January 8, 2010

Democracy & Equality

Note: This entry is designed to gather into one place the aphorisms in which Gómez Dávila mentions democracy and equality. Other aphorisms relevant to the topics of democracy and equality may also be found in other entries, such as the one on politics, law, and society.

As long as they do not take him seriously, the man who says the truth can live for a while in a democracy.
Then, the hemlock. (#2,492)

Democratic parliaments are not forums where debates take place, but rather where popular absolutism registers its decrees. (#21)

In order to transform the idea of the “social contract” into an eminently democratic thesis, one needs the sophism of suffrage.
Where one supposes, in effect, that the majority is equivalent to the totality, the idea of consensus is twisted into totalitarian coercion. (#2,294)

There exist two interpretations of the popular vote, one democratic, the other liberal.
According to the democratic interpretation what the majority resolves upon is true; according to the liberal interpretation the majority merely chooses one option.
A dogmatic and absolutist interpretation, the one; a skeptical and discreet interpretation, the other. (#2,943)

Being of “divine right” limited the monarch; the “representative of the people” is the representative of absolute Absolutism. (#2,141)

Democratic elections decide who may be oppressed legally. (#1,931)

To substitute a democratic government for another, non-democratic government comes down to substituting the beneficiaries of the pillaging. (#2,782)

In order to oppress the people, it is necessary to suppress in the name of the people that which stands out from the people. (#2,031)

Absolute monarchies disposed with less fickleness of the fortunes of one individual than popular absolutisms dispose of the destiny of entire social classes. (#1,501)

Democratic tribunals do not make the guilty tremble, but rather the accused. (#1,440)

The reactionary invented the dialogue upon observing differences among men and the variety of their intentions.
The democrat engages in a monologue, because humanity expresses itself through his mouth. (#716)

The three hypostases of egoism are: individualism, nationalism, collectivism.
The democratic trinity. (#715)

Love of the people is the aristocrat’s vocation.
The democrat does not love the people except during election season. (#26)

Revolutions are frightening, but election campaigns are disgusting. (#1,444)

Political parties, in democracies, have the function of enlisting citizens so that the political class can direct them as it pleases. (#2,538)

The fervor of the homage which the democrat renders to humanity is comparable only to the coldness with which he disrespects the individual.
The reactionary disdains man, without meeting an individual he scorns. (#832)

The more serious its problems, the greater the number of inept men democracy calls forth to solve them. (#50)

The percentage of eligible voters who abstain from voting measures the degree of concrete liberty in a democracy.
Where liberty is fictitious, or where it is threatened, the percentage tends toward zero. (#1,223)

Today’s conservatives are nothing more than liberals who have been ill-treated by democracy. (#1,208)

Capitalism is the monstrous distortion of private property by liberal democracy. (#2,334)

The political presence of the masses always culminates in a hellish apocalypse. (#53)

Confusing the popular with the democratic is the democrat’s tactical ruse. (#1,433)

Spasms of injured vanity, or of greed trampled underfoot—democratic doctrines invent the evils they denounce in order to justify the good they proclaim. (#57)

The democrat comforts himself with the generosity of the program over the magnitude of the disasters it produces. (#2,025)

A partisan of equality who is not envious can only be so because he is stupid. (#1,117)

Egalitarian societies strangle the imagination without even satisfying envy. (#1,032)

The economic inflation at the end of this century is a moral phenomenon.
The result, and at the same time the punishment, of egalitarian greed. (#2,297)

A “patriot,” in democracies, is someone who lives from the State; an “egoist,” someone from whom the State lives. (#1,134)

Whoever does not turn his back on the contemporary world dishonors himself. (#76)

The naturally democratic soul feels that neither its defects, nor its vices, nor its crimes, affect its substantial excellence. The reactionary, on the other hand, feels that all corruption ferments in his soul. (#2,190)

In aristocratic times what has value is priceless; in democratic times what is priceless has no value. (#1,679)

