Monday, March 03, 2003


A recent book by Rubin is summarized by a reviewer as arguing that:

Autocratic society violates human nature for most of those who belong to it and therefore is inherently unstable. Rubin also argues, however, that libertarianism is unstable because it entails extremes of individuality that equally violate evolved human tendencies and thus cause social breakdown.

And the conclusion from that is that the compromise represented by modern democracy best suits human nature.

That may be a comforting conclusion but I think one of the assumptions is wrong. The plain historical fact is that human beings have almost always lived under a tyranny of some sort. Ancient Athens emerged from tyranny for about 100 years and then self-destructed and the Roman republic was never more than an oligarchy until it too became an empire. And the supremacy of Parliament in England dates only from 1649. So if autocracy is against human nature we have had an amazing amount of it. Some governments of the past were more consultative than others but there was almost always a king, Pharaoh, emperor or the like running the show.

I think it is much more obvious to argue that autocracy is what in general comes naturally and the love of big government exhibited by Leftists is the modern-day evidence of that inclination.

So modern democracy is in fact a painfully learned lesson in overcoming human nature that only a minority of humankind seem to have learned to this day. Human nature is powerful and I would be the last to underestimate it but it is not a straitjacket. Wearing clothes is not natural but we all do it. Let�s hope that we will all also practice democracy one day.


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