I have been rather quiet about my views on presidential candidates. I’ve probably discussed my positions on the presidential election with maybe a couple dozen people (including close friends and family) and I’ve only made a few posts/comments in the social media world for most of the campaign season.
Quite frankly, I’m tired of politics. But instead of giving you my reasons why in my words, I kept thinking today of a number of passages from old books written by men who were much wiser than I am. They encapsulate, in various ways, my growing frustration with the elevation of the political process as a means of change. I am saddened that so many people have placed their trust in princes, mortal men, who will not save. I wish more people would see political endeavors as generally coercive and viscious attacks against human dignity, social cooperation, and individual rights. I wish more Christians would be as excited about spreading the gospel as they are about campaigning for the candidates of their choice.
But honestly, enough of my thoughts.
Instead of bemoaning the fact that the United States is headed in a sorry direction regardless of tonight’s outcome, I decided to compile some thoughts from both Scripture and some of history’s greatest thinkers and post them here. Their ideas have generally been forgotten, overlooked, or ignored, but the world would be a much better place if people took the time to think about them more. Plus, the wisdom in the following words is spoken much more effectively and coherently than I could write in the brief time I have before the poll results start to come back.
The last source that I quote is Alexis de Tocqueville. The reason why I quote him last is because I conclude with a lengthy section from his work, “Democracy in America,” in which Tocqueville describes our contemporary political system in exact and startling terms. I’ve never been able to look at modern politics the same way again after reading through Tocqueville’s prophecy of a soft and mild democratic form of despotism…one that we live through in this day and age.
Psalm 146:3 – “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”
Psalm 2:1-4 – “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
John 18:36 – “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.'”
1 Samuel 8:10-18 – “So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
1 Corinthians 13:12 – “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
City of God, Book I, Chap. 1 – “we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.”
City of God, Book III, Chap. 14 – “This lust of sovereignty disturbs and consumes the human race with frightful ills. By this lust Rome was overcome when she triumphed over Alba, and praising her own crime, called it glory. For, as our Scriptures say, ‘the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.’ Away, then, with these deceitful masks, these deluding whitewashes, that things may be truthfully seen and scrutinized. Let no man tell me that this and the other was a ‘great’ man, because he fought and conquered so and so.”
City of God, Book XIX, Chap. 15 – “[God] did not intend that His rational creature, who was made in His image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation–not man over man, but man over the beasts.”
City of God, Book IV, Chap. 4 – “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.”
City of God, Book IV, Chap. 4 – “Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, ‘What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.'”
The Law, “What is Law?” – “Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”
The Law, “A Fatal Tendency of Mankind” – “But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man — in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.”
The Law, “Perverted Law Causes Conflict” – “As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose — that it may violate property instead of protecting it — then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious.”
The Law, “How to Identify Legal Plunder” – “But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.”
Economic Sophisms, “Physiology of Spoilation” – “Woe, then, to those nations who are unable to set bounds to the action of the government! Liberty, private enterprise, wealth, thrift, independence, all will be wanting in such circumstances.”
Economic Sophisms, “Conclusion to the First Series,” – “To rob the public, we must first decieve it. The trick consists in persuading the public that the theft is for its advantage; and by this means inducing it to accept, in exchange for its property, services which are fictitious, and often worse.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America, Introduction – “Nearby I see others who, in the name of progress, striving to make men into matter, want to find the useful without occupying themselves with the just, to find science far from beliefs, and well-being separated from virtue: these persons are said to be the champions of modern civilization, and they insolently put themselves at its head, usurping a place that has been abandoned to them, but from which they are held off by their unworthiness.”
Democracy in America, Volume I, Part I, Chapter 3 – “one also encounters a depraved taste for equality in the human heart that brings the weak to want to draw the strong to their level and that reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.”
Democracy in America, Volume I, Part 2, Chapter 7 – “There are people who have not feared to say that a people, in the objects that interested only itself, could not go entirely outside the limits of justice and reason, and thus one must not fear giving all power to the majority that represents it. But that is the language of a slave.”
Democracy in America, Volume II, Part 2, Chapter 6
I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.
Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.
By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.