Trials and Errors

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Trials and Errors

Mankind has tried every form of government known to him. Yet the way to peace still eludes him.
From the December 1999 Trumpet Print Edition

From the beginning, man has been subject to government. The earliest histories of man document the rise and fall of governments. Though man has tried all forms known to him, every dynasty, every empire, every kingdom, every democracy—every regime on earth has ended up going to war to defeat, or be defeated by, the forces of an opposing government, or has disappeared into the dust of disease and decadence.

The greatest of man’s utopian dreams have all come adrift and foundered on the institution of government.

Humankind has just spent another century on this planet seeking, in the words of Aristotle, “not only what form of government is best, but also what is possible,” only to find out that, as this ancient philosopher said, “the best is unattainable.”

Why is this so?

How come, in 6,000 years of documented history, mankind has still not attained the best form of government for human beings to live in peace and security, each nation enjoying an equitable share of the common wealth of planet earth?

This past century has seen a massive technological leap by mankind, from being carried about by four-footed beasts, as had been done for close to 6,000 years, to reaching by the power of space rocketry towards other planets. Yet human beings find themselves embroiled in over 40 conflicts, pitting one government system against another, as the new century dawns.

Let us examine this phenomenon of government briefly and see if it will ever be possible to find a solution to Aristotle’s conundrum: Is the best form of government really unattainable? But first, a quick review of the dominant governments of the 20th century and their contributions towards seeking the seemingly unattainable—the perfect form of government.

The Peak of Empire

By the year 1900, Britain was approaching the peak of its imperial rule. Inheriting an empire, as has been observed, more from a fit of absent-mindedness than by deliberate intent, its method of government was benign. While offering education, law, order and effective administration to the native populations of its far-flung realm, the British encouraged the retention of local culture and customs, except where these infringed upon human rights.

Indeed, as the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana observed, “Instinctively the Englishman is no missionary, no conqueror. He prefers the country to the town, and home to foreign parts. He is rather glad and relieved if only natives will remain natives and strangers strangers. Yet outwardly he is most hospitable and accepts almost anybody for the time being; he travels and conquers without a settled design, because he has the instinct of exploration…. Never since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls and fanatics manage to supplant him” (The Abolition of Britain, pp. 90-91).

The form of government brought to bear upon its vast empire by Great Britain may be described as a benevolent monarchy. Although great deference and respect were paid to the monarch, the British Parliament legislated the government based upon Britain’s ancient, 700-year old Constitution. The legislature was underpinned by the rule of law which had its roots in the laws, statutes and judgments handed by Almighty God to Moses to enact in governing ancient Israel (Exod. 20-23).

If parliament, under a constitutional monarchy, gave the empire its authority, it was its navy that gave Britain its power. So extensive was Britain’s naval reach that it was taken for granted, up to 1914, that “Britannia ruled the waves.” Thus Britain protected its vast land interests, upon which the sun never set, by standing guard on the world’s major sea gates (Gen. 22:17).

Yet, 14 years on from the dawn of the 20th century, it seemed that “blackguards, conspirators, churls and fanatics” did, in fact, conspire to move against the security of Britain’s empire with the outbreak of war in 1914 on the European continent. The Great War pulverized the cream of the crop of British manhood and left Britain with a still firm yet significantly weakened hold on its empire.

In Europe things turned out quite differently. “The great question at the heart of 19th-century European politics was who should govern—the princes or the people? The question was settled by World War I, which swept away the continent’s dynastic monarchs and their empires, only to give rise to another: Just how are the people to govern—through elected representatives whose powers are limited, or through self-appointed political elites exercising total control over those they rule?” (The National Interest, Fall 1999).

With the close of the World War I, the age of imperialism and of sovereign monarchs entered its death throes. A new form of government, communism, entered the arena of world politics following the Russian Revolution in 1917. Based on the socialist philosophies of Karl Marx, of Prussian/Hungarian parentage, and the German Friedrich Engels, communism spread its tentacles throughout a Russia tired of the occasional tyranny of corrupt tsarist regimes.

