Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why people seek elected office

Plato, Republic, 1.347.
[T]he chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like.


Alexis Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 195.

Great talents and great passions generally turn away from power in order to pursue wealth; and it often happens that one takes charge of directing the fortune of the state only when one feels oneself barely capable of conducting one’s own affairs.

It is to these causes as much as to the bad choices of democracy that one must attribute the great number of vulgar men who occupy public offices. In the United States, I do not know if the people would choose superior men who might solicit their votes, but it is certain that such men do not solicit them.


C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns, 17.

I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man.

I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.

The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . .

The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
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