I came across this video over the weekend of Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro, engaged in a newish debate of populism versus traditional conservatism™. You can easily guess who was taking what side.
Where those two differ, I’ve already decided which side of the line I’m on, but what caught my eye about this mini-debate occurred about five minutes in.
Shapiro: “…the John Adams formulation was that this constitution was only built for a moral and virtuous people, it wasn’t built for any other. There are two ways to actually tackle that. One is to say we are no longer moral and no longer virtuous, so we have to change-freedom, and the other is to say, well, if we want to maintain the freedom we have to become moral and virtuous again.”
Hmmm…that is the question isn’t it?
The John Adams quote…
…was considered a truism in an earlier age, particularly in the mass democracy distrusting founding fathers. Carlson and Shapiro never resolve the issue in the few minutes of the debate, but it’s a good question none the less. A representative government is the trickiest and most difficult type of government to pull off, and requires several preconditions, including those mentioned here. If you don’t have an ethical electorate, how are you going to have ethical electoral results? Obviously you can’t, and although Shapiro seems to hold out some hope that the populace can be made virtuous again, I see no mechanism to do that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve tolled the bell for our system of government. It’s been wobbly for a long time and shows no signs of righting itself. Historically, aging democracies end in some sort of tyranny. Is that where we are heading? I confess I don’t have any answers for this, but it’s important to at least be aware of the questions.