Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why I Am A Democrat

C.S. Lewis:
I am a democrat [i.e. a proponent of democracy, not a member of the political party in the US] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. 
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. 
The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. ...  
The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
"Equality," in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley (London: HarperCollins, 2000), p. 666.

And again: 
I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows. ... That I believe to be the true ground of democracy.

-C.S. Lewis, “Membership” in The Weight of Glory, (New York: Touchstone, 1996), p. 126.

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