Monday, March 14, 2005


I suspect that a type of populist rhetoric against "the rich" from the Left masks an envy of what John Adams called the natural aristocracy. There are sound reasons that the Founders designed a system in order to attempt to harness the best of each style of government by putting each in opposition to each other. So that each may refine and define the other forms the system has an element of monarchy (Presidency), an element of representative democracy (House of Representatives) and an element of aristocracy (Senate).

As John Adams argued you cannot deny a natural aristocracy because men are not equals in talent. E.g.,
"Although, among men, all are subject by nature to equal laws of morality, and in society have a right to equal laws for their government, yet no two men are perfectly equal in person, property, understanding, activity, and virtue, or ever can be made so by any power less than that which created them. . . ."

Adams was largely responsible for the notion of checks and balances becoming nothing more than a taken for granted truism of American politics today. This combined with a dread of any form of unmixed government was based on a vast amount of study and knowledge leading to the conclusion that each branch of power has ". . . an unalterable foundation in nature; that they exist in every society natural and artificial; and that if all of them are not acknowledged in any constitution ofgovernment, it would be found to be imperfect, unstable and soon enslaved....."

Cicero noted of the purely democratic mobocracy,
"Plato says that from the exaggerated license which people call liberty, tyrants spring up as from a root. . .and that at last such liberty reduces a nation to slavery. Everything in excess is changed into its opposite. . .
For out of such an ungoverned populace one is usually chosen as a leader. . .someone bold and unscrupulous. . .who curries favor with the people by giving them other men's property. To such a man. . . .the protection of public office is given, and continually renewed. He. . .emerges as a tyrantover the very people who raised him to power."
--Cicero (De republica, i, 2.)

Tocqueville notes,
"While you preserve your aristocracy, you will preserve your freedom. If that goes, you are in danger of falling into the worst of tyrannies--that of a despot appointed and controlled, if controlled at all, by the mob."

It is the democratic populism when taken as some sort of moral good per se that is a radical notion. It was typical to the old radical leftists of Jacobin tradition ever since theFrench Revolution. That was the sort of revolution that the American Founders disdained. They knew that the uncivil barbarity inherent in the uncivilized philosophy behind socialism is soon made manifest.