As has been man’s tendency since ancient times, the main powers sought to have the opposing nations which led the conflict of the Great War sign a treaty to confirm new borders reflecting a redistribution of power—and, in this instance, to seek reparations from the principle antagonist, Germany. Like so many of man’s treaties, the Treaty of Versailles was at best a compromise; at worst, clearly unworkable. It chafed the wounds of defeated Germany through unreasonable reparations and did little to effectively balance the share of power in Europe. The result was that a little over two decades later, the world became embroiled in its greatest-ever conflict.

World War II began, in Eastern Europe, with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Although historians may document both world wars as clashes between national interests, the Second World War, in particular, was a clash between competing systems of government. On the one side, unfurling their red, white and blue ensigns, were the British Empire, its major ally the United States of America and the associated Western democracies. On the other were the combined forces of imperial Germany under national socialist government, and imperial Japan. The wild card was Russia and its Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, under communist government.

This, in the simplest of terms, was a clash of the dynamics of four great systems of government: Western-style democracy, nazism, communism and Japanese imperialism, all calling for a new order to be imposed on the free nations of the world. Most of these nations enjoyed that freedom under the aegis of the British Empire and to some extent the U.S. It is significant that whereas the Western Allies abolished slavery and permitted freedom of worship, freedom of enterprise, development of culture and society on a system based on the rule of law, none of the opposing systems of government exhibited such freedoms.

Thus it was that the first half of the 20th century was dominated by wars, rumors of wars and preparations for wars, culminating in the most massive destruction of life, property and environment ever known to man. The end result was victory for the free world. Yet, by virtue of the fashion of their liberal democracies, the management of that victory by the Western Allies sowed the seeds of its impending undoing. Indeed, as we shall see, as we draw to the close of this century, the very same conditions which led to the great conflagrations of the first half of the 20th century loom large on the horizon.

Superpowers and Cold War

Whereas the first half of the 20th century was still dominated by one superpower, Great Britain and its globe-girdling empire, in alliance with the world’s single greatest nation, the United States of America, the second half was to see the emergence of two superpowers, each representing totally different systems of government.

Having reluctantly entered the First World War two years and eight months after its start, the U.S. was literally bombed into the Second World War 25 years later by the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Long enjoying relative isolation, the U.S. had busied itself in the first half of the century building its economy into the greatest single industrial power on earth. By dint of massive migration, principally from Europe, the U.S. had developed into the world’s largest single democracy. Its entry into the war tipped the balance in the Allies’ favor.

However, at the cessation of hostilities in 1945, it was apparent that, with British power now greatly sapped by two great wars, rebellion fomenting in India and the prospect of other nations agitating for independence, it would be to the U.S. that the Western world would look for leadership. To the east, it would be the emerging communist power, Russia. Thus we entered the age of cold war under the towering influence of two opposing superpowers.

For over 40 years, the U.S. democracy and USSR communist governments faced each other down over increasingly massive stockpiles of nuclear weaponry. This hiatus maintained a balance of power between Russia and America, while they went about the business of individual subterfuge, each trying to undermine the other via vast spy networks centered largely in Berlin, New York, Moscow and London. At the turn of the final decade of the century, the 40-year standoff between these two superpowers was finally broken when the Soviet economy collapsed.

Perceiving the weakening of the USSR, the cia teamed up with the Vatican State security network to pry open access to, and influence within, Poland. Using the Polish trade union organization Solidarity as a cover for their operations, the Jesuit-cia connection caused the fissure in the Soviet collective of East European nations which rumbled through to East Germany and split the dividing wall between Eastern and Western Europe asunder in November 1989.

