When I was recently “rereading” (listening to the Librivox audio of) Common Sense by Thomas Paine, something stood out to me that hadn’t stood out before. There is a section in which he goes on a bit about the biblical/scriptural precedents for avoiding/condemning monarchies.
This got me to thinking: what really is so different about a democracy compared to a monarchy? I think they are identical in a critical way: they both assume that the average citizen (or even all citizens) have less capacity than the state with regards to proper decision-making, particularly in relation to relating to one another.
Paine mentioned that prior to monarchical forms of government, there existed in the realm more of a collection of republics managed somewhat by judges.
This brings us to the next question: what’s so different about a republic managed by a judge compared to a monarchy (or democracy)? In order for a judge to judge, there must be a law from which he derives his judgments. Where does the law come from?
Of course, many words have been written with regard to the origins of law – most of which eventually make reference to something along the lines of natural law (an iteration of which is that all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” amongst many others).
How do laws get written? How are natural laws agreed upon? Are they agreed upon? Who writes them? How do judges become judges? What makes them more capable than any other citizen with regards to comparing actions with law and coming to judgments about proper consequences?
If people at some point agreed that this judge should be a judge, and that this law should be a law (and, by extension, this judge’s judgments are justifiable and reflective of the just law), then why do the people need the judge? Haven’t they just shown capacity for executing the purpose themselves for which they’ve appointed a judge?
I tend to think that people come to proclaim a need for a governing force for fear of being held accountable for those decisions for which they are responsible. To eschew responsibility, we delegate. To whom do we delegate? Judges, Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc. When we are not responsible, we cannot rightfully be held accountable.
I like to believe that we are much more capable than we give ourselves credit for. That is, I believe we have the capacity to become able to be much more capable of governing ourselves than we currently are. As I stated in my previous post, it seems to me that we have allowed ourselves to become like domesticated pets, fed and placated by those to whom we’ve delegated responsibility as we become less and less able (but having no less capacity) to govern ourselves.
My head isn’t so far up in the clouds that I think we should put off government entirely and immediately. I know that (and love that) we don’t all have the same thoughts, wants, likes, and needs. I would prefer, however, a more natural state of things. That is up to me.
In fact, I don’t call for a change in government whatsoever. I would try to articulate this in my own words, but I think Henry David Thoreau worded it perfectly:
I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
“When men are prepared for it.”
The best I can do (the best I have within my power to do) is to do what I believe to be the best I can do with what freedom I believe I have. Whatever external forces might push against me, I am still left with how I perceive and react to such forces with whatever capacity I have for that perception/reaction.
It is the preference of many of my fellow citizens to have a strong caregiver government. Who am I to say that they are wrong in their desires? Who are they to say that I am wrong in mine? If I wish to be respected, shouldn’t I provide respect?
After all, if a person who believes that individuals lack certain capacities suddenly finds themselves lacking that government which to them was the only force imbued with such capacities, are they immediately more able to meet those capacities they believe they lack? There is no proof of that. They could very well still believe that they lack that capacity (though I believe they do not).
If a person grew up always walking on his hands and was suddenly transported to a society of leg walkers, would he suddenly believe he’d been doing it wrong all along, or would he think there’s something strange about these people? Even if he believed he could walk on his legs, would he immediately be able to? Even if he was able to, would he necessarily need to?
There are no answers without questions. There are no answers which in themselves do not lead to yet more questions.
For me to assume one true best form of government (or lack thereof), is a gross disrespect for human capacity and the complexity of the world in which we find ourselves. These are just musings of mine, related to my current preferences.
I find no significant differentiator between King, President, Judge, Dictator, etc. That’s not entirely accurate. It’s more that…I believe that all forms of government share – by definition – one fundamental premise: people fear responsibility and believe they lack capacity on their own, so they delegate responsibility to what they choose to believe is a force with more capacity which should thus be given such responsibilities as feared by the people.
But like domesticated animals, we are neglecting our capacity in favor of delegating responsibility. Release the domesticated dog into the wild, and he might not survive for lack of previously refining his capacity to hunt for himself.
Of course, the domesticated dog dies fat and happy. So, who’s to say which is best?