Conditions for the establishment of a great European democracy (part one)

In the perspective of a large-scale European democracy with a directly-elected president, I’ve decided to publish two absolutely fundamental texts by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède and Montesquieu, taken from “De l’esprit des lois” (The spirit of laws 1748). In the first text, distinctive properties of the republic, Montesquieu shows the difficulty of establishing a democracy over a large territory. I think his analysis remains very accurate, even if we have examples of large democracies such as India or the United States of America, which gives me hope that it’s also possible to establish a real democracy in Europe.

Montesquieu indicates that European democracy will have to reorganize itself to guarantee the general interest over particular interests.

Indeed, we can see that large private interests are trying to seize power in large states in order to serve private interests. Examples include Donald Trump in the United States, Vladimir Putin in Russia and the institutionalized system of lobbies in Europe.

Montesquieu tells us that mutual assistance between the states making up the union is very important to perpetuate this democracy. I think this is absolutely true in terms of defense, but also to protect the democratic institutions in each state.

I’ll now stop interpreting this particularly beautiful text and wish you a pleasant reading.

Montesquieu. De l’esprit des lois , the spirit of laws

Distinctive properties of the republic (chapter 16)

It is in the nature of a republic to have only a small territory; without that, it can hardly subsist. In a large republic, there are large fortunes, and consequently little moderation of spirit: there are too many deposits to place in the hands of one citizen; interests become particularized; a man first feels that he can be happy, great, glorious, without his homeland; and soon, that he can be alone great on the ruins of his homeland. In a large republic, the common good is sacrificed to a thousand considerations; it is subordinated to exceptions; it depends on accidents. In a small republic, the public good is better felt, better known, closer to each citizen; abuses are less widespread, and therefore less protected. What kept Lacedemonia going for so long was that, after all its wars, it always stayed within its territory. Lacedemonia’s only goal was freedom; the only advantage of its freedom was glory. It was the spirit of the Greek republics to be content with their lands, as with their laws. Athens acquired ambition, and gave it to Lacedemonia: but it was rather to command free peoples, than to govern slaves; rather to be at the head of the union, than to break it. All was lost when a monarchy arose, a government whose spirit is more inclined towards aggrandizement. Without special circumstances, it is difficult for any government other than the republican to survive in a single city. A prince of such a small state would naturally seek to oppress, because he would have great power and few means to enjoy it, or to make it respected: he would therefore trample his people a great deal. On the other hand, such a prince would be easily oppressed by a foreign force, or even by a domestic force; the people could at any moment assemble and unite against him. Now, when a prince of one city is driven out of his city, the trial is over; if he has several cities, the trial has only just begun.