Monday, April 24, 2006

Is Democracy Enough?

This is the question I asked last year when commentators argued that democracy would transform societies into civilized, peaceful, and prosperous nations. I questioned the fundamental nature of this notion and called it a “parliamentary dialectic” to draw parallels to Marx’s reversal of cause and effect.

That democracy isn’t enough to secure a just society is discussed in Aristotle’s Politics. He warned of what Tocqueville called tyranny of the majority. Aristotle argued for the rule of law, checks and balances, and the need to cultivate professional political leadership. Aristotle used the word “democracy” to denote the “rule of many” in its most pernicious form. Our founding fathers were also critics of “democracy” which they understood to be unlimited majority rule. They advanced the notion of a republic that includes a parliamentary electoral system limited by a constitution.

This is why it was disheartening to read some conservatives talking about democracy in simplistic terms over the past few years. One conservative writer even applauded the prospect of an Islamic democracy in spite of (or perhaps because of) its theocratic potential. There were a few who warned that democracy would have the opposite effect in the Islamic world as I also noted last year.

Commentators were shocked by Afghanistan's imposition of the death sentence for conversion to Christianity even though it was clear what Sharia law meant in Afghanistan by previous outrages. It took the election of Hamas to remind people that, like Hitler, an electoral system can help tyrants rise to power. And although the elections in Iraq were a hopeful sign, tribal and religious loyalties, and not sound political principles of individual rights, are still the determining factor in Iraqi politics ... so far.

That is why it is interesting to finally read in The Weekly Standard that a “disturbing trend emerges: the rise of illiberal democracy in the Middle East.” By George, they’re catching on! “Elections are an integral part of a democracy--but they are not a substitute for a liberal democratic culture.” They must have read my masthead above! “Almost half of today's ‘democratizing’ countries can be classified as what Fareed Zakaria dubs ‘illiberal democracies’: Although they hold regular elections, they also violate their citizens' human rights, political liberties, and religious freedom.” Zakaria? Who’s he? How about Aristotle, Madison, Burke, Tocqueville, etc.? Finally the writers at TWS ask a question raised by Daniel Pipes a year ago. “Will democratization end up unwittingly empowering the enemies of the West?” They answer:

“It is only after the rise of liberal institutions such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion that Middle Eastern elections can provide the vibrant alternatives that we expect truly democratic systems to provide. … [A] democratic culture cannot be built overnight. [It] must be measured by the level of liberalism it engenders. ”
That's good as far as it goes. But isn't there a problem that they aren't addressing?

66 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Well here we have the aristocracy's favorite stalking horse, jason pappas.

Jason wants to maintain an aristocracy while giving lip service to individual rights. Good luck jason.

I notice that you are still incensed about sharia (although you probably don't have a good grasp of it). I was watching an iranian film this weekend "Daybreak". It concerns capital punishment under sharia and is quite informative.

I abhor the death penalty and it is certainly vulgar in its muslim manifestation but it has very real elements of mercy. Much more so than in Texas under then Governor Chimperella.

Once again jason gives us black and white and somehow wants to make the case that Iraq or Iran or Saudi should give two warm farts in hell about what we want, it's none of our business.

You armchair philosphers can holdforth as long as you like. At one point America was a pretty solid beacon for social mobility. Minority rights, women's rights, gay rights we did a pretty good job of speaking truth to the atrophied aristocracy.

That time is gone. It changed when Ronny Raygun shilled for the elites. And what has it brought us? The dispossed of the world are going to screw up our sh*t good. China is just going to butt screw us while you mouth all this crap about sharia being unacceptable when you have so completely lost your way that you have no standing to call anything unacceptable.

4/24/06, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Huh? Sharia, Reagan, China and a Texas Governor! Typical Duck soup! I can’t even parse that post.

4/24/06, 4:15 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

"Our founding fathers were also critics of “democracy” which they understood to be unlimited majority rule. They advanced the notion of a republic that includes a parliamentary electoral system limited by a constitution. This is why it was disheartening to read some conservatives talking about democracy in simplistic terms over the past few years."

Yes, YES, YES!!!

Thank you! It is very discouraging to see the widespread use of the word "democracy" as if it were, in and of itself, a virtuous thing.

It would appear that Our Leader has no greater understanding of the term than one of Hannity's "Man in the Street" interviews.

Damn! We have GOT to get a grip on education! Farmer John notwithstanding, kids are VERY open to philosophy, and if we don't teach them the good stuff, the bad stuff will fill the void.

4/24/06, 5:27 PM  
Blogger Rick Darby said...

Wow, Mr. Ducky, you forgot to throw in slavery, Thomas Jefferson's love child and internment of the Japanese Americans in World War II. Did you lose your checklist?

Jason: Of course democracy is not enough, if what is meant is the legal forms of democracy. It is no better than any other system of government if the citizens who vote are dumbed down, self-centered, or corrupt.

