Democracy and Community

A society in which the great mass of the population has no shared idea of what human life is supposed to be is not a community. If that social division includes fundamental disagreements about the proper relationship between citizen and government, then the society is in faction. If, in turn, this political divide consists of one or more large parties seeking to use the levers of government to enforce their claims upon the property and lives of others, without those others’ voluntary consent, then that society is in a state of de facto civil war. (And it is not a “non-shooting war”; the guns merely remain silent, as in all wars, as long as the losing side surrenders without resistance.)

For a true political community to live under a democratic regime without devolving into faction, it is mandatory — it is literally a matter of universally accepted mandates, which men call constitutions — that all parties within the democratic apparatus must submit to a common understanding of the basic role and coercive limits of government, which means of the proper relationship between citizen and state, such that political debate is restricted entirely, or primarily, to questions of which party or individual is best able to effect or conserve the generally agreed-upon ends of community life, for the mutual (and mutually understood) benefit of all citizens. If, however, democratic parties become representatives of various de facto warring factions — each side trying to oppress the others, or perhaps some seeking to oppress and others to escape oppression — then democratic politics becomes nothing but a euphemism for quiet (but no less violent and destructive) civil war. For democracy, like every other form of regime, works properly only as a means of stasis, and never as a method of essential change, let alone “fundamental transformation.”

A quiet civil war is one in which the democratic political fa├žade of “civil discourse” and “free debate” functions as an unfair advantage for those factions devoted to the conquest, looting, and enslavement of others. Hence, in a society that lacks a general community of principles and purposes, and adheres to no universally acknowledged mandates on the limits of state authority, democratic politics becomes nothing but a subtle mechanism of moral submission to strengthen the hand and smooth the road of those who would oppress their neighbors. This is democracy in its “progressive” mode — a permanent rotating lynch mob by proxy, gang rape by consensus.

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