The Tragedy of Replacing God with Unchecked Democracy
I’m not sure how conservative Americans will view the recently-published book Democracy as a Neocon Trick by Alexander Boot.
It’s an unusual work: whereas critics of America are generally on the political Left while those on the Right defend it, this is a criticism of the U.S. from a non-Leftist viewpoint, indeed from a traditional, conservative, Christian, pre-Enlightenment viewpoint.
I don’t agree with everything the author says about America, but he’s such a brilliant philosopher in so many respects that whatever he writes is worth exploring.
Born in Soviet Russia, Alexander Boot emigrated to the USA in 1973 and then to Britain in 1988.I’ve been reading his blog almost daily since I’ve discovered it almost two years ago. When I found it I thought I had struck intellectual gold. Then I started reading his books. We’ve become friends.
You don’t find many thinkers these days with Boot’s ideas, so he needs an introduction.
For some time I’ve regretted the lack of a constructive alternative to the Left’s program. Islam is a major problem, but it’s only a symptom. Why did the West throw its doors wide open to it? What’s the disease of which Islamisation, multiculturalism, political correctness and all our other social evils are symptoms?
Boot provides the general framework we need. It’s not just a critique of Islam, or socialism, feminism, environmentalism, “gay rights”, EU, unrestricted immigration, welfare state, public education, nationalised healthcare, our degenerate culture and corrupt political system, although it’s all of these things.
Through his lens we acquire a reason for all the many ways we’ve arrived at the present surreal situation where we’re overjoyed at the prospect of being subjugated by Islam, aren’t unduly bothered by our future extinction as a race and collapse as a civilization or worried about turning our countries into Third World outposts and our cities into replicas of Sodom and Gomorrah.
We need to understand where we went wrong, at what point we lost our compass — totally. Ideas of how advanced, enlightened, free and prosperous Western society is were obviously based on false assumptions if it all leads to the current Alice-in-Wonderland reality and suicidal urge.
Alex Boot identifies the crucial moments of this gradual process as the Renaissance’s humanism replacing God with man, the Reformation making everyone his own priest, and the Enlightenment sowing the seeds of totalitarian thought conducing to socialism, egalitarianism and Marx.
It’s difficult at first, after the prolonged indoctrination transforming history and philosophy into tools of propaganda, to come to terms with Boot’s ideas of the superiority of the Medieval over the modern world.
Each book I’ve published since, though perfectly capable of standing on its own, is but another chapter in an ongoing attempt to ponder the shattered temple [of Western civilisation], to understand why it was destroyed and by whom… Each of my books focused on one aspect of modernity, be it culture, religion or economics. This one is about politics, which in today’s West is dominated by totemistic worship of a mythological ideal that is misleadingly called liberal democracy.
This is how Boot sets the scene for his new book.
Democracy, he says, became deified. Like God, whose cult it’s replaced, it cannot be questioned.
Boot’s not opposed to democracy (in its etymological sense of rule by the people) but to unchecked democracy.
The system of government that most approaches Boot’s ideal is Britain’s historical constitutional monarchy.
“God, king and country” represents the Church, monarchy, and Parliament.
In case of conflicts among them, the highest authority on earth remains the Church, accountable only to God.
The Parliament’s division into two chambers is essential. The lower chamber, House of Commons, is the democratic part of the whole system. It’s elected by the people to represent their interests.
But it must be checked by other authorities: the monarch, whose power ultimately descends from God, and, in a fine balance between the monarch and the people, Parliament’s upper chamber, the hereditary House of Lords, composed of aristocrats who, due to their historical ties to the land and territory, can go beyond their personal interest in favour of the public one. Their not being elected guarantees that they’re not corrupted and swayed by desire for votes.
After what we’ve seen on both sides of the Pond, unelected power counterbalancing elected power seems the right solution. Politicians’ giving people all they want even if it bankrupts the state and ruins the economy, namely an unsustainable welfare state epitomised by the free Obamaphone lady in the infamous video, is no less than a freebies-for-votes bribery exchange.
Not content with that, politicians have imported their own voters from other countries, thus creating their made-to-measure electorate.
In the end, the “rule of the people” has become the final undoing of the people.
Boot is right on this. If this is not sufficient argument against democracy without proper checks and balances, I don’t know what is. Unchecked democracy, like communism, requires an unrealistic dose of trust in humans.
We should limit universal suffrage. Not allowing people who economically depend on the state to vote would reduce clientelism. Voting age should be increased.
The book describes how the pre-modern West comprised organic states that developed gradually, not through revolutions.
The central state had little power, mostly taken by intermediary, local authorities like parish, guild, village commune, township, and clan.
This reflects the relative importance that Christianity attributes to the state and the individual. The former is transient, the latter eternal. Christianity, therefore, has an intrinsic tendency to protect the freedom and dignity of the individual, with its spiritual value, against the power of the state.
What the Church called “subsidiarity” dominated the political scene: it was localism, the devolution of power to the lowest sensible level.
The West, aka Christendom, centered around God. Its final purpose in every sphere, political, social, cultural, economic, was to make it as easy as possible for every individual to achieve salvation.
If democracy has become a religion (the American religion), and if Tocqueville — with his book Democracy in America explaining what the new religion was about and extolling its virtues — is its St. Paul, neocons are, according to Boot, its belligerent missionaries.
He thinks that worship of liberal democracy has today become an ill-advised messianic policy aggressively followed by many Western countries but especially the USA and, to a lesser degree, Britain. And neoconservatism is the political movement mostly responsible for the urge to export democracy to every corner of the world with whatever means.
He compares neocons to Trotskyists, wanting to make the whole world communist.
For him neoconservatism is a misnomer, as the movement has much more in common with socialism than real conservatism. “Cryptosocialism” would be better.
Both reject with hostility two millennia of Christian civilisation and want to create paradise on earth, using violence as utopians do.
In fact, as the Marxist striving for the perfect society has proved to be the most tragic and catastrophic failure in mankind’s history, so the neocon-inspired American policies in the Middle East have replaced unsavoury but secular regimes with fanatical Islamic ones, and unleashed the violent potential of that part of the world that the necessary tyrannies of the likes of Saddam, Mubarak and Gaddafi kept under control. And neocons are still at it, wanting to transform Syria into another Iraq.
Boot’s criticism of the country that, unlike Europe, is still strong on Christian faith may be a bit harsh.
But his message still offers a lot to reflect on. It’s obvious that we are light-years away from where we’d like to be, and that all the promises of rational Enlightenment have materialised only, at most, in the techno-scientific sphere. Even the economy, where we thought we would be strong and which, in a Godless and material world, attracted most efforts, has turned out to be a house of cards.
We really need to approach our problems from a completely different angle, as Boot would put it not physical but metaphysical.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, writer and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica.
She blogs at www.enzaferreri.blogspot.co.uk.