Tuesday, September 12, 2017

democracy, morality, war and totalitarianism

One of the problems with democracy is that it tends to make everything everybody’s business. And if everything is everybody’s business then everything is the state’s business. As a result there is a slow but inexorable drift towards soft totalitarianism.

Democracy inevitably extends the range of things with which government is concerned. Everything becomes a political issue (today even marriage and the weather are political issues) and if something is a political issue then the government is supposed to do something about it.

Democracies also make everything into moral issues. The government is not only supposed to do something about everything, they’re supposed to do something which will make us all feel more virtuous.

Before democracy it was considered desirable that governments should govern wisely but nobody really expected the government to be a force for morality. Morality was the province of churches, and of the family. Morality was mostly enforced by social pressure. If you ran off with another man’s wife you could expect a great deal of social disapproval but you didn’t expect the government to have you arrested. Governments did enforce some moral rules but it was not really regarded as a core function of government.

Today’s morality is political correctness and there is a terrifying acceptance of the idea that governments have not merely a right but a duty to enforce that morality. But it’s not just political correctness - increasingly we accept the idea that the government should regulate every area of our lives, even down to what we eat.

Bizarrely, today even foreign policy is supposed to be moral. If you had suggested back in the 18th century that foreign policy should be conducted on moral lines people would have thought you were a lunatic. Even war is now supposed to be moral. Wars have to be moral crusades. Of course if a war is a moral crusade then any methods are acceptable (since the enemy is regarded as being evil), which is why democracies tend to be quite brutal when waging war.

This comes about because foreign policy and war are now everybody’s business. That’s the democratic way. Therefore the objective must be to make us feel virtuous. In fact of course there is no way that foreign policy can be both effective and moral. And in the course of human history very very few wars have ever been waged for moral purposes. Unfortunately when you turn wars into moral crusades you end up with more wars, and more vicious wars.

One of the reasons I tend to prefer monarch (real monarchy not silly pretend constitutional monarchy nonsense) is that kings have never been overly worried about imposing morality. As long as his subjects pay their taxes and obey the law he’s not usually interested in prying into their lives.

I’m no libertarian but there is something to be said for governments that concentrate on sensible policy rather than moral policy.


  1. The problem with monarchy is that it's bound to end up like XIX century Russia or Austria-Hungary. A monarch is either too rough or too soft, so his country gets destroyed from the inside or outside, respectively. One simply can't get a hold of this thing in the long run.

  2. Henry 8th put a spanner in that 'no moral issues' idea, sir. Although I do agree that a Monarch with proper powers would do a far better job than several hundred infected-brain MPs.

    But back to morals. The issues we are having thrust upon us possibly through the immaturity of Uni students being let loose into the grown-up world whilst still having the cradle marks on their bums and Marx in their ears, are mot 'morals' at all They are faux-morals. The virtues have disappeared from sight having been buried under 'values'. And we have so many varieties of those too. The old 'Christian Values' which took over from Christian Virtues, have gone, replaced by Australian Values. These in turn are challenged by 'Labour Values'. The Christian Virtues were all written on a page and discussed, analysed and applied for near on 1500 years once identified, but the modern 'values' are to be found written down nowhere at all. No-one has a clue as to what they are.

    So yes. A Monarch. I am getting on in years and could happily do the job for several more, until some other reasonably wise and firm successor can be found, to whom I would equally happily abdicate.