I am reading a lot of books produced by dead, white males. I don’t have a screening process on physical condition, skin color or sex at birth. It just works out that way. This year I have read works by Edmund Burke, John Bunyan, John Steward Mill, Karl Marx, Friedrich Hayek, Winston Churchill, Eusebius, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaefer. And I am currently working through Lord Acton, Adam Smith and Thomas Aquinas. When I look at that list I am impressed even if you are not.
Many of these authors were consulted by the Founding Fathers when they were struggling to produce a new type of government. Those on my list who wrote too late for the Founders to know do a lot of quoting from the documents that were available. One of the things that I see as I read is the constant theme of the common man wanting liberty and the elites wanting power. I call it the Plow and the Crown.
One of the recurring truths seems to be that pure democracy is guaranteed to produce tyranny and oppression. I am currently beginning to read Lord Acton. He is the one who wrote a line most of us have heard,
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”I have not come across it yet but I will keep an eye out. He did write a lot about the problems with democracy and how it has been tried at many places and times. It always seems to end in disaster. He uses the term, “tyranny of the majority”.
“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” Kindle location 1919-1920 (Page 16)This is from an book review called "Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe" published in The Quarterly Review, January 1878.
I don’t know about you but I am feeling that sentence today. The Founding Fathers set up a republic, not a democracy. They did that on purpose because they had read their history and they knew that democracy doesn’t work. They went with a Federal Republic with a Constitution that was designed to make it very hard for the kind of shenanigans we are seeing.
I am sure I will have more on this as I continue to read.
Acton, Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902). The History of Freedom, and Other Essays. Project Gutenberg, First Edition,1907.
homo unius libri