As its Greek name suggests, democracy is an ancient idea. But it is only a recent ideal. Greek writers either warned against democracy, or regarded it as simply one among many forms of political order, and not intrinsically preferable to its competitors. True, the Athenian democracy was a source of wonder and admiration—at least to Pericles and his faction. But it was a system of government far removed from anything that would be called democracy today, and not only because women, slaves, and metics—who between them constituted some 80 percent of the population—were disenfranchised. The Athenian democracy was confined to the narrow territory of a city-state; every citizen was known personally or by reputation to every other, and the issues put to the vote included many—such as ostracism—which would nowadays be ruled out as an invasion of individual rights. It was not until the Enlightenment that philosophers began to consider democracy as an ideal, and to criticize existing regimes for falling short of it. Even so, there was no agreement as to what the ideal consisted in. The hot air that fanned the French Revolution was full of the word “democracy,” almost always used as though synonymous with equality. But serious reflection on the conditions of popular sovereignty was almost entirely lacking, as anybody who studies the puerile speeches of Saint-Just, Robespierre, and Sieyès, or the rhetoric of their fellow-traveler Tom Paine, will soon discover.

Unlike the French Revolution, the American Revolution led to a constitution designed both to permit democratic government and to restrain it in the interests of freedom. This constitution was based on a realistic view of human nature, a detailed study of institutions, and a wise assessment of the lessons of European history. It arose from an act of rebellion, but it was a gesture of obedience: to law, to custom, and to God. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was not an act of obedience but an act of defiance. The Declaration did nothing to define the offices of state or to make their incumbents accountable. It issued from the same hot air machine that produced Robespierre’s “despotism of liberty” and poured abundant rights on the citizens while doing nothing that would enable them to claim, still less to enforce, them. Its effect was to delegitimize government in all its existing forms and to glamorize rebellion as the natural condition of mankind.

The Founding Fathers had absorbed the lesson taught by Hobbes and Hume, which is that freedom is not the opposite of government but a particular form of it. In a state of nature we are not free but frightened, and only in the shelter of legal order can we make plans for the future and choose freely between them. Only in society do we become what we truly are: autonomous agents, each with a life of his own. The Constitution enshrined this truth, by guaranteeing both the authority of government and the sovereignty of the individual.

Freedom is not the opposite of government but a particular form of it.

Looking back on that experiment from our modern vantage point, we are apt to see the American Constitution as a great beginning and to forget that it was also a culmination. Constitutions are not pieces of paper on which armchair philosophers have scribbled their thoughts. They are rules for the government of a community already shaped by history and custom into a posture of obedience. The community that the Founding Fathers inherited was one formed by the Protestant religion and the common law. The American people had acquired habits of self-reliance and accountability that made it wholly natural to suppose them capable of governing themselves. The Constitution was an enabling instrument, which permitted them to complete the project begun centuries before in England, when it was recognized that it was not the king who makes the law but the law that makes the king.

In other words, the democracy established by the American Constitution was not the beginning of a new order of things, but the final step along a path that had begun in the Anglo-Saxon moots. This path led through conflicts, trials, and legal discoveries to its culminating point, when the distinction between sovereign and people was finally abolished—or rather, not abolished, but discovered not to exist. “We the people” made this Constitution, and “we the people” now submit to it.

It is important to bear those points in mind when considering the democratic project today. There is a tendency among Americans to believe that people need only be offered democracy in order to embrace it. In other words, there is a tendency to believe that democracy is the default position of human societies, the position to which they revert when all usurpers and tyrants are removed from power. This seems to me to be a radical misreading of history. The lesson of the French, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian revolutions, of the English civil war, and countless other depressing episodes is that the true default position of mankind—the position to which all communities revert, when institutions crumble—is tyranny. Democracy is the last stage of a long process of attrition, a steady wearing down of the claims of personal charisma, creedal authority, and dynastic right, to the point where the great discovery can be made: the discovery that it is we ourselves who are running the show.

Americans tend to believe that democracy is the default position of human societies.

