The Reality of Secular Liberal Democracy, and the Islamic worldview (part 2)

In part one, we looked at the origins of Democracy, the Democracy of Ancient Athens and Roman Republican systems, and their subsequent rise and fall. In addition, we looked at the contemporary critics of Ancient Greek Democracy and the arguments they brought forth for why they considered Democracy a unsuitable system for government, from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Thucydides.

After the death of the world’s first experiments with Democracy, with the succumbing of Roman Republic to Dictatorship, and the fall of Ancient Athens to dictators, and then foreign powers (rule by the Roman Empire), the world would not consider Democracy for its political ruling system for 1,700 years. It was not until the age which produced the birth of a new worldview in European thought, called anachronistically, ‘The Enlightenment’, that Democracy would be resurrected. This new and radical world view had many incarnations & names, but is called today ‘Secular Liberalism’, or ‘Liberalism’.

In order to understand the reality and meaning behind the modern use of Democracy, we must understand what gave rise to its resurrection, the significances behind this, and the purpose of it relative to the ideology of Secular Liberalism.

 Part 2 – The Origins and Doctrines behind Secular Liberal Democracy

The Dark Ages and the European Renaissance

At the turn of the 11th Century, Europe was most in a declined and backward state called ‘the Dark Ages’. The cause of this state was not Christianity, as many Secularists anachronistically like to portray, but actually due to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire, what historians call ‘Byzantium’, split from the Western Roman Empire in 330AD and resisted barbarians successfully therefore never succumbing to a ‘Dark Age’.

The Roman Empire was the most technologically advanced state of its time, and embraced Christianity during the last two hundred years of its life, with the Western part collapsing in 476AD due to barbarian invasions. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire left Europe occupied by migrating barbarian tribes, uneducated and unable to repair the decaying Roman technology or architecture. The superstitions and simple-minded approach to life of these new conquerors caused what historians would later call ‘The Dark Ages’. Christianity had nothing to do with the lowering the intellectual life of the Europeans, as for example, St. Augustine, a revered Christian theologian and philosopher during the time of the Roman Empire, is described by many historians as the last great philosopher of the Classical age. If anything, the understanding of Christianity itself would be negatively affected by the new converts from these uneducated tribes who bring in their own traditions and customs, not the other way round.

Europe’s encounter with the Islamic civilisation intensified around the 10th-11th centuries, were Christian conquests of the Levant and areas of modern day spain and portugal, allowed a dissemination of Arabic and translated-Ancient Greek textbooks to circulate amongst the European thinkers (almost all Clergy). These new ideas from the Ancients and the Muslims re-stimulated Christian thinking causing a rebirth of thought, development and technological improvement, this was called the Renaissance.

The Renaissance was led by the Catholic Church, who built the first (non-Muslim) European universities, and commissioned the copying, studying and preservation of all ancient books obtained from the Muslims. Admittedly, the european intellectual Renaissance owes much to Catholic Church patronage – virtually all of the first European scientists were Catholic Clergy or devout Catholics. For just under 600 years (12th-18th centuries), Europe technologically progressed, eventually surpassing the Islamic and Chinese civilisations by the 17th century, while they began to intellectually and technologically stagnate due to a decadence brought on by their both very long time enjoying a high degree of prosperity.

During these 600 years of technological progress, there were no Secular, Liberal regimes, or even Democracies amongst the major powers. Secular Liberals would later claim that their ideology creates technological advancement, but 6 centuries of European progress didn’t require this political system. This is because technological progress is mainly linked to the level of thinking of a people, not necessarily their political system.

Contrary to what is taught in popular culture, Republic, Aristocracy and Monarchy had existed in various (and mostly mixed) forms throughout the European middle ages – with all forms being accepted by the Catholic Church – as long as the Church’s influence was accepted. Genoa, San Marino and Venice were Italian examples of types of Republic, with Aristocratic councils who elected a Doge, and members of the public allowed to form lesser councils. There was no specific Catholic doctrine that demanded Kingship instead of rule by Nobility (Aristocracy) or elections of officials by the people (Republic).

In all case, all these forms of government were viewed as the most suitable vehicles in their respective political and social circumstances to maintain order, preserve the culture and protect the state.

The European ‘Enlightenment’ – Birth of a New Moral and Political Theory

The intellectual stimulation of Europe by encounter with the Islamic civilisation, and the resultant use of skepticism in testing traditional knowledge of the sciences, had a consequence not intended by the rich and powerful Catholic Church.

The critical questioning of the knowledge in preserved books of physical sciences, turned towards questioning Catholic theological doctrines itself, including their monopoly in authority to represent God’s Will on earth, and their influence over European kings. This led to the rise of protestantism, and the political battle to win over monarchs to their causes led to bitter wars. Protestants then battled other protestants too in long and bloody wars as rival ‘new interpretations of Christianity’ became solidified into competing identity groups.

