July 25, 2021

Sounds Almost Integralist

Irving Kristol article in NYT in 1971: 

Today a "managerial" conception of democracy prevails wherein democracy is seen as a set of rules and procedures, and nothing but a set of rules and procedures, by which majority rule and minority rights are reconciled into a state of equilibrium. Thus, the political system can be fully reduced to its mechanical arrangements. 

I cannot help but feel that there is something ridiculous about being this kind of a democrat, and I must further confess to having a sneaking sympathy for those of our young radicals who also find it ridiculous. The absurdity is the absurdity of idolatry—of taking the symbolic for the real, the means for the end. The purpose of democracy cannot possibly be the endless functioning of its own political machinery. The purpose of any political regime is to achieve some version of the good life and the good society. It is not at all difficult to imagine a perfectly functioning democracy which answers all questions except one namely, why should anyone of intelligence and spirit care a fig for it?

There is, however, an older idea of democracy - fairly common until about the beginning of this century - for which the conception of the quality of public life is absolutely crucial. This idea starts from the proposition that democracy is a form of self-government, and that you are entitled to it only if that "self" is worthy of governing. There is no inherent right to self government if it means that such government is vicious, mean, squalid and debased. Only a dogmatist and a fanatic, an idolater of democratic machinery, could approve of self‐government under such conditions.

Because the desirability of self-government depends on the character of the people who govern, the older idea of democracy... had no problem in principle with pornography and obscenity; it censored them; it was not about to permit people to corrupt themselves.

No comments: