Regnum Christi

The year I was living in the Dominican Priory, I was finishing my last year of college at nearby Dominican University.  When I went into that year, I don't think I have been less interested in learning for the sake of learning.  I simply wanted to get my degree as quickly and painlessly as possible to get on with the business of becoming a priest.  As it turns out, I ended up getting the best year of education I have ever gotten, mostly because I spent most of the time learning political theory from the Professors Colmo, a husband and wife team who were both dynamite.  Ever since, political theory has been an real area of passionate interest for me.

Which brings me to talking about Michael Voris.

Michael Voris is an ex-television news executive who has become a YouTube sensation with his "RealCatholicTV" channel.  RealCatholicTV is targeted at those folks that think that EWTN is for wimps that are too afraid to tell the "real story."  Many of his videos talk about the need for a "crusade" against the Fifth Column of traitors within the Catholic Church.  He likes to carry around and wield a sword, seemingly to show you he means business.  I think it is safe to say Mr. Voris is a bit unhinged.

The video that has gotten him the most notoriety has to do with his views on political life.

The general reaction to this video has been shock and horror, so much so that Voris took it off his YouTube channel.  I disagree--I think this is the most interesting thing he has said, much more than his ranting about supposed "traitors" in that bastion of hippie thought, the U.S. Catholic Bishop's Conference.

Voris's basic premise is that, if we know what is Right and what is Wrong, why does it make sense to let people who believe in all sorts of Wrongness participate in making decisions?  Why should they get a vote?  Aren't they just going to screw things up?  And if we know what is Right and Wrong, why should we bother going the laborous and time-consuming process of voting when we can just pick someone who is smart and moral and let him or her run stuff?

The answer is he is right--assuming you accept two basic premises.  First, you have to know that you are Right.  Second, you have to be willing to enforce your Rightness against the Wrongness of others.  Because the people in the wrong have a tendency to believe that they are right, and are likely to resist being forced to do the Right thing.

The American political system is based on the principle that a) Premise #1 is not really possible as a philosophical or practical matter, and even if it is b) Premise #2 leads to endless and destructive fights that make society impossible to govern (this is part of what Thomas Hobbes was talking about in his famous phrase "The War of All Against All").  Liberal democratic theory is all about trying to find a way to build a society that is not based on these two Premises.

Americans have a tendency to view the American political system as a revealed truth that is beyond reproach.  I think that's why people lose their minds when someone like Voris says that a real monarchy might be awesome.  Democracy is not a revealed truth--it's a system that is an attempt to provide a practical solution to political problems, one that has done well on balance for a lot of people.  But that "done well" part is only true if you define doing well according to the underlying philosophical postulates.

But what if you don't believe in those postulates?  What if you think that we can know what is Right reliably via, let's say, God's revealed Word as mediated through His Church?  All of the sudden, democracy no longer seems such a smart plan.  There is a reason that Catholicism was officially suspicious of democracy until Vatican II.  It's not because the Popes were old European fuddy-duddies--it's for all the reasons Voris talks about.  100 years ago, Voris's views would have represented mainstream Catholic political theory--suspicious of democracy and upholding the Catholic monarch as the ideal governmental method.  And it's not just those wacky Catholics--read what the Eastern Orthodox have to say about symphonia as a politcal theory (or just observe this idea being put into action in the developing relationship between the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church).  Or better yet, see what Plato and Aristotle had to say about democracy.

I don't agree with Voris ultimately, but it's not because I am horrified that someone would suggest that democracy might not be the way to go.  My reasons are entirely empirical.  I think that democratic systems have proven to be less awful, on balance, than other forms of government, particularly modern forms of government.  Voris glosses over the very real problem of what happens when you end up with a lousy monarch that you can't get rid of--the North Koreans might be able to provide some useful insight on this point.  As Winston Churchill said: "Ours is a monstrous system--except when compared with all others."  So, I do not believe that America is doomed to destruction.  But that doesn't mean we should accept it uncritically.


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