The Rise And Decline Of The American Polity. (I) A Truth Unspoken

“The day is not far off when the financial difficulty will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our genuine troubles — the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion.”

— John Maynard Keynes, 1945(1) —

Keynes was far ahead of his time.

Maybe, also far. The crash of 2008-2009 proved that “the economic dilemma” is nevertheless in the front seat. It drives us we do not drive it.

Will the emerging world of scarcities of absolute necessities — food, air, water — force the change Keynes sought? To date, there has been valuable tiny that is economical about economics. But nature may be preparing revolutionary adjustments — for the greater globe Keynes spoke of if those alterations are consciously appreciated and managed, for a worse one particular if unconsciously left to money’s “invisible hand.”

The 2008-9 crisis was a golden chance for men to commence to handle the economy — instead of it controlling them. The Bush and Obama administrations, by throwing income at the issue, let that chance slip away.

Hence, although nature’s coming modifications could assist the middle class, we will take the more pessimistic but plausible route and assume guys will fail to find out — that cash will keep in the driver’s seat. What then?

The decline and fall of the middle class would destroy the American way of life, notably its type of government. Contrary to well-liked belief, that government is not a democracy but a “polity.”

Aristotle wrote that a polity is a hybrid government of democracy and oligarchy based on a big middle class. He believed the polity is the “very best” government because the middle class moderates other classes that are incapable of trusting each and every other.

Soon after noting the critical value of the “man in the middle” as a neutral, affordable arbitrator, Aristotle concluded: “The much better, and the far more equitable the mixture in a ‘polity’, the much more sturdy it will be.”

As for what could spoil an equitable mixture, he warned that the most significant menace came not from the poor or the middle class, but from the wealthy who seek to convert a polity into an aristocracy:

“[Forgetting the claims of equity], they not only give much more energy to the well-to-do, but they also deceive the individuals [by fobbing them off with sham rights]. Illusory positive aspects must always generate genuine evils in the long run and the encroachments made by the rich [under cover of such devices] are a lot more destructive to a constitution than those of the men and women.”(2)

That avarice and these illusory positive aspects — above all, so-referred to as “rights” that are offered as gifts, thereby retaining and reinforcing the power of the giver — are fueling the economic decay of the middle class and the weakening of its reconciler function.

That decay is the cause why the American polity is starting to unravel. That decay is also why The Excellent American Illusion, Polity = Democracy, is being exposed for the first time in over 200 years of existence. Lastly, that decay is the origin of the loss of legitimacy plaguing not only governments but also households, businesses, schools, and neighborhoods.

The Founding Fathers never ever stated they were developing a polity, an oligarchy/democracy hybrid. Not once. They knew the word “polity” Alexander Hamilton and James Madison utilised it.(3) Even so, they only employed “polity” in its generic sense, as a synonym for “political program.”

To that deafening silence I will add a curious footnote. The Founding Fathers referred to Montesquieu as the “oracle” of the philosophy that guided them in constructing the United States Constitution, so that the “legislative, executive, and judiciary departments ought to be separate and distinct.”(four)

Nicely, according to Montesquieu, the ancient Greeks “called that type of constitution a ‘police'” he then made this footnote: “See Aristotle, Politics, Book IV, Chapter VIII.”(five) In that chapter, Aristotle analyzed the polity, or oligarchy/democracy hybrid.

It is not possible to argue, then, that the Founding Fathers did not know about a polity or hybrid oligarchy/democracy. It was correct in front of them.

Why have been the Founding Fathers unwilling to use the word “police/polity,” either in the sense of the separation of powers (Montesquieu) or as a hybrid of oligarchy/democracy (Aristotle)?

Why did they not simply declare openly what they had been carrying out: making a polity? That is to say, produce what Madison characterized in a note to himself this way: “The most hard of all political arrangements is that of so adjusting the claims of the two classes [i.e., ‘the class with, and the class without having property’] as to give security to each, and to market the welfare of all.”(six)

Answer: on the one particular hand, such a declaration would have openly admitted that the system they were building had a main oligarchic component. That admission would have been unacceptable to many Americans who had just fought the war of independence and who were sharply divided more than whether or not to adopt or reject the constitution proposed by the Founding Fathers.

Indeed, the opponents of the constitution vociferously claimed it would favor the oligarchy. To counter that criticism, Madison put up a brilliant, expedient defense: he, also, vigorously attacked any “pretended oligarchy.”

What, according to Madison, would avoid the proposed constitution from favoring any distinct class? “I answer: the genius of the complete system the nature of just and constitutional laws and, above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the folks of America — a spirit which nourished freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”(7)

Madison’s remark gives the impression that he was a fervent supporter of democracy. However, that was decidedly not the case. The self-confidence that Madison placed in “the vigilant and manly spirit” of Americans was diametrically opposed to what he asserted in an earlier article:

“In all really several assemblies, of what ever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from explanation. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”(8)

On the other hand, then, Madison did not favor a democracy. The American oligarchy would not have accepted it.

Neither an oligarchy nor a democracy, then. And certainly not a “polity.”

Enter the “republic.” “Republic” was the word the Founding Fathers substituted for “polity.”

In going undetected for more than 200 years, the switch was a single of the greatest political maneuvers of all times.

FOOTNOTES

(1) “1st Annual Report of The Arts Council” (1945-1946).
(2) Aristotle, “The Politics of Aristotle,” translated and edited by Ernest Barker, Oxford University Press, New York, 1962, p. 186. (Book IV, Chapter XII). Translator’s brackets.
(3) “Federalist Papers” 17 and 52.
(four) “Federalist Paper 47.”
(five) Montesquieu, “De L’Esprit des lois,”in “Oeuvres completes II,” Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, Gallimard, Paris, 1994. p. 411. (Book XI, Chapter XI).
(6) James Madison, “Note 1 in Convention of 1787, August 7th,” in Ralph Ketcham, “The Anti-Federalist Papers and The Constitutional Convention Debates,” Penguin Books, New York, 1986, p. 151.
(7) “Federalist Paper 57.”
(eight) “Federalist Paper 55.”
SABUNG AYAM
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SABUNG AYAM