Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Incoherent Rule: The 1st Problem of Democracy Revisited

Well, Election Day has come and gone, and the American people have proven once again they cannot be trusted with democracy. The seditious Democrats have taken over Congress, and Californians have once more rejected mandatory parental notification for minors seeking abortions.

Back in February, I quoted Lord Eustace Percy of Newcastle on how democratic systems are unable to provide for the orderly succession of power. It is supposed that because no violence occurs during the transition between political administrations that the succession has been orderly somehow. However, democracy relies upon political usurpation as the basic mechanism to solve all political problems. “Throw the bums out!” And if the new establishment doesn’t solve our problems, throw them out too.

This perverse arrangement gives rise to an irresponsible politician class, unused and unequipped to rule for the long term. Politicians count on being able to use the political cycle to their advantage. When the opposition party is in power, it can be blamed for everything that goes wrong. When in power themselves, they focus on how bad things would be if the other party were in charge.

As Hans-Hermann Hoppe says,

…the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it nearly impossible that a good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government. Indeed, as a result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals…
While overstating things a bit, Hoppe is correct because politicians always have an interest in undermining the genuine successes of the opposition (like the overthrow of Saddam). Their motivation is to get their own people into power, because generally committed to the ideological principles of their party, they believe themselves to be the best guardians of the public trust. Government is oriented away from the exercise of judgment toward the acquisition and retention of power. Long-term policy goals are derailed for the sake of short-term political gain.

As things have turned out, the two political parties in America actually do very little to advance their principles in the concrete. In order to generate the votes needed to win, both sides appeal to basic motivations which are more felt than understood in the broader population. Republicans appeal to the primal loyalty and defensiveness Americans feel for their country, a kind of thoughtless, it's our team, pro-military attitude. Democrats appeal to other base instincts: envy and fear. Envy of the rich, male, or Caucasian oppressors of the “disenfranchised” is the primary Democratic impulse. They also appeal to fear: fear of what would happen if the religious right ever got its way.

Both Republicans and Democrats use fear tactics, but the primary motivations that drive their constituents are very different indeed. Love of country and envy, both elemental forces, are not of equal value. One is wholly bad, the other good. The desire for national prestige and security is a decent and wholesome desire. Envy can never be justified.

And so, America is governed by the interplay and alternation between the party of jingoism and the party of envy. The trajectory of society is directed (downward?) toward absolute equality and moral lawlessness by liberalism only to be tempered by a reacting patriotic conservatism. The result of this dialectic can only be incoherent policy, moral chaos and social disaster.

The problem with our system is not and never has been “politicians.” It is the system itself that is the problem. Democracy is bad, not because people's interests are represented--No taxation without representation!--but because there is no one actually responsible to guide long-term policy. Our much lauded system of checks and balances & separation of powers yada-yada renders rudderless leadership on every issue except the most visceral ( i.e., envy & patriotism). It's amazing how libertarians/conservatives actually praise our government for being inefficient. Don't they know that inefficient = costly & unprincipled?

The buck has to stop somewhere. St. Thomas explains the principle very well:

We must of necessity say that the world is governed by one. For since the end of the government of the world is that which is essentially good, which is the greatest good; the government of the world must be the best kind of government. Now the best government is the government by one. The reason of this is that government is nothing but the directing of the things governed to the end; which consists in some good. But unity belongs to the idea of goodness, as Boethius proves (De Consol. iii, 11) from this, that, as all things desire good, so do they desire unity; without which they would cease to exist. For a thing so far exists as it is one. Whence we observe that things resist division, as far as they can; and the dissolution of a thing arises from defect therein. Therefore the intention of a ruler over a multitude is unity, or peace. Now the proper cause of unity is one. For it is clear that several cannot be the cause
of unity or concord, except so far as they are united. Furthermore, what is one in itself is a more apt and a better cause of unity than several things united. Therefore a multitude is better governed by one than by several. From this it follows that the government of the world, being the best form of government, must be by one. This is expressed by the Philosopher (Metaph. xii, Did. xi, 10): “Things refuse to be ill governed; and multiplicity of authorities is a bad thing, therefore there should be one ruler.”
Summa Theologica, 103
According to the law of nature, there should be one ruler. Democracy is unnatural, corrupt, and aimless. And until the American people are governed by a righteous leader who is not afraid to tell them what is just according to God's law, they will never choose the right.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Random Thought

Do not the names "Father" and "Son" imply ontological priority to the first hypostasis, and ontological dependence of the second and third hypostases on the first?

