The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Surviving hypocrisy

I was looking over Victor Davis Hanson's A War Like No Other, concerning the Peloponesian / Athenian War of the late 400s BC. It is interesting that Athens, homeland of democracy and innovation, lost against Sparta, homeland of serfdom and tradition.

One possibility is that repressive regimes find it easier to justify repression abroad. When Athens forces its will upon other nations, liberals think "hypocrisy" and some will come out and say it. When Sparta does so, everyone already knows that their claims to be doing it for liberty will be hypocritical, no-one will speak out, and there won't be any public liberals anyway.

Democracies, then, have to explain themselves as doing what they do for a greater cause, have to be open about it, and have to subject their decisions to a free electorate. The executive branch in this situation must make its case in the name not of the nation but of the leaders in charge. It is a temptation to do so in the name of the nation rather than of the leaders, especially once the nation has begun to waver in its resolve.

This becomes a problem if the electorate contains a significant proportion of decadent, disloyal, and/or dastardly people. Not even a government can get through to a people who refuse to listen. In this case, even if the government's policies are not hypocritical, the nation's quiet traitors will disseminate propaganda claiming that it is.

Which brings us to part two.

When a good government rules over wicked people, this government has lost its mandate. It has become an empire like any other, however benevolent its original intent. The end result is tyranny (if the government wins, as in ancient Rome) or decay (if the people win, as in modern Europe). This result is more pithily stated: "people get the government they deserve".

I fear that this is happening in the US now.

That is why John Adams then, and Richard Santorum now, say that a free state has an interest in promoting private morals. Or, if the people prevent this, why Robert Heinlein says that the franchise ought to be limited to those who have proven their patriotism through military service.

posted by Zimri on 14:38 | link | 0 comments

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