The possibility of selling to the public any man-made object in the name of art is a democratic phenomenon.
Democratic ages, in effect, foment the uncertainty of taste by abolishing every model.
If the most excellent work of art is still possible there, lesser art dies and extravagance abounds.
Where an authority exists, on the other hand, enjoying unfamiliar works is not easy, but taste is infallible when dealing with contemporary art, and lesser art flourishes. (#2,237)

What are called good manners are habits derived from respect for a superior transformed into dealings between equals. (#98)

To insult an inferior is just slightly more vile than to flatter him. (#1,605)

The democrat’s ideas are more tolerable than his manners. (#2,267)

Good manners, in the end, are nothing but the way in which respect is expressed.
Since respect, in its turn, is a feeling inspired by the presence of an admitted superior, wherever hierarchies are absent—real or fictitious, but revered—good manners die out.
Rudeness is a democratic product. (#644)

There is something definitively vile about the man who only admits equals, who does not tirelessly seek out his betters. (#2,655)

Dreams of excellence do not deserve respect except when they do not disguise a vulgar appetite for superiority. (#1,948)

Authentic superiority is intolerable for the fool.
Its simulacra, on the other hand, fascinate him. (#2,007)

The egalitarian considers courtesy a confession of inferiority.
Among egalitarians rudeness marks rank. (#1,421)

The man who is disrespectful in order to demonstrate his equality certifies his inferiority. (#1,767)

Systematic familiarity is the hypocrisy of an egalitarian who considers himself inferior, or superior, but not equal. (#1,669)

Those who deny the existence of ranks do not imagine with what clarity the rest see theirs. (#1,858)

None of us finds it difficult to love the neighbor who seems inferior to us.
But to love someone we know is superior is another thing. (#677)

Communication among men becomes difficult when ranks disappear.
Individuals do not extend their hands to each other when walking in a crowd, but rather elbow each other. (#1,254)

The world becomes filled with contradictions when we forget that things have ranks. (#2,664)

In a democracy the only man who smiles at everyone else is the politician in search of votes.
No one else can afford the luxury of smiling at others: everyone is everyone else’s rival. (#2,176)

The absence of legal hierarchies facilitates the rise of the less scrupulous. (#2,454)

Only among friends are there no ranks. (#1,727)

Nobody finds himself by searching merely for himself.
Personality is born out of conflict with a norm. (#664)

Loyalty to a doctrine ends in adherence to the interpretation we give it.
Only loyalty to a person frees us from all self-complacency. (#2,445)

Man emerges from the beast when he orders his instincts hierarchically. (#1,917)

Poverty is the only barrier to the throng of vulgarities that whinny inside souls. (#103)

In society just as in the soul, when hierarchies abdicate the appetites rule. (#1,719)

The demands of honor increase with the rank of the obligations and soon seem extravagant to plebeian souls. (#1,746)

“Equality of opportunity” does not mean the possibility for all to be decent, but the right of all not to be decent. (#2,276)

Life is a workshop of hierarchies.
Only death is democratic. (#786)

Hierarchies are heavenly.
In Hell all are equal. (#1,451)

Natural inequalities would make the democrat’s life bitter, if slander did not exist. (#137)

To democratize Christianity they have to falsify the texts, reading “equal” where they say “brother.” (#783)

My brothers? Yes. My equals? No.
Because there are older and younger brothers. (#769)

As long as they do not turn equality into a dogma, we can treat each other as equals. (#988)

Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different. (#1,974)

Leveling is the barbarian’s substitute for order. (#215)

Every non-hierarchical society is divided into two parts. (#1,177)

Individualism is not the antithesis of totalitarianism but a condition of it.
Totalitarianism and hierarchy, on the other hand, are terminal positions of contrary movements. (#1,968)

Where even the last vestige of feudal ties disappears, the increasing social isolation of the individual and his increasing helplessness fuse him into a totalitarian mass. (#2,657)

The immigration of the peasant into the cities was less disastrous than that of the notable from the people.
Rural society, on the one hand, lost the structure of prestige that used to discipline it, and the notable, on the other, was transformed into an anonymous particle of the amorphous human mass. (#2,865)

Socialism arose as nostalgia for the social unity destroyed by bourgeois atomism.
But it did not understand that social unity is not the totalitarian condensing of individuals, but the systematic totality of a hierarchy. (#1,965)

Instead of looking for explanations for the fact of inequality, anthropologists should look for the explanation for the notion of equality. (#520)

The egalitarian passion is a perversion of the critical sense: atrophy of the faculty of discrimination. (#432)

Even if inequality could be wiped out, we should prefer it to equality out of love for polychromy. (#910)

The reactionary does not condemn the bourgeois mentality, but rather its predominance.
What we reactionaries deplore is the absorption of the aristocracy and the people by the bourgeoisie.
It is the emasculation of liberty or, alternatively, of equality. (#1,609)

If men were born equal, they would invent inequality to kill boredom. (#1,352)

He who accepts the rank which nature assigns him does not turn into the mere absence of what he is not.
Even the most modest thing has, in its proper place, immeasurable worth. (#324)

The reactionary is not upset by certain things, but by anything out of place. (#1,622)

To be a protagonist in the drama of life, it is enough to be a perfect actor, whatever the role one plays.
Life has no secondary roles, only secondary actors. (#416)

There is no contemptible occupation, as long as it is not credited with any importance it does not have. (#1,873)

In an egalitarian society neither the magnanimous nor the humble fit in; there is only room for pretentious virtues. (#610)

Treating an inferior with respect and affection is the classic syndrome of the reactionary psychosis. (#1,033)

In societies where everybody believes they are equal, the inevitable superiority of a few makes the rest feel like failures.
Inversely, in societies where inequality is the norm, each person settles into his own distinct place, without feeling the urge, nor even conceiving the possibility, of comparing himself to others.
Only a hierarchical structure is compassionate towards the mediocre and the meek. (#764)

Frustration is the distinctive psychological characteristic of democratic society.
Where all may legitimately aspire to the summit, the entire pyramid is an accumulation of frustrated individuals. (#1,110)

Where the customs and the laws permit everyone to aspire to everything, everyone lives a frustrated life, no matter what position he comes to occupy. (#2,359)

On the wide-open steppe the individual finds no protection against the inclemency of nature, nor in egalitarian society against the inclemency of man. (#1,358)

In a hierarchical society imagination’s force is disciplined and does not unhinge the individual as it does in a democratic society. (#2,488)

Unjust inequality is not remedied by equality, but by just inequality. (#2,920)

Society tends to be unjust, but not in the way the conceited imagine.
There are always more masters who do not deserve their position than servants who do not deserve theirs. (#509)

Everybody feels superior to what he does, because he believes he is superior to what he is.
Nobody believes he is the little that he really is. (#665)

Men are less equal than they say and more equal than they think. (#778)

There is no individual who, upon evaluating himself without previous preparation, does not find that he is inferior to many, superior to few, equal to none. (#842)

What is called the social problem is the urgent necessity of finding a balance between the evident equality of men and their evident inequality. (#378)

A civilized society requires that in it, as in the old Christian society, equality and inequality be in permanent dialogue. (#2,810)

The secret longing of every civilized society is not to abolish inequality, but to educate it. (#2,942)

Inequality and equality are theses that should be defended alternatively, in opposition to the dominant social climate. (#2,758)

If we do not have hierarchies, we are eventually unjust with everything.
Even with what we were, or what we are. (#1,224)

The cause of democracy’s stupidities is confidence in the anonymous citizen; and the cause of its crimes is the anonymous citizen’s confidence in himself. (#140)

Legitimate ambitions become shy and resigning amidst the throng of fraudulent ambitions. (#184)

Among the vices of democracy one must count the impossibility of someone occupying an important position there without it being his ambition. (#2,377)

In democracies they call the “directing class” that class which the popular vote does not let direct anything. (#439)

The democrat’s electoral strategy is based on a contemptuous notion of man totally contrary to the flattering notion he spreads in his speeches. (#452)

The intellectual tragedy of the democratic ruler is the obligation to enact the program he publicly proclaimed so that he would be elected. (#1,326)

Parliaments elected by means of universal suffrage first lose their moral prestige and then their political importance. (#1,491)

The people does not elect someone who will cure it, but someone who will drug it. (#208)

The voter does not even vote for what he wants; he only votes for what he thinks he wants. (#2,981)

Universal suffrage is not designed to make the majority’s interests triumph, but to make the majority believe their interests triumph. (#392)

Universal suffrage in the end does not recognize any of the individual’s rights except the “right” to be alternately oppressor or oppressed. (#1,322)

Our society insists on electing its rulers so that an accident of birth, or the whim of a monarch, will not suddenly deliver power into the hands of an intelligent man. (#708)

When those elected in a popular election do not belong to the lowest intellectual, moral, social strata of the nation, we can be sure that clandestine anti-democratic mechanisms have interfered with the normal outcome of the vote. (#2,746)

Among those elected by popular suffrage only the imbeciles are respectable, because the intelligent man had to lie in order to be elected. (#2,728)

Popular suffrage is less absurd today than yesterday: not because the majorities are more cultured, but because the minorities are less so. (#2,050)

After having been, in the last century, the instrument of political radicalism, universal suffrage is becoming, as Tocqueville foresaw, a conservative mechanism. (#2,932)

It is not in the hands of popular majorities where power is most easily perverted; it is in the hands of the semi-educated. (#2,925)

Bureaucracy is one of democracy’s means that turn into one of its ends. (#1,096)

While the democratic voter disposes of another man’s fate, his has already been disposed of by a bureaucrat. (#1,547)

The two terms of the democratic alternative today—oppressive bureaucracy or repugnant plutocracy—are canceling each other out.
Combining into a single term: opulent bureaucracy.
At once repugnant and oppressive. (#1,269)

A bureaucracy ultimately always ends up costing the people more than an upper class. (#2,958)

Whoever tries to educate and not exploit a people, or a child, does not speak to them in baby-talk. (#211)

The problem of educating the educators is a problem which the democrat forgets in his enthusiasm for educating the pupils. (#2,258)

Demagogy is the term democrats use when democracy frightens them. (#266)

Great democratic upheavals do incurable harm to the soul of a people. (#1,419)

Demagogy soon ceases to be an instrument of the democratic ideology in order to become the ideology of democracy. (#1,021)

A fight between democratic sects temporarily distracts them from the dismantling of society. (#1,191)

Democracy has terror for its means and totalitarianism for its end. (#1,503)

Democrats can be divided into two classes:
those who perish
because they do not succeed in suppressing with speeches the passions they unleashed with their harangues;
those who survive
because they alternate with the rhetoric that whips up the people's anger the grapeshot that pacifies it. (#1,508)

Moderate democrats promulgate the laws with which radical democrats exterminate them. (#1,507)

Liberal parties never understand that the opposite of despotism is not stupidity, but authority. (#329)

Either man has rights, or the people is sovereign.
The simultaneous assertion of two mutually exclusive theses is what people have called liberalism. (#2,219)

They started out calling liberal institutions democratic, and they ended up calling democratic despotisms liberal. (#2,681)

Where equality allows freedom to enter, inequality slips in. (#2,724)

Professional worshipers of man believe they are authorized to scorn their fellow man.
The defense of human dignity allows them to be boors toward their neighbor. (#296)

Men do not proclaim themselves equals because they believe they are sons of God, but when they believe they partake of divinity. (#1,851)

Democratic atheism does not dispute the existence of God, but rather His identity. (#2,089)

What the democrat calls “Man” is no more than the ghostly projection of his pride. (#1,612)

In its desire to gain the upper hand over democratic humanitarianism, modern Catholicism summarizes the two great commandments of the Gospel thus: You shall love your neighbor above all things. (#586)

For more than a millennium, the period of European history lasted during which social salvation was possible.
And was achieved several times.
But in democratic, or imperial, times we can only save souls.
And not always that. (#857)

The democrat defends his convictions by declaring whoever attacks him obsolete. (#302)

“Progress,” “Democracy,” the “classless Society,” excite the crowd, but leave the Muses cold and disagreeable. (#637)

Art is the most dangerous reactionary ferment in a democratic, industrial, and progressive society. (#1,138)

The now secular task of “democratizing culture” has achieved the result not that more people admire, for example, Shakespeare or Racine, but that more people believe they admire them. (#789)

Democracy does not entrust power to anyone who does not pay it the homage of sacrificing to it his conscience and taste. (#905)

The jurist, in democracies, is not an expert in laws but in government functionaries. (#1,189)

A basic postulate of democracy: the law is the citizen’s conscience. (#978)

Anguish over the decline of civilization is the affliction of a reactionary.
The democrat cannot lament the disappearance of something of which he is ignorant. (#303)

The modern world resulted from the confluence of three independent causal series: the demographic expansion, democratic propaganda, the industrial revolution. (#2,960)

The reactionary’s ideal is not a paradisiacal society. It is a society similar to the society that existed in the peaceful intervals of the old European society, of Alteuropa, before the demographic, industrial, and democratic catastrophe. (#2,947)

When they die, aristocracies explode; democracies deflate. (#713)

The ancients saw in the historical or mythical hero, in Alexander or in Achilles, the standard of human life. The great man was paradigmatic, his existence exemplary.
The patron saint of the democrat, on the other hand, is the vulgar man.
The democratic model must be strictly lacking in every admirable quality. (#576)

Tolerance consists of a firm decision to allow them to insult everything we seek to love and respect, as long as they do not threaten our material comforts.
Modern, liberal, democratic, progressive man, as long as they do not step on his calluses, will let them degrade his soul. (#979)

The democrat attributes his errors to circumstances.
We thank chance for what we got right. (#1,253)

Politicians, in a democracy, are the condensers of idiocy. (#380)

The politician, in a democracy, becomes the jester of the sovereign people. (#2,157)

No folktale ever began this way: Once upon a time, there was a president… (#1,288)

Monarchs, in almost every dynasty, have been so mediocre that they look like presidents. (#2,900)

The people, after a few years, would forget the names of illustrious demagogues, if their successors did not oblige the taxpayer to pay for memorial services for them.
The people’s memory only welcomes as guests the names of kings. (#1,154)

Liberty, for the democrat, consists not in being able to say everything he thinks, but in not having to think about everything he says. (#688)

As the intellectual apparatus of our contemporaries is only sensitive to ideas of a frequency authorized by modern dogmas, astute democracies have understood the superfluity of censorship. (#1,995)

Freedom of the press is a nascent democracy’s first demand and a mature democracy’s first victim. (#1,506)

The ambitious man’s tactical stupidity threatens to become authentic stupidity.
The senile democrat’s mind contains nothing but ideas for campaign speeches. (#623)

Rhetoric is the only flower of the democratic garden. (#1,509)

The effect of democratic rhetoric on taste is called nausea. (#1,594)

The worst rhetoric is cultivated in democratic nations, where all formalism must pretend to be a spontaneous and sincere attitude.
Monarchical rhetoric is a formalism that recognizes and admits what it is, like etiquette. (#2,330)

The most shameless spectacle is that of the voluptuous throbbing with which a crowd listens to the orator who adores it. (#1,997)

Democracy is the political regime in which the citizen entrusts the public interests to those men to whom he would never entrust his private interests. (#1,088)

Just as the democrat’s electoral skill seems to be a proof of his intelligence, the follies of his public declarations seem to be deliberate.
Until we discover, to our astonishment, that he believes in them. (#929)

For the democrat it is not enough that we respect what he wants to do with his life; he demands, in addition, that we respect what he wants to do with our life. (#1,266)

Democratic revolutions begin the executions as they announce the prompt abolition of the death penalty. (#315)

Democratic massacres belong to the logic of the system.
Ancient massacres to the illogicality of man. (#450)

Having promulgated the dogma of original innocence, democracy concludes that the man guilty of the crime is not the envious murderer but the victim who aroused his envy. (#797)