A Covenantal Reading of Hebrews

The Book of Hebrews is an orderly work, broken into five doctrinal sections. Each section, or pericope, is followed by a word of exhortation, an imperative of active effort, in light of what had just been taught. The exhortations build upon each other, calling us to ascend into heaven by faith, as layers of significance are added to the author’s presentation. Hebrews contains one essential argument: we must walk in light of the Kingdom’s accomplished reality so that we will be found worthy to inherit its blessings.

The message of Hebrews is that what Jesus accomplished on earth and continues to do in heaven has metaphysical ramifications for the life of the world. That is, the underlying basis for God’s relationship to the world has been transformed. Nothing would ever be the same once Jesus came bringing a new covenant, a new commandment, and a new life. There can be no return to the pre-Incarnation phase of history.

Jesus offered a real sacrifice, which was his life of complete submission to the Father’s will. He has been endowed with an actual high priestly office, of a royal-sacerdotal order, exemplified in the priest-king Melchizedek. He ascended in a real resurrected body to a real place, the heavenly Mount Zion. He sits on a real throne in the midst of all the angels and saints. He actually rules and intercedes for the world authoritatively, providentially, and spiritually as Lord and Christ.

Hebrews begins with the assertion of Jesus’ divine origin, the high place from which he came (chapter 1). It goes on to describe the true meaning of his descent to the lower earthly regions (Cf. Eph. 4:8-10). The second pericope (2:5-3:6) is concerned with explaining the necessity for why Christ came in the flesh to live and die. By contrasting prophecies of Christ with the angels in the first section of the book (1:5-14), the author demonstrated that Jesus shared an equality with God that was fully realized (in a sense) at his resurrection-ascension (Cf. Phil. 2:6ff.).

The Son of God became man. The author of Hebrews is concerned with establishing Jesus’ solidarity with his people, the redeemed humanity. Here we find a compelling parallel in the great Kenotic passage, Philippians 2:6-11, where the Son emptied himself of his divine glory in order to become the humble servant of God at the Incarnation. His humble service involved representing humanity through divinely inflicted suffering and judgment. By passing through this trial, the man Jesus achieved a perfection that was graced by the endowment of royal glory. While Jesus was always fully God and fully man due to the hypostatic union, Scripture teaches that it was at his resurrection-ascension that his humanity was glorified, that is, completely and permanently suffused with divine glory.

The third doctrinal pericope (4:16-5:10) contrasts the superiority of Jesus’ accomplished deliverance to that of Joshua. Joshua’s accomplishment was only as good as its priestly foundation (the Tabernacle liturgy). The greater deliverance is rooted in Jesus’ high priestly work (4:14).

The fourth and largest section of the book (6:13-10:18), demonstrates that Jesus’ royal-priestly office and sacrifice are the essence of a new covenant. The establishment of this covenant was guaranteed beforehand by God, being based upon better promises that were confirmed by a divine oath (7:20-22; C.f., Ps. 110:4). The inherently efficacious ministry of Jesus Christ actually accomplishes and bestows the blessings of the new covenant that had been prophesied by Jeremiah long ago (10:14-18; C.f., Jer. 31:31-34).

The fifth and final pericope (chapter 11) describes the solidarity of faith that New Testament believers have with the Old Testament saints. However, while the OT saints did not formerly receive the Kingdom under the provisions of the old covenant, they have now been blessed together with us. Hebrews 12:18-24 makes clear that the city sought (but not attained) by the OT saints has been established. It exists. This is the fruit of the royal-priestly work of Jesus, the foundation of the newer and better covenant. The epistle concludes with direction on how to live in light of this already present (through faith) and coming reality.

Studying how Hebrews interprets the Old Testament gives rise to what I call a hermeneutic of covenantal realism, as opposed to one that spiritualizes away the content of prophetic expectation.

A covenant is a solemn commitment divinely sanctioned (by blessings and curses), testified to by witnesses, and enacted by swearing an oath. A covenant defines the responsibilities one undertakes when entering into a sacred bond.
The New Covenant that was established by the Lord Jesus is unlike all previous covenants, even those established by God in the Old Testament era. This new and better covenant cannot be broken and cannot fail of its purpose. It is revealed in Jesus, who brings together the two covenanting parties (God and man) in one person. It is as indestructible as the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures. The Son of God is the New Covenant. By virtue of our union with him through the Holy Spirit, we share in a divine life that vivifies and transforms us into a holy people for God’s own possession. The Epistle to the Hebrews calls us to live in light of this reality.