Procedural Democracy and Corruption
The type of democracy that has emerged from authoritarianism since the 1980s is best defined as procedural. A procedural democracy is essentially a competition of parties in an electoral system. An electoral-based definition of democracy assumes that process is at the core of its legitimacy. The electoral definition emerged where the purpose of establishing representative institutions was taken for granted. Those using this definition did not deem it a problem that corrupt elites might use electoral procedures to maintain themselves in power against the best interests of the people.
The procedural definition of democracy does not therefore exclude the corrupt democratic regime. As long as a country is able to hold elections it is still considered a democracy, whether the government is corrupt or not. Advocates of the procedural definition do not necessarily believe that corruption can be avoided in an electoral system, nor do they address the issue that the electoral system can be used to maintain corrupt elites. Yet when corruption assists elites to manipulate the electoral system, then accountability, the very purpose of the electoral system, is nullified. In order to eliminate false claims of democracy, the understanding of the democratic regime needs to be extended beyond the procedural definition. It should take into account the potential symbiotic relationship between ruling elites, organized crime, and the globalized financial system.
The Concept of the Democratic Republic
Classic considerations of republican theory deal with the problems of holding power in check, with democracy as only one component of a limited, or constitutionalist, regime. The democratic republic has traditionally been the principal model of the mixed regime designed to deal with the corruption of rulers and ruled.
There have been two types of mixed regimes. One type, the classical mixed regime, is historically composed of monarchical, aristocratic, and popular elements. The Roman republic, according to Polybius`s description, was a working model. The executive power was held by two consuls who administrated the state and had the power to declare war. The aristocratic senate held the purse strings, and the popular assemblies were the source of rewards and punishments. The other type, the modem mixed regime, is composed of executive, legislative, and judicial powers. Both types of mixed regimes seek to prevent corruption, tyranny, and abuse of power. They do not rely exclusively on the electoral process to maintain the regime`s integrity and balance. The modern mixed regime adds interinstitutional accountability to electoral accountability.
The writings of Niccolo Machiavelli and Alexis de Tocqueville are particularly instructive regarding the institutional and cultural components necessary for an accountable republic. According to both Machiavelli and Tocqueville, the maintenance of the republican regime is the underlying purpose of the democratic process. In the classic Machiavellian formulation, the republic was designed to avoid tyranny at home and the loss of autonomy abroad. The republic, as a mixed regime in the Machiavellian sense, merges the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy in a form of checks and balances to prevent tyranny, degeneracy, and external domination. In its modern functional form, the republic separates the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of the state to accomplish the same purposes. Classically, the democratic processes served to promote domestic freedom and provide the popular loyalty the state needed to defend itself from its foreign enemies. It did not address the possible loss of state autonomy because of transnational economic interests.
Procedural democracy alone does not accomplish the objectives of true democratization, which requires additional institutional and civic cultural safeguards. A regime that includes constitutionally protected checks and balances and a moral civic culture deals most effectively with the challenges of narcostatization. Such a regime emphasizes the governmental and cultural components of an effective antidrug trafficking policy. The regime must also support mechanisms to control the transnational economic environment.
The democratic component of the republican regime both obliges and allows the people to agree on what is just and unjust in their culture and provides the common standards that hold the people`s representatives accountable. It also provides the community principles whereby the people may accomplish much of their social, economic, spiritual, and governance needs without relying on an intrusive permanent state bureaucracy. An independent and self-reliant society, a mixed political structure, and mechanisms of transnational economic accountability are the essential ingredients of the modern democratization process. Yet a counter civic culture may subvert the process of democratization and assist the process of narcostatization by supporting the consumption of mind-altering substances.
Narcostatization and the Anocratization of Democracy
The process of narcostatization may occur in stable or consolidated democracies, in transitional democracies, and in autocracies. Wherever it occurs, it undermines widespread democratic peace. If autocracy and democracy are at the opposite ends of a continuum, then the anocratic regime that possesses a mixture of democratic and autocratic features lies in the middle of that continuum. One definition of anocracy describes it as an uninstitutionalized state where the patterns of political competition cause the executive leaders to be constantly imperiled by rivals.
Ted Robert Gurr, »Persistence and Change in Political Systems, 1800 - 1971,« American Political Science Review 68, 4 (December 1974), 1487. The anocratic state, Gurr wrote in footnote 11, »has minimal functions, an uninstitutionalized pattern of political competition, and executive leaders constantly imperiled by rival leaders.«
The anocratic state is an intermediate state where elites maintain themselves in power despite the existence of democratic procedures.
Anocratizing is the process whereby either an autocratic state or a democratic state becomes an anocratic state. An anocratic state has the procedural features of democracy while retaining the features of an autocracy, where the ruling elite face no accountability. Consequently, anocratizing may apply to an autocracy where electoral and competitive features are allegedly in place. It may also apply to a democracy where existing procedural democratic features are undermined. Democratizing takes place when an autocratic or anocratic system makes its ruling elements accountable. Autocratizing takes place when even the facades of democratic procedures are being eliminated.
Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder have differentiated democratizing and autocratizing features as follows: »We consider states to be democratizing if, during a given period of time, they change from autocracy to either anocracy or democracy, or if they change from anocracy to democracy. Conversely, states are autocratizing if they change from democracy to autocracy or anocracy, or from anocracy to autocracy.« Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, »Democratization and the Danger of War,« International Security 20, no. 1 (Summer 1995), 9. (Italics in original.)
However, the single term »anocratizing« is used here for all processes toward the anocratic state, whether from a democracy or an autocracy. »Democratizing« is used only to describe a process toward democracy, and »autocratizing« a process toward autocracy. Likewise, the term »anocratization« is used here to describe the false democratization process of an autocracy and the reversal process of a consolidated democracy.
As a state anocratizes, it is removed from inclusion in the democratic peace thesis, for conflict is likely to occur where democracies are in fact anocracies.
Currently, narcostatization appears to be the most common process facilitating the anocratization of a democracy, an autocracy, or an autocracy in transition to a democracy. Where there is narcostatization, what may appear to be a democratizing state producing peace will actually be an anocratizing state producing conflict.
Legitimacy and Corruption
The criminalization of the state, or narcostatization, allows the value-free definition of democracy to obscure the reality of who or what truly controls political power. Narcostatization insulates elected officials from accountability and thereby undermines the democratic checks on the abuses of power.
A political system`s legitimacy is justified to the degree it prevents the abuse of power. When a political system abuses power, no matter what its institutional form, it loses legitimacy, or the right to be obeyed by the population. Where power is used to corrupt and abuse the citizens, no matter what the institutional label, that government is unaccountable. Thus does political corruption produce tyranny, the unaccountable use of power.
Since the Declaration of Independence, Americans have considered unaccountable governments tyrannical if they deprive citizens of their life, property, or liberty. According to American principles, government has the right to execute for criminal behavior, to tax, and to incarcerate only if the people are properly represented.
If narcostatization distorts the concept of the public good and prevents accountability to the electorate, then the concept of the republican state, which is explicitly designed to check the abuses of power of those democratically elected, is subverted. The complex institutional nature of the republican regime stresses the purpose of the electoral component of selecting representatives and holding them accountable. Democracy, as well, calls for effective offsetting structures of government (checks and balances) that compel those elected to be responsible and honest while holding public trust. The democratic method is not the goal in and of itself. The accountability of leaders takes precedence over the method of choosing them. Procedures must neither disguise elitism nor substitute for genuine accountability.