This long process of attrition is not to be understood simply as a struggle between interests, classes, or powers. It involves the accumulation of what sociologists call “mediating structures”—that is, the institutions and customs that mediate between the people who are governed and the people who govern them, and which make it possible for the first not just to appoint the second but also to accept them. This last observation is not always given the prominence that it deserves. If we look at the failed attempts at democracy with which the modern world abounds, we will surely recognize that they share a common feature, which is the reluctance of people to accept being governed by a person or a party that they did not vote for. This happens whenever those contending for office represent competing interests that recognize no mutual loyalty or shared destiny. A party may define itself as Islamic, Shi’ite, or Hindu, and offer to represent the interests of the relevant religious group against those of its rivals and competitors. In these circumstances its electoral success is unlikely to be endorsed by those who did not vote for it. For they will have no guarantee that their interests will be taken into account in the process of government.

The American norm, which is to some extent reflected in the democracies of Europe, is wholly unlike that. People vote Democrat and find themselves ruled by Republicans. And they accept this—unhappy, perhaps, but acknowledging a duty of obedience and a common loyalty that is far more important than any electoral differences of opinion. This readiness of the citizen to be governed by those with whom he disagrees is the precondition of democracy as we know it. In most parts of the world this readiness does not exist. And where it exists, it is because there are mediating structures that create customs, expectations, and loyalties in common. These structures establish a shared way of life, and an attachment to place and neighborhood, so that those who disagree over politics can nevertheless recognize a common duty of obedience, and a mutual interest in upholding the rule of law.

The mediating structures that made American democracy possible include two of such enormous importance that it is strange that people constantly overlook them: the church, conceived in the Protestant spirit as a congregation, and the common law, conceived in the English spirit as the administration of justice. The church enabled people to settle as communities, to recognize common cause, and to trust their neighbors. The common law enabled them to resolve their conflicts and to deal openly with strangers. The repeated recourse to those two institutions generated an expanding society of people who recognized, when the time came, that they had no need for any government beyond the one that they themselves devised. They were fortified in this belief by the customs that they had brought with them from Europe and which they had adapted to their new conditions in the first centuries of settlement. These included monogamous marriage, charitable foundations, the European curriculum, the respect for writing, the music and literature of Europe, the European body of folklore and superstition, not to speak of limited liability, double-entry bookkeeping, equitable ownership, and all the other achievements of the enterprise economy. All those things sought and found institutional expression, and created this great “society of strangers” which is also for the most part a society of friends.

When assessing the impact of the Church on American history, we should be aware of the very great difference between Christianity and Islam in the matter of religious institutions. The difference goes back to the very foundation of the two religions, and reflects a distinction of attitude that lies at the heart of the conflict in which we find ourselves today. St. Paul was a Roman citizen, versed in the law. He shaped the early Church through the legal idea of the universitas or corporation. The Pauline Church was designed not as a sovereign body, but as a universal citizen, entitled to the protection of the secular and imperial powers but with no claim to displace those powers as the source of legal order. This corresponds to Christ’s own vision, in the parable of the tribute money, in which Caesar’s public jurisdiction is tacitly contrasted with the inner authority of religion, governing the person-to-person relationship between the individual and God: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” And it contrasts radically with the vision set before us in the Koran, according to which sovereignty rests with God and his Prophet, and legal order is founded in divine command.

The Christian separation of religious and secular authority was developed by St. Augustine in The City of God and endorsed by the fifth-century Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory, which imposed the duty of civil obedience on the clergy. The fifth-century Pope Gelasius I made the separation of Church and State into doctrinal orthodoxy, arguing that God granted “two swords” for earthly government, that of the Church for the government of men’s souls and that of the imperial power for the regulation of temporal affairs. This idea persists in the medieval distinction between regnum and sacerdotium, and was enshrined in the uneasy coexistence of Emperor and Pope on the two “universal” thrones of medieval Europe.

With the breakdown of papal jurisdiction and the rise of the Reformed churches, ecclesiastical law had less and less influence on the business of government. This result did not come about without conflict, and in several cases (England being the most striking instance) there resulted an explicitly “national” church, under the authority of a secular monarch. Nevertheless throughout the course of Christian civilization we find a recognition that conflicts must be resolved and social order maintained by political rather than religious jurisdiction. The separation of church and state was from the beginning an accepted doctrine of the Church. Indeed, this separation created the Church, which emerged from the Dark Ages as a legal subject, with rights, privileges, and a domestic jurisdiction of its own. And it was through his theory of conciliar government that Nicholas of Cusa, in 1433, introduced the modern understanding of corporate personality, and made it fundamental to our understanding of the Church. This conciliar conception of the Church greatly advanced the cause of Protestantism, by providing it with the institution that normalized its jurisdiction. The Lutherans, Calvinists, and Zwinglians all took over the idea of the Church as a corporate person, which would take decisions on behalf of its members and, while submitting to the secular rule of law, make laws and rules for its members.

