Kant on the Need to be Sincere Internationally
Immanuel Kant points out in his Cosmopolitan History that wars and revolutions are not anomalies. They have an underlying purpose, which, unfortunately, they fall short of, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, eternally trying but eternally failing.
"All wars are accordingly so many attempts (not in the intention of man, but in the intention of Nature) to establish new relations among states, and through the destruction or at least the dismemberment of all of them to create new political bodies, which, again, either internally or externally, cannot maintain themselves and which must thus suffer like revolutions; until finally, through the best possible civic constitution and common agreement and legislation in external affairs, a state is created which, like a civic commonwealth, can maintain itself automatically." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, Seventh Thesis, p. 256)
This automatic arrangement among states would be a constitutional world government. Unfortunately, even peace advocates like the Abbe de St. Pierre and Rousseau had laughed at the "fantastical" idea of a League of Nations because in order for this to happen, states would have had to come to the same realization that individuals do at that mythical point in the past when they agreed to form governments, "namely, to give up their brutish freedom and to seek quiet and security under a lawful constitution." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, Seventh Thesis, p. 256) Needless to say, difficult as it is for individuals give up this "brutish freedom," nations will be all the more reluctant to do so. Yet the question remains, does it make sense to assume that what is reasonable for a part is not reasonable for the whole? Is the brutish freedom of an individual morally different from the "barbaric" freedom of a nation? In answer to these questions, Kant says:
"Purposeless savagery held back the development of the capacities of our race; but finally, through the evil into which it plunged mankind, it forced our race to renounce this condition and to enter into a civic order in which those capacities could be developed. The same is done by the barbaric freedom of established states. Through wasting the powers of the commonwealths in armaments to be used against each other, through devastation brought on by war, and even more by the necessity of holding themselves in constant readiness for war, they stunt the full development of human nature." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, Seventh Thesis, p. 257)
Kant makes here what I think is an essential point about government, that its ultimate reason for being is educative. It was formed not for its own good but to bring the capacity of all humans to their full potential. Therefore, at the same time we form a League of Nations, we would also have to devise a world educational program -- which, needless to say, did not occur when the abortive institution named the "League of Nations" was formed soon after the First World War. Underlying all such structural problems, Kant recognized, is an unfortunate tendency of leaders to be hypocritical and insincere in the face of the moral demands of their office.
"So long as states waste their forces in vain and violent self-expansion, and thereby constantly thwart the slow efforts to improve the minds of their citizens by even withdrawing all support from them, nothing in the way of a moral order is to be expected. For such an end, a long internal working of each political body toward the education of its citizens is required. Everything good that is not based on a morally good disposition, however, is nothing but pretense and glittering misery. In such a condition the human species will no doubt remain until, in the way I have described, it works its way out of the chaotic conditions of its international relations." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, Seventh Thesis, p. 256)
Lost in their quest for barbaric freedom (absolute sovereignty) nations seek instead physical dominance, economic and military hegemony, over one another instead of aiming at being the best-educated and most moral among states. We have to overcome this barbaric state and sincerely desire the good of all humanity before we can expect the full benefit of international agreements.
"The problem of establishing a perfect civic constitution is dependent upon the problem of a lawful external relation among states and cannot be solved without a solution of the latter problem." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, Seventh Thesis, p. 255-256)
Until we overcome our ambition and mendacity -- not so much as individuals as in our group relationships -- the human race will fall short of the purpose which God and nature intended for us,
"The greatest problem for the human race, to the solution of which Nature drives man, is the achievement of a universal civic society which administers law among men."
A Quick Note on History Denial and the New Atheists
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 21, Masa'il 10, 166 BE
"With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another." (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)
This is the quote for the day on my quotation list server. It jibes nicely with what I have been reading about atheists. I find that when their conversation turns to their intellectual origins, you often find the same thing. Many if not most of the prominent, proselytizing atheists you read about in the news were evangelical Christians in their youth. The same is true of a friend of mine, who engages in friendly debate with me about God's existence. He opposes violently everything I say about religion; religion is what he was taught as a child. He was trained from an early age that religion is a narrow, blinkered thing, a masked form of bigotry, and will hear nothing else about it.
The new atheists are enthusiastic born-againers, then they discover science, whose tolerance and openness broadens their outlook. As a result, they go around vocally opposing the same blinkered prejudice that they were exposed to in their tender years, blind to the fact that the majority of thinking believers agree with such criticisms completely. Baha'u'llah made the same point.
"Follow not those who have repudiated what they had once believed, and who have sought for themselves a station after their own fancy; these, truly, are of the ungodly." (Baha'u'llah, Summons, p. 31)
The most prominent of them all, Richard Dawkins, does not seem to have this specific background. In youth he simply took science on as his religion. Why not kill two birds with one stone? This form of belief is known as scientism. Unfortunately, from a tender age he was not content with being a scientist whose faith is science, he vociferously opposed other beliefs too. As such, he is closer to the Mullahs of Iran and the fire and brimstone preachers than to a moderate believer in God's benevolent creativity. So in a broader sense what Lichtenberg said above still applies: his unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another. He is now flogging his latest book, which lumps all believers in creation together, accusing them of being history deniers, analogous to Holocaust deniers. Like all bigots, of course, he is guilty of what he accuses others; it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Dawkins and other anti-creationists deny the fact that the Bible and all other scriptures teach evolution. Where else did the idea come from? Without scripture, Darwin's discoveries would have been seen by all as nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic. Our earliest origins, the Genesis myth teaches, started with gradual creation, starting with the creation of the basic elements and ever increasing complexity of life during the first five "days" or ages. God only creates humans on the sixth day, after which He "rests," leaving it up to us to continue the creative process. To deny that the seven days of creation could symbolize long ages and gradual, intelligent evolution, is to deny the ability of the human mind to understand metaphor. This puts Dawkins squarely in the camp of the most bigoted believers. It leaves intelligent, open-minded believers untouched. This surely is history denial of the most blinkered breed.
I was interested in the following exchange in a recent interview with Dawkins. Here Dawkins concedes a point that Baha'u'llah made in one of His Tablets to the Kings, that even if you leave aside questions of truth and falsehood, religion is highly beneficial to the wise leader, since it removes discontent among the populace and makes them tractable.
Q: There's a new paper from a psychologist at Bristol University, claiming our brains are hard-wired to believe in God. You've argued that religious belief is a by-product of indoctrination or lack of education. Could you see an evolutionary benefit to faith?
A: Oh yes, I think that's quite likely. Not a benefit to faith itself, but a benefit to the kind of psychological predisposition which shows itself in the form of faith.
Q: What would those benefits be?
A: One might be obedience to authority. You can see where that might be of benefit to a child. You are born into a dangerous world, there are all sorts of ways in which you could die, and you need to believe your parents when they tell you don't go near the edge of the cliff, or don't pick up that snake, etc. There could very well be a Darwinian survival value in that sort of brain rule of thumb. And a by-product of that could be that you believe your parents when they tell you about the juju in the sky, or whatever it might be."
"On Darwin, faith and natural selection, and why creationists are simply history deniers," interview of Jonathon Gatehouse with Dawkins, Macleans Magazine, September 23, 2009
"It is true that there are foolish individuals who have never properly examined the fundamentals of the Divine religions, who have taken as their criterion the behavior of a few religious hypocrites and measured all religious persons by that yardstick, and have on this account concluded that religions are an obstacle to progress, a divisive factor and a cause of malevolence and enmity among peoples.
"They have not even observed this much, that the principles of the Divine religions can hardly be evaluated by the acts of those who only claim to follow them. For every excellent thing, peerless though it may be, can still be diverted to the wrong ends. A lighted lamp in the hands of an ignorant child or of the blind will not dispel the surrounding darkness nor light up the house -- it will set both the bearer and the house on fire.
"Can we, in such an instance, blame the lamp? No, by the Lord God! To the seeing, a lamp is a guide and will show him his path; but it is a disaster to the blind." (Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 72)
The Founding Father of the World Parliament of Religions
By John Taylor
In early December of 2009 the seventh major session of the World Parliament of Religions (parliamentofreligions.org) took place in Melbourne, Australia. It is not well known that its founding father was the 17th Century Czech educational reformer John Amos Comenius. In his 1671 work "Panorthosia, or Universal Reform," he proposed a world parliament with three chambers, one each for politics, education and religion. In other words, he proposed not an interfaith parliament in name but a real legislative body elected by secret ballot by all people, fully capable of writing binding resolutions in its sphere of influence. The rules it devises would apply not only to all religious groups but also to every individual on earth, no matter what their beliefs, affiliation or religious background may be. It would be responsible not only for interfaith worship but also for artistic and moral expression on the world level. As such, it would embody the faith, hope and spiritual aspirations of all humans.
In this series of essays, I have been attempting to demonstrate that Comenius's proposal for a three-pronged world government is of far more than historical interest. Comenius insisted that bringing religion on board is the only way to involve the entire human race fully in the reform process. This consideration is as pertinent today as it was when he wrote Panorthosia 338 years ago.
Comenius held that without clear and distinct roles for each of these three bodies, scientific, political and religious, they could never work together without interference and conflict. However, at the same time he did not interpret separation of church and state to mean that they should have nothing to do with one another. In fact, like a three legged stool, each is needed to uphold the entire structure. Indeed one of the greatest advantages of religion from the point of view of all kinds of leaders is its ability to instil the virtues of respect and obedience among the populace. Religion will,
"offer their services to the other two orders in the cause of our Lord, by granting them the authority of God's Word which they hold in trust, and constantly sustaining them in it, and praying for them in the presence of all the people, for example, that all men should appreciate teachers and schools as leaders and factories of light, and duly respect magistrates and courts or tribunals as the visible presence and power of God Himself. It will help them to obtain this effect from others if they themselves conscientiously submit to the political authorities and respect the servants of light who are in charge of school education as their colleagues. (Panorthosia, Ch. 18, para 15, p. 243)
Clearly, under a Comenian world government the climate summit taking place in Copenhagen this week would have been very different. As it is, scientists met with government leaders, not only national leaders but mayors of cities too, to forge action plans to halt rising global temperatures. Religious groups sat in, but were relegated to the periphery. Rather than restricting it to politicians and climate experts, the Comenian parliament of religions would also participate at all levels, including organizing the conference.
With this third element, deliberations would surely have been more open, comprehensive and free ranging. The interfaith body would also enlist the prayers, hopes and aspirations of humanity to legitimize and support the resolutions at Copenhagen, and perhaps offer spiritual counselling when sacrifices are called for. The religious parliament might at sponsor and coordinate artistic expressions concurrent with all sessions, allowing for a fuller cross-section of humanity to participate, if only by listening to the music and viewing the works of art. They might bring in an ethical element as well. For example, the religious parliament might sponsor a simultaneous gathering discussing the moral dimensions of climate change.
As I mentioned yesterday, the greatest need shown up by Copenhagen is for reform of democracy. Its entire agenda was made up by and for wealthy elements who have corrupted the democratic process. The opinions of the peoples of the world get short shrift. This happened in large part because religion itself is weak and corrupt.
One of Comenius's most important suggestions for changing this is that we are incapable or unwilling to use God as common ground among us all. Setting all factionalism aside, religion, or to speak more exactly, God, has the potential of becoming the populist spirit behind world democracy. In the consultations of a democratic world government,
"There is no need to appoint a special judge to settle disputes. The people themselves, being the whole of God's church, will act as judge, provided that everything is resolved to bear witness to the truth (of God) itself, avenging itself upon the power of darkness by its clear light, since the main premise will then consist of the threefold law of God, i.e., the natural world, the world of God's creatures, and holy scripture, the minor premise will be the conscience of all mankind, and the conclusion will be the applause of all the people." (Panorthosia, Ch. 25, para 10, p. 137)
Hospitality and International Relations, II
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 15, Masa'il 04, 166 BE
We are looking at Immanuel Kant's outline of a future world constitution, specifically the "third definitive article." This part of his Sketch for a Perpetual Peace deals with questions of sovereignty, ownership of land, the freedom to travel and live where one chooses and, most of all, of relations between peoples. The common ground where all these meet is hospitality. The title of this section is, "The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality." As I understand him, Kant is saying that there is a difference in kind between ordinary hospitality and universal hospitality. He defines the term in this way:
"Hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another. One may refuse to receive him when this can be done without causing his destruction; but, so long as he peacefully occupies his place, one may not treat him with hostility."
In the beginning, there was no need for hospitality because there was no property. A host cannot entertain guests if he has no specific place to call home. Probably referring to hunter-gatherer societies, Kant posits that "Originally, no one had more right than another to a particular part of the earth." Only when private property evolved did we get a communitarian sense that the earth could be a possession. From property evolved the laws of hospitality.
