(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)
Something to think about with the Republicans’ national convention over and the Democrats’ national convention just getting started, a quote from the Sardinian — though considered French — political philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821):
Every nation has the government it deserves.
I heard a version of this quote back in the late 1980s, in a graduate management course at Edwards AFB taught by Rob Gray: “Management gets the union it deserves.” It makes sense in that context, since benevolent and enlightened corporate leadership may succeed in forming lasting partnerships with workers and any unions that represent them, while exploitative management is more likely to anger workers and encourage confrontations with their unions.
Only much later did I find the Maistre quote, the political quote, which I also think makes sense.
Maistre lived in a period of great political upheaval, and following the French Revolution he became a counter-revolutionary and supported a return to monarchy. He believed in the divine right of kings to rule, and perhaps in this quote he had in mind that nations with beneficent rulers deserve them while nations with despots likewise deserve their rulers. He was a devout Catholic, and may have considered it part of God’s favor or disfavor of a given nation.
I think his quote to apply to democratic nations as well, and accounts for natural consequences as much or more than any divine discipline.
Consider our current political climate in the U.S. We are fractious, self-absorbed, and fearful, and we have given ourselves a government that frequently acts to benefit select few, but which few depends on whim, caprice and political calculation; a government that we seem content to let grow without limit so long as we get what we want from it, though in the process it will eventually consume all we produce; a government that appears to view its own citizenry with suspicion and disdain, and thereby seems less and less disposed to acquiesce to the will of the people but continually asks the people to acquiesce to its will.
I like this as a metaphor for the 2016 campaign: D. Trump and H. Clinton contending for the Presidency. (Image: “My wallpaper in tribute to its author” by JP Freethinker, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)
Would you say we have the government we deserve? I’m afraid I would, and I wish we governed ourselves such that we deserved better.
Moreover, I’m afraid that no matter how the campaigns run or what the election results are in November, we will still have the government we deserve — and many of us won’t like it.by