The founders of this country quite wisely distrusted pure democracy and that's why they created a republican system. They wanted the Senate (which was originally appointed by state legislatures) to be insulated from the temptations to buy votes and to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I can't remember if there was originally a property qualification to be a voting citizen in the United States, but there certainly was in Britain. The principle was that unless you had experience managing an estate and had dealt first-hand with some of the problems that responsibility entails, you weren't equipped to understand or judge wisely in public affairs.

I don't endorse those limits on democracy, but it's worth noting that perfectly intelligent people have in the past recognized that just giving everyone a vote isn't a synonym for enlightened government.

And while the United States has every right to defend its interests in the international sphere, the neocon idea that we should, or even can, impose a workable democracy wherever we put our foot down is foolish and dangerous.

We did the right thing in deposing Saddam Hussein, for humanitarian and other reasons. But it's not worth one American life to try to make sure that Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds can work together in a "democracy" in Iraq. Even if it can be done (which is questionable), it doesn't buy us any more safety. I'd rather see the country partitioned and the different Muslim factions tearing each other's throats out if that's what they want to do, since that would be an excellent distraction from jihad against us infidels.

4/24/06, 5:39 PM  
Blogger American Crusader said...

I think the only thing you left out Jason was the importance of an informed electorate. If you have ignorant fanatics voting, no need to expect anything more from those elected.

4/24/06, 5:48 PM  
Blogger American Crusader said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/24/06, 5:49 PM  
Blogger American Crusader said...

"I abhor the death penalty and it is certainly vulgar in its muslim manifestation but it has very real elements of mercy. Much more so than in Texas under then Governor Chimperella."

I guess seeing women being stoned for accusations of infidelity (even if in truth they were raped) is more just in your opinion ducky.

4/24/06, 5:51 PM  
Anonymous Old Peculier said...

Free speech etc, but let's not forget civil society.

England had all these things ages before it had a proper democracy.

And let's face it, the English way of doing things has been the role model for all societies that work properly.

(Not that I'm biased at all...)

4/24/06, 8:02 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

OP,
Brits should be proud of the Magna Carta just as we are of the US Constitution.

Jason,
I grudgingly agree with you. Although Saddam had to go and I still support the war, I'm beginning to question the ideal of a Muslim democracy.

4/24/06, 9:27 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I’m glad you singled that out, Cubed. Many people don’t realize the history for the reasons you often talk about.

Rick makes some good points about democracy in Iraq as it is at present. AC adds the idea of ignorance. OP reminds us that the British put “civil” back into “civilization.” And Kevin raises the issue I hinted at in my final question: Islam.

Certainly these all have to do with the question: what makes a culture able to construct and sustain a liberal democracy?

Just as it takes time, thought, and practice to cultivate good character, it takes a similar effort to evolve a tradition hospitable to the creation of a civil society where each person sees a shared virtue in securing their rights as individuals and respecting the dignity of each and every individual. Over the last two centuries, very few places have been able to maintain the internal discipline and the fortitude to withstand eternal threats to maintain a liberal order. I wrote last April:

“During the 20th century, as we faced the ravages of totalitarianism – wars, concentration camps, enslavement and death on a vast scale – we re-examined the principles and practices that kept our country from a similar fate. For many, this led to a reaffirmation of the tradition of individual rights. The concept of individual liberty, born in the soil of Hellenic rationalism and Roman law, reached its maturation in the rigorous and clear exposition of the Anglo-American Enlightenment – and climaxed with the founding of the United States of America. We, or at least many of our fellow citizens, came to appreciate these principles at work in stable civilized countries, primarily English speaking, where reason and rhetoric were the main tools of social discourse; and we saw the diametrically opposite principles leading vast parts of the world down “the road to serfdom” where coercion led to an impoverished existence on every level.”

Continental Europe failed to maintain respect for the rights and dignity of the individual: a very different philosophy overtook continental Europe. And a different philosophy underlies the culture of Islamic societies. If substantial change is to take root and dominate Islamic societies on a sustainable basis, it is Islam that will have to be challenged at some point. Islam is at odds with a liberal order just as collectivism was.

4/24/06, 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We did the right thing in deposing Saddam Hussein, for humanitarian and other reasons. But it's not worth one American life to try to make sure that Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds can work together in a "democracy" in Iraq. Even if it can be done (which is questionable), it doesn't buy us any more safety. I'd rather see the country partitioned and the different Muslim factions tearing each other's throats out if that's what they want to do, since that would be an excellent distraction from jihad against us infidels."

I absolutely agree. Divide and conquer. This would have been a much better strategy. But the neo-cons of today are morphed Leftists of yesteryear. A fully self-interested, non-altruistic foreign policy is impossible for them. Simply crushing the enemy and seeing that they remain crushed is not in their worldview. Such a shame. If we had the guts, this war would have been long over.

D. Eastbrook

4/25/06, 1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just as it takes time, thought, and practice to cultivate good character, it takes a similar effort to evolve a tradition hospitable to the creation of a civil society where each person sees a shared virtue in securing their rights as individuals and respecting the dignity of each and every individual."