The democrat is capable of sacrificing even his interests to his resentments. (#1,531)

Democrats can be divided into those who believe wickedness is curable and those who deny it exists. (#1,255)

The reactionary longs to convince the majorities, the democrat to bribe them with the promise of others’ goods. (#328)

When individual envies come together, we customarily christen them “noble popular aspirations.” (#364)

Individual egoism believes it is absolved when it is compressed together into a collective egoism. (#390)

The legitimacy of power depends not on its origin, but on its ends.
Nothing is forbidden to power if its origin grants it legitimacy, as the democrat teaches. (#384)

Without a hierarchical structure it is not possible to transform freedom from a fable into a fact.
The liberal always discovers too late that the price of equality is the omnipotent state. (#1,828)

The absolutist wishes for a sovereign force that will subdue all others, the liberal a multitude of weak forces that will neutralize each other.
But the axiological commandment decrees hierarchies of multiple vigorous and active forces. (#1,925)

Only by establishing hierarchies can we limit the imperialism of the idea and the absolutism of power. (#1,490)

Absolutism, whether intellectual or political, is the capital sin against the hierarchical method.
Usurpation, by one of the terms in the system, of the liberties of the others. (#1,701)

Relativism is the solution of one who is incapable of putting things in order. (#2,103)

Truths do not contradict each other except when they fall out of order. (#2,575)

Pleasures abound as long as we do not confuse their ranks. (#2,517)

He who knows how to prefer does not exclude.
He puts in order. (#2,510)

When he is defeated by a majority, the true democrat should not merely acknowledge that he was defeated, but also confess that he was wrong. (#457)

The voice of God does not echo today among craggy peaks; it thunders among the percentages in public opinion polls. (#2,086)

From behind the “will of all” the “general will” pokes its head out.
A “will” that is not volition, in reality, but a program. The program of a party. (#2,570)

The “general will” is the fiction which allows the democrat to pretend that there is a reason, other than simple fear, to bow to a majority. (#460)

Popular consent is an index of legitimacy, but not a cause.
In the debate over the legitimacy of power neither its origin in the vote nor its origin in force counts.
Power is legitimate if it fulfills the mandate which the vital and ethical necessities of a society confer on it. (#572)

The people never elects.
At most, it ratifies. (#2,401)

The number of votes by which a ruler is elected is not a measure of his legitimacy but his mediocrity. (#1,500)

The larger a democratic country is, the more mediocre its rulers must be: they are elected by more people. (#2,013)

Intellectual vulgarity attracts voters like flies. (#1,543)

We enemies of universal suffrage never cease to be surprised by the enthusiasm aroused by the election of a handful of incapable men by a heap of incompetent men. (#2,285)

The democratic ruler cannot adopt a solution as long as he does not receive the enthusiastic support of people who will never understand the problem. (#2,323)

The contemporary anthropologist, under democrats' severe gaze, skips quickly over ethnic differences like over hot coals. (#780)

By means of the notion of “cultural evolution,” the democratic anthropologist tries to avoid questions of biology. (#2,026)

Untouchable topics abound in democratic times. Race, illnesses, climate, end up being caustic substances there. Unspeakable there is anything that might imply that humanity is not causa sui. (#1,656)

The democrat changes his method in the social sciences when some conclusion makes him uncomfortable. (#2,577)

When one is confronted by diverse “cultures,” there are two symmetrically erroneous attitudes: to admit only one cultural standard, and to grant all standards the same rank.
Neither the overweening imperialism of the European historian of yesterday, nor the shameful relativism of the European historian of today. (#2,673)

The egalitarian becomes exasperated when he sees that mandatory schooling wipes out conventional inequality only to aggravate innate inequality. (#1,461)

Democrats describe a past that never existed and predict a future that is never realized. (#1,499)

To know an historical episode well consists in not observing it through democratic prejudices. (#2,727)

The democratization of eroticism has at least served to show us that virginity, chastity, purity, are not bitter and morbid old maids, as we believed, but silent vestals of a pure flame. (#1,006)

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