A Virtuous Population under Good Government

There’s nothing in the Declaration that requires us to choose another Republic, or another Democracy. We do have Aristotle’s options, and his warnings, before us. We talked about that recently; and it’s a problem still. You have three good modes:

Royalty (government by one virtuous man or woman)
Aristocracy (government by a few of the virtuous)
Constitutional Government (government by many of the virtuous)

Each of them is subject to corruption, though. And it is the particular corruption our author identifies: the seeking of self-advantage (he calls this servility, not doing the right thing unless there is an advantage). These three corruptions are:

Tyranny (a corrupt government by one)
Oligarchy (a corrupt government by a few)
Democracy (a corrupt government by many).

Now, Aristotle suggests Constitutionalism because he feels that the corruptions are less perverse as power becomes more diluted. That seems reasonable.

Our author here suggests, however, that democracy may have a particularly threatening character to the moral life. If that’s true, it upsets the Aristotelean model. Instead of Constitutional government being the most attractive (because its corruption is the least perverse), we have to have a special fear of Democracy. It doesn’t just pervert government, but it destroys the moral life that is at the root of all human happiness.

That seems like a new problem, and one that might alter our calculations substantially. The old models assume Aristotle was, essentially, right about the levels of perversion.


I would introduce additional layers of complexity to counter the fact that in a democracy of vote franchises, the people tend to slack off and due to moral hazard let others conduct proxy decisions for them.

In any complex or large society, there are always several layers or sub-sections. For the US, it is the military, the social elites, the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, and so forth. A united society based upon trust and social cooperation, tends to be self-reinforcing in that the people in their particular social circles work well with those from others. Or perhaps they even belong to multiple branches and circles.

The Left seeks power through division and conquest by divide and rule. Because America was partially based upon countering power and argument, the Left rode this popular sentiment as a wolf uses sheep’s wool as cover.

To promote and maintain virtue, whether amongst the followrs or leaders, one must necessarily create an additional organization or circle of membership for that purpose. It is not enough to attempt to use the status quo organizations and social connections. Even the Left had to create new organizations in order to divide the people who once were closer in thinking and philosophy, though they belonged to disparate tribes and social circles. To make the function of society smoother, additional organization and organizations are required.

It just goes to show that in a closed system where the status quo does not change, entropy takes hold and everything goes to the slums. To shake things up, certain organizations and connections must be broken and replaced by new ones. Instead of reducing complexity, increase it and thus disrupt the plans of the status quo retainers.

People naturally become subservient when the organization they are part of stops growing or changing. It doesn’t need any new leaders or visionaries. Thus there is no social reward nor personal reward for taking risks and experimenting. If you disrupt their daily lives, however, then there’s a chance that people will experiment and try new things. And in doing so, they will grow or fall by their own efforts. While war is the most extreme rendition of this sort, it is not the only process by which growth can be accelerated.

For virtue to be maintained or grown, the entire landscape from the bottom up first, must be dynamic and challenging. If too much top down umbrage exists, there will be no light, no growth, and no opportunity. If the “Leader” says that Plan A is the only option, the followers can only follow Plan A even if they fail a thousand times. If the followers are disconnected from their usual sources of authority, then they will start to think for themselves, because it will be required of them. This generates argument, chaos, and doubt. But only in this fashion can virtue be attained. Americans have “just followed orders” for awhile now, trusting in the promise that they will be “taken care of”.

And it has led to a reversal of the pendulum.

Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy

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