What you are getting at is that it takes the cultural acceptance on a wide enough scale of a reason based worldview. A worldview that, no matter what superfical attachements to religion, espouses the use of reason as the fundamental tool for the interaction amongst men. This precludes Islamic culture outright as Islam is the very repudiation of logical thought. It also precludes the post-modernist Left which is sympathetic towards the destructive goals of Islam.

Its really a race against time to see if a 2nd Rennaissance (which will be spearheaded by Ayn Rand) can develop in time to save the West from carnage that will ensue when the Left destroys America and Europe from within paving the way for the muslims to destroy it from without. History really is replaying itself. The great Roman Eagle is once again falling even if the flags are somewhat different.

D. Eastbrook

4/25/06, 1:35 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

The dispossed of the world are going to screw up our sh*t good. China is just going to butt screw us while you mouth all this crap about sharia being unacceptable when you have so completely lost your way that you have no standing to call anything unacceptable.

China's going to cut off our plastic dog crap and whoopie cushion supply?

4/25/06, 6:24 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

… it takes the cultural acceptance on a wide enough scale of a reason based worldview. A worldview that, no matter what superficial attachments to religion, espouses the use of reason as the fundamental tool for the interaction amongst men. This precludes Islamic culture outright as Islam is the very repudiation of logical thought. It also precludes the post-modernist Left which is sympathetic towards the destructive goals of Islam. -DE

I agree with all of the above and it summarizes what I’ve said nicely. But there’s a reason why I use the more lengthy description: “born in the soil of Hellenic rationalism and Roman law, reached its maturation in the rigorous and clear exposition of the Anglo-American Enlightenment.” As you know, continental rationalism tends towards deductions from arbitrary starting-points with inadequate contact with the extensive experience of history and well-founded hard-won knowledge of the past (i.e. reality.) After Kant effectively severed human reasoning from reality the stage was set for the baseless theorizing and subjectivism that wrought such devastation in the 20th century. And much of it under the banner of reason and science! It was neither, of course.

But while we share with traditional conservatives a distain for continental rationalism and collectivism, we argue for a more potent and sound conception of reason that goes back to Aristotle. This conception of reason is often seen as obvious outside academia—so called “common sense.” I often think we need to describe what we mean more than argue for it. Much is already appealing to people of common sense.

We’ve been discussing this point over on Wolfgang Bruno’s blog.

4/25/06, 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

So what would the Duck world look like, if Duck Pasha could draw up and enforce the laws according to his tastes? I think we have a pretty good idea. I like when he mentions a list of "rights" that we somehow have lost. Like he would know a genuine right if it bit him on the bill. As for democracy, here's a great Benjamin Franklin quote I just read: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the result."

4/25/06, 10:51 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I've got to rush off to work, so I've had time only to skim this article, but here's my quick take.

Democracy is not a panacea. And unlimited democracy leads to mobocracy. And Hamas is trumpeting their victory in "legitimate elections."

Simplistic, I know. But I'm in a rush. Back later.

4/25/06, 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We’ve been discussing this point over on Wolfgang Bruno’s blog."

Its interesting that the Christians argue that Christianity is individualistic b/c it stresses the salvation of the individual soul. Both Rand and Peikoff have stated that as one of the only redeeming values of Christianity. But even if the soul is saved in another realm, the response should be "so what, what about this one?" When Christianity had political power, the world saw just how much respect it had for the individual; the Inquisition anyone?

The problem I see with this approach of trying to find common ground with Christians is that it is based on a house of cards. The discussion of that blog post illustrates this. Christians see the evil of Islam but they see it not as proof of the failure (and evil) of faith generally, but of the failure of Islamic faith. This is dangerous b/c if Christianity were to be stripped of its rational elements, it would be brutal as well (and historically it has been).

What Christians can't see is that the reason why Islam is evil is b/c it represents the pure essence of a faith based worldview. I would have hoped that the barbarity of Islam would have turned people away from religion, but it has instead inspired a renewed devotion to Christianity. I do not believe that this war can be fought truly effectively without arguing against *all* religion and not just Islam. So, as much as I love this blog, I feel that the "reach-out-to-Christians" approach will eventually prove futile. I know it sounds mean, but based on my experiences growing up in a very religious household, I have massive contempt for Christians and their religion. Of what I think of Islam? Well that's what nuclear weapons are for.

D. Eastbrook

4/25/06, 2:08 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I understand what your saying DE. My common ground approach is basically to argue that Christians today are far more secular than they realize and we all owe a great dept to our Greco-Roman heritage.

But you’re right. As I read the comments on Bruno’s blog I realize that few are asking if faith itself is the problem and Islam is a reductio ad absurdum example (Sam Harris is one exception.) I stated, a few weeks back, that I consider it a difference in degree with Islam being a pure faith completely undiluted with Hellenic rationalism after philosophy was expunged from the Islamic world with the help of Al Ghazali in the 11th century.

I think this would be a wonderful debate but if we are to hold such a debate on the internet there has to be several bloggers besides me taking the side of reason. I can’t handle every facet of the great debates. I was hoping Bruno would moderate the debate on his site but he seems to be an infrequent occasional blogger.