No similar institution exists in Islamic countries. There is no legal entity called “The Mosque” to set beside the various Western Churches. Islam has never incorporated itself as a legal person or a subject institution, a fact that has had enormous political repercussions. Islam stands above the State in judgment, and if it enters politics at all, it is with the aim of taking charge of things. The whole tenor of the Koran points away from mediation: it is a direct revelation of God’s law and purpose, and a confiscation of secular authority. Although Muslim societies have evolved through mosque, madrasah, and charitable foundations, Islamic law gives no real identity to these institutions, being without the concepts of corporate personality, equitable ownership, or trust.

I mention all this because it seems to me to be pertinent to understanding the current conflict. I don’t believe that Islamic countries can embrace democracy if they do not oppose the pretensions of Islamic law, and put the secular law above it, as Atatürk did in founding modern Turkey as a nation-state. Without that radical secularization of the law, democracy may well be the prelude to a transfer of power from secular to religious tyrants, or else an invitation to the “tyranny of the majority,” such as exists in Indonesia, where the Christian and Buddhist minorities suffer persecution at the hands of a democratically elected government bound by Islamic law.

All such cases raise in an acute form the questions that we need to consider. First, what makes democracy, of the kind that we enjoy, feasible and durable? Secondly what limits must be placed on it, if it is not to degenerate into a tyranny of the majority? Thirdly, how do we reconcile the sovereignty of the people with other legitimate goals, such as their moral and cultural education? Finally, how is democracy to be rooted in the habits of ordinary people? All these questions have come to the fore in Europe, as a result of the Islamic migrations. They are questions that Americans are apt to put out of mind, notwithstanding Tocqueville’s early warnings against democratic despotism. Here, in briefest summary, are my answers.

1. What makes democracy feasible and durable? Democracy requires some measure of political freedom. There cannot be meaningful democratic elections without the freedom to criticize existing policies and their advocates, to broadcast rival opinions and proposals, and to debate all matters of public concern without risk of arrest. Those freedoms existed in the Anglophone world long before democratic elections, and their introduction into traditional societies has a far more disruptive effect than elections. In present-day Iran, for example, there is universal adult franchise, as there was in the Soviet Empire. But in neither case has there been freedom to criticize. Conversely, there was plenty of freedom to criticize in Regency England, when “His Majesty’s Opposition” was already a recognized Parliamentary faction. But there was only the narrowest of franchises and nothing resembling our modern democratic elections.

Equally necessary to democracy as we know it is the separation of offices from those who hold them. A minister in a democratic government is not acting merely as an individual who happens to have got hold of political power. He has succeeded to an office, is accountable for the deeds of his predecessor, and must execute decisions which are not his personal choices but the decisions of the institution that he occupies. Durable offices, whose rights and duties are separable from those of the individuals who hold them and from the party loyalties by which those individuals are bound, are a long-standing feature of European forms of government. Under totalitarian government, however, offices collapse into their occupants, and involve no permanent assumption of responsibility. They are mere levers or “transmission belts,” in Lenin’s phrase, ways of exercising power without accountability. When a totalitarian regime collapses, therefore, offices begin again, and no liability is inherited by the newly elected Prime Minister for the deeds of the apparatchik who preceded him.

Democracies endure only if the state maintains equilibrium between changes of government. This requires not merely the continuity of offices but also institutions that are above politics and immune to political change. Such institutions—like the British monarchy or the American Constitution—attract the loyalty of the citizens, and enable them to accept a change of government as an adjustment to their way of life, rather than an existential threat to it. When these transpolitical institutions are destroyed—as happens in revolutions—elections lose their sense, and people look around for the “strong hand” that will defend them from anarchy.

Democracies endure only if the state maintains equilibrium between changes of government.

