Politics happens here. The hideous brown thing is Art.
Remember, we’re doing summaries of summaries here; only bare sketches are possible. Buy his book
for more detail.
Read Part VIII.
Question IX is Political Philosophy. Stand back!
Article 1: Whether the state is natural to man?
Yes. “Whenever two or more are gathered, somebody is gonna start making rules.” That’s my quote, not Kreeft’s.
The real question is how the state comes about. Hobbes, Rousseau, etc. think a “social contract” is involved. If so, maybe you’re like me and don’t have a memory of signing one. Anyway, it is indisputable that people begin organizing whenever they can, some taking positions of power, others following orders. And this must be so (the only disagreement would come from those who believe human beings don’t have a nature). All that is in dispute are the forms these organizations take, which is bad, which good.
Article 2: Whether a good state is “one that makes it easy to be good”?
Yes, and the opposite is true, too. From Mere Christianity:
The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden—that is what the State is for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.
Readers will be able to judge which direction our State is going.
Yes, we all have duties to the State, but “it is not true that the state is its own end. Only individual human beings are intrinsic ends and must never be used merely as means, while there is no moral evil in treating the state in this way.”
Article 3: Whether the state should have a substantive philosophy of the good life?
Yes. Ours seems to be “Re-elect me and all will be well.” Kreeft says modern states of the West don’t profess a substantive philosophy of life. I say we do, which is something like this: “Mine! Me! Not Fair! Gimme! It’s Not My Fault! He Hurt My Feelings!”
Plainly, “if the state has no substantive philosophy of the good life, then the state cannot know what a good state is. For this depends on what a good human life is, which in turn depends on what man is, which in turn depends on what is, and how we know it.” That’s all of philosophy, brothers and sisters. And that is the one area which is deemphasized among all others in our culture.
Article 4: Whether democracy is the best form of government?
No. Plus, pure democracies are impossible—not just unlikely, but impossible (infants, children, the senile and incapacitated cannot vote; there are too many decisions for all people to make, etc. etc. etc.). It is silly to wish for something that cannot be, and the first person to quote Churchill loses twelve points.
What’s best? “Aristotle and Aquinas both teach that the best regime is a blend of aristocracy, monarchy, and democracy. This reflects the same kind of mature, inclusivist wisdom as their judgment that the best life is a blend of contemplation and action, the common good and the private good, and goods of body and goods of soul.” Kreeft also loses points for “inclusivist.”
On the other hand, the sorts of representative bureaucratic democracies (which are not democracies) we in the West have developed for people in the West function reasonably well in our time. This does not imply, and it is not true as experience proves, that this form of government is best for all peoples at all times. Thus it is silly to wander into a strange land to teach people to count votes and then vanish, content that all will be fine.
Another myth is that regimes derive their legitimacy from the “consent of the governed.” This is another impossibility. Most gain legitimacy by custom, apathy, inertia, force. If you think not, tell me: has our federal government done everything to your satisfaction?
A final myth is the government which gives people the most of what they desire is best. This only works in a land of saints. Simple proof: examine your desires closely and honestly and imagine what would happen if these whims were mandatory for all (and the same for the desires of others).
Article 5: Whether freedom is an intrinsic good?
Sorry, no. If you think so, boot your infant child outdoors and say, “You’re free!” Or go out yourself and do whatever your little heart desires. Anything you want, now. No. Complete freedom is neither possible nor desirable.
Absolute power corrupts, intrinsic goods cannot, and since freedom would certainly corrupt, it cannot be an intrinsic good. “The freedom that is intrinsic to human nature and unalienable is free will, not political freedom.” There must be constraints. Our job is in discovering what they are.
Article 6: Whether there is a double standard for good for states and individuals?
Sure. Example: “it is right for the state, and for a soldier who is acting in the name of the state, to attempt to kill an enemy soldier in a just war; but it is wrong for an individual, in the name of private vengeance, to attempt to kill another on his own authority, even if the other is deserving of death.”
And my favorite—pay attention politicians!: “ready wit is a minor virtue for individuals, but not for states.”
Article 7: Whether wars are ever just?
Certainly. If Hordes intent on rape, murder, pillage are massing on the border, it is surely right to take up arms to discourage them. Defending one’s homeland is just, but “Even the Qur’an says that ‘Allah hates the aggressor.’” That’s true even when we are the agressor.
A sometime objection goes like this: “It is impossible to imagine Christ shooting a machine gun at an enemy soldier.” Yes, but it is “also impossible to image Christ pregnant, or gambling, or cheering for the Red Sox, but these are not evils.”
Article 8: Whether human laws should be superior to human wills?
Yes: this is a variation on freedom. The rule of law is so obviously important that even tyrants pretend to it, running mock trials before they murder their enemies and holding pretend elections to claim “mandates” (on the other hand, didn’t we read the New York Times reporting as serious news that Castro won re-election once again with 95%+ of the vote some years back?).
Here’s a strategy that has everything to recommend it:
“The laws of the Medes and the Persians” were irrevocable, even by the King. Therefore they were decided only after two days of deliberations. On one day, everyone was sober, and on the other day, everyone was drunk. If both days did not produce the same result, the law was not enacted.
My statistical recommendation is to require Congress to pass all laws at a minimum of two-thirds consent. A bare majority makes it far too easy to create laws.
Article 9: Whether the principle of subsidiarity is true?
Yep. Subsidiarity? “[W]hat can better be done by smaller and more local levels of government should not be done by larger ones.”
Augustine “describes government as a ‘necessary evil’ due to sin. But necessary evils should be decreased as much as is feasible, not increased. Therefore government should be decreased and localized as much as is feasible.”
I’ll take this as read for today, particularly as I see most or all of you agreeing: we’ll look at subsidiarity more in depth another day.
Article 10: Whether there should be a world organization of states?
He says yes because of a corollary of subsidiarity: not everything can be done at a local level.
We live in a “global village” with a global economy and a global military fragility where war in any one place always threatens to spread to others and spark another world war. Under these conditions, an international organization is morally necessary.
Problem is, Kreeft never really defines what a “world organization of states” is nor describes its limits. Plus groups of people, in states, kingdoms, and even roving bands, have always had diplomatic relations (so to speak) with their known neighbors. It’s just that now because of cheap travel our neighbors are everybody. Relations between countries is an inevitability. The problem is that nobody has figured out what these relations should be, except to agree that the UN isn’t the ideal forum.