Corruption and the criminalization of the state necessarily challenge a value-free, purposeless definition of democracy. Modern American political science focuses on a value-free, or scientistic, approach to democracy that attempts to exclude normative criteria. Dwight Waldo defines scientific political science as »an attempt to avoid all >oughts<, care in the formulation of hypothesis, preoccupation with fashioning political models, meticulous attention to >research design<, use of quantification where possible, concern for leaving a trail that can be followed - >replication< - and caution in conclusions drawn from particular studies of an ever-growing establishment of generalizations.«
Dwight Waldo, Political Science in America (Paris: Unesco, 1956), 21 - 22.
This definition of a scientific political science undergirds the predominant perception of democracy in contemporary political science and is called the »procedural« definition of democracy. It stresses the processes of democracy in order to make the analysis independent of any value judgments about democracy. A majority of American political scientists probably agree with the procedural definition of democracy.
Joseph Schumpeter defines democracy as »that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people's vote.«
Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947), 269.
Samuel P. Huntington supports Schumpeter`s definition. Both men consider a minimal and procedural definition the basis for generalizing about democracy. Huntington writes that his study »defines a twentieth century political system as democratic to the extent that its most powerful collective decision-makers are selected through fair, honest and periodic elections in which candidates clearly compete for votes and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote.«
Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 7.
The strictly procedural Schumpeter-Huntington definition is operationalized in Robert Dahl`s books on democracy and polyarchy, which he defines as inclusive participatory regimes based on party alternation or contestation.
Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971), 6-7.
(The relationship between contestation and participation is depicted in figure 1. Not included in this html version.) According to Dahl`s chart, the democratization process is exemplified by both the horizontal and vertical axes of figure 1. The vertical axis indicates the move toward contestation and the horizontal toward participation. The theory of democracy thus developed requires movement along both axes.
The procedural definition is defended on the grounds of its utility and the inadequacy of its alternatives. Dahl argues, »Even one who held the extreme position that a shift from hegemony to polyarchy is never desirable would want to understand, I should think, the conditions required to prevent such a change. In this sense, the analysis is intended to be independent of my commitments or biases in favor of polyarchy.« Although Dahl admits to a bias in favor of polyarchy, he does not assume »that a shift from hegemony [a dominant power] towards polyarchy is invariably desirable.«
Ibid., 31 - 32.
Figure 2 (Not included in this html version.) suggests how regimes may fall into categories other than polyarchies. Anocracy embraces both competitive oligarchies and inclusive hegemonies that are democratizing. Competitive forms and participation may exist in anocracies, but the reality is of a preponderant executive power that is not fully accountable.
Samuel Huntington<s concept of utility is similar but goes somewhat further. He recognizes that the procedural definition may require some refinements. Anticipating criticisms of his definition - such that governments may be "inefficient, corrupt, short-sighted, irresponsible, dominated by special interests, and incapable of adopting policies demanded by the public good« - he asserts that these »qualities may make such governments undesirable but they do not make them undemocratic.«
Huntington, Third Wave, 10.
He goes on to argue that democracy is just one public virtue and not the only one. For him, the relationship of democracy to other public virtues and vices »can only be understood if democracy is clearly distinguished from other characteristics of political systems.«
Besides the utility of this justification for the nonnormative definition of democracy, the Schumpeter approach is bolstered by the alleged inadequacy of the alternative classic definition. Schumpeter defines the classical theory as »that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions which realizes the common good by making the public itself decide issues through the elections of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will.« Schumpeter asserts that there is no such thing as »a uniquely determined common good that all people could agree on or be made to agree on by the force of rational argument.« The justification for this assertion is (1) »that to different individuals and groups the common good is bound to mean different things« and (2) that even if a definite common good proved acceptable to all »this would not imply equally definite answers to individual issues.« He concludes that the force of these two propositions means the concept of the will of the people vanishes.
Schumpeter, Capitalism, 250-52.
The stress on procedure in Schumpeter`s debunking of classical theory transforms the democratic theory into an emphasis on the competition between elites. Democracy as a procedural system means that the people at regular intervals »have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them.«
This definition suggests a comparison with Gaetano Mosca`s concept of the ruling class. The acceptance of proceduralism to establish a ruling-class definition of democracy requires that an elite be able to persist in government independently of the existence of contestation and inclusive participation. Mosca notes that »in all societies ...two classes of people appear - a class that rules and a class that is ruled.« He continues, »What happens in other forms of government - namely, that an organized minority imposes its will on the disorganized majority - happens also and to perfection, whatever the appearance to the contrary, under the representative system. When we say that the voters >chose< their representative we are using a language that is very inexact. The truth is that the representative has himself elected by the voters.«
Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939), 50, 154.
Antielitist theorists have charged that American political scientists accept an elitist theory of democracy. Giovanni Sartori has been identified by some as holding such a view, and his early writings on democratic theory have been cited as evidence. But in his later writings, Sartori explicitly denied having an elitist theory. He charged the so-called antielitist theorists with being the true elitists. His analysis of the antielitist critique makes clear that, in his view, the procedural definition depends on norms principally to avoid tyranny or unaccountability. He asserted that the procedural definition must not be seen as having an exclusively participatory function but also, and equally, a selective function. This function is critical because the purpose, as his discussion of America`s founding pointed out, is to prevent tyranny.
Sartori`s critique of the antielitist theory may be found in Giovanni Sartori, The Theory of Democracy Revisited (New Jersey: Chatham House Publishers, 1987), 156-63.
Despite the alleged moral neutrality of the procedural definition and its apparent bias toward elites, political scientists such as Sartori brought back into the discussion of democracy the purpose of elections. In actual circumstances, those who apply the procedural definition as an operationalizing device have had to modify their stance.
Authors attempting to deal with transitions and consolidations from authoritarian regimes (or in Dahl`s terminology, »closed hegemonies«) have had to come up with a number of variations for labeling regimes that include both contestation and inclusive participation. For example, scholars, particularly those dealing with Latin America who use the procedural definition of democracy, agree that democracy can »best be defined and applied in terms of the procedural criteria that Robert Dahl ...has specified.« They observe that »no real world regime fits the ideal type perfectly,« and they are concerned that democracy may be »little more than a facade behind which a privileged economic elite dominates and exploits the popular classes.«
Michael Burton, Richard Gunther, and John Higley, »Introduction: Elite Transformations and Democratic Regimes,« in John Higley and Richard Gunther, eds., Elites and Democratic consolidation in Latin America and Southern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1.
As a result, empirical scholars of Latin American politics do not espouse a simple distinction between democratic and undemocratic regimes. Instead, they introduce different stages in the democratic process and identify the possibilities for reversal. These modifications do not break completely with other procedural definitions, nor do they alter the elitist nature of the procedural approach: »A key to the stability and survival of democratic regimes is, in our view, the establishment of substantial consensus among the elites concerning rules of the democratic political game and the worth of democratic institutions.«
Other scholars of Latin America have also made the effort to distinguish between transitions from authoritarian rule to the consolidation of a democratic regime. They believe the minimal and procedural definition of democracy should only apply to the transition phase, from autocracy or authoritarianism to the installation of democratic procedures. They argue that the second transition, the transition to a consolidated democracy, »raises problems that are broader than those that pertain in a strict sense to the transformation of a political regime.« They consider the second transition to the consolidation phase to be precarious.
Scott Mainwaring, Guillermo O'Donnell, and J. Samuel Valenzuela, eds., Issues in Democratic Consolidation: The New South American Democracies in Comparative Perspective (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 5.
J. Samuel Valenzuela identifies four perverse institutions and deems a consolidated democracy one in which these elements are absent. The perverse institutions are
1. Tutelary powers, the principal example of which is the military.
2. Reserved domains, or areas of authority in policy that are excluded from the control of elected officials.
3. Discrimination in the electoral process, where significant sectors of the population are either grossly over- or underrepresented.
