Representative Government: An Insight from C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis didn’t write extensively on government, but when he did, he had insight into the basics. He uses the word “democracy” in the following quote, whereas I would prefer “representative government,” but his point is crystal clear and right on the mark:

I am a democrat 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 everyone 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 . . . 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.

Looking at that cartoon, I concluded that another comment by Lewis in the same essay was also appropriate for today:

Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously; it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves.

How very true.