On Bruno’s site I saw many points I’d like to refute and many opportunities to raise tough questions. But I can’t turn his blog into a debate. One question has to do with the point you make. Christianity sees the individuality of the soul. It goes so far as to say that salvation and redemption is possible to a slave as it is a freeman. Is liberty (political liberty, not free will) important to Christianity? (I raise this question with regard to D’Souza, last year.) And while Christian fought hard to resist Islamic conquest (see the history of the Byzantine Empire), once conquered they lived in dhimmitude for 12 centuries without seeing many Christian versions of Spartacus. (Spain is a very important exception. But is it the exception that “proves the rule?”)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed that American Christians are fiercely willing to fight for our values. But it is an interesting question as to whether it is our fierce Roman heritage to which we owe that fighting spirit?

4/25/06, 4:07 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

One of my favorite Ben Franklin sayings is "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb boting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armned lamb contesting the vote."

Franklin was extremely interested in education, and recognized the continued well-being of our country would be based in the knowledge of our citizens: "...not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say, 'This is my country.'"

How many school children - and recent presidents - understand what Franklin tried to tell us?

4/25/06, 4:49 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

"...voting..."

4/25/06, 4:51 PM  
Blogger American Crusader said...

Thanks for that clarification cubed...my mind was running wild figuring what boting meant

4/25/06, 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But it is an interesting question as to whether it is our fierce Roman heritage to which we owe that fighting spirit?"

This is a fascinating question Jason. You frequently make the excellent point that Islam takes after its prophet who was after all a conquorer. Christ was not a warrior but the exact opposite; a martyr. If Islam is sacrificing others to self, it would seem that Christianity is sacrificing self to others. Yet Christianity hasn't always been pascifist.

I read someone who said there was two Christianities: hippie Christianity and muscular Christianity. I guess that muscular Christianity would be the war effort of the Crusaders to take back their holylands in the face of Islamic aggression. An example of hippie Christianity would be today's Christian pacifists like the one who was just recently killed by muslims in Iraq. Bush himself is a kind of hippie Christian pascifist in his own way, although I know many would disagree with that as I am measuring him agianst the standards of non-Christian antiquity; ie the Roman Republic (Scipio Africanus anyone?).

But I have to wonder if our fighting spirit is the legacy of Sparta and Rome; ie Pagan, non-Christian antiquity before both Christian and Kantian altruism. Its a damn good question.

D. Eastbrook

4/26/06, 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would "anarchy" be "enough"? Tyranny? Oligarchy?

-FJ

4/26/06, 7:55 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jason:

"One conservative writer even applauded the prospect of an Islamic democracy in spite of (or perhaps because of) its theocratic potential."

I have heard this expression over and over and over again, used especially by Muslims in the Middle East, long before GWB initiated the ridiculous move to "bring democracy to the Middle East".

Indeed, I would often discuss this ridiculous notion with Muslims in the ME till late into the night. But I could never convince them.

The very notion that a Westerner would engage in such nonsensical discussions beggars belief.

There can never be such a thing as "Islamic democracy". The very term is an oxymoron! No more than there can be a "Christian democracy".

Democracy relies on there being a strict separation of the Church and State. Were it to be applied to an Islamic country, then there would have to be a strict seaparation of Mosque and State. Without this separation, no true democracy can ever be established.

Once one starts talking of Islamic democracy, then one is sailing close to the theocratic wind.

Democracy, as we all know, is rule by the people for the people; theocracy, rule based on God's, or Allah's, supposed injunctions.

The very idea of trying to bring democracy to the Middle East was daft enough; the idea of talking about "Islamic democracy" is ridiculous!

In an Islamic democracy, what sort of choice would the electorate be given? Presumably to vote for this Islamic candidate rather than the other.

Absurd!

4/26/06, 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but mark,

If you needed and idea to use as hammer and anvil to destroy Islam, would you use something that was similar to it, or something that was entirely "unlike" it. Islam means submission. Democracy means "domination". One means "submit to power", the other "grasp and organize power".

Ever read "Seven Against Thebes" by Aeschylus?

-FJ

4/26/06, 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ETEOCLES

To me, no blazon on a foeman's shield
Shall e'er present a fear! such pointed threats
Are powerless to wound; his plumes and bells,
Without a spear, are snakes without a sting.

Nay, more--that pageant of which thou tellest--
The nightly sky displayed, ablaze with stars,
Upon his shield, palters with double sense--

One headstrong fool will find its truth anon!
For, if night fall upon his eyes in death,
Yon vaunting blazon will its own truth prove,
And he is prophet of his folly's fall.

Mine shall it be, to pit against his power
The loyal son of Astacus, as guard
To hold the gateways--a right valiant soul,
Who has in heed the throne of Modesty
And loathes the speech of Pride, and evermore
Shrinks from the base, but knows no other fear.