2. What limits must be placed on democracy, if it is not to degenerate into the tyranny of the majority? This question was raised by Tocqueville and by Mill, and the normal way of answering it is to make the rights of individuals and of minorities central to the democratic project. The majority can decide every issue, so long as it does not invade or cancel the rights of those who disagree with it. The problem with this answer is that it makes an undefined and dangerously permeable concept central to the democratic project. Just what is a human right, and how do you determine whether something does or does not belong to that privileged category? The UN Declaration of Human Rights follows in the footsteps of the French Revolutionary Declaration in enunciating rights without any attempt to explore the reasons—legal, political, or philosophical—for thinking that they exist. And the spurious claim to a legality above and beyond the rule of law—the claim that led to Bentham’s famous denunciation of the idea of natural rights as “nonsense on stilts”—has had the result that the invocation of human rights can be used as a lever to uproot all the hard-won legal solutions to human conflict on which the democratic order depends. Since the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into English law, for example, judges have found themselves compelled to override English planning law, to prevent the police from dealing effectively with terrorist suspects, to permit avowed enemies of British society to take up residence and inflame young people to engage in jihad against the host community—and a thousand other insanities, all derived from a concept whose neat geometrical outlines are drawn around a trapdoor into nothingness.

If, however, you replace the concept of a human right with that of a legal or positive right, defined by the law, you don’t really set any limit to democracy. For if law defines our rights, the legislature defines the law, and the people choose the legislators, we again have no barrier to the tyranny of the majority. A very simple case from recent English history will bring home what I mean. It is a settled principle of English law that you have a right to do whatever is not expressly forbidden by law, and it is a settled principle of English government that Parliament does not forbid an activity without proof that it is in some way contrary to the public interest. This did not prevent our government from forbidding hunting with hounds without any such proof, simply because a majority of MPs, supported, perhaps, by a majority of the electorate, wanted this. The existence of the legal and customary right to hunt was taken away without justification and for purely vindictive motives.

Americans will say that the problem here arises from the fact that there is no English Constitution, so that limits to political action arise purely by convention. Conventions can be altered or defied at will, since there is no body with the power to enforce them. Maybe that is true. Maybe the existence of a Constitution and a Supreme Court empowered to enforce it is some kind of protection against the tyranny of the majority. But it is apt to give rise to an equally obnoxious tyranny of the minority, once the activist judges take over. A written constitution must be interpreted, and those charged with its interpretation can place any construction they wish on the words, and impose the result on the majority. Judges have often used the U.S. Constitution to override majority opinion as expressed through the legislature, and the complaint is repeatedly made that they are undermining the democratic process by producing law that no majority would vote for. Of course, a constitutional court will announce its decision in the language of rights—not “human” or “natural” rights, but “civil” rights, the rights protected by the Constitution. But this will not prevent it from multiplying rights to the point where settled institutions are undermined by them. A constitutional court might discover a right to homosexual marriage, for example, as in Canada. In doing so it takes away the legal endorsement of heterosexual marriage, with incalculable effects on the stability and continuity of ordinary society.

It seems to me that the usurpation of the democratic process—whether by majorities or by minorities—can be prevented only by fostering a culture of restraint. People must learn to respect both the sovereign individual and the customs and institutions that produce him. And they must restrain their own demands in the light of that. As Tocqueville saw, mediating institutions have enabled Americans to reconcile their innate individualism with an obedient traditionalism in the public sphere. Through school, club, squad, church, and camp, Americans have learned respect for human norms, and restraint in defying them. This culture of the “little platoon” is now under attack, in the name of “diversity” and “social inclusion.” Indeed the world is now full of advocates of “social inclusion” whose purpose seems to be to abolish the norms that turn human atoms into coherent societies, so that inclusion, when it comes, will be inclusion in nothing.

3. How do we reconcile democracy with the values that it seems to threaten? Although optimism is politically necessary, and in a certain measure required by the democratic process, we should not blind ourselves to the defects of the democratic culture. Tocqueville witnessed, in American democracy, a kind of cultural flattening, as the idea of equality spread from the political sphere to every other aspect of human society. If we are all equal and with equal rights, then no distinctions are to be made between the tastes, lifestyles, and enjoyments that compete in the marketplace. Hence all the efforts that people have made in the past to erect monuments to human excellence, to constrain social life according to aesthetic ideals, and to produce a culture of virtuous restraint in the place of easygoing indulgence begin to seem pointless.

