Part 2: How standing armies relate to the principles of different forms of government.


As Montesquieu argued in “The Spirit of the Laws”, every form of government has corresponding principles which underpin them and make it possible for particular forms of governments to thrive and prosper. Monarchies have honor, despotic regimes fear, and republics virtue. The virtue of a republic does not necessarily lie in moral virtue, but rather in civic virtue, where the individual citizen subordinates his particular interest to that of the common good of the society. This does not mean the citizen’s interest is lost, or that the state becomes totalitarian in its scope, but rather that if necessary the citizen is willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Thus republics require a willingness to serve among the people, service that extends as far as one is able. In monarchies aristocracies, or perhaps as we would call them today “traditional societies”, different classes of people exist to carry out different functions of state and society. Often we would observe a noble class, a military class, a merchant class, and a peasant class. In today’s developing nations we still see many traces of this traditional division of societal roles, especially in terms of the vast inequality that exists between different classes.

In these systems, things like professional armies are both proper and necessary, because there is no real equality among citizens. The poverty and ignorance of the masses of peasants makes it impossible for them to take on the responsibility of self-government, even though in our modern world nearly every country on earth espouses democratic principles within their constitution. In practice such countries are governed by elites who have the preparation and resources necessary to govern and they make use of professional military or national police forces to keep order. The police and military are above the masses in education and understanding, yet below the elites in the qualities necessary to direct the course of a country in economics, politics, and international relations. They dedicate themselves to the profession of arms because they are prevented from entering into business, academia, civil service, or politics by their class status and lack of education or opportunities for such. Similarly, the other classes are confined to their respective roles by virtue of their upbringing and status. It would be just as odd for a member of the elite class to decide to be a police officer as it would be for a police officer to try and enter into the upper echelons of society. Of course these things are no longer as fixed as they once were given the force of globalization and the spread of capitalism across the globe. Yet the idea that inequality and rigid class structure are fundamentally tied together is still as relevant today as it has been over the past few centuries.

In republics, the social roles must necessarily be less rigid and defined, and the people being of a more equal relationship to one another in resources and education, are thus able to dedicate themselves to whatever pursuits the enjoy and have talent for. Over time this leads to specialization and professionalization in certain activities, especially those that are highly technical such as law or medicine. Yet these do not become hereditary social structures and more importantly, specialization must not extend into the sphere of the state if a republic is to thrive. This is because in a republic the citizens must govern themselves and power must be spread as equally among the people as possible. Service in government can thus never become a profession like law or medicine; it must be only a temporary endeavor that is required of citizens as part of their civic responsibility.

When public service becomes a profession, the particular duties of that profession cease to be contingent on what the society as a whole requires at the time and instead become ends in of themselves. As any professional would, public servants thus seek to perpetuate themselves and that which they have dedicated their lives to. Unlike law or medicine though which exist because there is perpetual demand for medical treatment and legal aid, public service professions exist by force of law and thus can be given life far beyond their usefulness or appropriateness to the challenges facing the society at the time.  In traditional societies this is not an issue or concern because the state serves the class system, but in a republic, the state serves the people and the common good and thus it must always act only in mind with what is necessary for the maintenance of the public good.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Donald J. Trump: President or Something Else?

Liberty and Progress: The Differences Between Negative and Positive Rights

The Line Between Patriotism and Chauvinism