AUGUST 01, 1965 by ROBERT K. NEWELL
Filed Under : Coercion, Democracy
Mr. Newell operates a farm near Marcellus, Michigan, one of his "crops" being an occasional article.
Since the dawn of history man has vainly sought to ordain order and advance social justice through political legalism.
On the surface, democracy seems to encompass all social ideals and appears to be the epitome of political government. The motivating principle asserts the inherent right of all to participate in government and determine public policy. But with unquestioned power invested in popular opinion, democratic idealism deteriorates rapidly into government by organized majorities.
Even the authoritarian majorities who imagine themselves self-governed have no real understanding of political subterfuge and simply endorse whatever their leaders are pleased to tell them. And since it is easier to subjugate and manipulate those who believe themselves free, the grand illusion of freedom and self-government is carefully preserved by the strategists who constantly maneuver behind the democratic stage.
Since democracy is not of itself a stable form of government, but rather a method of ordaining social change, all forms of political tyranny can easily win the endorsement of the majority. The irresponsible elements of any society are readily persuaded to state-sponsored beggary on the assurance their personal problems will be miraculously solved by some political nostrum a clever candidate advises them to try. To exercise control over an apparently self-governed democracy is only to understand and utilize the principles of mass psychology. The demagogues who successfully exploit social and economic disorders and identify themselves with the majority, ultimately attain oligarchic power.
Democracy has always enjoyed broad acclaim as the champion of political justice. But history amply indicates that government by popular opinion has spawned nothing but social and moral chaos. No matter how wisely begun, skillfully expedited, or enlightened the self-governed, the self-governed states have followed similar patterns of degeneration to mob anarchy. When laws fail, the anarchy must be brought under control by some form of dictatorial government, until counterrevolution in time completes the cycle by returning political process to the hands of the people. The entire gamut precludes human liberty and social justice, as political instability insures social disorder and minority oppression in every phase.
Self-Discipline the First Step toward Self-Government
Political societies and their various governments have come and gone while man has been advancing his civilization, but the basic problems attendant to human relationships continue. Many, now as in the past, despairingly believe it is fundamentally more sound and morally easier to be controlled by an illusionary self-governed legal system than to master the art of governing oneself.
As free moral agents, individuals tend to seek justice through spiritual values, while individuals acting collectively seek favoritism through deliberate applications of political injustice. Individuals must laboriously ponder justice through conscience, while political majorities have only to embrace an ideology to have it automatically proclaimed morally correct regardless of the injustice it may inflict. Despotism, no matter by what name it masquerades, is quick to exploit this human infatuation with group motivation. Human progress depends entirely upon the intrinsic moral judgment of self-governed individuals, politically controlled in the minimum degree that prevents infringement on the human rights and opportunities of others.
Constitutional legalism is both the ancient and modern political antidote for democratic oppression. But no matter how eloquently it defines the rights and virtues of individuals or how boldly it affirms opposition to majority injustice, it is still only a document of public intention. If the intention of the society changes, the constitution is automatically invalidated. Reappraisals of constitutional application are continually substituted for original intent when legalism no longer reflects the true spirit of the society it governs. Constitutional legalism may accurately recognize the basic differences in human desires, initiatives, and capabilities, and assure that the fruits of human effort will be equitably divided in direct proportion to contribution. It may also impartially administer justice. But as soon as the legal system appears less than perfect to a majority that lacks the human energies necessary to utilize its perfections, the endless search for the golden mean of political mediocrity resumes.
The Power of Personal Character
The best government, and the only government that will permanently benefit mankind, is introspection; for it alone can identify true social responsibilities and teach us to govern ourselves with moral restraint. Human life demands effective living. Effective living demands that the human spirit be allowed to seek and attain justification through self-chosen channels. The greatest and most far-reaching contributions to the cause of human enlightenment have never developed from majority opinions, but rather from inspired individuals quite often at odds with their contemporaries. The only restraint that can ever be imposed on the democratic oppression that stifles human spirit is the power of personal character, developed through the moral growth of self-sufficient individuals.
As man apprehensively surveys the future, he is inclined to believe that the world has only to turn to the self-government of democracy to bring human problems to a swift and happy conclusion. But externally applied self-governing political concepts, no matter how lofty their legal and moral intent, can never provide mankind with a hopeful future. Mankind must learn to govern from deep within the individual; and when man at last has mastered himself, responsible human relationships will be the first and most important byproducts of his accomplishment.