The final decade of the 20th century saw Eastern Europe flirt with Western capitalism but still demonstrate a gnawing hunger for the protective umbrella of the socialist welfare state. By the end of the 1990s, a new phenomenon was rippling across Europe. Yet was it new—or was it the beginning revival of a system which had emerged to terrorize nations, particularly in Europe, during its most terrifying moments, barely 60 years before?

Totalitarianism vs. Democracy

When we stand back and take a long, hard look at the past 100 years, it becomes clear that we have witnessed a titanic struggle between the forces of totalitarianism and democracy washing over and influencing the outcome of world events.

On the one hand, Soviet-style communism, Sino-communism under the Chinese totalitarian regimes, and national socialism (nazism), collectively have been responsible for an estimated 169 million deaths over the past century.

On the other hand, over the same period, the Western democracies have sacrificed an estimated 6.5 million deaths (defensive personnel) in resisting those evil forces of totalitarianism and limiting their spread.

Apart from the crushing defeat meted out upon national socialism by the combined forces of the Western democracies in World War II, the most tangible evidence of the failure of totalitarian government was the dramatic collapse of the USSR in 1991.

To describe the fundamental difference between a totalitarian and a free-democratic state, we consider the approach of each of these forms of government to people. In respect of totalitarianism, to quote Maxim Gorky’s observation of that tsar of communism, Lenin, “The working classes are to Lenin what minerals are to a metallurgist.” Thus the masses are looked upon as mere feed for the blast furnaces of industry, or cannon fodder for their military machines. Simply put, life’s cheap under a totalitarian government.

To contrast this with the democracies of the West, they generally stress the importance of the freedoms and human rights of the individual. In the face of all of the trash trotted out by racists, academic bigots, revisionists, the doctors of political correctness and collective Anglophobes, the plain facts of history are that within the West, it is the English-speaking peoples which, down through the centuries, have maintained the middle course between anarchy and despotism. As French statesman Jacques Necker declared, the British form of government was the only government on earth “which united public strength with individual security.” So entrenched are the basic freedoms of the individual in the English-speaking countries that we just think it natural and normal to enjoy the civil liberties which are common to our countries. “Nor need we forget that in World War II those areas of Europe and Asia that were indeed liberated, and not turned over to another despotism, were liberated in the European case mainly by the combined arms of the United States, Britain and Canada; in the Asian case mainly by the combined arms of the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand” (The National Interest, p. 65).

But this has been by no means due to the luck of history. These rich blessings which manifest themselves in the basic freedoms of English-speaking society—freedom of speech, the right of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, our largely reliable forms of administration, the concept of accountability in office, the basic institutions of our society—these are all bound up in a culture founded upon a rich heritage gifted to the English-speaking nations by the very God they tend to ignore. They were given as the inheritance promised to the ancient nation of Israel due to the faith and obedience of their founding father, Abraham (Gen. 22:18).

Perhaps the greatest remaining witness to the source of these blessings is the rule of law which underpins the government of the English-speaking peoples. Trace it back to its origins. It was written in stone by the finger of Almighty God. The system of law which binds free society together in the English-speaking nations, though becoming largely corrupt, is simply based upon the law, statutes and judgments of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Heritage Lost

Though the queen who ruled the British Empire at its peak, Victoria, generally understood this, the knowledge of their glorious heritage was largely lost to the English-speaking nations, rapidly and progressively, over the past century. And as they have regressed in their knowledge of this great truth, so the erosion of civil society has eaten away at the moral heart and core of the English-speaking nations.

Truly, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has claimed, “Totalitarianism has shaped, or, if one prefers it, distorted the political and governmental scene of the 20th century. It promises to continue to do so….”

Looking over the past half-century in particular, we find that the insidious ideologies that created the totalitarian state have eaten into the very inner fabric of the governments of the Western democracies.

It was said by Sir Winston Churchill of democracy, “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

But now, at century’s end, we find that “the worst form of government except all those other forms” is so effected by totalitarian ideology as to completely blur the distinction between traditional conservatism and liberal socialism. The result is the third way.

At century’s end, socialist governments dominate Europe clear across the English Channel to Britain. They are staffed and in some cases led by bureaucrats and politicians who were, in the main, born this side of the Second World War. They hail from a generation which shunned the history of their parents and grandparents and embraced a “revisionist” history. Their sense of heritage is nil. Their politics is that of convenience. Traditional socialist dogma is modified and packaged in conservative-sounding wrapping. These are the men and women of the “center left” parties. Able to change policies and political stances like chameleons, they tout a “third way” of government, claiming that theirs is neither a capitalist nor communist approach. They claim to have found new ground in a philosophy of government which is neither left nor right. It is an appealing argument to some, bereft as mankind has become of ideas on how to govern himself effectively .

Trouble is, the clear-thinking analysts have started to see great similarity between the leadership and methods of third-way stylists and that old tyranny of national socialism, plain old fascism. Even more worrying, third-way, fascist politics is starting to be seen as the method of government increasingly being exploited by that power which is now rising to fill the vacuum created by the demise of the USSR and the withdrawal of the U.S. from European involvement—the European Union.

The Third Way

Throughout history, the family unit has been recognized as the basic building block of society. Religion and family have been the greatest barriers to the spread of totalitarian government. Consequently, totalitarian rulers devote much energy to destroying religious belief and to removing women from their traditional (and most fulfilling) role as housekeepers, child-carers and educators, and integrating them into the work force. Here, treated as equal with men, they join the masses as fodder for the wheels of industry and machines of war. In the process, the care, nurture and education of the children is taken over by the state, which simply indoctrinates them into the totalitarian system of government. Education descends to mere brainwashing. The totalitarian state then takes over to replace the traditional household.

By easing the provisions for divorce and creating welfare legislation and institutions, the material necessities on which families are sustained are removed. Further dependence of the individual upon the state is accelerated by the provision of subsidies for education, health and medical services. Kenneth Minogue, professor emeritus of political science at the London School of Economics, describes this as “soft” totalitarianism. It is to this type of creeping totalitarianism that our Western democracies are succumbing at the turn of this century.

The greatest failure of the English-speaking democracies, which held the line of freedom from more evil forms and styles of government over the past century, has been their ready willingness to trash the ancient and royal heritage which they held in common, which gave them their individual national identities, to embrace a godless, evolutionary, anti-family, liberal-socialist theology, matched with a corporatist greed in their economies.

This has led to a replacement of our inherited morality of right and wrong. The concept of shame becomes archaic. Traditional notions of decency and morality are replaced by a new morality termed “political correctness.” The crazy thing about this imposition on Western society of “political correctness” as a moral code is that the gurus who create it come from the school which, in an effort to trash what they called “the Judeo-Christian ethic” (a euphemism for Bible-based values), used to maintain that there was no single right way of judging moral and political issues!

Now we see, under the umbrella of Catholic-socialist dogma (and there is real congruence between Catholic social doctrine and the doctrine of socialism), a third way of government touted by the leaders of the rising Europower, which is powerful in its criticism of the traditional governments of the free democracies. This is a way of governing which the center-left governments of Europe, Britain and its former dominions and the U.S. are being powerfully drawn towards. It is perhaps most startlingly revealed in the words of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his speech to the party faithful in Bournmouth, England, September 28. Notice the religious overtones: “The [third way] cause we have fought for these 100 years is no longer simply our cause of social justice. It is the nation’s only hope of salvation…. And it is [up to] us, the new radicals…to be the progressive force that defeats the forces of conservatism. For the 21st century will not be about battle between capitalism and socialism, but between the forces of [third way] progress and the forces of conservatism [national heritage]. We were chained by our ideology [totalitarian socialism]. We thought we had eternal doctrines, when they are in truth eternal values. Arrayed against us: the forces of conservatism…those who yearn for yesteryear.”

