This post is by Jamie Hunter, who is an American living in Great Britain. He used to teach history and government, as well as his “ism” course, on all the “isms” of the world. He is currently free-lance writing, and a political observer. Jamie is single, although he gives tender-loving care to many cats in his neighbourhood when he is at home.
Now, let’s face it. Most of us Americans do not know a Facist government from a Communist one, or a socialism government from an oligarchy.
History and Government, even Civics as a course, have not been mandatory in high schools since the early 1970s. So, what can we expect but ignorance?
Before I speak of a definition of kakistocracy, the reason for this essay, and a word which John O. Brennan used in a tweet about 12 days ago, as I write this in my kitchen, after putting some fish out for the cats, I want to review some of the definitions of governments out there in our planet. However, if I am going to tackle global issues, I must separate this posting into two parts. The first part will explain the difference of perspective in the global political world, which is what the popes have addressed, from that of regional politics
Sometimes Catholics in the United States do not understand that the popes write to a global audience, not merely an European or United States one. I do not use the term “American,” as that includes South America as well. The Americas are more than the 50 states.
I shall divide this article into a discussion of global, then regional political views.
Let me tackle the global first. The regional are important, more important than most readers would see at first glance. The global view is complicated.
When the Church addresses the problems of “left” and “right”, the popes have not spoken merely to countries with a two-party system, such as the United States and Great Britain, (for all intents and purposes, Great Britain only really has two parties, as the others have been weakened in recent years). Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” do not mean the same thing in Europe or even in South America, as they do in the States and Great Britain. Liberal in most countries means “centrist,” not far left. This is important if you are reading articles about global politics. The problem of nomenclature cannot be set aside. When the popes address the world, they see beyond United States and European politics. When European political commentators write, they write for the world, not just for the United States or Great Britain.
Globally, Catholic nations, for very good reasons, have not been conservative, but more liberal, more centrist. The reason for this is that modern conservatism has been anti-Catholic in the world, and still is in most nations, reflecting the Protestant influence. For example, South America has veered to the left more and more because of the Catholic influence, as tyrants have come from the right, from Fascism. The same is true in many Asian countries, where the conservative branches of political life persecute Catholics. “Old Toryism” in Great Britain, which created the Conservative Party and then the modern Tory Party, began as the party against the Exclusion Act, which supported the hereditary monarchy, the Catholic King, James II. In fact, the Tories became anti-Catholic, just as the Whigs, who started out anti-Catholic, became the party which passed the Catholic Emancipation Act. The Whigs, the precursors of the Liberal Democratic Party in Great Britain became more sensitive to the times, whereas the Tories or Conservatives, became more rabid again the Irish, big time. Hence, the problem with critical thinking needed to parse out names and labels. In the last section, when I look at regional politics, you may see more clearly the confusion of some voters today chasing candidates our of really old loyalties which no longer make sense or are applicable to contemporary issues.
You can begin to see the problem of using terms and of understanding how and why the popes address the global Church. The popes have addressed, for example, the heresy of Americanism, which sets apart the Church in America from the rest of the world, bishops thinking that the Vatican has no say in local, that is, national issues. Catholics in the world have not supported either Communist or Fascist parties, although Franco, not a good Catholic, and Mussolini, also not a good Catholic, protected the Church in Spain and Italy against the Communists. That the popes had no illusions about the dangers of Fascism, the largest being Hitler’s party, they accepted protection. Defining terms for citizens of the States, who think in extreme terms, because they have a two-party system which does not allow for debate or critical thinking outside the Democrat and Republican tent, limits one’s view point of global politics. Sadly, many Catholic commentators in the United States write awful articles imposing their views on Europe, Africa, and Asia, without understanding the huge differences.
