were going to be. I had of course grown up all my life in one of these so-called liberal democracies. Specifically, I had grown up at the time when it was all the rage to start using those political mechanisms to bring about massive societal changes, changes the extent of which we are only just now coming to understand.

My friend said that he had dedicated his life to the democratic process and was lamenting that it had availed so little. Of course, I told him that these things do not happen over night and that it is not for us to look for the results of our work, especially when it is being done on so large a scale, and the war is so immense, a vast battlefield from horizon to horizon.

But then I asked what was to become my personal million dollar question: "What if what the people want is wrong?"

My friend had no answer.

Daniel Hannan, a die-hard democrat in the "conservative" end of the pool, writes what I think is possibly one of the most telling editorials on the shortcomings of this system I have seen in a long time...
Congratulations to Lawrence Gonzi, the prime minister of Malta. He campaigned strongly to keep the island’s ban on divorce. But, faced with a clear defeat in yesterday’s referendum, he conceded graciously: “Even though the result is not what I wished for, now it is our duty to see that the will of the majority is respected.”

And guess what? He’s still prime minister, his – admittedly tiny – parliamentary majority is still in place and no one is calling for him to be replaced. On the contrary, he has shown himself to be good democrat.

A good democrat.

A good democrat will legalise absolutely ANYthing as long as it is the "will of the people," yes?



PiusLad said...

Wasn't our Lord put to death by the Roman Governor, the representative of a monarchical empire? and at the behest of an oligarchical Sanhedrin?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Contrary as always...

Aaron Traas said...

@PiusLad - The point isn't that democracies in all cases have worse outcomes than monarchies, but on average, they aren't abused nearly as badly. Pilate had the option of denying the mob their request -- a democrat would not. The Sanhedrin had only limited power to incite the riot; that required consent from the crowds.

Many kings are evil and corrupt, but some are not. A president or Prime Minister or anyone who attains high office basically *has* to be corrupt, otherwise, they would not have been able to attain their position of power by promising the right handouts, giving the right favors, looking the other way, etc. A hereditary position is beholden to no one, and has the option of being evil or good or somewhere in between.

Steve T. said...

And the Maltese dive into the same cesspool we've been doing laps in for years. Open money bet: Malta legalizes abortion within 10 years.

I used to love the Maltese.

Anonymous said...

And yet we have been given the gift of 'free will' which usually sits better within a democracy than any other form of government.
The role of the laity has never been more important than now.


Anonymous said...

A good democrat cannot legalise absolutely anything as long as it is the will of the people. If this were true, then any political party could re-write laws at will once in power, killing its opponents, seizing their property, and giving it to its supporters.

While there are no doubt elements of this kind of mob tyranny in even the best-run democracies today, you might consider comparing them to countries like Liberia or NIgeria when a new party comes into power, if you want to imagine how this might work when carried out to its fullest extent.

Democracies and monarchies alike are supposed in general to make as few new laws as possible, always referring back to custom, precedent, and constitutions, where this is relevant.

What is so wrong with today's supposedly "liberal" reformers is not that they cater to popular whims but that they imagine that the law itself ought to be infinitely flexible in response to their largely arbitrary and constantly changing ideals of the social order. That is where they open the door to tyranny.

Lise Legault

Don Jindra said...

Has it ever crossed your mind that marriage is good in itself and it doesn't need the government to make it what it is? It seems that conservatives have lost faith in liberty. They've lost faith in the people. They've even lost faith in the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

Leonard said...

I am old enough to remember when Catholics (as late as the 1970s) actually had the stones to defend Catholic governments in Spain, Portugal, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, instead of forever whining about how "undemocratic" such governments were.

"Djindra" would seem to have abandoned Catholicism for Pelagianism.

Anonymous said...

This is too big a topic for here.

However, some of the non-Catholic and non-Christian outcomes are the result of court decisions, not democratic decisions. Examples, the USSC made Nevada divorces effective nation-wide in 1942, using the full faith and credit clause. That started the process.
The federal Parliament imposed divorce on Quebec and Newfoundland in 1968. Roe v. Wade in the States in 1973.

Also, in terms of opposing divorce, the annulment factories undermine the Church's standing on the issue. I recall thta was an issue in Ireland - people had Church annulments but no civil divorces.

It does seem that, however, the public ratifies and adopts these court-imposed "advances" fairly quickly.

Why have once Catholic (or Christian) people abandoned Catholicism (or Christianity)?


Don Jindra said...


I think it was my great-great grandfather who abandoned Catholicism. I abandoned supernaturalism.

Andrew said...

A former Slovak Christian Democrat is writing a book about the failure of the Christian Democracy movement in Europe. The book reveals that almost every law legalizing abortion in European countries was passed and implemented when Christian Democrats were in the ruling coalition. I'm sure that if one were to dig up newspaper reports from those days one would find MPs saying things similar to Mr. Gonzi.

The Minister of Health in 1957, Josef Plojhar, who signed the act legalizing abortion in Czechoslovakia was a Catholic Priest who had by then been been excommunicated by the legitimate Bishop of the Catholic Church, but was a leader in the State approved "Pacem in Terris" organization/pseudo-church.

Steven P. Cornett said...

There's nothing special about Democracy. It's only as good as the largest mass of people are.

If the people are morally bankrupt and stupid, the government is likely to be the same way. Take the Federal Government of U.S. (please!)

Democracy: A form of government that works, but not well.

Democracy: Four wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.