4. Noncentrality of elections, or the situation where elections are not the only means to constitute governments.
J. Samuel Valenzuela, »Democratic Consolidation in Post-Transitional Settings: Notion, Process, and Facilitating Conditions,« in Mainwaring, O'Donnell, and Valenzuela, eds., Democratic Consolidation, 62-68.
Interestingly, the discussion of elites and democratic consolidations in the context of the procedural definition of democracy raises the problem that the electoral definition of democracy is not sufficient. For Michael Burton, Richard Gunther, and John Higley, elite unity is necessary, and for Valenzuela the absence of perverse institutionality is necessary.
Burton, Gunther, and Hegley, »Elite Transformation,« and Valenzuela, »Democratic Consolidation.«
Although the market economy assists the transition and consolidation processes by strengthening the economic self-sufficiency of the society, the corruption or criminalization of the market economy may be exploited by elites. Funds supplied by corrupt elements allow corrupt elites to become independent of legitimate financial interests and to defeat the candidates those legitimate interests support. In these circumstances, democratic procedures disguise their unaccountability to the public. This unaccountability is furthered by the globalization of the financial capitalist economy. With the rise of corrupt political regimes, the transnational capitalist economy has become increasingly excluded from the control of legitimately elected officials.
The very idea of consent becomes problematic as soon as governing elites are seen as being able to insulate themselves from accountability because of global interconnectedness, which gives inordinate economic power to a nation`s ruling class. David Held pioneered the theoretical implications of this problem when he wrote, »Nations are heralding democracy at the very moment at which changes in the international order are compromising the viability of the independent democratic nation-state.« Held, »Democracy,« 197.
Even a cursory examination of the regimes that have been classified as »democratic« indicates a wide range of institutional framework. There is a growing literature discussing the impact of different constitutional frameworks (for example, parliamentarianism versus presidentialism) on democratic consolidations. Students of democracy search for the institutional form of democratic government that provides the most stability. This search presupposes that democracy is a good form of government, based on the principle of accountability.
Excluding the concept of corruption from their study of democracy, procedural democratic theorists ask the following questions about a supposed democracy:
1. What conditions increase or decrease the chances of democratizing a hegemonic regime?
2. What factors increase or decrease the chances of public contestation?
3. What factors support or retard participation?
In order to cope with narcostatization as the principal means for defeating accountability in a globalized economy, however, the normative implications of corruption must be incorporated in a theory of democracy. Schumpeter`s description of classical theory fails to incorporate how corruption may defeat the essential accountability of democracy (its legitimacy), while maintaining democracy`s external form. It becomes essential that the democratic procedures produce accountability and prevent tyranny. At the same time, the existence of the procedures themselves do not guarantee accountability if a certain degree of corruption exists.
We shall see later (chapter 7) how corruption in a regime with democratic features leads to an anocracy or pseudodemocratic state.
Democratic Republicanism as the Alternative to Procedural Democracy
The alternative to procedural democracy is democratic republicanism, which explicitly grapples with the problem of corruption by seeking to prevent decay and politicians` abuse of power. Democratic republicanism provides an alternative foundation for democratic theory by focusing on how power may be abused and how the process of accountability may be corrupted. Democratic republicanism is historically based on the mixed regime that highlights the people`s responsibility to maintain accountability.
The norms of the democratic republic were developed to address the problems of tyranny, to provide independence for the state vis-a-vis other states, and to promote liberty within the state. Democratic republicanism considers participation a phenomenon of a disciplined people, seeks to avoid electoral despotism, supports a mixed regime, and fears the corruption of the public and the public`s servants. This book seeks to reach beyond the classical concerns of democratic republicanism, to add to those the challenges that arise from the globalization of the world economy and the threat of corruption.
Political and Philosophical Anthropologies
Normative political science can be approached from two angles: political anthropology and philosophical anthropology. One establishes how a society understands itself and behaves and the other how all societies ought to be evaluated and conduct themselves.
Political anthropology approaches the understanding of a political society as it perceives itself. Human activities must be understood in terms of the meanings the actors in a society ascribe to them. The political order in which humans live is normative in the sense that people understand what they should or should not do in any given society. The rules from one society do not necessarily apply to another. Political anthropology provides a relative understanding of societies. The population`s existence or its real situation in a society is guided by what is and is not permitted in that society. Members of a nation have no choice but to live in that nation`s understood social order. Once the »rightness« of that order comes into question or is evaluated, the study of philosophical anthropology is being introduced.
The Greeks pioneered philosophical anthropology. They accepted the existence of a tribal order, idios kosmos, which were the rules of that particular order or city-state. There also existed a universal order, a koinos kosmos, which was a universal standard for judging all particular orders. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all believed in this universal order. The koinos kosmos was superior to the tribal orders and was the basis for evaluating each of them. The philosophical anthropology of the Greeks asserted that koinos kosmos was an ultimate truth, a Logos for all mankind.
For a further discussion of these issues, see Anthony H. Birch, The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy (New York: Routledge, 1993). Also useful is William C. Havard, The Recovery of Political Theory: Limits and Possibilities (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984).
For Heraclitus, the precursor thinker of the Logos concept, the Logos was the principle of order under which the universe exists. The Logos was the bridge between the Greek world and Christianity. Logos gave a person reason and knowledge of the truth, not only of the physical world, or the world of nature, but also of human events: »All things are controlled by the Logos of God. The Logos is the power which puts sense into the world, the power which makes the world an order instead of a chaos, the power which sets the world going and keeps it going in its perfect order. The Logos,« said the Stoics, »pervades all things.«
William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 35.
The bridge between the Greek world and Christianity came with the identification of Christ`s word with the Logos. Christianity spread the idea of the Logos, thereby rooting philosophical anthropology in Western culture. The practical application of philosophical anthropology confronts whether the universal standard could or should be applied in actual circumstances, and, if so, how.
Machiavelli and Tocqueville
Niccolo Machiavelli and Alexis de Tocqueville are two well-known classic theorists of democratic republicanism. Both use the methods of political and philosophical anthropology to determine how an existing political society can be reformed. Writing in different centuries, they each chose one state as a basis for describing how a good order works and how its lessons can be applied to other countries. In the 1500s, Machiavelli wrote about Rome to explain what made the republic work and to elucidate both the difficulties and prospects for reforming his native Florence and uniting Italy. Tocqueville wrote about the United States in the early 1800s in order to illustrate the success of American republicanism but also to suggest how his native France could avoid tyranny and deterioration while becoming democratic. Both of these perceptive thinkers are classic practitioners of the methods of political and philosophical anthropology.
Machiavelli and Tocqueville are not primarily concerned with establishing absolute normative standards. They are more preoccupied with what makes a system work and how another state`s system may emulate it. Their views are similar to those of procedural democratic theorists in the sense they do not attempt to justify absolute normative standards. Machiavelli and Tocqueville enrich our concept of the purpose of democratic procedures and increase our understanding of how a freedom-sustaining democratic regime should operate. They argue that the values people need to sustain a democratic republic require a founding based on religion. In this sense, they are practical philosophical anthropologists - they use the idea of the »good« for reform purposes.
Machiavelli`s methodology starts with an assumption that human nature is constant and essentially bad. He wrote,
All cities and all peoples are and ever have been animated by the same desires and the same passions; so that it is easy, by diligent study of the past, to foresee what is likely to happen in the future in any republic, and to apply those remedies that were used by the ancients, or, not finding any that were employed by them, to devise new ones from the similarity of the events. But, as such considerations are neglected or not understood by most of those who read, or if understood by these, are unknown by those who govern, it follows that the same troubles generally reoccur in all republics.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses (New York: The Modern Library, 1950), 216.