Most nations have many, many political parties, which hold varied views, including Catholic ones. There is no Catholic party in the States bar one small one, one very small, one which some of us voted for in the last election, as we saw that neither party represented us anymore. The global perspective must take into account that Protestant countries have been more conservative in recent times, and not because of the abortion issue. This has to do with the Protestant view of the Work Ethic and the sad selective ideas of predestination. Yes, Calvinism has affected how parties in Protestant nations work. Anti-Catholicism also informs conservative parties.
You might be surprised to know that most of Europe votes “Catholic,” that is, for parties, of which there are many more than two, which hold ideals closer to those of the Catholic Church than those in America. The same is true in South America. Catholics in other nations have a more Catholic view of issues than most Catholics in the United States.
Despite what many citizens of the States think, such parties as the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in Germany, and the Liberal Party in Great Britain, echo more closely Catholic ideas than other parties. Again, do not think in terms of liberal and democrat as your would in the States. Too many citizens of the United States judge by name only, instead of looking at issues and the history of the parties.
More people in Europe vote than in the States, and more people study the issues. The great exception to this is Great Britain, where people vote for historical reasons, as they do in the United States. For example, the Whigs in the 18th Century originally were an anti-Catholic party, but made a 180 degree turn and became the party supporting Catholic Emancipation as against the Tories. Whereas in the distant past, during recusant times, the Tories were Anglican, yet against the Puritans, but became increasingly anti-Catholic when Parliament debated and accepted Catholic Emancipation. I repeat this, as many Catholics in Great Britain vote conservative without understanding the anti-Catholic pro-Anglican stand of that party, today, influenced by the national church, which has been the case for over 150 years.
To equate the Tory party with the Republicans is like comparing apples and oranges, to use an old phrase. To see France as socialist is also near-sided. There are socialist parties and even a communist party in France. The present government is centrist, leading towards the right. Germany also is experiencing a centrist revival. Social Democrats in Germany are centrist, but leaning left. The Christian Democrats are central-right.
Too many Catholics in the States think that the present Tory party is pro-Catholic. It is blatantly not. There is no party which supports the Catholics issues of anti-abortion or total freedom of curriculum, for example. The Liberal Democrats, again, do not think in terms of libs and dems in the States, want to get rid of the governing body over education in order to allow for more freedom of religion in schools. Again, that is a centrist party. The Tories are against this. I shall return to this later. And, when the popes addressed social issues in the past, such as Leo XIII, St. John Paul II and others, they were not looking at Great Britain and the States in isolation, but the entire world. They were judging rightly the trends in countries which were suffering under colonialism, another ism. Even today, when the popes address freedom for Catholics to be educated in the Faith, they are not merely thinking of the States, but of Africa and Asia, where the problems of slavery, unfair elections, and war loom large. The United States is one of the few countries which is not yet killing Catholics. Remember that the statements of the popes refer to the huge number of Catholics who are suffering in the world today. In fact, we are witnessing a new age of the martyrs. Such persecution is nascent, but becoming obvious in the ideologies of the old Protestant nations, more than in the old Catholic ones.
Hence, the confusion in the States over the Church’s stand on immigration, for example. Or the confusion about just wages and controlled capitalism, which the Church has supported for over 100 years. Issues in South America, or Africa are also addressed by the popes since the New World opened up. These issues included slavery, imperialism, colonialism, communism, rampant uncontrolled capitalism, persecution, and so on.
Conservatives who yearn for monarchies do not know the teaching of the Catholic Church, a stance which has prevailed that good democracies are the lesser of all the evils of the types of governance. Read the great encyclicals! The working man and the family have not been the focus of the conservatives in most of the world, which the popes understand. This is hard for citizens of the United States to understand.
Tp repeat, Protestant politics reign in the United States and Great Britain, but not in most of the Catholic world. Global issues such as fair wages, immigration for those who are suffering the results of war and famine, slavery, and sex trafficking have been addressed by modern popes, who see the big picture, and who know that those who are hungry, thirsty, persecuted, tortured, impoverished, and so on, are the focus of Catholic social teaching. St. John Paul II’s call to give preferential treatment to the poor is ignored in most Protestant based nations, because of the still entrenched idea of predestination. The poor are to be blamed for their own situation because of sin. This idea is alive and well in those nations which have been historically Protestant.