The Protestants believed the Catholic Church did not have any political or theological authority over Christians, including Christian European kings, which led to many wars between Catholics and Protestant factions.

These religious wars were resolved ultimately by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, where all states agreed to respect their borders and leave the religion of each state up to the leader to decide – Cuius regio, eius religio (Translation: Who’s realm, his religion).

By the beginning of the 17th century, European thinkers began to apply science upon the study of politics, nations, the mind and human nature. Despite the fact these things are intangible, and therefore outside the remit of science – the belief that science could teach humans how to live and to what purpose they should act, caused the birth of materialism.

As Science could tell humans about the laws of the physical universe, many European thinkers arose, believing they could ‘use it’ to understand and identify the ‘natural laws’ of mankind and build a new and improved society.

This materialism was first expressed tacitly by Hugo Grotius, who wrote that his identified ‘Natural Law’ of Humans: ‘would somehow equally subsist even if we granted…that God did not exist or did not care for humanity’[1]

Many Catholic[2] and, later on, Protestant philosophers wrote books countering the rising materialist moral and legal worldviews.

In 1642-1651 the English Civil War led to a brutal and bloody conflict between nobles (Parliament) and the King of England, Charles I. This was nothing new, many civil wars and rebellions had occurred between nobles and kings, but the changied intellectual circumstances in European thought, and the existence of materialist philosophers, would see a new reaction to this event.

The Catholic Church had for centuries sought to preserve peace and stability in the various European kingdoms and Republics, by arguing that Christians could not rebel agains their ruler, nor fight each other, for they claimed all Christian kings had been appointed by God and possessed the divine right to rule, as ‘God’s agents’. While many Protestants also subscribed to that theory, as a result of the English Civil war, many Protestant thinkers in England, began to question the stability of a government based upon theological authority – i.e. the Divine appointment and right of the Ruler. Out of this position, rose some thinkers who were influenced by materialism, that sought to re-found the authority of kings and rulers, and the relationship between states, upon a materialistic basis in the hope that this would be more stable[3].

The most seminal and prominent thinker of these was Thomas Hobbes (died 1679), who is considered today to be the father of modern Western political philosophy. In 1651 he published the book Leviathan, which summed a lot of his previous thought. The book was highly influential (and controversial) and changed the nature of European thinking.

Hobbes built his materialism argument on (mistakenly) claiming to use the long well established ‘scientific method’, instead of studying the physical world, he’d use it to study ‘human nature’ and the reasons they form societies. Hobbes took the approach from science, which starts by breaking down the subject of study to its component parts, and studying the properties of each component, in order to come to a general conclusion about how they work in sum. This works for physical objects, but not for intangible ones, like ‘nature’, mind, thought, emotion and knowledge. Hobbes then ‘deduced’ from this (essentially a thought exercise combined with anecdotal observation) that society was divisible and composed of indivisible units called ‘individuals’. He then posited (without evidence) that Individuals must have originally existed separately ‘in a state of nature’ and had special rights given to them by ‘nature’ that they possessed before they came together to form societies. These rights given to them initially by nature, meant that all Individuals were in a natural state of ‘Liberty’, and equal to eachother (without adequately explaining exactly how all individuals are equal, considering that individuals are not all identical in mental or physical power). However, in this original state of Nature, individuals would constantly fight each other and would need to come together and form an agreement to unify themselves under a arbiter who would possess the authority to provide protection for them all.

Hobbes posited that kings and rulers get their power to rule from the compact or agreement between the majority of the sum of individuals, who appoint a ruler they will obey in return for protection and security. In essence, Hobbes claimed all societies started with the tacit consent by the governed with their government, when the state was first formed. Hobbes concluded that Individuals were therefore, from a purely material perspective, the basis for appointing a supreme power, or a ‘sovereign’ over them. Hobbes supported the idea of an Absolute Monarchy, and was attempting to demonstrate the ‘rationality’ of obedience to an Absolute Monarchy by positing a Materialist reasoning for Sovereign right to rule[4] instead of the Catholic ‘Divine Right of Kings’ doctrine.

Hobbes materialistic reasoning inadvertently opened the door for new doctrines to be built upon it – leading to his ‘Individuals’ and their ‘original state of Liberty’ becoming the basis for an entire political Ideology devoted to the Sovereignty and Primacy of the Individual – Individualism.