Machiavelli assumed that the event critical to the solid foundation of a state is the establishment of good laws. Good laws are essential to the discipline of the people because, for Machiavelli, a well-disciplined people can master fate. He argued that the relationship of good laws and discipline is favorable to liberty. Paradoxically, he believed liberty to be derived from the quarrels of the two sides that exist in every state: the nobles and the people. He believed these agitations are necessary because, »every free state ought to afford the people with the opportunity of giving vent.« In Machiavelli`s analysis, the people have a normative role in fostering liberty, and he thought this to be particularly true if the republic is to be imperial. Machiavelli supported an imperial state because he believed a united Italy could defend itself against intervening neighbors.
Machiavelli studied how the Romans developed the discipline that permitted their people to protect both their internal liberty and the external autonomy of the Roman state. He argued that religion was the key to the Roman people`s unity, freedom, and imperial grandeur. He noted that the founder of the republic, Numa, reduced the savage Romans to civil obedience through religion. Religion was the source of the discipline of the Roman citizens who »feared much more to break an oath than the laws.« Machiavelli concluded that religion was the source of Roman discipline and that this source of discipline was a universal requirement for all free peoples, writing, »There never was any remarkable law giver amongst any people who did not resort to divine authority as otherwise his laws would not be accepted by the people.«
Ibid., 146, 147.
The generalization that Machiavelli extracted from his analysis of Rome is that religion is the critical element to sustain a democratic republic. He stated without any caveat, that »the observance of divine institutions is the cause of the greatness of republics, so the disregard of them produces their ruin, unless it be sustained by the fear of the prince which may temporarily supply the want of religion.« This understanding of the fundamental importance of religion to the republic makes the problem of corruption the most critical one for the survival of the regime. Machiavelli was far more concerned with the corruption of the people than of the ruler. He believed that if the ruler or prince is corrupt but the people remain sound, liberty may be restored. »A corrupt people that lives under the government of a prince can never become free,« he wrote. »Where corruption has penetrated the people, the best laws are of no avail, unless they are administered by a man of such supreme power that he may cause the laws to be observed until the mass has been restored to a healthy condition. And I know not whether such a case has ever occurred, or whether it possibly ever could occur.«
Ibid., 148, 165, 166.
Machiavelli`s study of the decay of Rome concluded that corruption was caused by the great inequalities of wealth that developed in the republic. Corruption caused the laws to change so that the most meritorious people in the country increasingly abstained from serving the republic and ultimately were wholly excluded from public affairs. Over the centuries, critics have questioned Machiavelli`s argument that the restoration of good morals requires evil means. His reliance on evil means was based on his conclusion that it is nearly impossible to restore liberty »in a republic that has become corrupt, or to establish it there anew.« A corrupt republic would inevitably be replaced by a monarchy, he felt, because the loss of moral discipline requires an »almost regal power« to maintain control
Tocqueville`s methodology was similar to Machiavelli`s. He studied how democracy functioned in the United States in order to understand how democracy could be prevented from threatening freedom in France. In December 1836 he wrote to his friend Louis de Kergorlay that his purpose was »to show people, so far as possible, what one must do to avoid tyranny and degeneration while becoming democratic.«
Michael Hereth, Alexis de Tocqueville: Threats to Freedom in Democracy (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986), 108.
Tocqueville believed that in the times he lived there was no alternative to democracy, but he feared that tyranny could also arise with the democratic system. He thought the Americans had avoided tyranny in their democratic republic, and he sought to understand how they had done this in order to help France avoid tyranny as well.
Tocqueville noted that geographical circumstances and American laws were all favorable to the country`s freedom. However, he argued that the principal cause maintaining the democratic republic as a free polity was the manners and customs of the people. He saw religion (or the Logos) as the basis of the Americans` good customs, writing, »the greatest part of British America was peopled by men who... brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion.«
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1972), 300.
