Thursday, 6 August 2015

Throne, Altar, Liberty: The Tory and Democracy

Throne, Altar, Liberty: The Tory and Democracy

'The Tory, being a traditionalist and a royalist, does not share the liberal and leftist belief that democracy is the best form of government. That does not mean that the Tory rejects all forms of democracy. Democracy has a long pedigree, going back two and a half millennia, to ancient Athens. Democracy there was different from modern democracy. The assembly, which voted on all legislation, did not consist of elected representatives, but of the city’s adult, male, citizens, a form of direct democracy more practical in a city-state than in a larger polity. The greatest minds of democratic Athens did not consider it to be either ideal or the best possible form of government. Aristotle continued the discussion of constitutional forms that Plato had begun in The Republic and Laws in his The Constitution of Athens, Ethics, and Politics out of which discussion emerged the classic analysis of constitutions as falling into three basic forms – the rule of the one, the few, and the many – which can be either good or bad, depending upon whether those governing, rule for the common good of all, or merely for themselves. Neither Plato nor Aristotle though very highly of democracy, which, after all, was the system of government that had put Socrates to death and both used its name for the bad form of the rule of many. They saw these forms as unstable, creating a cycle in which one form goes bad, then is replaced by the next which goes bad in turn. Aristotle suggested, however, that a superior, stable, constitution might be possible by mixing all three in a single constitution.

Our parliamentary constitution of the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries such as Canada is an example of this kind of mixed constitution. Queen Elizabeth, presides over a parliament that consists of the House of Lords – or, here in Canada, the Senate – and the House of Commons, consisting of members elected by constituencies as their representatives. The Tory does not object to the democratic element of this mixture, the House of Commons. He insists, however, that the only true authority the House of Commons possesses, is to be regarded as being rooted in tradition and prescription, like that of the other two institutions, and not as being due to it being inherently more rational than the others, or deriving some greater legitimacy due to its being filled by popular election.'

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