As a reaction to Thomas Hobbes, many protestants (and Catholics) wrote counter-refutations of his premises, one such thinker was Sir Robert Filmer:

‘There are too many in these days who please themselves in running after the opinions of philosophers and poets, to find out such an original of government as might promise them some title to liberty, to the great scandal of Christianity and bringing in of atheism. Since a natural freedom of mankind cannot be supposed without the denial of the creation of Adam [i.e. as a servant of God, and not of Himself]’[5]

The English protestant thinker, John Locke[6] (died 1704) took Hobbes concepts of the fundamentality of Individuals in society, and Hobbes’s implied ‘consent of the governed’ theory and in 1689 wrote and expounded on these ideas, and included an extensive rebuttal to Filmer, in his book ‘Two Treatises on government’. John Locke rejected Hobbes’ idea of absolute monarchy, but instead proposed government based upon three bases, sovereignty of the Individual, the necessity and limitations of government, and the means of formation of government to protect and establish that sovereignty.

Although John Locke was a devout Christian, he was also a materialist in terms of his basis for moral knowledge. Consequently he believed in the ‘law of nature’ as being the supreme determiner of right and wrong, and that by observation of nature, humans could fathom this by themselves[7]. Being a Christian, he reconciled this with his belief by claiming that man’s own intellect was given to him by God, and so was akin to ‘the voice of God’ and that the ‘law of nature’ is but the expression of the Will of God[8], and humans could determine this Will for themselves using intellect alone. Needless to say, there is a significant philosophical problem with this[9]. Based upon his opinion of what Natural law entails, John Locke, based partly on Hobbes’ ideas, posited three key doctrines that would form the pillars of his new government:

  • The Supreme Sovereignty of Man
  • The Necessity of Limited Government to protect and establish Man’s sovereignty
  • The transfer of Man’s Sovereignty to Government

The First Pillar of Liberalism: The Supreme Lordship of Man

John Locke’s starts his philosophy by looking at man in the ‘state of nature’, when, according to Locke, men where all separate individuals and in ‘a perfect state of freedom’:

‘To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original, we must consider what estate all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

Although John Locke’s Christian theology believed in the Bible as revelation from God, and God as the supreme master of creation, in the material universe, Locke considered a parallel ‘revelation’ from God, to be that of ‘the law of nature’. The law of nature, Locke believed, ordained Man to be the Absolute Lord and Sovereign of himself:

‘Man in the state of Nature…be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest and subject to nobody, all being kings as much as he, every man his equal

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

With this argument, Locke created a fundamental shift in European consciousness. While Hobbes had identified and made ‘Individuals’ the subject of his political thought, Locke made them the object, this began as the first explicit philosophical formulation of the doctrine that would later be called ‘Individualism’: the primacy of the Individual above all things and considerations.

Locke believed that the ‘law of Nature’, although making man Absolute Lord of himself, couldn’t be contradicted by Man himself – since Man’s Lordship depended on it’s decree. Therefore, Man couldn’t go against the very thing which gave him his ‘authority’ in the first place. For example, Locke considered Self-preservation as part of the law of nature, so according to Locke, Man even in a state of nature and liberty, couldn’t kill himself:

‘But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

Slavery according to Locke, was giving another an absolute and arbitrary power to take their life whenever they wished. Since self-preservation is a ‘law of nature’ according to Locke, he argued that the law of Nature prevents anyone from enslaving themselves to others, or enslaving another. Locke considered that since no one had the right to commit suicide[10], and they cannot give to another a power they do not have themself; the power to take life arbitrarily (as one can dispose of property any way one likes) – which is his definition of enslavement.

If Man couldn’t kill himself, then he couldn’t ‘enslave’ himself to another either, by giving another the power of arbitrary life and death over him. However, Locke argued that Man had the right to punish another man, by death if necessary[11], if the offender tried to deny another’s natural rights e.g. by committing murder or even theft against them. Theft could be punished by death, if it sets an example to deter others, Locke argued.

The first pillar of Locke’s political thought, was that Man is Absolute Lord of himself, according to ‘the law of nature’. Putting theological problems and considerations aside, the obvious problem with John Locke’s conclusion (as with Hobbes and his fellow ‘enlightenment thinkers’), is that anthropology, history, psychology, sociology and just casual observation tell us something completely different about mankind. Humans are social creatures, born into families and living in reciprocal and responsibly limited relationships with others. As Plato said ‘Man is a social creature’. This is the key fundamental flaw of Individualism, but is the central and key doctrine of a political ideology that defines most of the intellectual discourse of the world today.

The next fundamental concept to Locke’s worldview, would be Liberalism’s second pillar: the necessity of government to protect and establish Man’s Sovereignty.