He springs by stock from those whom Ares spared,
The men called Sown, a right son of the soil,
And Melanippus styled. Now, what his arm
To-day shall do, rests with the dice of war,
And Ares shall ordain it; but his cause
Hath the true badge of Right, to urge him on
To guard, as son, his motherland from wrong.

-FJ

4/26/06, 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D. Easterbrook,

Have you read Gibbon's "Fall of the Roman Empire"? The "fall" was attributed by him to "Christianty". I recommend you also read Sections 58-60 of Nietzsche's "Anti-Christ".

-FJ

4/26/06, 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and the problem of kids loving "philosophy", cubed, is that it encompasses the "good" stuff AND the "bad" stuff, and they need to be mature enough to be able to sort out the differences themselves.

Even Aniken learned about just how "seductive" the "dark side" can be. That you can't grasp this simple concept...

-FJ

4/26/06, 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw - Jason, I see ducky's finally starting to acknowledge Jefferson's idea of "natural aristocracy". Welcome to the club. I don't think that ducky's mind has yet quite grabbed hold of the Jeffersonian concept of a faux-aristocracy yet... and/or the difference. Because he would be upset to find himself included in the latter category, like most other "populist" and "rhetorically" oriented rabble rowsers.

-FJ

4/26/06, 9:42 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

It’s odd, D. Eastbrook, how you express those difference types of Christianity but it leads into another point I wanted to make over at Bruno’s website. Since Kant secularized abject altruism (which holds that one’s duty is to sacrifice for others no matter whom they are and what they value) it is found more on the left than the right. Prior to Kant you often read about the right to self-preservation in British philosophers from Hobbes to Locke that clearly and proudly upheld the ultimate right to defend one’s life and protect one’s family.

Kant’s duty-bound categorical imperative disparaged self-interest and the common sense notions of self-preservation to absurd extents. The moral became a commandment—to be blindly followed. There’s Kant’s well known example against lying even if a craven killers asks you where to find his intended victim. Of course, Kant throws in the improbably idea that something unexpected may keep the killer from carrying out his plan. But what sane person would not lie under such a situation. It’s not as if people will hold you as untrustworthy because you lied to a deranged killer.

Far from being an academic exercise we see this principle operative today. The left talks as if we have to wait until we’re hit by a nuclear attack. “How do you know Saddam has WMDs? How do you know Ahmadinejad will use those nukes anymore than Israel will?” (Read Steyn on that one.) The benefit of the doubt, not matter how unreasonable, must go to the enemy no matter how deranged they are. The left will tout categorical imperatives of “international law” and argue against pre-emption. However, if the purpose is altruistic, as it was in Kosovo, then all of a sudden pre-emption is fine, international law is inconvenient, and the preponderance of the evidence mandates our military action. Iraq was motivated by defense and it is self-interest which poisons the cause for the left as it would for Kant.

Bruno and others see leftist Europe’s suicidal political correctness (altruistic duty to turn the other cheek) as a rejection of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But the left has secularized, as you amusingly put it, the hippie type of Christianity. And here in America, the right still embodies in muscular type of Christianity that makes General Boykin say “my God is greater than their God.” Now, I’m not religious but taken metaphorically I like the General’s spirit.

Notice how the left tries to goad the religious right for not turning the other check but instead going to war. Over on “Rebirth of Reason” one Mr. Garcia, a GI in Iraq, paints a vivid picture of the spirit of the muscular Christianity he finds in the military. It goes back to Constantine in the 3rd century who credited a battle victory to seeing the sign of the cross. Christians, who had been outlawed up to that time, were ecstatic. They were overjoyed—not with Constantine’s reading of the Gospel, repenting, and seeking salvation in Jesus (he is said to have converted on his death bed some time later)—but with being honored, as other gods were so honored, and embraced as a omen of victory.

Hollywood was making fun of Patton when he asks a minister to pray for good weather for the coming battle. But Patton was a big hit with muscular Americans of every type. He’s rough around the edges but keeps his priorities straight: defeating the enemy. And he finds honor in doing so!

I like explaining how our Greco-Roman heritage is an essential key element to our traditions. Victor Davis Hanson argues for a continuous fighting tradition from Sparta to today that stems from the motivated fighters who see themselves as fighting for their values. He contrasts that with the enemy’s conscripted fighters who see themselves as fodder for their tyrant’s gain and glory. He’s not always clear but he’s got a good argument that is worth appreciating.

Most Christians separate religion and politics like Mark Alexander in the above comments. Some object to mixing personal religious matters with public policy and social interactions. There’s another split within American Christianity between personal piety and a social activism. Overall, I think most Americans, Christian or not, will credit Roman traditions with matters of state, law, and defense. I can’t see how Islam can split their intertwined tradition as Mark points out.

4/26/06, 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mark,

btw - democracy's "theocratic potential". That is really, really funny. Kinda like anarchy's organizing potential. I suspect it only works to establish an initial "disorganization" before the "reorganization".