The similarity of Tocqueville`s analysis of Christianity in America and of Machiavelli`s analysis of religion in the Roman republic is remarkable. As Machiavelli wrote, »if the Christian religion had from the beginning been maintained according to the principles of its founder, the Christian states would have been much more united and happy than what they are. Nor can there be a greater proof of its decadence than to witness the fact that the nearer people are to the church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious are they.«
Machiavelli, Discourses, 51.
Like Machiavelli, Tocqueville focused on the political utility of religion, especially for a free republic: »I am at this moment considering religions in a purely human point of view,« he wrote. »My object is to inquire by what means they may most easily retain their sway in the democratic ages upon which we are entering.«
Tocqueville, Democracy, vol. 2, 22.
Tocqueville was aware that the directing classes of France had been deeply infected by the skepticism and rationalism of the Enlightenment and that Roman Catholicism in France had not developed as much of a republican consciousness as it had in the United States. Consequently, he addressed the most moral and intelligent elements of the directing class in France, urging them to copy the American founders by conscious decision.
Tocqueville`s call for the conscious embrace of religion for practical purposes in France contrasts with America`s experience. In America, the democratic republic arose where the people`s belief in Christianity converged with a new territory and in new circumstances. Still, Tocqueville thought that if France imitated aspects of the American experience it would remedy the decay of public morals. He argued against political centralism in order to produce the practice of democratic accountability locally and regionally, against individualism in order to produce community cooperation, and against the elitist bureaucratic elements in the government that would destroy the people`s consciousness. The essence of Tocqueville`s effort to reform a corrupted polity was his belief that a country needed a moral leadership in order to fight the population`s dependence on central government and to promote community cooperation through civic regeneration. He expected that the most meritorious people would want to serve an active, aware, and regenerated population.
From a historical perspective, both Machiavelli and Tocqueville were prophets, advising against the corruption of a democratic republic.
Both sought political mechanisms that would reverse that corruption. Machiavelli despaired of achieving this without evil means, while Tocqueville relied on the ascendancy of a moral elite.
As practical philosophical anthropologists, both theorists sought to engineer the restoration of the moral state rather than to rely on the fortuitous development of a religious people. To this degree, they shared elements of the elitist theory of democracy. Because they believed that the moral nature of the people is critical to sustaining the democratic republic, they were fearful that corruption of the people is the most likely avenue from which tyranny might arise under the guise of democracy. They foreshadowed elements of the elitist theory of democracy but remained convinced that if corruption were to infect democracy, then the regime would be a disguise for tyranny.
Both Machiavelli and Tocqueville emphasized that to forestall the rise of tyranny, democracy in a large state required a focus on the people. Modern-day theorists who follow Machiavelli and Tocqueville ask different questions than do procedural theorists:
What conditions permit political elites to remain unaccountable despite contestation and inclusiveness?
Does privatization produce gross economic inequality and hence undermine civic virtue? (A capitalist oligarchy - that is, rule by the well-to-do few - concentrates economic power as much as a centralized bureaucratic oligarchy does.)
What factors undermine the religious culture of the people?
When a government is corrupt, the elites are able to manipulate the electoral system to maintain themselves in power. This capability in itself indicates a lack of accountability. Democratic republicanism involves more than institutional checks on elected representatives. As Machiavelli and Tocqueville suggested, it requires a civic culture that leads people to value their own independence and the moral probity of their representatives. Corruption is the most critical element in the decomposition of the republican regime. It attacks the moral core of the people and the people`s representatives. If the democratic republic is to survive, it must protect itself from corruption-induced decay.
These two great thinkers concluded that a certain type of civic culture is basic to the health of the democratic republic. Unlike the procedural democratic theorists, who view the mechanism of participation as an end in itself, the democratic republican theorists argue that the purpose of an election is defined by its end: the protection of the public from arbitrary interference from the state. In order for liberty to be achieved, citizens must share a normative structure. As will be explained in subsequent chapters, narcotic consumption adversely impacts the normative basis of the civic culture.