Too many Catholics think like Protestants when it comes to politics, and this is owing to a lack of this global perspective, as well as ignorance of Church teaching. What happens in the States and Great Britain politically cannot be compared to what happens in Continental nations, and in Africa and South America, where tensions endangering the daily lives of Catholics grow worse daily. Take Syria, or Libya, for example, or more specifically Iraq. Catholics are now persecuted more than they were under the tyrants who have been overthrown. Citizens of America cannot see this, as they only see their own foreign policies. The same is true in India, or Pakistan, where Catholics are persecuted by conservative parties—that is, the Hindu extremists. The popes address the entire world, not just the English speaking one. The point is this, a conservative is one who wants the status quo, who sees the ancient religions as needing to be preserved, as well as the old ways of culture. If those ways are primarily Hindu, or Muslim, and yes, Saudi Arabia has a conservative monarchy, then Catholics will be persecuted. It is not just the left which hates the Church, and the popes have addressed all these types of tyrannies. Far right, far left, monarchies, have all killed and are killing Christians. The popes have seen this.
Conservatism in the Staes means Protestantism, as the United States has never been a Catholic country. I hope you are beginning to see the problem with labels.
When the Church addresses evil in nations across the world, the Church addresses the evils, not the political parties. The Church addresses “isms,” not political parties. Ism is another word for heresy.
Addressing heresies is the duty of the pope and the bishops of the world. To think that conservatism or leftist philosophies of political life reflect Church teaching is naive and worse, dangerous.
The global view is not that of either Great Britain, who is now separating itself from the more Catholic view of political parties in Europe, nor of the United States. Remember, these are Protestant countries. Protestant countries thrive on the teachings of Luther and Calvin, not Christ, not the Catholic Church.
I shall return to this dichotomy of issues vs. parties when I look at regional differences at the end of this essay.
Now, let me share what I have shared in the past when I taught my “isms” courses. Let me look at some of the isms, not all, as all heresies are isms.
Let me do this in alphabetical order I hope I can skip the idea of breaking down democracies into federal systems and parliamentary systems, constitutional and common law democracies and so on. This is not one of my lectures on all the types of government, but the main “isms,” as I call them, which cause confusion for American people. I shall also not discuss monarchies, limited monarchies, or dictatorships (China being the biggest and most obvious dictatorship), except the last with regard to the isms I chose below. If you do not understand the difference between constitutional governments , which are found even in single party states, you need to look that definition up yourself. As to skipping monarchies, I do because most are merely symbolic monarchies, such as in Great Britain, although there are a few governing ones, which do not impose themselves on us in the States or in Europe, or not yet, except financially. Brunei Darussalam is an absolute monarchist state. The largest true monarchy is Saudi Arabia. Modern monarchies are repression regimes.
Bear with me, people, as I am trying to simplify a complex set of definitions in order to get to the last one I want to discuss “kakistocracy. “ Also, I want to put Into perspective some of the “isms” which you and I read about daily in the newspapers, or hear about, or see on the Net.
First of all, there are anarchies. Yes, there are truly places where the definition is “a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.” Another word for this type of non-government governance is misrule, or chaos. Anarchists now “organise.” They move from country to country, from nation to nation, from state to state in the U. S., purposefully causing havoc in order to bring down the legitimate governments they hate. I personally find it ironic that anarchists organise.
Such mayhem is the ruling way of governance in Syria right now, as well as in any worn-torn country where there is no rule of law and only disorder. Who the real enemies are and who the real government is cannot truly be determined in an anarchy, as the rebellious factions thrive on anarchy. Chaos is encouraged with intention. The supposed “Arab Spring” so long ago now, which at the time I mentioned was a false spring, was caused by anarchists as well as well-intentioned but stupid people who wanted democracy and more freedoms, or “rights.” (Not the same thing, by the way…) Radical Muslim groups create anarchy in order to overthrow various governments. The Americas are home to many anarchist groups.