The Second Pillar of Liberalism: The Necessity of Limited Government to Establish and Protect Man’s ‘Absolute Lordship’

 1) The Necessity of Government

According to Locke, Man’s Lordship and supremacy over himself and his possessions is ‘absolute’, and therefore no power can be greater than him on earth. However, in the ‘state of nature’ Man faces problems due to conflict with his fellow ‘Lords’, other men:

‘The greater part [of Men, are] no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state [of Nature] is very unsafe, very insecure’.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

It is for this reason, Locke argued, that Man must unite with others under a government that will provide security and protection for Man’s ‘natural rights’. This requires Man to forfeit his ‘natural condition of perfect freedom’ to create and set up a government that can protect his ‘Lordship’. As Locke believed, the fears and dangers of ‘State of Nature’:

‘This makes [Man] willing to quit this condition which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers; and it is not without reason that he seeks out and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name—property’ [12]

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

Although Locke argued that Man cannot be subject to any higher dominion or power than himself (under the Law of Nature), the only exception to this is if Man ‘consents’ to give up some of his sovereignty to create a ‘supreme power’, a government, that is justified in its existence, by being necessary to protect and establish Man’s sovereignty over himself and his possessions.

‘The legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth (i.e. state), yet, first, it is not, nor can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people. For it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person or assembly which is legislator’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

This echoed what Hobbes first iterated:

‘Men who are in absolute liberty may if they please give authority to one man to represent them all, or give such authority to any assembly of men whatever; so they are free to subject themselves to a monarch as absolutely as to any other representative, if they think fit to do so’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Locke, working off and developing further the ideas of Hobbes, established the premise for the necessity of government and its permissibility to be submitted to by Individuals in a ‘perfect state of freedom’ – namely, that the state is set up to protect Man’s sovereignty and becomes the collective representation of it.

2) The Conditions of Legitimate (Liberal) Government

Locke disagreed with Hobbes, who permitted the ruler to have absolute power, whereas Locke – although agreeing with Hobbes on the necessity and procedure to institute a government and ruler, posited limits that the government must adhere to – which sought to protect the Sovereignty of Individuals from being transgressed by absolute and tyrannical government.

 A) Protection of Life, Liberty and Property

While Locke advocated the ‘Liberty’ of men, he didn’t mean they could do what they want, or that laws couldn’t restrict some of their private freedoms, but rather by ‘Liberty’[13], Locke meant that people were ‘free’ to do what they want within the law – which means they can’t be prosecuted for doing legal things (i.e. they are free where the law doesn’t prohibit something), just because the ruler becomes displeased with them due to personal reasons.

Likewise, a Ruler cannot take away life except by permission from the ‘law of nature’ as punishment or deterrent. Furthermore, the property of the people were to be protected from ruler’s arbitrarily taking it from them without consent (which he elaborates to mean, ‘without giving consent to the government to rule’. After a government has been elected, it is considered to have permission from the people to increases taxes[14].

B) Laws cannot be applied Arbitrary

Locke argued that laws must not be arbitrary – in that, laws are applied to some, but not to others. Any law which is made, no matter how restrictive, must at least be applied consistently upon all citizens[15].

C) Governments must rule according to the ‘public good’

Locke proposed that government make laws according purely according to ‘the law of nature’ concerning ‘the public good’[16]. In essence, Locke advocated that laws be made according to a Secular basis (although he believed that the morals that religion teaches, were of secular value, and could be advocated by government).

The problem with Locke’s thinking here, is that the law of nature, and what is ‘good’ is subject to varied material and moral considerations of the beholder, and can produce a wide variety of opposite interpretations, possibly being very restrictive in form depending on how ‘necessary’ or ‘good’ a Secular ruler deems them to be.

The next pillar Locke posited is the most intricate, namely how government, which Locke and Hobbes called ‘a commonwealth[17]’, are to be set up for the purpose of protecting Man’s sovereignty and legitimised on that basis.

The Third Pillar of Liberalism: The Establishment of Government & the transfer of Absolute Sovereignty from Individuals to the government

Locke established the necessity of government to protect and establish what he believed was the Absolute Lordship of man. According to Locke, and Hobbes, government became instituted upon the covenant and agreement of the Individuals forming together to establish it.

1) The Establishment of Government

‘A commonwealth is said to be ‘instituted’ when a multitude of men agree and covenant—each one with each other’.

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Locke took Hobbes’ idea and called this government as having been established by ‘consent of the people’, and therefore a legitimate sovereign authority. Government could only become the supreme sovereign power by being supplied with the authority of the ‘Absolute Lords’ who created it.

Hobbes explained that the supreme power created by men to represent their Sovereign Will, was a ‘mortal god’:

‘When this is done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH, in Latin CIVITAS. This is the method of creation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speak more reverently) of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defence’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Hobbes posits that a government is the supreme sovereign, that even divine revelation and law must be subservient to it[18]. While the ruler is the supreme sovereign, ultimately (in theory), the giving of authority and power to the ruler establishes the ‘Sovereignty’ of the people[19] – to which Locke echoed[20].

‘The legislative…though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth…it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person or assembly which is legislator’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

In Liberal governments, Locke’s theory holds that the government, once appointed by the people, exclusively holds the supreme power to legislate and make law, and according to Locke’s Natural law, there is no greater power[21].

2) Means of Giving Power and Affirmation of Government Legitimacy

 Hobbes and Locke both describe how the people can give consent, power and authority to a ruler (or set of rulers) to be the Supreme Power over them, by voting to select them:

‘When some man or assembly of men is chosen by majority vote to [re]present the person of them all (i.e. to be their representative), each of them will authorize all the actions and judgments of that man or assembly of men as though they were his own, doing this for the purpose of living peacefully among themselves and being protected against other men’.

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

‘The only way to establish a common power that can defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby make them secure enough to be able to nourish themselves and live contentedly through their own labours and the fruits of the earth, is •to confer all their power and strength on one man, or one assembly of men, so as to turn all their wills by a majority vote into a single will. That is to say: •to appoint one man or assembly of men to bear their person; and everyone •to own and acknowledge himself to be the author of every act that he who bears their person performs or causes to be performed in matters concerning the common peace and safety, and all of them to submit their wills to his will, and their judgments to his judgment. This is more than ·mere· agreement or harmony; it is a real unity of them all. They are unified in that they constitute one single person, created through a covenant of every man with every ·other· man, as though each man were to say to each of the others: I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on condition that you surrender to him your right of governing yourself, and authorize all his actions in the same way’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Locke elaborated on Hobbes theory, and argued that when the people actively decide who is to be the law makers, they make an declaration of submission, and give them authorisation to be law givers and legislators. Although modern elections do not give people the choice to decide the form of government (whether monarchy, oligarchy or democracy), voting to appoint people into a existing power structure would signify formal consent to the structure and form and direct authorisation to make laws on their behalf.

‘The people alone can appoint the form of the commonwealth, which is by constituting the legislative, and appointing in whose hands that shall be. And when the people have said, “We will submit, and be governed by laws made by such men, and in such forms,” nobody else can say other men shall make laws for them; nor can they be bound by any laws but such as are enacted by those whom they have chosen and authorised to make laws for them’[22]

The people according to both Hobbes and Locke, were the ‘supreme power’, and if a government came to an end, because of a pre-set time limit, the ‘Supreme Power’ leaves the government, and returns back to the people, until they transfer it again, by voting. Locke wrote: ‘If the legislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more persons only for their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme power to revert to them again’[23]

3) The Nature and Significance of Voting in Secular Liberal States

Hobbes’ and Locke’s philosophical foundations, formed the basis for all Liberal government political systems. Therefore, to understand the full significance of the action of Voting, we must investigate the intentions and meanings intended in the act of Voting under a Secular Liberal system, by the founders of the Liberal system.

Voting was considered by Hobbes to be the act of unification of a people. A multitude can only become one through appointing a leader who will be their representative. And by appointing him, his actions are considered to be authored by all of them[24], and therefore the entire people become united and ‘as one’’.

As mentioned in previous sections, voting gives consent to the government to rule on behalf of their own ‘Supreme Power’ or ‘Absolute Lordship’. In essence, voting is considered a declaration and affirmation of their own Sovereignty as legislator – to which by voting they delegate it to some who will represent you.

The candidate who is voted for by voters, represents their Will, and all their future actions are considered the same as if committed by them and owned by them – as this is what is what the underpins the Vote, and therefore is considered knowingly declared by all voters when they give by the vote.

‘A commonwealth is said to be ‘instituted’ when a multitude of men agree and covenant—each one with each other—that When some man or assembly of men is chosen by majority vote to present the person of them all (i.e. to be their representative), each of them will authorize all the actions and judgments of that man or assembly of men as though they were his own‘those who have already instituted a commonwealth, being thereby bound by a covenant to own the actions and judgments of one sovereignthey are bound, each of them to each of the others, to own and be the proclaimed author of everything that their existing sovereign does and judges fit to be done

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

A successful candidate who wins an election, is also considered to be authorised to represent, and all their future actions are also consented to, even by voters who voted for the losing candidate. This is because, by voting, Hobbes and Locke considered that this includes a tacit acceptance of the whoever wins the election:

‘This binds those who did not vote for this representative, as well as those who did. For unless the votes are all understood to be included in the majority of votes, they have come together in vain, and contrary to the end that each proposed for himself, namely the peace and protection of them all. From the form of the institution are derived all the power and all the rights of the one having supreme power, as well as the duties of all the citizens’.

