What's the Pros of Theocracy?

What's the Pros of Theocracy?
Mariner
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Posted Nov 27, 2010 - 1:34 PM:

Try looking for positive features in actual theocratic states (whatever they are). Wouldn't this be the best way to consider this question?

For instance, if you classify Saudi Arabia as a theocracy, as some might, you could observe that women over there are much less likely to be raped than in Western democracies. This also applies to all sorts of crimes over there.

I don't think much good can come out of listing pros and cons of a given form of government, but there is plenty of data available for those inclined.
mutemaler
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Posted Nov 27, 2010 - 6:32 PM:

Mariner wrote:
Try looking for positive features in actual theocratic states (whatever they are). Wouldn't this be the best way to consider this question?

For instance, if you classify Saudi Arabia as a theocracy, as some might, you could observe that women over there are much less likely to be raped than in Western democracies. This also applies to all sorts of crimes over there.

I don't think much good can come out of listing pros and cons of a given form of government, but there is plenty of data available for those inclined.

I don't know myself how much can come of it either, just in general. But in particular when countries which we are taught are the "moderate, friendly" ones are very repressive (Saudia Arabia, Egypt), this as opposed to those "evil, totalitarian, regimes" which we are taught are vile and despicable. Because one of the positive features in the theocracies in the region at least seems to be that corruption is very low, but a raging problem elsewhere (for example in countries which the west has "liberated").
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Posted Nov 27, 2010 - 9:11 PM:

The theocracy in New England was confined to the coastal region of Massachusetts close to Boston. Much of the early expansion of the colony can be ascribed to the need of many to get as far away from theocratic rule, and its tax supported churches, as quickly as possible. The colony of Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams as a place for free expression of religion and as an anti-theocratic state where taxes could not be used to support religion. New Hampshire was colonized by runaway indentured servants who settled into the native villages.

The town I grew up in, which was first settled in 1638, did not have a church for its first 150 years because the townspeople continually refused to vote taxes to support one, and a preacher to run it. On Sundays the pious would take the ferry to Salem to attend services while the rest would repair to the tavern next to the ferry landing to await their return.

There is a lot of subversion to theocratic rule in a place where civilization has a tenuous grasp.

That said, most of the Muslim world was subject to a sort of theocratic rule for much of its history. Islam was seen as an extension of the state, rulers appointed Imams and Imams supported the ruler and enforced the law by encoding into the religion through the Hadith. This is creating huge problems for Islam as it has become the stumbling block to both religious and social modernization.

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Posted Nov 27, 2010 - 10:26 PM:

Some would argue there is a certain amount of conformity and consensus required to give cohesion and common purpose to a culture. Having shared assumptions about the world and shared values is not an entirely bad thing for a culture.
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Posted Nov 28, 2010 - 2:33 AM:

unrealist42 wrote:
The theocracy in New England was confined to the coastal region of Massachusetts close to Boston. Much of the early expansion of the colony can be ascribed to the need of many to get as far away from theocratic rule, and its tax supported churches, as quickly as possible.


I would love to see a source on this.

In any case, my initial point stands. Democracy and theocracy were not mutually exclusive in this particular context and, indeed, many of the things we associate with modern American democracy arose both practically and theoretically within a theocratic context.

unrealist42 wrote:
There is a lot of subversion to theocratic rule in a place where civilization has a tenuous grasp.


There is a lot of subversion of non-theocratic rule where "civilization" has a tenuous grasp. There is a lot of subversion of theocratic rule where "civilization" has a firm grasp. There is a lot of subversion of non-theocratic rule where "civilization" has a firm grasp. As Foucault is wont to remind us, "Where there is Power, there is Resistance and, correspondingly, Resistance never occuppies a position of exteriority in relation to power."


unrealist42 wrote:
That said, most of the Muslim world was subject to a sort of theocratic rule for much of its history. Islam was seen as an extension of the state, rulers appointed Imams and Imams supported the ruler and enforced the law by encoding into the religion through the Hadith. This is creating huge problems for Islam as it has become the stumbling block to both religious and social modernization.


On the other hand, those very theocratic regimes occassioned the official patronage of arts and learning that characterized dar al Islam during the Middle Ages. Indeed, one of the great benefits of theocracy, historically, is perhaps best exemplified in the case of the Islamic Golden Age: Clerics, for much of history, have been the most educated members of their particular societies. Hence, rule by clergy also meant (and, in some places, still means) rule by the educated.
keda
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Posted Nov 28, 2010 - 5:12 AM:

Britannica wrote:

theocracy, government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law.


Given this definition, the immediate problem I find is that it is not defined which deity the guidance is suppose to come from, let alone which laws such a deity would approve of, so it does not mean that there has to be a bad law, or a good law that has to be regarded as divinely handed down.
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Posted Nov 29, 2010 - 11:37 AM:

thewatcher wrote:

In any case, my initial point stands. Democracy and theocracy were not mutually exclusive in this particular context and, indeed, many of the things we associate with modern American democracy arose both practically and theoretically within a theocratic context.


Most of the things I associate with the American revolution stand in clear opposition to theocratic government. The first amendment demonstrates that religious liberty was top of mind to the framers of the US Constitution. I think the important distinction is not between theocracy and democracy but rather theocracy and liberalism. The particular brand of democracy that we most often are concerned with is liberal democracy (the all-important qualifier).
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Posted Nov 29, 2010 - 11:47 AM:

prothero wrote:
Some would argue there is a certain amount of conformity and consensus required to give cohesion and common purpose to a culture. Having shared assumptions about the world and shared values is not an entirely bad thing for a culture.


Of course shared values need not be underpinned by uniformity of comprehensive belief. The Christian can agree with the Muslim that theft is wrongful. Shared values need not penetrate down to the most fundamental level of cultural identity. An overlapping consensus regarding behavioural norms is all that is needed for an orderly society.
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Posted Nov 29, 2010 - 12:41 PM:

Geospiza wrote:

Most of the things I associate with the American revolution stand in clear opposition to theocratic government. The first amendment demonstrates that religious liberty was top of mind to the framers of the US Constitution.


This simply means that you, like many people, misunderstand the American revolution (so-called) and the political philosophy behind the first amendment. Or, perhaps more charitably, that you are looking at things from the viewpoint of a political culture that has reappropriated the American revolution and the first amendment to suit its own ideological ends.

The fact is, the American revolution produced a system of government modeled directly upon the theocratic democracy of early New England. Correspondingly (and, as I have mentioned, in keeping with Lockean political theory) the first amendment was indeed designed to promote a sort of religious liberty. However, the sort of liberty in question was precisely the liberty necessary for a certain sort of (Latitudinarian) Christian community: tolerance between different (Protestant) Christian denomninations. The first amendment was never intended to promote full toleration of Catholics, let alone non-Christians.
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Posted Nov 29, 2010 - 3:01 PM:

thewatcher wrote:


This simply means that you, like many people, misunderstand the American revolution (so-called) and the political philosophy behind the first amendment. Or, perhaps more charitably, that you are looking at things from the viewpoint of a political culture that has reappropriated the American revolution and the first amendment to suit its own ideological ends.

The fact is, the American revolution produced a system of government modeled directly upon the theocratic democracy of early New England. Correspondingly (and, as I have mentioned, in keeping with Lockean political theory) the first amendment was indeed designed to promote a sort of religious liberty. However, the sort of liberty in question was precisely the liberty necessary for a certain sort of (Latitudinarian) Christian community: tolerance between different (Protestant) Christian denomninations. The first amendment was never intended to promote full toleration of Catholics, let alone non-Christians.


I regard the historical remarks you have made about Colonial America to be severely distorted. There existed no sovereign government in New England until the advent of the American Revolution. The revolutionary war was fought for independence from Great Britain; not least among the freedoms sought was the freedom from the ecclesiastical and political authority of the Church of England. Whatever colonial democracy that may have existed in New England prior to American independence would have been subject to the British Crown.

I would characterize your remarks as indicative of a narrow conservative positivism; one which I reject on both ideological and historical grounds. The framers of the Constitution were hardly in a position to contemplate anything but different Protestant sects in their conception of religious liberty. That has more to do with historical circumstances than a principled consideration of the logical extension of Locke’s political theory. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner; but I assume you would not advocate in favour of repealing civil rights legislation. Also, contrary to your remarks, Roman Catholics received broad toleration in both Colonial and post-revolutionary America (though in many instances they were not fully enfranchised).

For the sake of discussion, let us suppose that your view of history is correct and there has been a systemic and comprehensive misunderstanding of the US Constitution. What now? Remove all non-Protestants from public office? Revoke their citizenship? Why are you so eager to advance this view of history? Is it merely because you think it is correct, or is it because you believe that it would entail some particular reforms?

The fact is that there exists a plurality of views and opinions on the nature of religious liberty of which yours is but one particularly conservative example. In my estimation your view also represents an extreme departure from that of most esteemed constitutional scholars and jurists. The most conservative justices presently serving on the Supreme Court are Roman Catholic; from your point of view that must be a horrible irony. As a practical matter, and regardless of your own vision of history or whatever consequences you think it may have for American society, the institutional momentum is weighted heavily against your narrowly conservative interpretations.
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