Things have got worse since Tocqueville’s day. The aristocratic ideal has fled from popular culture, which now exploits human degeneracy in order to offer a new and thrilling form of entertainment. It is not only puritanical Muslims who react adversely to this. But the egalitarian culture regards all adverse reaction as an affront, and the near universal response to criticism is to ask, “Who are you to judge?” It would be a simple matter to accept that question in the spirit intended, and to adopt a laissez-faire attitude to popular culture. Indeed, that is what democrats tend to do, sometimes reassuring themselves that the defects of popular culture are self-correcting, and that in the long run an underlying spirit of decency and patriotism will always triumph over the vulgarity and desecration of the marketplace.

It seems to me, however, that this attitude is over-optimistic. The ideal of popular sovereignty is based on the tacit assumption that people are free beings, competent to choose what is best for them and able to understand what is at stake in politics. I do not doubt that people can be educated to be free, competent, and sovereign. But they are not so in a state of nature, nor do they remain so without the constraints of a culture founded in the pursuit of ideals and in the habit of judgment. Just as tyranny is the default position of government, so is vice the default position of human nature—the position to which we tend when the external force of judgment is removed. People sink of their own accord into sloth, lust, and gluttony and are confirmed in their degeneracy by the non-judgmental culture. As a result they lose the long-term vision of life and society, and their choices retreat into the present tense. Their short-term pursuit of sensual pleasure will be reflected in their voting habits, which will be governed by the desire to produce more for me, here, now. Politicians will be unable to appeal to them by referring to their long-term interests or ideals, but will be compelled to offer ever larger quantities of present pleasure. A kind of moral obesity begins to afflict ordinary voters, to the point where ideals and long-term goals induce in them nothing more than a flummoxed breathlessness. A politician who offers short-term advantages in the form of subsidies, welfare programs, and distractions will secure their vote more easily than the one who promises short-term sacrifice for the greater long-term good. And as a result of this, democratic societies may use up their inherited capital of virtue, and find themselves facing the future unprepared.

A very simple example of this has recently been given to us. In 2001, Scientific American carried an article summarizing studies made of the levees around New Orleans, concluding that they could withstand a Force 2 hurricane but probably nothing more powerful. Here was a piece of well-founded information on which it was necessary immediately to act. But to act would have required expenditure, organization, and a collective effort, and what politician could demand such things of the people of New Orleans? In due course the inevitable happened, and those same people remained in front of their televisions watching the flood waters that were about to round the corner of their street. A clearer example of moral obesity could hardly be offered to us.

As I said, however, it is necessary to be optimistic. And the same example illustrates the way in which, in America, the old virtues of self-reliance have been able to reproduce themselves, not because of the egalitarian culture, but in spite of it. The little platoons that have grown from church, school, and club and which devote themselves to rehearsing the social virtues, provide a corrective to the egalitarian culture, and a rebuke to its complacency, while restoring the moral capital on which democracy depends. People have come to the rescue of the hurricane victims, extended to them what provisions they needed, with a spontaneity and conviction that are not to be found elsewhere in the world. And these public-spirited people are the spontaneous products of small-town America, brought up to live in a condition of mutual support. Victims of the Asian tsunami are still waiting for the relief vaguely promised by corrupt and indolent governments. We should reflect on the comparison, since it points to the social virtues which still exist in America, even as they are disappearing from the world elsewhere.

The erosion of virtue by the egalitarian culture is, it seems to me, the most important issue that democrats must address. One response to the problem is to suggest that moral obesity is a disease of society, to be cured by the state. This is a response typical of the more idealistic kinds of socialist, who will often argue that untrammelled markets breed consumerism and that consumerism erodes moral fiber. True democracy, according to the social democratic orthodoxy, requires control of the market and public investment in long-term institutions of education, culture, and other such public goods. It seems to me, however, that this response is based on an illusion. Attempts to separate democracy and the free market are doomed, for all the reasons made clear by Hayek and Buchanan, and the kind of public investment envisaged by socialists simply exacerbates the problem, by creating welfare dependency and bureaucratic corruption.

The problem is cultural, not political, and resistance to moral obesity must grow from social, not political, initiatives. The democratic despotism that Tocqueville feared arises from the egalitarian culture, which will not tolerate superiority in any form, and which prefers barbarism to distinction if it is a distinction that cannot be shared. The remedy is to nurture and propagate those remnants of the aristocratic culture that still survive in the institutions of civil society: in school, church, club, band, and college. People must learn that they can be equal before the law, and equal participants in the common sovereignty, while unequal in all the characteristics that make life worthwhile. This is something that the state can never teach, since the state must stand aloof from civil associations in the posture of an impartial judge.