-FJ

4/26/06, 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,

Chapter XIV of Book I, Machiavelli "Discourses on Titus Livy"

-FJ

4/26/06, 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

FJ, I suspect that Ducky sees excellence at odds with individual rights. Thus, a “natural aristocracy” is still too much for Ducky. But then again he isn’t partial to individual rights but mob rule … I mean democracy. And democracy of his kind always winds up with a tyrant … the most unnatural of aristocracies: rule by demagogues and party apparatchiks.

But could it be that I’m too hasty on the Duck? It’s not a goal of his but an unintended consequence. His heart is in the right place but his webbed feet are on a slippery slope.

4/26/06, 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,

I suspect you are correct... AGAIN. I hate how the duck proves me a liar over... and over... and over...

-FJ

4/26/06, 10:11 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

FJ:

btw - democracy's "theocratic potential". That is really, really funny. Kinda like anarchy's organizing potential. I suspect it only works to establish an initial "disorganization" before the "reorganization".

I'm confused! Where did I use the term "theocratic potential'? Are you, perhaps, referring to the term "sailing close to the theocratic wind'?

If that's the case, what's so funny about it? Am I missing something?

4/26/06, 10:20 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks for the link to Machiavelli, FJ. I can’t read it now (but couldn’t help read some of it anyway.) But I must get back to it tonight.

4/26/06, 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You quoted Jason...and found the concept "ridiculous". So did I, but perhaps in a slightly "different" way.

-FJ

btw - Did you ever see "Shichinin no samurai" 1954 by Kurosawa w/ Toshiro Mfume. The Japanese LOVED Aeschylus. Great movie.

4/26/06, 10:25 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

FJ:

Thanks for the clarification. I didn't even look at what I had quoted. I was looking for my words. Sorry about that.

I wonder how you found the expression funny?

No, I haven't seen that movie. The very name would put me off! :-) Perhaps I should try and view it one day.

4/26/06, 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've never seen the Seven Samurai? Rent it TONIGHT! You'll thank me. How about the "Magnificent Seven"? Same movie, but not nearly as well done.

-FJ

4/26/06, 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and mark,

I love oxymorons and paradoxes. In fact, I "specialize" in them.

-FJ

4/26/06, 10:40 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

FJ:

If you "specialize" in them, please, please, please give us a few examples.

4/26/06, 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Xeno's...."Achilles and the Tortoise

-FJ

I can explain it. Can you?

4/26/06, 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or how about a democratic theocracy?

-FJ

4/26/06, 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...or the word "oxymoron"...

Greek oxumron, from neuter of oxumros, pointedly foolish : oxus, sharp; see oxygen + mros, foolish, dull.

-FJ

4/26/06, 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many One-ness?

-FJ

4/26/06, 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Power to the people: G_d is the Power

-FJ

4/26/06, 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Individual rights: Group rights?

Justice: Social Justice?

-FJ

4/26/06, 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm done. Sorry to clutter up your board, jason.

-FJ

4/26/06, 2:22 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks for the list of oxymorons, FJ. :-)

4/26/06, 4:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

The Seven Samurai? Now there's a base of common interest Farmer. Probably the finest film ever made.

Kurasowa can go deep focus and have 3 or 4 layers of action and exposition going simultaneously ...he is the master.

All seven there for their own reasons and as Kambei observes in the end "We lose again". The warrior will never find his place in the collective. The true warrior anyway.

"I am a swordsman of the wood chopping school". What a great film.

Unfortunate that japanese films lose so much in dialogue translation.

If we were fluent in japanese I imagine we would understand that Seijun Suzuki is the master of that jerk Tarantino in every way.

Have you spent any time with Ozu, Farmer. He may be to civilized for you but in a poll for number one of all time, Tokyo Story can hold its own with Seven Samurai.

Far different technique than most Japanese. he doesn't move his camera but he has that mastery of deep focus that really only the Japanese display.

4/26/06, 4:12 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

American Crusader, I expect that you know that stonings are rare in the muslim world and have been stopped by public opinion everywhere except for our ally Saudi Arabia.

As sharia is practiced in Iran for instance, capital punishment is somewhat less brutal than it is in Texas, for instance.

4/26/06, 4:15 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Death for adultery, homosexuality, and blasphemy is less brutal? Oh, that’s right; these are issues of justice, something that makes no sense to the left since guilt or innocence, praise or blame, earned or unearned … all make no sense to the materialist determinist “no fault” ideology of the leftist mindset.

Hanging for cold blooded murder and hanging for adultery are all the same in the mind of a leftist: a hanging. “Social justice,” as FJ reminds us, is the “no fault” alternative that deals with ends regardless of means. Just like a welfare parasite is as deserving of a furnished home (for example) as a hard-working entrepreneur, so is death for serial murder just as unjust as death for homosexuality. It the same material outcome in the leftist worldview.

Ducky illustrates the lesson so well.

4/26/06, 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Iraq was motivated by defense and it is self-interest which poisons the cause for the left as it would for Kant."

Excellent commnent Jason. For Kant, any self-interested motive disqualifies an action from being moral. He elevated total selflessness to the status of ideal. Even Christianity did not do this in theory (one could argue it did in practice) as it allowed for the salvation of an everlasting soul. Thus Kant has been called "the all-destroyer".