Skipping letter “b,” I go on to the obvious one under c, capitalism, and I do this as democracies are usually capitalist, but not all….and as an American, we have enshrined both democrat and capitalism in our constitution.
Capitalism is “an economic and political system in which the country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” Our constitution supports capitalism. We are a capitalist democracy in America, while Great Britain use to be a socialist democracy, but is now something else, which I shall get to in a minute.
The Catholic Church has written through the popes, that capitalism cannot be completely “free,” but be controlled. More on that point later. In other words, the Church supports controlled, limited capitalism.
The next is communism. Communism began as a theory and now is a government based on “the political theory that believes that the state should control the methods of production, there should be no separate social classes and everyone should be treated equally.” This type of government is obvious.
Continuing with the isms, I move on to fascism, the form of government which is gaining popularity in the Western world today. Fascism is a type of government which also, like communism, controls industry and commerce, and is ruled by totalitarian means. However, it differs from communism by leaning to the right, as communism leans to the left. Fascism is “a political…regime…that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader.”
I want to capitalise Communism and Fascism as proper nouns, folks. While Communism claims to give the power to the “community,” thereby undermining the individual, Fascism blocks the individual by making the State “god.” In Communism, the commune is god, while in Fascism the state is god. Hence, Communism is an “ism” of the leftist mentality, while Fascism is a philosophy on the “rightist” side. Sometimes, the workings of both governments seem similar.
I want to stress at this point that in Great Britain, parliamentary democracy is dead. Parliamentary limited monarchy died a long time ago. Parliament now is subjected to the totalitarian decisions of the few who truly believe the State is god. Hence, the problems with individual rights as we have witnessed with the Alfie Evans case, as well as the shambles of the Brexit negotiations, which are being decided, illegally, by a small group of people in conference with the Prime Minister. Great Britain is a socialism country, which is turning fascist. Interesting, is it not?
Socialism leading to Fascism…think about that.
A democracy is usually constitutional in modern times, and is defined as “a system of government based on the belief, (in freedom and equality between people), in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.“ Democracies are usually federations of states, such as in the United States. However, there is only ONE true democracy in the world today, and that is in Switzerland, where the people directly chose their laws and leaders. Democracy works in small countries, or nations, better than in big ones. I am of the opinion, that the United States, the land of my birth, is no longer a democracy, and has not been for a long time. Few Americans have realised that they actually do not have the power they think they have. We might want to ask the question, “Who then, has the power?” I consider the United States as being on the tipping edge of becoming any day a total oligarchy. We were warned of this, by Alexis de Tocqueville, who is the great prophet of the downfall of our democracy. Let me quote him at length here.
Moreover, it is not always the capacity to choose men of merit that democracy lacks, but the desire and the taste.
The fact must not be concealed that democratic institutions develop the sentiment of envy in the human heart to a very high degree, not so much because they offer each person the means to become equal to others, but because these means constantly fail those who use them. Democratic institutions awaken and flatter the passion for equality without ever being able to satisfy it entirely. Every day, at the moment when people believe they have grasped complete equality, it escapes from their hands and flees, as Pascal says,f in an eternal flight. People become heated in search of this good, all the more precious since it is close enough to be known, but far enough away not to be savored. The chance to succeed rouses the people; the uncertainty of success irritates them. They get agitated, grow weary, become embittered. Then, everything that is in some way beyond them seems an obstacle to their desires, and there is no superiority, however legitimate, that they do not grow tired of seeing.
Many people imagine among us that the secret instinct that leads the lower classes to keep the upper classes away from the leadership of public affairs as much as they can is found only in France. That is an error: the instinct that I am speaking about is not French, it is democratic. Political circumstances have been able to give it a particular character of bitterness, but they did not give birth to it.