It is a characteristic error of the times in which we live to confound the virtue of tolerance with the refusal to judge. To be tolerant and to be “non-judgmental” are in fact opposite characteristics. The tolerant person is the one who makes room for things of which he disapproves; the non-judgmental person is the one who disapproves of nothing, and therefore tolerates nothing. The refusal to judge is also a part of moral obesity, and the egalitarian culture, which is deeply hostile to any form of judgment other than the blanket condoning of human weakness, is therefore preparing the ground for a new kind of intolerance—the intolerance of virtue.

The refusal to judge prepares the ground for a new kind of intolerance—the intolerance of virtue.

4. How is democracy rooted in the habits of the people? The brief answer is that democracy depends on citizenship, which is a form of life that emerges over time, as the products of those little platoons learn to pool their resources. Citizenship manifests itself in three ways: law-abidingness, patriotism, and public works. Those three experiences of citizenship have been a day-to-day reality in the English-speaking tradition, and form the pattern of our social life. They suggest that citizenship is a cultural achievement, which is not everywhere and at every time the same, and which is not likely to reproduce itself without effort and will.

The citizen, to put the point succinctly, is the one who shares his membership with people whom he does not know. When St. Paul described the early church, he gave voice to a similar idea, saying that “we are members one of another,” and implying that this membership might spread across the globe. In so saying, he imported into the Christian religion the Roman concept of citizenship, and so invented the universal church. (Thus the Book of Common Prayer recalls me to my “baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ.”)

Citizenship, however, cannot be universal. Citizens remain bound to a particular temporal community, and their law-abidingness is expressed in the obedience to the law of that community. It is this community which they defend in war, and which they build in peace through charity and public spirit. Of course, they have other and wider duties, and religion in particular makes a large and exacting demand on them. But the obligations of citizenship are bound by the historically given reality into which they are born.

Citizenship cannot be universal. Citizens remain bound to a particular temporal community.

The democratic community cannot really be understood, therefore, without reference to other generations. It is an inherited community. The true citizen inevitably includes among the strangers to which he is obligated both ancestors and offspring. In any crisis this becomes immediately clear. A threat of war or invasion, an economic collapse, or some unprecedented damage to the social fabric, all turn our attention to the historical community. It is we who now must fight, must put our backs to the wheel, must mend our ways, and this “we” includes absent generations, as well as those living now. In the last analysis, modern citizens belong to a nation, and the nation commands their loyalty not just because of what it is, but because of what it has been and will be through its own reproductive powers.

When Burke wrote of society as a partnership between the living, the unborn, and the dead, this was what he had in mind. The partnership is evident in those small and custom-bound societies that define themselves through kinship. But it is equally evident in a society based in citizenship, like the modern United States, which derives from recent and remembered patterns of immigration. The assumption has been that I am committed to the living strangers who surround me, because they are bound in the same web of ancestral connections as I. Our people have stood side by side in this territory, and built the social and cultural inheritance which we both enjoy. We must protect and enhance it, in order that our children shall stand together in their turn. The fact that myths and historical distortions are necessary in order to sustain this assumption is neither here nor there. That is how citizenship is, and must be, understood, and it is one reason why massive and unprepared immigration of people with no sympathy for the traditional customs can blow a great society apart, and lead to a complete loss in the transgenerational respect upon which democratic sovereignty depends. This is what Enoch Powell foretold, in the speech in which he unwisely referred to the prophecy that Virgil placed in the mouth of the Cumean Sybil.

The true antidote to obesity is good food and healthy exercise, and this is as true in the moral as it is in the physical sphere. It is not the state that produces that healthy nourishment, still less the programs for social inclusion, affirmative action, and civil rights with which liberals seek to correct our social instincts. It is through the institutions of civil society that people learn to take responsibility for their own and others’ lives, and to obey their elected government, even when they disagree with it. And civil society is founded in judgment; it promotes ideals and aspirations; it extols saints and heroes, and fosters a quiet patriotism that will not be satisfied with the constant denigration of the nation and its past. In short, it is not the kind of thing of which egalitarians approve. The requirements of citizenship sit uneasily with the egalitarian culture, and the lesson to be drawn is that, deep down, and unobserved by the commentators who dominate contemporary debate, democracy and equality, which sprang together from the womb of history, have been forever afterwards at war.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 24 Number 5, on page 20
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion |

Popular Right Now