This speech contrasts starkly with the biblical admonition, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16).

There are those who would claim that the values of the third way, grandly praised by Mr. Blair as “eternal values,” are a far cry from those God-given values which, notwithstanding the imperfect way they were administered, nevertheless built the greatest, most peaceful and harmonized human government this world has ever known. Though humans governed it, it was God-given, and underpinned by a God-given law, upon which are founded the only eternal truths!

Deja Vu

On reflection, this world has witnessed every human system of government known to man in place, somewhere, at some time, over the past 100 years. And the results? Failure. Not one of the principle systems of government known to man—monarchy, democracy, republic, oligarchy, despotism, tyranny—nor known system of political economy from capitalism to communism—has produced and maintained true peace, prosperity and happiness for the masses. None have produced utopia. All have fundamental flaws. The greatest single nation of them all, the United States of America, though demonstrating great power potential, is rotten at its core, drastically weakened morally at century’s end, withdrawing into a new isolationism.

As this century’s end approaches, a whole list of European and Mediterranean nations clamor to join the European Union. The Balkans are destabilized. Russia is seeking to wind back the clock ten years and re-establish its old empire. India and Pakistan threaten each other with nuclear weapons. The Middle East continues to build into an armed camp. Africa is a mess. China is saber-rattling, trying to hide the fact of its own massive internal problems. Japan worries about its future role. Indonesia implodes. North Korea pursues its maverick agenda. The Asian economies lick their sick wounds. Latin America looks to Europe in defiance of overtures by the U.S. to join the northern nafta bloc. Australia suddenly feels isolated. Canada suffers from schizophrenia, not knowing whether to stay as one country or split into two. Britain stands on the brink of being a kingdom divided, and Irish people still blow up each other. In the meantime, the U.S. policeman sulks, surrounded by an ungrateful world, possessing massive firepower but increasingly witnessing the shattering of the pride of its power (Lev. 26:19).

In the words of Kenneth Minogue, “Human beings are unsuitable people for crafting social perfection.” This is the state of the world after a century of the greatest growth in productivity and traded wealth that mankind has ever witnessed. History grinds on and comes round once again to bite us.

Sidebar: Five Traditional Forms of Government

MONARCHY Government with a sovereign at the head having the title king, queen, emperor, empress or the equivalent.

ARISTOCRACY Government by the nobility or a privileged group. Aristocrats are separated from the masses by distinctions of birth, talent, property, power or leisure.

Oligarchy Often confused with aristocracy. Though it is a ruling of the masses by a few select individuals, it is usually associated with a flouting of law, custom and general practice.

DEMOCRACY Government exercised by political power in the hands of the many rather than the few.

TYRANNY A vicious misuse of power and a violent abuse of the human beings subject to it.

Sidebar: “Isms” of Government

Capitalism An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods and services depend on invested private capital and profit making.

Nationalism A policy of national independence.

Totalitarianism Government with a centralized dictatorial nature requiring complete subservience to the state. Totalitarian government contains six basic elements—an ideology, a single party typically led by one man, a terroristic profile, a communications monopoly, a weapons monopoly and a centrally directed economy.

Imperialism A policy of extending a country’s territory, trade and influence by the acquisition of dependent territories and exerting over them sovereign rule.

socialism A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Communism A political theory advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned, and each person is paid and working according to his individual needs and abilities.

Fascism The totalitarian system of political thought and organization. With roots in late 19th and early 20th-century intellectual thought, it strove to draw from both left- and right-wing politics to establish a “third way,” neither capitalist nor communist. It is nationalistic in its expression and authoritarian in its administration.

Nazism National socialism. An extreme form of fascism, characterized by racial hatred, particularly of the Jews, and brutalization or elimination of those perceived as its enemies. Different from communism in that under communism the state owns the means of production, distribution and exchange, whereas national socialism permits private ownership of these, under state control and direction.