In the United States, the people have no hatred for the upper classes of society; but they feel little goodwill toward them and carefully keep them out of power; they do not fear great talents, but they appreciate them little. In general, you notice that everything that arises without their support gains their favour with difficulty.
While the natural instincts of democracy lead the people to keep distinguished men away from power, an instinct no less strong leads the latter to remove themselves from a political career in which it is so difficult for them to remain entirely themselves, and to operate without debasing themselves. This thought is very ingenuously expressed by Chancellor Kent. The celebrated author about whom I am speaking, after giving great praise to the part of the Constitution that grants the nomination of judges to the executive power, adds: “The fittest men would probably have too much reservedness of manners, and severity of morals, to secure an election resting on universal suffrage” (Kent’s Commentaries,vol. I, p. 272 [273 (ed.)].) This was published without contradiction in America in the year 1830.
This demonstrated to me that those who regard universal suffrage as a guarantee for good choices are under a complete illusion. Universal suffrage has other advantages, but not that one.
So, the great error of the United States, which had led us to tyranny under two types of oligarchy, a financial one, and one of the press, is that we have not voted in men of merit, great leaders. Why? Out of the foolish belief that one must have an ordinary person, a man of the people, as a leader, instead of a true, educated, selfless, servant of the people, people vote, as de Tocqueville warned us, for the popular men and women, for “rock-stars.” Our need to put down the talented, has lead to chaos in both main parties. This levelling tendency is one of the great dangers of democracies, as all people are NOT created equal in talents or abilities.
Now, let me fast forward to the definitions of oligarchy and socialism, in order to understand what is happening in Europe and America TODAY. Yes, I am going to help you understand “kakistocracy”, an old term from the beginning of the 19th century. I am getting there.
An oligarchy is a type of government where one small group of people rule the nation. It is “government by the few.” Now, there are many types of “few.” There are oligarchies made up of cliques, wealthy people, the military of a nation, or even popular “celebrity” types.
At this time in history, Russia is an oligarchy, run not by democratic vote, but by a few of the old guard communists and the wealthy, nouveau riche oligarchs. It is not a democracy, or is it economically totally communist or socialist, as rampant capitalism is allowed to flourish and by the “few.” Russia has had a constitution since 1978, which has been renewed in the 1990s, twice. It seems like a democracy to some and the old soviet communist federation to others. In truth, it is run by the oligarchs, who, is this case are a combination of the military and the wealthy. The United States is now an oligarchy, but citizens ignore this. I shall return to this point in the second part of this essay.
Other oligarchies are China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela, for some examples. The oligarchs in Saudi Arabia are all related, members of the same family, propping up the king. The oligarchs in Iran are the religious leaders. An oligarchy may be hereditary.
Socialism is defined as “a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”
This is a leftist philosophy and type of government. The commune becomes more important than the individual. Great Britain’s socialism has led to the destruction of thousands of patients in the National Health Systems, as we have seen recently, as those who run the so-called utopia of socialised medicine have the right and duty to serve the community by not spending money as needed, and by playing God as to who lives and who dies. But, then, Britain is now Fascist, run for the sake of the State, and not individuals.
Britain is ruled by the philosophy of utilitarianism, which basically sees people as worthy only is they are useful to the State. This horrible anti-Christian philosophy began in England, with the likes of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. If this article was part of my course on “isms,” I would be giving you homework right now to look up how these men ruined British society, as I would give you passages of their own works to read. As it is, you must rely on my short introduction. A utilitarianism view of a government holds that a morally right action is ONLY one which, according to its lights, produces the most good. The individual, therefore, becomes a cipher to the state’s budgets. My needs mean nothing to the State, only the needs of the state. As you can see, utilitarianism and Fascism go hand-in-hand.
I end this part one here. Another article will continue tomorrow with the definition of kakistocracy.
JMJ, Pray for us.
God is good,