Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Divine Will" or "Will of the People"? - Part II

I examined one side of this idea in Part I - I am going to examine the other (maybe "next") part here:
What does control of the US government by the "will of the people" look like?
I am going to have to go to the idealized concept of control by the "will of the people" because certainly few in this country believe that their will controls the government; nor am I sure very many folks believe some will of "the people" in general controls government.

Indeed, the modern nation state resembles these remarks to me:
. . . important decisions in society were being made in remote, or at least highly inaccessible places like Washington and London. The growth of bureaucracies in capital cities and the remoteness of the centers of power increased the feeling of alienation from those who make truly adult decisions in society . . .

. . . once the institutions of government have outgrown the individual and the neighborhood, so that the very scale of governance no longer permits effective action for most people, then those people are more likely to take to the streets and address their grievances in destructive ways . . .

. . . [government] power is a prophylactic against violence
Assuming that in an ideal world, the modern western nation-state still has the ability to be directed by some general "will of the people" - how does that occur? The United States is not a true democracy - it is a representative republic. Also, most folks who have really thought it out really do not believe in "majority rule". The bottom line is that we expect our elected and appointed leaders - who are closer to being the actual people the government bows to the will of than us - to be ethical, moral and "do the right thing"; and that has nothing to do with the "will of the people" because we really do not care what the majority thinks if that majority opposes what we believe to be ethical, moral, and right. C.S. Lewis:
I now go back to what I said at the end of the first chapter, that there were two odd things about the human race. First, that they were haunted by the idea of a sort of behavior they ought to practice, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature. Second, that they did not in fact do so.
This oddity is both the basis of natural moral law, and one of the important theistic arguments.

So, I believe there is a universal moral code, and that this is a general universal revelation from God to all of humanity. Lewis again:
I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called
The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' . . .
I have mentioned a number of times this list of reasons why - even if our conscience tells us to "do the right thing" - our faulty moral reasoning may corrupt our moral agency:
  1. insufficient experience: we do not know enough to reach sound conclusions;
  2. insufficient skill: we haven't learned the art of reasoning well;
  3. sloth: we are too lazy to reason;
  4. corrupt custom: it hasn't occurred to us to reason;
  5. passion: we are distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully;
  6. fear: we are afraid to reason because we might find out we are wrong;
  7. wishful thinking: we include in our reasoning what we are willing to notice;
  8. depraved ideology: we interpret known principles crookedly; and
  9. malice: we refuse to reason because we are determined to do what we want.

This is why believers in natural moral law hold that, even though it flows from God to everyone, it must be strengthened, supported, and trained. That strength, support, and training comes from whatever ethical and moral system the person subscribes to - typically religion for 85% of the world - and it really must be pursued proactively. This includes our elected representatives.

Since I believe most ethical and moral systems on the planet are rooted in the divine nature, I do not expect those people elected to be Christians - that is a specific (not general) revelation. I do expect them to believe in Right and Wrong - and I expect them to be held to that. I also expect them to place their duty as an elected official, and as a representative of the people, higher than themselves: I expect it to be a vocation:

  1. The idea of a call implies an agent outside of the one who is subject to the call.
  2. The summons is often against the will of the one who is called into service.
  3. the calling involves in almost every case hardships that must be overcome in order to answer the summons.
  4. from the point of view of answering to the summons, the greatest danger appears not in this kind of resistance, but in the possibility of being diverted or distracted from the goal.
That vocation should have them work to analyze and improve their moral reasoning for the sake of strengthening their moral agency; and serving their constituents better by being more moral, more ethical, and doing the right thing more often.

And, in my opinion, their actions - by doing so - will be rooted in the "will of God" and not the "will of the people"; and it is exactly in the will of God (as reflected in doing Right and avoiding Wrong), and not the majority (the only logical definition of the "will of the people"), that their actions - and the actions of government - should be rooted. If - because they "do the right thing" against the will of the majority - they are removed from office by "the will of the people" then so be it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly