The Vice of Republics

Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers: dwelt in the love of God and man. Alike were they free from fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics. Henry W. Longfellow, Evangeline We do not have to look far to see what the poet meant when he flagged envyContinue reading “The Vice of Republics”

The Slothful Tyrant

In the first volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville warns us about a new and sinister form of oppression to which modern democratic peoples are susceptible: “the tyranny of the majority.” In olden times, abusive rulers used harsh punishments to coerce their subjects, and even just rulers were surrounded by flatterers seeking to harness publicContinue reading “The Slothful Tyrant”

Lifting Up Our Souls

On the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. Exodus 20:10 In his masterwork, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, Josef PieperContinue reading “Lifting Up Our Souls”

Beyond the Power of Man

Omnipotence in itself seems to me something bad and dangerous.  Its exercise seems to me beyond the power of man, whoever he may be; and I see only God who can, without danger, be all powerful, because his wisdom and his justice are always equal to his power. There is no authority on earth so respectableContinue reading “Beyond the Power of Man”

The Single-Issue Fallacy

Recently, a prominent elected official, in an effort to appear to promote national unity, blessed us with a blanket denunciation of half of her fellow citizens and coreligionists. Catholics who voted for Donald Trump, according to Nancy Pelosi, “were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.” That “one issue”Continue reading “The Single-Issue Fallacy”

Questioning Authority

They found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. Luke 2:46 One of the many prejudices masquerading as enlightenment in modern times is the notion that reason and religion are antithetical modes of confronting reality. How many voices call for “dialogue,” when they really meanContinue reading “Questioning Authority”

The Wonderous Potency of Practice

Assume a virtue, if you have it not. For use almost can change the stamp of nature, And either curb the devil, or throw him out, With wondrous potency. Thus speaks Hamlet, in an attempt to reform the character of his mother, the compromised Queen of Denmark. Alas, Hamlet ignores his own advice. Rather thanContinue reading “The Wonderous Potency of Practice”

How We Learned to Love Leviathan

Tocqueville wants us to have a “salutary fear” of the new forms despotism threatens to take in modern times. Fear is a response to evil. Once we see how tyranny deprives us of essential goods, it becomes evident that it is something to be avoided, even at considerable cost. Free will being an essential partContinue reading “How We Learned to Love Leviathan”

Receiving the Spirit of Sons

Despite his Jesuit education, which often serves him so well, Tocqueville appears to miss the memo on magnanimity, that virtue by which we humbly accept the greatness to which God and nature call us. Responding to “moralists” who “complain constantly that the favorite vice of our period is pride,” Tocqueville asks us to look deeper.Continue reading “Receiving the Spirit of Sons”

A Reasonable Revolution

According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, truth is defined as shared perception. If I think that I am sitting at a table, I find that the other persons present agree with me; so if I say that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. If I am in aContinue reading “A Reasonable Revolution”