Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bertrand de Jouvenal on the Divorce Between Socialism in Theory and in Practice

"Once it is admitted that Power may forswear its true reason and end, and as it were, detach itself from society to form far above it a separate body for its oppression, then the whole theory of Power's identity with society breaks down before this simple fact.

"At this point nearly all who have written on the subject look the other way. A Power which is both illegitimate and unjust is off their intellectual beat. This feeling of repugnance, while it is understandable, has to be overcome. For the phenomenon is of too frequent occurrence to give any chance to a theory which does not take account of it.

"It is clear enough how the mistake arose: it was from basing a Science of Power on observations made, as it is history's business to make them, of Powers whose relations with society were of one kind only; what are in fact only its acquired characteristics were thus mistaken for Power's essence. And so the knowledge acquired, while adequate to explain one state of things, was quite useless in dealing with the times of the great divorces between Power and society.

"It is not true that Power vanishes when it forswears its rightful begetter and acts in breach of the office which has been assigned to it. It continues as before to command and to be obeyed: without that, there is no Power--with it, no other attribute is needed."

----Bertrand de Jouvenal, On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth, p. 108

In the 1950s Stanley Milgram showed that conformity to authority comes naturally to a large segment, and likely a majority, of the population. All that is required to confer legitimacy on a Sovereign is an appropriate title or costume. Under laboratory conditions between 30 and 60 percent of the population will be willing to kill another person upon a scientist's command.

De Jouvenal points out that two restraints on European kings limited their exercise of power to a greater degree than modern democracy is limited. These were custom and the Church. Legal doctrines received from the Barbarian Codes and from the Romans left European kings with strictly delineated authority. Moreover, the power of the nobility, the dux, countered the power of the rex. Viewed historically, power seemed limited to historians of the 19th century because the kings never knew unlimited power until the Protestant Reformation, which overthrew custom and created the conditions for the argument of the divine right of kings. At the same time, the argument of popular sovereignty derived unlimited power from the popular will. Thus, the two doctrines of the divine right of kings and popular sovereignty evolved at the same time and considerably extended the possibility of power.

Historians could not anticipate the tragic consequences that would emanate from the unrestrained popular will of Rousseau, Hobbes, Hegel and Marx. Even the arch-capitalist Herbert Spencer was taken by surprise. He had argued that the organic evolution of the state in light of popular sovereignty would be in the direction of reductions in state power rather than more.

America was spared the Rousseauean tragedy because Locke did not claim that the people bestow all liberties on the general will, or that there is a general will at all. Unlike Rousseau and Hobbes, Locke saw only a limited granting of rights to the state. This limitation on state power creates a considerable distance between American and European democracy. Jefferson did not see this difference between the French and American Revolutions. That is one point on which Hamilton and Washington, the Federalists, were right and the Democratic Republicans were wrong. In America, Thomas Paine was exalted. In France, he was imprisoned.

Progressivism is a reassertion of Rousseauean values. The extent of the damage that Progressivism has done has yet to be seen.

1 comment:

Ă…tlasHugged said...

Jefferson was well aware of most men's proclivity to the abuse of power. The purpose of the Founding Fathers' Republic, as opposed to a Democracy, was to subjugate power to the rule of objective laws as a means to stave off unscrupulous people in their attempt to arrogate power to themselves. Power is not a bad thing and is necessary to uphold the rule of law and to protect citizens from those who violate those laws. It is the corruption of men that exploit and abuse the power entrusted to them that is evil.

Mankind soon learn to make interested uses of every right and power which they possess, or may assume. The public money and public liberty, intended to have been deposited with three branches of magistracy, but found inadvertently to be in the hands of one only, will soon be discovered to be sources of wealth and dominion to those who hold them; distinguished too by this tempting circumstance, that they are the instrument, as well as the object of acquisition. With money we will get men, said Caesar, and with men we will get money. Nor should our assembly be deluded by the integrity of their own purposes, and conclude that these unlimited powers will never be abused, because themselves are not disposed to abuse them. They should look forward to a time, and that not a distant one, when corruption in this, as in the country from which we derive our origin, will have seized the heads of government, and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people, and make them pay the price. Human nature is the same on every side of the Atlantic, and will be alike influenced by the same causes. The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold on us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.

Thomas Jefferson. Notes on the State of Virginia; XIII, 246.

Although the extent of damage from the current saturation of progressivism, which is actually regressive, is yet to be seen, we know what it will be; the wolves are in the fold. The masses of people have been inducted into a trance via lies, deceipt, and coercion that removes their ability to question their exalted authorities; instead they believe, submit, obey, vote for, and die by them.