The effects in war and foreign policy are apparent. Any initiative on the part of the US which has even a trace of self-interest is condemned. Selfless military action is lauded; ie Somalia and the Balkens. Hell, in the Balkans we fought on the side of the muslims! Iraq was based on many self-interested premises. But notice how Bush is really not capable of stressing those. As time has passed, all he really is capable of praising about the campaign are its selfless elements; the liberation of the Iraqis and their power to vote in elections. He would never have the confindence to sell Iraq on purely selfish grounds.

Even the rules of war have been poisoned by Kant. See Yaron Brook's discussion of Just-War theory and the effects that it has had on our war colleges. Interesting enough, Dr. Brook traces Just-War theory (in essence a sacrificial approach to war) back to St. Augustine. Judge this by tracing our war efforts from the Civil War forward. Compare Sherman's march to Georgia, or Patton's march to Berlin, or McArthur's war in the pacific. None of those men would hold such power in today's culture. Kantian inspired pascifism has increased from generation to generation, and it has made waging war on behalf of America harder and harder. Kant's influence today may have well sealed our fate although its too early to tell.

Ayn Rand has Galt say at the end of his speech that the destroyers worship the zero; ie death. Whenever I read or hear comments by the Kantian Left [as epitomized by our resident Kantian, Mr. Ducky] on this war and their call for surrender which they cloak in oh so many dishonest ways, and then I see the barbarity and nihilism of Islam, I realize again just how right she was.

D. Eastbrook

4/26/06, 5:44 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Don't know about the comments thread, Jason (I don't have time to read it), but the post is great.

Three things have happened in recent weeks which have made me understand that our Democracy Project has failed:

1) the Abdul Rahman apostasy case

2) when I became aware that Jafaari had won because of support from al-Sadr, so that al-Sadr had actually become a power broker in the Iraqi government,

3) when I learned that Sufi Islam supports terror as well,

Now, of course, the last one is not directly related to our Democracy Project, but it doesn point to the fact that Islam is practically irredeemable.

We didn't face that fact going in. I, least of all.

Bush, and even Natan Sharansky seem profoundly naiive these days. Democracy, as it is commonly understood in the West, does not mean simply that there are elections. If that were all, then Democracy is a pseudonym for mob rule.

Of course, the real term for what we think of when we use the term Democracy would be something ungainly, like, for instance

A Democratic Republic, with division/balance of powers, supported by a constitution, establishing and protecting commonly accepted human rights (defined as an agreed upon collection based upon those of certain European nations, combined with the Human Rights Charter, and the United States Constitution).

If anyone actually attempted to explain that on TV, surely, they would cut to commercial.

If we tried to explain it to the Arab Street, they would likely explode into a chaos of flag-burning and blood-letting.

This Democracy thing is not an easy concept to get. It's taken me a lifetime to come this far, and I live here.

The answer, as I have been saying on my blog for the past two years, would have been to outlaw all anti-social aspects of Arab and Islamic society, and then, to force the Iraqi and Afghani people to relearn how to live from top to bottom.

This is what we did in Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII. Since, we were the ones who invented this process, I assumed that what we were doing. Alas, not. We, apparently, no longer have the courage of our convictions.

4/26/06, 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As sharia is practiced in Iran for instance, capital punishment is somewhat less brutal than it is in Texas, for instance."

Jason, your refutation of this nonsense was spot on. But let me add this: notice the hatred Ducky directs at Texas, and notice what for; that Texas has consistently upheld justice to the victim more than any other state in the union by executing cold blooded killers though capial punishment. Notice two things: one, his disdain for what in essence is non-Kantian justice or in other words egoism-inspired justice as demonstrated by killing criminals and recognizing the rights of *individual* victims. Two, he attacks Texas as a surrugate of attacking the United States.

I think that much of the animous against Bush is that he is perceived as being a surrogate for the US: He is pereceived as a defender of capitalism (and oh what a joke that is), he is perceived as a hawk (again, using history as a guide, that is another joke), the fact that he is Christian furthers their hatred as they consider Christianity to be synonomously with Capitalism and strong self-defense (again another joke). In short, I feel that they hate him for every perceived connection to egoism that they think he represents (and here please note that it *is* only a perceived connection as Bush is in fundamental agreement with every one of the Left's (and Ducky's) premises). Also, it makes me wonder that if any truly egoistic defender of America should ever gain political power what the Left's response would be. I would wager that they would take to armed rebellion like their forbears, the Bolsheviks. I have no doubt that they would become violent and bloody.

Hatred for self-interest, egoism, and most importantly *objectivity* oozes from every word that Ducky and his brethren write or speak. I'm actually glad the he takes the time to post here. He provides us with a philosophical microscope to study the brain cells of the altruist left.

D. Eastbrook

4/26/06, 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course, the real term for what we think of when we use the term Democracy would be something ungainly, like, for instance

A Democratic Republic, with division/balance of powers, supported by a constitution, establishing and protecting commonly accepted human rights (defined as an agreed upon collection based upon those of certain European nations, combined with the Human Rights Charter, and the United States Constitution)."