 Because the majority have by consenting voices declared a sovereign, someone who dissented must now go along with the others, [i.e. be contented to accept all the actions the sovereign shall do]; and if he doesn’t, he may justly be destroyed by the others. For if he voluntarily entered into the congregation of those who came together ·to consider instituting a sovereign·, he thereby sufficiently declared his willingness to accept what the majority should decide on (and therefore tacitly covenanted to do so); so if he then refuses to accept it, or protests against any of their decrees, he is acting contrary to his tacit covenant, and therefore unjustly’

 [Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Hobbes further argued, since all those who voted, would own the actions of the elected government, they had no right to protest against the legitimacy of any of their actions which might be unpopular or hated by the population. In essence, if you Vote, then you can’t complain:

‘Because every subject is by this institution of the commonwealth the author of all the actions and judgments of the sovereign, it follows that nothing the sovereign does can wrong any of his subjects, nor ought any of them to accuse him of injustice. For someone who acts by the authority of someone else can’t in acting wrong the person by whose authority he acts; but according to this institution of a commonwealth, every individual man is an author of everything the sovereign does; so someone who complains of being wronged by his sovereign complains about something of which he himself is an author; so he ought not to accuse anyone but himself’.

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

Locke put forward limits to this, in that, as long as the government remains within the limits of Secular Liberalism, then people can’t complain (in the sense of legally or morally) against their politicians for enacting unpopular laws or policies, or not fulfilling their promises they made before they got elected. In fact, Locke argued, politicians would be guilty of corruption for promising anything to the people, in order to get votes for candidates that will support a party or prejudiced under a higher controller[25]. Locke and Hobbes and most of the Enlightenment Liberal philosophers[26] believed that (unless it was an [Athenian] Democracy) the People were only voting for representatives ‘to think for them’ on what is best, not to be obliged to fulfil their desires or opinions.

‘Every elector who voted for him would have done so either because, among all the candidates for Parliament who are favourably known to a certain number of electors, he is the one who best expresses the voter’s own opinions, because he is one of those whose abilities and character the voter most respects, and whom he most willingly trusts to think for him

[Considerations of Representative Government, John Stuart Mill, 1861]

Hobbes[27] and Locke[28] both considered that once the Voting was done, the transfer or ‘Supreme Power’ to legislate and rule was complete, and the people have no right to rule, make law, or demand their opinions or desires be made law or policy, until the government finishes its natural term (i.e. until the next election).

Furthermore, Voting is considered to be explicit consent to the government to take taxes from the people.

‘It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it. But still it must be with his own consent—i.e., the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves or their representatives chosen by them; for if any one shall claim a power to lay and levy taxes on the people by his own authority, and without such consent of the people, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property, and subverts the end of government. For what property have I in that which another may by right take when he pleases to himself?’

Hobbes and Locke considered the question of those who don’t participate in the Vote for a sovereign government. While Hobbes said that those not voting should consent to the results of the majority vote or face being destroyed[29], Locke rejected that position and instead put forward an intermediate type of citizenship for non-Voters. In essence, if they lived on a land with a duly Voted Secular Liberal government, they consented ONLY to abide by the laws and rules of the land, and enjoy its privileges and protections – but are not considered truly ‘part’ of the State until they openly express their consent to the government to be their representative Sovereign legislator, (which they could do by Voting at the next available election), which Locke called a ‘positive engagement[30].

It should be pointed out quite clearly here, that Locke or Hobbes didn’t necessarily believe in regular elections – even if a Secular Liberal state was made 200 years ago, as long as the first founders of it gave their consent and Voted, it would have permanent legitimacy (as long as it remained a Secular Liberal state). Regular elections would only be mandatory, if the people collectively specified this at it’s beginning. This means that a hereditary monarchy (like the UK) is legitimate in Liberal theory, as long it started at by popular consent. This brings us to the next section – forms of government structure.

4) Liberal Government can be of any form or structure – Monarchy, Aristocracy (Oligarchy) or Democracy

 Although this article concerns the doctrines behind the concept of Secular Liberal Democracy, as has been discussed in the previous article, the Greeks of Ancient Athens who created a Democracy, intended by that meaning that the people should directly rule. The Athenians therefore allowed all citizens to propose and vote on any law, and officials to execute the law were appointed by random lottery. Both Hobbes and Locke held the same understanding as the Greeks as to what a Democratic structure actually means[31]. Hobbes and Locke held no special preference for a type of government structure, and both posited that Liberal government can be in the form of a monarchy, aristocracy or Democracy[32].

The Athenian Greeks would not consider modern ‘Democracy’ to be Democratic, since the people do not directly rule their own affairs for the most part. The reason for the current mislabeling of ‘Democracy’ is that later Liberal philosophers later claimed that ‘government established by consent of the people’ is a kind of democracy in spirit, even if it isn’t in fact. This is because the Athenian Greeks believed that if people of Sovereigns, then they should rule as such – whereas Liberal thought believes that Liberal government – although ‘indirect’ – establishes the sovereignty of Man as self-sufficient over his own affairs. Therefore, Hobbes, Locke and many Enlightenment thinkers who developed Liberal thought, actually didn’t care what form the government takes, as long as it operates according to Liberalism’s conception of legitimate government, and protects and establishes the ‘Absolute Lordship’ of Individuals.

 ‘The legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth, yet, first, it is not, nor can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people. For it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person or assembly which is legislator’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

That’s why Liberals do not respect Democratic elections in either the Middle East, South America or East Asia, when the people have elected governments not based upon Secular Liberalism. Because Democracy, although it gives consent, cannot be used by the people to ‘enslave themselves’ according to what Liberalism considers slavery – anything denying the sovereignty and Absolute Lordship of the Individual (the fundamental doctrine of Liberalism). Therefore in the past, whenever countries have elected popular Socialist/Communist regimes, or Islamic parties, the Western Liberal nations and Liberals within these countries, see no problem with subverting or replacing these governments, using military invasion, terrorism, insurgency, protests or rioting. As Locke described, Democracy is legitimate as any other any form of government, as long as it is subservient to serving Secular Liberalism.

The next article will discuss the history and development of the ideas of Hobbes and Locke into what we call Modern Secular Democracy, and the reality of current power structures they were given.

Next Part: Part 3 – The Development and the reality of Power behind Modern Secular Democracies



[1] ‘Etiamsi daremus, quod sine summo scelere dari nequit, non esse Deum, aut non curari ab eo negotia humana’ [On the Law of War and Peace, Hugo Grotius, 1625]

[2] Pierre Charron wrote “The sign of a natural law must be the universal respect in which it is held, for if there was anything that nature had truly commanded us to do, we would undoubtedly obey it universally: not only would every nation respect it, but every individual. Instead there is nothing in the world that is not subject to contradiction and dispute, nothing that is not rejected, not just by one nation, but by many; equally, there is nothing that is strange and (in the opinion of many) unnatural that is not approved in many countries, and authorized by their customs.” [De la sagesse, 1601]

[3] It was hoped that a materialist reason for obeying the ruler would be more widely accepted than a basis that requires adherence to interpretation of scriptures – which couldn’t always be guaranteed to come to the same conclusion. Of course, the problem with this, is that materialistic ideas do not grant a guarantee that people would agree either, but to 17th century thinkers, materialism was something new and gave niave hope of an improvement on the status quo. Read More:

[4] I have derived the rights of sovereign power and the duty of subjects purely from the principles of nature that we have either (1) found to be true in our experience or (2) agreed to be true as a matter of word-use; that is, I have based my account on (1) the nature of men as we know it through experience and on (2) generally accepted definitions of words that are essential to all political reasoning [Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[5] [Patriarcha, Sir Robert Filmer, 1680]

[6] John Locke is considered the intellectual founding father of the political system that would be built upon Individualism: Political Individualism. This would later become known as ‘Secular Liberalism’, or just Liberalism (for short). This article will not delve into the specifics of this new ideology, except with its relationship and significance to modern Western Democracy.

[7] There is a certain missed problem here, Hobbes and Locke obviously both disagreed in their understanding of the ‘law of nature’. Hobbes believed Absolute and unaccountable Monarchy was ‘natural’, while Locke disagreed. How Locke believed that appeals to the ‘Laws of Nature’ could resolve conflict and reach consensus despite this, is certainly something deserving of wonder.

[8] Thus the law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for, other men’s actions must, as well as their own and other men’s actions, be conformable to the law of Nature— i.e., to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of Nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[9] The problem with this is, just because you observe something happening in a particular way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way. For example, one could observe rape, murder and war, but that doesn’t mean that they are ‘natural’, nor ‘right’. John Locke, without realising, helped usher in a new materialism as a basis for knowledge, which ultimately led to the significant rise of Atheism and materialist ideologies that completely ignore God or deny Him.

