Montesquieu on Anacyclosis
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher. He was a founder of key political-historical tenets such as the “separation of powers” and was a major source of inspiration for our own Founding Fathers.
Within his key historical text Complete Works, the Spirit of Laws:[i]
“Book 8. On the corruption of the principles of the three governments.
Chapter 2. On the corruption of the principle of democracy.
The principle of democracy is corrupted not only when the spirit of equality is lost but also when the spirit of extreme equality is taken up and each one wants to be equal to those chosen to command. So the people, finding intolerable even the power they entrust to the others, want to do everything themselves: to deliberate for the senate, to execute for the magistrates, and to cast aside all the judges.”
The above paragraph addresses the issue of the non-merit effect in rule by many forms and the issue of equality. Equality becomes a desirable trait in a democracy, but it is never a practical trait that can sustain itself. This is especially important regarding high-profile societal positions, such as the political class. When the less-than-worthy begin to fill these roles (through equality dealings or other non-merit-based functions), the nation will begin to degrade rapidly.
He goes on:
“Corruption will increase among those who corrupt, and it will increase among those who are already corrupted. The people will distribute among themselves all the public funds; and, just as they will join the management of business to their laziness, they will want to join the amusements of luxury to their poverty. But given their laziness and their luxury, only the public treasure can be their object.
One must not be astonished to see votes given for silver. One cannot give the people much without taking even more from them; but, in order to take from them, the state must be overthrown. The more the people appear to take advantage of their liberty, the nearer they approach the moment they are to lose it. Petty tyrants are formed, having all the vices of a single one. What remains of liberty soon becomes intolerable. A single tyrant rises up, and the people lose everything, even the advantages of their corruption.
Therefore, democracy has to avoid two excesses: the spirit of inequality, which leads it to aristocracy or to the government of one alone, and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads it to the despotism of one alone, as the despotism of one alone ends by conquest”
The issues that Montesquieu rise are certainly truthful and blunt. Any system that seeks to fix their cycle permanently must invariably address the issues he raises, which are virtue, the spirit of the people, the targeted assault against corruption, and the issue of “votes for silver” (the funds of contributors being used to buy-out the votes of non-contributors).
There are two other major topics here that we wish to point out.
The first, is that Montesquieu correctly notices the effect of bad voters in democracy. This should be a recurring theme from our historical sources at this point, but he specifically addresses the problem in a fuller extent. This gives us a couple of important lessons. First, those who have the highest say in voting must be those who contribute the most, to avoid the issues of problematic voters. This is the platform for our contributor voting system called “contributor voting”. Non-contributors must be limited, to limit their potential corruption. Secondly, the politicians must never be put in a position where they are incentivized for short-term gain to avoid corrupt acts. They must never have a strong incentive to “buy out” votes of non-contributors. Their positions must be somewhat similar to the positions of a rule by few, so they are more interested in effective ruling than they are in keeping their power through the use of corruption, mobs, or low-information voters. We accomplish this through our Mark system.
The second topic is on equality. The nation cannot sustain itself if it becomes too inequal, because then it would become a rule by few. This is offset by our tackling of elites, especially of the isolated class. But the problem is just as bad if looked at inversely. If the nation becomes too equal, then merit will take a backseat and despotism arises. This means that equality must be thoroughly rejected and shut down, which is a component of our cultural baseline.
[i] Baron de Montesquieu. Complete Works, Vol 1. The Spirit of The Laws.
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