No. All one has to say is that America is a constitutional republic that supports individual rights.

"Human rights" is sloppy and is usually the preferred term of socialists. The Human Rights Charter of the UN is a disgrace and is completely mired in Marxist premises. It should never have been allowed anywhere near Iraq.

"The answer, as I have been saying on my blog for the past two years, would have been to outlaw all anti-social aspects of Arab and Islamic society, and then, to force the Iraqi and Afghani people to relearn how to live from top to bottom.

This is what we did in Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII. Since, we were the ones who invented this process, I assumed that what we were doing. Alas, not. We, apparently, no longer have the courage of our convictions."

I don't think an occupational strategy should have been used at all, but rather a ruthless, ferocious, unforgiving mass-destructive approach to warfare. But if an occupational strategy was chosen, then I agree with you. We should have forced on them a Western *culture* not just Western representative government. And we should have been ruthless in the way we did it. We should have acted like a conquering nation.

But if you read the comments to this post you would have seen our philosophic discussion as to why that is not possible in today's culture.

D. Eastbrook

4/26/06, 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll keep an eye out for Ozu's "Tokyo Story" mr. ducky. I'll make sure to watch it after a return from my Tai Chi lesson. I always feel more civilized then...

We disagree on the warrior and collective though. As long as rights of intermarriage are properly laid out and observed, and the proper "charms" applied, there is a cure for that headache (Plato, "Charmides"/ "Statesman")

-FJ

btw - Jason...about that Machiavelli reference, you might want to also checkout what Livy actually said. Leo Strauss claims there may be a few "minor discrepencies" worth noting.

4/26/06, 8:22 PM  
Blogger LASunsett said...

Democracy without a constitution and a rule of law, is nothing more than mob rule.

4/27/06, 12:26 AM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Anonymous said...

"Individual rights: Group rights?"

No. Groups don't have rights. Only individuals have rights.

If we think the term "democracy" is poorly understood, try "rights." Until we understand that concept, we will teeter on the edge of failure - the Framers got really close to understanding what a "right" is, but they made a few very serious errors that are largely responsible for our current "situation."

4/27/06, 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cubed...

How much justice is there in a class action lawsuit?

-What's my cut of the asbestos suit? The tobacco suit?

-FJ

4/27/06, 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: What does a lawyer (sophist) and an apple have in common?

A: They both look good hanging from a tree...

-FJ

4/27/06, 12:05 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Anonymous said...

"How much justice is there in a class action lawsuit?"

None.

4/27/06, 6:30 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Y'all done up and perked my ears up. (Kant references do that).

But it would be quite different if a state, by internal rebellion, should fall into two parts, each of which pretended to be a separate state making claim to the whole. To lend assistance to one of these cannot be considered an interference in the constitution of the other state (for it is then in a state of anarchy)

Saddam Hussein's perpetual war against his own people for control of Iraq (note that even CHILDREN were imprisoned for not joining the Baath Party Youth, and that Saddam was a totalitarian dictator over his puppet Baathist parliament) would be defined by Kant as a state that was in anarchy? Just because Saddam was regularly exterminating those that rebelled against him does not mean that there was "perpetual peace" inside Iraq.

Or in other words, people who invoke Kant to argue against Operation: Iraqi Freedom are decidedly ignorant of Kant, who was decidedly anti-totalitarian, and made quite explicitly clear that he believed repressive governments were illegitimate and thus void of sovereign status against foreign intervention.

Kant was a peacenik. However, unlike the psuedo-pacifist left (SMASH THE STATE! heh) particularly of the past 350 years, he wasn't extremely baffled by common sense.

4/28/06, 2:14 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Now the Duck is defending Capital punishment in Iran while critiquing Texas. How come this was never mentioned when President Clintoooooon was in office

4/28/06, 7:12 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Beamish makes a good point that I (and others like us) keep making to left friends. There was no peace in Iraq under Saddam. He was at war with his own people and--to no surprise--he warred on his neighbors for plunder and conquest. The left has an odd definition of peace. In the past it was surrender to communism. This concept is very similar to the Islamic definition of peace: surrender to Islamic rule and oppression. No wonder they are discovering their core similarities. But such a peace is really maximum force (and threat of force) in every sphere of human endeavor. Islam, like the left, pretends that successful oppression and pacification is peace.

(Of course, I was referring to Kant in another capacity but a good point is a good point.)

4/28/06, 8:35 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Jason,

It was all the rage (or was, back in 2003) for pseudo-intellectuals of the left to use Kant's Perpetual Peace essay as an argument against "invading Iraq."

You don't see it too much these days, after people who have read Kant and that essay have righteously pointed out the actually Kantian passages that refute the leftist co-opted "Kant" argument, but your mentioning of Kant reminded me of some raucous debates I had in that vein, back when debating the righteousness of the Iraq War was fresh and not and exercise in feeding trolls.

5/1/06, 1:25 AM  

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