Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mellowing out with Monty

Since Montesquieu has been less contentious, I'll post another smattering of his writings before returning to Paine and almost certain disagreement over his thoughts on 'natural rights'.

From Montesquieu, Book 3: 'Of the principles of the three kinds of government'

This statement needs some context. He is trying to explain what holds up a government (what he calls 'springs'), based on each type of government. Here, he is contrasting democracy with monarchy and despotism by highlighting it's most significant difference:

But in a popular state (republican), one spring more is necessary, namely, virtue.

Other statements:

When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.

As virtue is necessary in a republic, and in a monarchy honor, so fear is necessary in a despotic government...

Fear must therefore depress their spirits, and extinguish even the least sense of ambition.

Montesquieu's observations about the requirement of 'virtue' (I think what we would now call character) for a successful republic are based on studies of Greek and Roman systems, which both eventually failed. This is very consistent with the thinking of a least some of the Founders:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (1798-10-11)

If Montesquieu and Adams are correct, then the most fundamental civic duty that anyone has is to both practice and to teach virtue/morals/character. As Christians, this is already part of our core mission, a.k.a. the great comission,; so Christians ought to be the most desirable of all citizens!

On the note of fear, both under Barry and under W, we have been constantly bombarded with messages of fear. Fear the terrorists, fear global warming, fear pandemics, fear economic collapse. It's not difficult to see that this is nothing but power grabbing by the Federal government. As noted by Monty, that type of leadership is a trademark of despotic rulership.

3 comments:

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

There once were some works by Tom Paine,
Misread to be violently insane,
Twas decided that Monty
Was rather less jaunty,
N'made civility easier t'maintain.

Gina said...

ROFL!!! Nice poem.

The Angry Coder said...

Wow- that's amazing! And you came up with that first thing in the morning, too! All I can think before 10AM is "coffee... coffee..." Well done.