In comparison with rule by naked force and the morality of "might makes right," hospitality is as close to the ideal as possible. The moral basis of hospitality is the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We now know that the Golden Rule is to be found in virtually every moral and religious tradition. The reciprocal responsibilities on both host and guest rule over relations among every group, right up to the international level.
As we saw yesterday, there have always been problems with ordinary hospitality in practice, since it is, as Shakespeare put it, "more honoured in the breach than the observance." While ordinary hospitality is a theoretical ideal, it assumes equality between guest and host. When one party is disproportionately more advanced than the other and there is no central authority, reciprocal behaviour is unenforceable. The stronger side is always tempted to break the Golden Rule while expecting the weaker party to comply to it. As mentioned yesterday, this kind of one-sided hospitality ends up as a form of hypocrisy even more cynical than "might makes right."
"In East India (Hindustan), under the pretense of establishing economic undertakings, they (British colonizers) brought in foreign soldiers and used them to oppress the natives, excited widespread wars among the various states, spread famine, rebellion, perfidy, and the whole litany of evils which afflict mankind..."
While tyrants of old oppressed millions, this process has become progressively worse since Kant's time. The present hypocrisy subjugates not millions but billions in penury, without benefit of basic infrastructure. And crime and corruption spread as fast as physical pollution. A recent study estimates that organized crime has shot from five percent of world GDP to fifteen percent over the past decade. Worst of all, the hypocritical kind of hospitality is scuttling the all-important international talks taking place this week in Copenhagen. Instead of talking in terms of eliminating carbon emissions wholesale, rich and poor nations squabble over who will emit how much.
This is why I am drawn to this document while these talks continue. As our world teeters on the brink of climate-induced anarchy and collapse, I look over what Kant says here:
"The worst of this (or, to speak with the moralist, the best) is that all these outrages profit them nothing, since all these commercial ventures stand on the verge of collapse, and the Sugar Islands, that place of the most refined and cruel slavery, produces no real revenue except indirectly, only serving a not very praiseworthy purpose of furnishing sailors for war fleets and thus for the conduct of war in Europe."
Before these climate talks, Kant's analysis must have seemed premature. Clearly, Europe gained great riches from plundering the planet, as does the United States today. But the great game is not over. Even now the wealthy elite imagines that they can keep raking in short term profit from the structural changes that climate change demands. But ultimately Kant's moral stance is correct, the only way for some to profit is for all to submit to binding, universal hospitality. We have to set up universal hospitality as the fundamental limitation because ultimately all peoples derive the right to associate,
"... by virtue of their common possession of the surface of the earth, where, as a globe, they cannot infinitely disperse and hence must finally tolerate the presence of each other."
With each advance in technology ever more distant parts of the world are brought into closer contact. The Internet is the ultimate conclusion of this trend, for it makes the entire sphere of earth into a giant brain. The only way to take this to its natural conclusion, peaceable relations of all peoples with one another rather than conflict and competition, is by forging our universal consent into a constitution establishing world citizenship.
"Since the narrower or wider community of the peoples of the earth has developed so far that a violation of rights in one place is felt throughout the world, the idea of a law of world citizenship is no high-flown or exaggerated notion. It is a supplement to the unwritten code of the civil and international law, indispensable for the maintenance of the public human rights and hence also of perpetual peace. One cannot flatter oneself into believing one can approach this peace except under the condition outlined here."
Next time I will go into more detail on this crucial difference between ordinary hospitality and universal hospitality.
Kant on why Copenhagen might fail
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 14, Masa'il 03, 166 BE
"The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality." This is the title of the "third definitive article" of Immanuel Kant's Sketch for a Perpetual Peace. Here he deals with the questions of sovereignty, ownership of land and the freedom to travel and live where one chooses.
Kant lived at the height of the age of colonialism and, although he did not travel himself, he read carefully accounts by world travellers, such as the journals of Captain James Cook. He was troubled by the injustice of some nations growing by conquering and subjugating weaker, less technologically advanced ones. This he considered cruel and unethical. It is "not a question of philanthropy but of right" when commercial interests and nations,
"make a great show of their piety and while they drink injustice like water, they regard themselves as the elect in point of orthodoxy. ... compare the inhospitable actions of the civilized and especially of the commercial states of our part of the world. The injustice which they show to lands and peoples they visit (which is equivalent to conquering them) is carried by them to terrifying lengths."
One of the common rationalizations at the time for unlawful behaviour to foreign peoples was racism, the idea that some cultures are less human than others are. Overall, Kant was not fooled. All are humans with equal rights. Pride and greed led Europeans to commit cruelty in the name of exploration. Such was the arrogance that they often denied the very existence of natives.
"America, the lands inhabited by the Negro, the Spice Islands, the Cape, etc., were at the time of their discovery considered by these civilized intruders as lands without owners, for they counted the inhabitants as nothing."
By nature, brute competitiveness among separate, unequal nations brings cultures and economies into exploitative deadlock. Such unequal relations, Kant said, are on the same moral level as war and slavery. He praised Japan for keeping these foreign "guests" out and, when they were allowed in, severely limiting contact. Hospitality has to be extended when both parties are ready to benefit. Kant also points out that in many cases those who committed conquest did not profit from their atrocities as much as they had hoped. This point came up later as abolitionists argued that slavery, aside from its cruelty, is ultimately an inefficient labour system as well.
Thus, Kant discerned present trends in their early stages. What we now call the West consistently takes advantage of the laws of hospitality. Though they operate more quietly and subtly today, it is still the case that a bigger, richer and more educated nation or company will take advantage of free contact and set up rules and contracts to ensure that an initially unequal arrangement becomes a permanent condition.
This continues to vex international relations. For example, in Copenhagen right now poor countries are complaining that rich nations plan permanently to freeze in their current lead with an agreement that gives them a permanent right to a disproportionate share of carbon emissions.
Like many, I consider the fate of the human race to hang on the meeting presently going on in Copenhagen. If it fails, and I would be surprised if it did not, it will be for the very reasons that Kant points to in this codicil to his suggested draft for a world constitution. In a word, it will be a failure of hospitality. Since Kant's diction is turgid and his reasoning abstruse, I will plunge into it afresh next time.
Pulverizing a Hard Truth
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 13, Masa'il 02, 166 BE
"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified." (President Obama, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. The day after the speech it was the quote of the day for the New York Times.)
This truth, if it be such, is hard indeed. The ice caps are melting and sea levels rising, but this truth remains immovable and unquestioned by those with real power. Yet there lies behind it an even harder truth: as long as the lion's share of the world's wealth is squandered on weaponry to defend nations from one another and, failing that excuse, from terrorists, there will never be enough money to retool, de-carbonize and defend our planet from the hydra's heads that threaten it from all sides. As long as this hard truth is unbroken, the Nobel Peace Prize, or any talk of peace at all, will be an empty sham. Until we break down such stumbling blocks to world government in our minds, there will be no hope for Kyoto, for Copenhagen, or ultimately for any of us.
Somehow we must soften and break the world's hard, ugly truths before we break our heads on them.
A week before Obama's speech, a well-known historian, James Bradley, wrote an insightful editorial in the NY Times describing what was going on behind the scenes when the first U.S. President to win the Nobel Peace, Teddy Roosevelt, earned the prize (Diplomacy That Will Live in Infamy, James Bradley, December 6, 2009; Theodore Roosevelt, not F.D.R., had a greater effect on Japans decision to attack Pearl Harbor. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06bradley.html). To sum it up briefly, Bradley wondered why his father, a marine, had to fight his Second World War in the Pacific, rather than Europe where one would have expected. As a historian it was not hard for Bradley to find out exactly why. Here is what happened.
A little over a century ago Theodore Roosevelt won his Nobel Peace Prize under false circumstances by taking credit for brokering the peace between Japan and Russia -- Baha'is are well familiar with this event, since the signing of the treaty took place at or nearby what is now Green Acre Baha'i Summer School. Roosevelt's acceptance of the prize was based on a lie, since it was Japan, not the U.S., which had secretly initiated the negotiations. If he had been honest he would have refused to accept the prize, but -- and here is another hard truth -- in an atmosphere of secrecy honest dealing is impossible. This historian traces the cause of Japan's attack on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor to Teddy Roosevelt's clear "You go, girl!" signal to Japan that her successful surprise attack on Russia, a clear violation of international law, was acceptable, even praiseworthy behaviour. Later, of course, the American role in the Second World War was shaped by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
The second US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize was, ironically, the only one directly to take on the hard truth that Obama so frankly brought up in his Nobel acceptance speech. That was Woodrow Wilson. The hard truth almost literally broke his head, since he was impaired during the Paris peace talks, and eventually died of a brain aneurism. In ending World War One, Wilson valiantly set up the international organization that became known as the League of Nations but failed when his own senate refused to join the League. Wilson died a broken and disappointed man. Had he succeeded, there would have been no World War II, no Cold War, and we would have no problem averting pollution and the melting of the poles.
Clearly, Wilson was the only one of the first two presidents to deserve the Nobel. In fact, he was the only one to deserve the name "leader" or "statesman," since a leader by definition leads, he goes beyond past ways and presuppositions even in the face of disapproval. Roosevelt, like all heads of state under the hard rules of Realpolitik, was immune, out of reach of all law and morality. But imagine if he were not. Imagine what would happen to a beat cop if he witnessed a mugging, praised the mugger and helped him "make up" with his victim, and then went around pretending to be a peacemaker. He would be in jail, he would not be accepting prizes and commendations. But heads of state are beyond such restrictions.
Although Barak Obama is on record calling himself a world citizen, at least he is being clear about what that means for him. Is he taking Roosevelt's path over that of Wilson? Sometimes I think he is, sometimes not. I read that sentence over and over,
"There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."
Sometimes this seems to state the obvious, that law and world order will have to be backed by force. But the next time I read it, it seems to be renouncing international law completely. Obama continued: "To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason." Hmm. When truth is that hard, it only makes sense that it should be caused by failings in our capacity to reason. Roosevelt was by this definition cynical, but at least he had the discretion to keep his contempt for international law a secret.
Just think, Germany in both wars, and Japan in the Second, and Russia in the Cold War, and Pol Pot, and just about any aggressor or villain you can name, all can just as candidly say that they "found the use of force not only necessary but morally justified." Osama Bin Laden, for heaven's sakes, finds force necessary and morally justified. Either you believe in law, a law that applies to all equally, or you do not. Otherwise we are all subject to "might makes right." This is the hard, indefeasible standard of naked self-interest that is openly being set on the table at Copenhagen.
|From Drop Box|
Wise Counsel; A Universal Human Right and Obligation
Three Magisterial Orders
By John Taylor; 2009 Dec 11, Qawl 19, 166 BE
Précis: The 24th Chapter of Panorthosia is one of the most important documents in the history of political science, yet it is all but unknown. Here I point at only some of its lessons for lasting reform. Using the Roman model, Comenius proposed that corruption can by avoided if official administration is supervised by three kinds or "orders" of magistrate, each concerned with piety, peace and order, respectively. Source: Panorthosia, Ch. 24, para 1, pp. 110-111
Society thrives only when we can depend upon law and order. Traditionally in the West we pay more attention to law than order, and the order we maintain serves the status quo, not necessarily the true object of law and society summed up in the Roman saying: Salus popoli suprema lex, the safety of the people is the supreme law. Especially in English speaking lands, rather than laying everything out, we let the invisible hand of Laissez Faire rule our daily lives. We pay for a large, elaborate legal system to dole out punishments, but we neglect to reward planners and social benefactors. Honors and rewards go to business and the military, not to those who benefit officialdom. John Amos Comenius envisioned a corrective, a balanced "teaching, law and order system" run by magistrates in every center of power.
"The world will be more orderly if every political system, or state or city has magistrates who are devoted to piety, peace and order." (Panorthosia, Ch. 24, para 1, p. 110)
He envisioned three types or "orders" of magistrate, consuls, judges and ephors. The consul upholds piety and moral behaviour by offering advice to all comers. A second magisterial profession is concerned with peace, the judge, is trained not only in the law but also dispute resolution. The judge settles disputes and lawsuits that slip past the consuls. These, he said, should be pious and righteous themselves, yet be tolerant, unwilling to use force and compulsion. The third type are ephors or censors who are primarily concerned with order. They see that everything is done in proper order. To do that, they must "have a most observant eye" and be willing to assert authority over the first two orders of judge.
The consul is a teaching magistrate, expert in the use of publicity for raising the general standard of moderation, ethics and piety. Consuls are not only teachers but also Ombudsmen and what are now called public relations experts, except that they are a regulated, scientific and autonomous profession. They take questions, explain rules and regulations, offer apologia for the law and give general counsel to everybody. They offer preventive medicine, flagging forensic diseases in early stages. They aim to solve public and private difficulties before lawbreaking enters anybody's mind. These magistrates would, in Comenius's words, "make themselves fully available to all men at stated times and give advice on all kinds of business for the purpose of smoothing out any public or private difficulties." This profession is affiliated with the College of Light, the science and education wing of government, and they are paid in the eduterra currency. The consul has a budget of grants to distribute at his or her discretion.
As for the qualifications of consuls, Comenius held that they must be "very wise men and know how to inform the ignorant." As good teachers they can explain the law in clear terms and convince both officials and the general public alike of its fairness. Where real unfairness exists in spite of the law, or because of it, they know how to take the problem to the proper authority for resolution.
Judges and Ephors
The second order of magistrate are judges, whose main concern is peace. These guardians or justices of the peace adjudicate disagreements and resolve disputes. They should be "very righteous and reluctant to use compulsion." They are employed by the political wing of government, the Dicastery of Peace, whose budgetary currency is the paxterra.
The Third order of magistrate is the ephor, senior to the first two orders of magistrate, who "sees to it that everything is done in proper order." Similar to the ancient Roman post of censor, the ephor sees to it that rules and initiatives promote the social good and further the goals and plans of the community. The ephor is an officer of the Ecumenical Consistory, and is paid and budgeted in its currency, the ecuterra. As such, he or she is especially concerned that religions devote themselves exclusively to spiritual needs and that inter-faith relations remain harmonious.
Purpose of Magistracy
The similarities among these three orders of magistrate, the PR specialist, the guardian and the planner who rules them, are greater than their differences. "Their main qualification is that they should all have the knowledge, the will and the ability to do good works." Comenius seems to have the magistrates in mind as the solution to problem of corruption in high places, the problem that some would have us solve with constant video surveillance.
Instead of surveillance by hidden cameras, magistrates would investigate the slightest abuse of power. They act as Big Brother not to the people but to their leaders. Their role is to see to it that leaders not only refrain from exploitation but show before all else the highest example of piety and rectitude.
"It is essential that those who are appointed to rule over others should themselves be honest, wise, pious, brave, and vigilant, since nothing can rule unless it is right, nor enlighten unless it is full of light. It is absurd for kings to be ruled, or for leaders to be led by other men. The real sun does not need oil poured into it."
Without magistrates, living supervisors of the reality the law rules over, the law really is blind, in a bad way as well as in the sense of being impartial. Rules and regulations do not care or nurture. Legality is a blunt instrument that, applied automatically, can be easily abused. It uses negative punishments for violations of the law but does not reward upright behaviour. In contrast to this, the triad of magistrates are pro-active and positive, and make the law into a more precise and elegant tool for social improvement.
Right to Comprehensive Counsel
Most of all, the magistrates dole out the most effective reward of all for citizens as autonomous agents. Not money, but advice. Today people have come to realize the value of wise counsel and enlightening guidance. An entire self-help publishing industry has grown up devoted to encouraging and counselling people as to what to do and how to think and act. The three magistrates would supervise a system where everybody has ready access to a roomful of aids and advisors. These advisors would be called in automatically as soon as metric on an individual's dashboard data display indicates a need. This will allow even the lowest person on the totem pole to wield a very complex set of variables without folly or blundering.
"Nevertheless great magnates (who have many heavy responsibilities) are allowed to have assistants who co-operate with them in drawing up their policies and putting them into action, as a safeguard against error and its ill-effects, just as our mind, which rules its own body like a queen, is provided with a guard of senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Therefore every king, prince, consul, and even the individual citizen should have (1) his own preacher, as a guardian of his conscience, and a counsellor in the things which concern God, (2) his own lawyer as a supervisor in the things which concern man, (3) his own philosopher or sage to guide him in the business of life, and (4) his own doctor as guardian and director of his physical health." (pp. 110-111)
Traditionally only heads of state and the super-rich could afford a board of select advisors. Comenius contends that this need not be the case. It is the duty of the state to see that even ordinary people can benefit from not only the best information -- this we take for granted now that we have the Internet -- but also the wisest advice from high-level experts. We have no excuse not to make this a fundamental human right. Once we have this right, we must set magistrates over them to see that, in the words of the Gospel, our light never becomes darkness.