Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Test for All Systems of Government

I am reading a book by Dale Ahlquist entitled Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton. In the book's chapter on democracy, Ahlquist proposes that Chesterton was deeply concerned about the move in Western affairs to a specialist system, a system where we entrust others to do the things that are most fundamental to our existence (a Wendell Berry theme for sure). Some snippets of my favorite quotes follow below.

Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people's property. (Chesterton as qtd in Ahlquist 165)

There is no obligation on us to be richer, or busier, or more efficient, or more productive, or progressive or in any way worldlier or wealthier if it does not makes us happier. (Chesterton as qtd in Ahlquist 166)

An honest man falls in love with an honest woman; he wishes, therefore, to marry her, to be the father of her children, to secure her and himself. All systems of government should be tested by whether he can do this. If any system - feudal, servile, or barbaric - does, in fact, give him so large a cabbage-field that he can do it, there is the essence of liberty and justice. If any system - Republican, mercantile, or Eugenist - does, in fact, give him so small a salary that he can't do it, there is the essence of eternal tyranny and shame. (Chesterton as qtd in Ahlquist 166)