Chapel of Optimal Life

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EDITORIAL: A Questionable Elite within a Social Democracy

Over the course of history people have debated the issue of whether or not an educated "elite" should rule in the place of the majority.

Factions from either side, peaceful and war-like, have competed for their ideology.

In the midst of the continuous maelstrom of both brutality and non-violent protests, we can step back from the front lines of this debate, and seek refuge and insight in the words of scholars and philosophers.

For there lie the sophisticated answers to such questions as: if the majority was to rule, what would the scenario look like? Does a society need highly educated and qualified individuals as the heads of state in order to ensure its stability and, dare we say it, intellectual standards?

Such questions have more than one answer, yet, two of the most famous men to engage in this debate were De Tocqueville and Socrates. Upon reviewing the arguments of these two important thinkers it becomes apparent that neither the rule of the majority nor the rule of an elite is functional; instead a fusion of the two, namely a representative democracy, is the preferable form of government.

De Totocqueville claims that [in America] the "majority" retains a power that is more pervasive than that of a monarch, or ruling elite and that the majority establishes not only political laws, but moral norms as well. These invisible norms have a profound effect upon the individuals in America.

According to De Tocqueville there is an intrinsic lack of freedom over one's mind under majority rule. One's mind is the most profound and powerful tool through which one can express one's political freedom.

For only through free insight and reflection can one ascertain the wisdom and knowledge necessary to intelligently govern. Hence, a people under majority rule (such as we in America, he postulated) find that they themselves restrain and suppress themselves philosophically, and therefore politically, on the deepest level.

For it is indeed from the majority that moral norms arise, and as a result, the majority defines and enforces its own limitations. "In America the majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence." De Toqueville makes it very clear that the rule of the majority is not without serious drawbacks.

The study of Socrates is slightly more complicated. Socrates on the surface appeared to be against a ruling elite, but he he never fully condemned the existence of an elite - he seems only to have condemned rule by an ignorant, foolish elite.

Ironically, Socrates has played a very large role in the establishment of a ruling elite throughout history. The "Socratic Method", of precise analytical and philosophical analysis, as well as Socrates' wisdom itself, has become part of the traditional training of the members of an historical elite. In this way, Socrates served mostly to "purify" the ruling minority, as opposed to destroying its authority.

In the modern world many countries contain hundreds of millions of people. These nations are connected by a global economy, and by international treaties and shared political agendas. To avoid anarchy, a political order must be maintained. It is apparent that at this point in history an international, or national, rule of the majority would be impossible and unpractical.

A rule of a highly educated and morally sound minority, or "elite", is presently a much more effective and stable means of rule. This elite should be elected and seriously, and effectively, monitored by the majority. There are very real dangers with allotting significant influence into the hands of a minority; human nature says that absolute power in the hands of a few corrupts absolutely.

The execution of Socrates, who was charged with "corrupting the youth", highlights the very danger of rule under an elite. A very effective tactic in mediating the power of an influential elite is to provide the people of a nation with the power to democratically vote for the election and dismissal of their leaders. In this way the majority can regulate the moral characters, and personal motives of their leaders.

This type of representative democracy is, to a certain degree, in practice in many countries today. Yet, as in the United States, the number of leaders that the majority often has to choose among is very limited. What this means is that [America's] citizen body does not have the opportunity to elect the officials that they feel accurately represent their ethical and political standings.

Instead, they are forced into choosing among officials that only marginally represent them, and whom they cannot fully trust to act on their behalf. As time is the witness of history, and history the witness of change, perhaps as articulated in the words of De Toqueville, "Only strangers or experience will be able to bring certain truths to America's attention."



Delicious Nonsense


"Although thought by the chronically uneducated to be a vegetable, the tomato is in fact a deciduous reptile that grows to an average length of 700 ft.

It lives on a diet of bamboo shoots, French Aristocrats and cars, and can smell and seek out draylon at a range of 2 miles.

It's only natural predator is the Pygmy Armadillo.

Inhabits the deep subterranean caves found beneath the expansive deserts of Poland, where it builds nests out of flat-pack furniture and listens to skiffle music.

Makes ideal pet."

~~~~~ The Penguin Encyclopedia of Inaccurate Zoology

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