Smoky Mountains Sunrise
Showing posts with label Democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Democracy. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The UK: Last Call for Democracy

From The Brussels Journal

Sometimes I marvel at the assumption of the British public, that no matter how bad things get, the country will somehow never turn into a tin pot dictatorship. Perhaps this belief is part of the residue of the British Empire. It seems impossible that a country that once ruled half the world, could itself hit bottom. But if history repeats itself, it also tells us to expect the unexpected. Cuba was synonymous with the casino until the Revolution, and Germany with the cabaret as Nazism was marching to power. Today, Britain leads the world in multiculturalism and political correctness, yet has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world. And a government that shouts about human rights is determinedly undermining the most basic of freedoms.

In the last few years alone, anti-terror laws have been routinely invoked by local councils, to enable them to spy on residents, for such trivial reasons as checking if rubbish bags (US: trash bags) have been put out on the wrong day. Compulsory ID cards linked to a central database, and containing fifty categories of personal information, including biometrics, will be introduced in 2010. As unveiled in the Queen’s speech, police will also soon be able to criminalize anyone who has ever been abroad, but does not produce identification on request.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Monday, December 1, 2008

Conservatives Have Important Political Value

From Aberdeen News
By Jon D. Schaff

The election drubbing recently taken by Republicans has given rise to much soul searching on the part of conservatives. What is the future of conservatism?

The conservative serves an important role in any regime. This is perhaps best illustrated by the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the slave who would ride behind a victorious Roman general during the triumphant return to Rome whispering in his ear “All glory is fleeting.”

The conservative's task is similar. It is for him to whisper in our ears “there are limits.” Human reason is not sufficient to solve all problems. Sin cannot be eradicated from the human soul. Society is sufficiently complex that it makes central planning difficult, if not impossible.

In the 19th century, Alexis De Tocqueville noted democracy's dangerous tendency to trust in the “indefinite perfectibility of man.”

But the conservative teaches that perfection is impossible. I recently asked a group of students what “utopia” means. They responded “a perfect society.” True enough, as this is how we often use the word. But “utopia” literally is from the Greek for “nowhere.” In other words, the perfect society is impossible.

Our love of even good things, conservatives teach us, must be a moderate love. To turn any particular thing into the sin qua non of justice is actually to do injustice.

The conservative reminds us that progress always comes with a cost. Perhaps one error of contemporary conservatives is to believe that the market is the sole of justice, perhaps promoting an immoderate love of the “progress” of economic change.

Conservatism suggests there is something worth conserving. As Abraham Lincoln famously put it, if conservative means favoring “the old and tried against the new and untried,” then he was a conservative. Lincoln gets at a central conservative truth: there is wisdom stored up across the ages that one discards at great peril.

Human order is a fragile thing. C.S. Lewis reminds that even war is not outside the norm of the human condition; war only “aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it,” and “human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.”

It took roughly 4,000 years to build a civilization that was not brutal and vulgar. We are to be reminded that the now seemingly barbaric “eye for an eye” was actually a major advance in human decency. If you kill one of mine I will only kill one, as opposed to all, of yours. Yet civilization is fragile, on a precipice as Lewis puts it. Conservatives do their job best when they remind us of the value of the past and to innovate only with great trepidation.

This is why conservatives question the redefining of marriage, the diminution of the sacredness of human life in the name of “choice” and the rejection, indeed outright mockery, of traditional religion. If Western civilization was built on the solid foundation of the Christian church and the morality it promoted (if not always practiced), then only a certain kind of ideological arrogance suggests that we can casually dispense with that foundation and retain the fruits of that civilization.

Conservatives will prove the faithful opposition if they successfully remind that majority that even audacious hope needs its limits.

Jon D. Schaff is associate professor of political science at Northern State University in Aberdeen, North Dakota. The views presented here are the author's own and do not represent those of Northern State University.