Thursday, May 3, 2007

WSJ: in praise of dictatorship

Arguing a point that has sadly become the standard argument of all but a very few Republicans, the WSJ publishes one of the most repugnant arguments yet, for an American dictatorship.
Now the rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule. The first is that law is always imperfect by being universal, thus an average solution even in the best case, that is inferior to the living intelligence of a wise man on the spot, who can judge particular circumstances. This defect is discussed by Aristotle in the well-known passage in his "Politics" where he considers "whether it is more advantageous to be ruled by the best man or the best laws."

The other defect is that the law does not know how to make itself obeyed. Law assumes obedience, and as such seems oblivious to resistance to the law by the "governed," as if it were enough to require criminals to turn themselves in. No, the law must be "enforced," as we say. There must be police, and the rulers over the police must use energy (Alexander Hamilton's term) in addition to reason. It is a delusion to believe that governments can have energy without ever resorting to the use of force.

The best source of energy turns out to be the same as the best source of reason--one man. One man, or, to use Machiavelli's expression, uno solo, will be the greatest source of energy if he regards it as necessary to maintaining his own rule. Such a person will have the greatest incentive to be watchful, and to be both cruel and merciful in correct contrast and proportion. We are talking about Machiavelli's prince, the man whom in apparently unguarded moments he called a tyrant.
Defending the opinions of such legal minds as John Yoo and Richard Posner, not to mention the absolute right of even a complete incompetent to make life and death decisions unchecked. Mr. Mansfield assures us, the suspension of rule of law only applies during an emergency.
In quiet times the rule of law will come to the fore, and the executive can be weak. In stormy times, the rule of law may seem to require the prudence and force that law, or present law, cannot supply, and the executive must be strong.
It's disturbing enough that one of the world's premier papers doesn't realize that the rule of law is a strength during the worst of times, not a liability.

But any nation which yields absolute power to it’s leader during a time of crisis is guaranteed to be in crisis, forever.

h/t mvdg

No comments: