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Bruce S. Thornton
Protecting Democracy from Friend and Foe « Back to Story
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This is what we need to fight. Government is only tool for the betterment of the citizens, not the arbiter of the life choices of those citizens.
Peter from Australia March 21, 2011 at 6:31 PM
It is true that we nowww have more democratic governments in all Western countries. However, it is also true that we have far less freedom from governement interference in our lives than ever before. Government has continued to grow and grow during the last 100 years and always the argument for this growth has been that democatic election gave the government a level of legitimacy and authority to interfere in any area of life that it chooses.

This is what we need to fight. Government is only tool for the betterment of the citizens, not the arbiter of the life choices of those citizens.
If I may use a phrase "easy but hard to do", transcending comes with much nurturing. I do remember having felt similary several times in last couple of decades, but things pretty much stayed the same, and nothing really took it any further. Non the less, great to have read this article to keen my awareness of such threshhold of different way of thinking. Thank you for writing this article. I enjoyed it.
Continually astonishing is the effort to ignore the central, the core role of religion in any continuing state.
Liberty, freedom are negatives. They are essentially empty.
In the talk about democracy, a key element has been noted with the phrase "electoral" democracy. Again and again serious thinkers have lamented parliamentary democracy, which is no democracy at all. And more often than not has led to tyrannies.
Democracy is a complicated,demanding concept. A validly informed electorate is a basic requirement, which stops the show right there. When school books give more space to Marilyn Monroe than George Wahington, the chances of our Republic enduring get increasingly dimmer. And if we can't make democracy work, who can?
Daniel J. Mahoney March 05, 2011 at 11:09 AM
I'm grateful to Professor Thornton for a wonderfully thoughtful review that fully conveys the letter and spirit of my book. As the review makes clear my book is not a book about Solzhenitsyn. But the book draws extensively upon the great Russian writer, among myriad other figures, to illustrate the vulnerability of modern liberty to subversion from within. Whether Joseph J.B. likes it or not, Solzhenitsyn always advocated the priority of internal over external development and argued that the Soviet empire was "unnecessary" and "ruinous" for the Russian people. As he wrote in 1994's "The 'Russian Question' at the End of the Twentieth Century" "the aims of a great empire and the moral health of the people are incompatible." In farewell remarks to the people of Cavendish, Vermont in 1994 Solzhenitsyn spoke about "the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy" that he saw at work in New England and Switzerland during his western exile and lamented the absence of true self-government in his native Russia. He repeated these sentiments in one of his last interviews with DER SPIEGEL in July 2007. And what kind of enemy of western civilization(and advocate of Orthodox triumphalism) would speak about Pope John Paul II the way Solzhenitsyn did after the Pope's death in April 2005: "Pope John Paul II was a great man. In the centuries-long line of Roman Popes, he stands out markedly. He influenced the course of world history; and, on his tireless pastoral visits around the world, he carried the warmth of Christianity to all." (See Solzhenitsyn's comparable praise of Ronald Reagan in a small piece he wrote for NATIONAL REVIEW in June 2007). As for the "evil empire," in an interview for a documentary in 2003 Solzhenitsyn expressed his profound disappointment that his compatriots had not taken up his challenge to repent, to truly repent, for the terrible crimes of Communism: "I thought that in quitting Bolshevism some of the liars and torturers would repent, at least some of them. Not one of them did this. They simply converted into other beliefs and stepped into a new century scot-free, discarding or hiding their membership cards." Finally, readers can turn to Solzhenitsyn's essay on "The Persian Trick" published in English in Encounter magazine in February 1980 as "I Am No Russian Ayatollah" to see what Solzhenitsyn really thinks of the theocratic despotism established by the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. As Solzhenitsyn wrote in response to an earlier version of this calumny that he wanted to bring religious despotism to Russia: "The author of "The Gulag Archipelago"...has been presented with the 'friendly" charge that not even Soviet propaganda managed to concoct: He wants new Gulags, new Ayatollahs!" In that piece and elsewhere, Solzhenitsyn makes clear that he asks for no special priviliges for Orthodoxy in particular, or Christianity in general, but only its right to breathe freely and to contribute to the cultural and spiritual renewal of his country.
I don't know what planet Joseph J.B. inhabits, but it is certainly not our own. In any case he is sadly out of touch with reality on every single one of his ridiculous charges against Solzhenitsyn, whose name he can't even spell right. The letter speaks volumes about Mr. B., however.

Alex Klimoff
Apropos to Joseph J. B.'s comment: Mahoney has addressed and refuted these (and similar) calumnies and canards in any number of writings. The interested reader should begin with his Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology. Also helpful is Ed Ericson and Alex Klimoff's The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn. Mahoney & Ericson coedited the magisterial The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005, which is the best selection of Solzhenitsyn's writings available in English and is highly recommended for the person who would like to engage directly with the full range of Solzhenitsyn's writings and thinking.
Dangerous to highlight on haters of freedom and human rights like Alexander Solshenyzin a fierce hater of western values, an orthodox hardliner against the US, a free Ukraine and for the dignity of people....His mixture of all the negative russian positions (as taken the bad from Europe and Asia and mix it to Holy Russian Imperialistic ideology) is a treat against all what the free world stands for....and as we see russia walks step by step back into the axis of evil ...see the values what this Putinistan is standing for....BTW...Solshenitzyn had much more in common with Ajatolla Khomeni also staunch stand against the US....sad thing to give such comment Mr. Thornton
Thank you for Mr. Mahoney's perceptive words.