July 4, 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES : THE SOUND OF ONE AND A HALF HANDS CLAPPING:

Two Cheers for Democracy : Patriotic, modest, and tempered praise for our present form of government (Benjamin Wiker, 7/03/13, Catholic World Report)

The Founders tried to combine all three kinds into one new kind of government, their hope being that they could get the best kind of government by combining the advantages of each kind of government--rule by the one, rule by the few, and rule by the many--while avoiding the defects of each. And so, we've got a king (president), and aristocratic body (Senate), and a democratic body elected directly by the people (House of Representatives).

The Founders wanted us to have the benefits of having a good king, so we have a president, but wanted to avoid the defects of having a tyrant (so, unlike a hereditary monarch, he can be booted out, after four years, or even before, by impeachment, whereas kings can generally only be removed by removing their heads). But the president was not to be elected popularly, i.e., by democratic vote. He was to be elected by a small body of electors (a.k.a., the Electoral College) chosen from each of the states. The president was to be elected--dare I say it?--more like the pope is elected, not directly by the masses of Catholics, but through the College of Cardinals.

The Founders wanted the benefits of aristocratic rule, and so we have a Senate, a small, elite body of legislators, "two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote." Note: they are not popularly-elected either. Senators were supposed to be the best men, chosen out of the state legislative bodies. Dare I say it again?--sort of like the Catholic Church's College of Cardinals.

Only the representatives of the House of Representatives were "chosen every second year by the people of the several states," i.e., popularly elected.

If I could say it one sentence, the Founders did not found a democracy because they were deeply afraid that the people, manipulated by demagogues, would vote for their own and the nation's self-destruction. They would vote according to their passions (passions that had been manipulated), they would vote according to extreme short-sightedness, they would vote out of ignorance, they would vote out of fear, they would vote according to self-interest rather than the true common good.

And so they gave two cheers, or again, more like one-and-a-half, for democracy.



[originally posted : 7/05/13]
Posted by at July 4, 2014 12:07 AM
  

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