Saturday, September 4, 2010

"If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us"

Via Mike Gray at The American Culture, some quotations from C.S. Lewis, indicating his distaste for government intrusion into the lives of individuals and a particular suspicion toward those who would remake us for our own good:
I do not like the pretensions of Government — the grounds on which it demands my obedience — to be pitched too high. I don’t like the medicine-man’s magical pretensions nor the Bourbon’s Divine Right. This is not solely because I disbelieve in magic and in Bossuet’s Politique. I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ it lies, and lies dangerously.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he had “the freeborn mind.” But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology.

It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then this is nonsense.... If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.... In this way then, the Christian life defends the single personality from the collective, not by isolating him but by giving him the status of an organ in the mystical Body.

The question has become whether we can discover any way of submitting to the worldwide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence. Is there any possibility of getting the super Welfare State’s honey and avoiding the sting? Let us make no mistake about the sting.... To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death—these are wishes deeply ingrained in civilized man.

In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent.... We must give full weight to the claim that nothing but science, and science globally applied, and therefore unprecedented Government controls, can produce full bellies and medical care for the whole human race: nothing, in short, but a world Welfare State. It is a full admission of these truths which impresses upon me the extreme peril of humanity at present. We have on the one hand a desperate need: hunger, sickness, and dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnipotent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement?... The question about progress has become the question whether we can discover any way of submitting to the world-wide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence.... All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect, some greedy, cruel and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it had done before?
Gray recommends "C. S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism," by David J. Theroux.

C. S. Lewis and the Modern Total State | The American Culture