The 18th century English Philosopher David Hume noticed this and the problem is described in the formula: ‘is does not imply ought’:

‘In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason’

[Treatise concerning Human Nature, David Hume, 1739]

[10] ‘This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power is so necessary to, and closely joined with, a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it but by what forfeits his preservation and life together. For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot by compact or his own consent enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another to take away his life when he pleases. Nobody can give more power than he has himself, and he that cannot take away his own life cannot give another power over it’.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

It is because of this original foundation, that Liberal states first legally prohibited Suicide, and criminalised anyone assisting it. Although it should be noted, that with the development of Individualism in the 200 years since Locke’s thesis, Liberals are now advocating that Humans should be allowed to kill themselves, since they own their own bodies. This would represent the Individual becoming transcendent even against the ‘law of nature’ that Locke believed in! One can only wonder what this does to the theory of Locke’s first premise of Individualism, or what Locke himself would make of this.

[11] [Chapter II Of the State of Nature, Second Treatise of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[12] The American Declaration of Independence would later adopt, according to some historians, John Locke’s formula and change ‘the pursuit of property’ to ‘the pursuit of happiness’.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’.

Some people still wonder whether they were both considered the same back then.

[13] Locke argued that when Rulers make rulers: ‘The rules that they make for, other men’s actions must, as well as their own and other men’s actions, be conformable to the law of Nature’

According to John Locke’s thesis, the purpose of government to secure Life, ‘Liberty’ and its most important feature: the protection of the ownership of private property. It could not deviate from this formula. ‘Liberty’ was not defined by John Locke as the capacity to do anything, but merely to be under government that does not make arbitrary laws e.g. making up laws on the spot to criminalise people it has personal issues with. As long as the law applied to everyone equally, and people can’t be criminalised for doing something that was illegal at the time they did it, ‘Liberty meant the ability of individuals to do whatever they wanted within the space of what was currently declared ‘legal’, even if the space of legality was small!

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule. The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it. Freedom, then, is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us: “A liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws”; but freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[14] ‘They must not raise taxes on the property of the people without the consent of the people given by themselves or their deputies. And this properly concerns only such governments where the legislative is al- ways in being, or at least where the people have not reserved any part of the legislative to deputies, to be from time to time chosen by themselves’.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[15] ‘These are the bounds which the trust that is put in them by the society and the law of God and Nature have set to the legislative power of every commonwealth… First: They are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at Court, and the countryman at plough’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[16] ‘These laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately but the good of the people’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[17] By “commonwealth” I must be understood all along to mean not a democracy, or any form of government, but any independent community which the Latins signified by the word civitas, to which the word which best answers in our language is “commonwealth,” and most properly expresses such a society of men which “community” does not (for there may be subordinate communities in a government).

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[18] ‘I have proved that sovereigns are the sole legislators in their own dominions; so the only books of the Bible that are law in each nation are the ones established as such by the sovereign authority.

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[19] Elective kingdoms, where kings have the sovereign power put into their hands for a time, or (2) kingdoms in which the king has limited power, though most writers apply the label ‘monarchy’ to these governments. Likewise (3) if a democratic (or aristocratic) commonwealth subdues an enemy’s country and governs it through an appointed governor, executive officer, or other legal authority, this may perhaps seem at first sight to be a democratic (or aristocratic) government. But this is all wrong. For (1) elective kings are not sovereigns but ministers of the sovereign; (2) limited kings are not sovereigns but ministers of those who have the sovereign power;

The king whose power is limited is not superior to whoever has the power to limit it, and he who is not superior ·to someone· is not supreme, which is to say that he is not sovereign.

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[20] ‘Though in a constituted commonwealth standing upon its own basis and acting according to its own nature—that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[21] ‘The great end of men’s entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society, the first and fundamental positive law of all commonwealths is the establishing of the legislative power, as the first and fundamental natural law which is to govern even the legislative. Itself is the preservation of the society and (as far as will consist with the public good) of every person in it. This legislative is not only the supreme power of the commonwealth, but sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once placed it. Nor can any edict of anybody else, in what form soever conceived, or by what power soever backed, have the force and obligation of a law which has not its sanction from that legislative which the public has chosen and appointed; for without this the law could not have that which is absolutely necessary to its being a law, the consent of the society, over whom nobody can have a power to make laws but by their own consent and by authority received from them; and therefore all the obedience, which by the most solemn ties any one can be obliged to pay, ultimately terminates in this supreme power, and is directed by those laws which it enacts’.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[22] [Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[23] [Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[24] A multitude of men are made to be one person when they are represented by one man or one person, this representation having the consent of every individual in that multitude. What makes the person one is the unity of the representer, not the unity of the represented. It is the representer who bears the person—only one person—and this is the only way to make sense of unity as applied to a multitude. Because the multitude naturally is not one but many, they can’t be understood as one author; rather, they are many authors of everything their representative says or does in their name. Every individual man gives his authority to their common representer, and either •owns all the representer’s actions (if they have given him unrestricted authority) or •owns such of the representer’s actions as they gave him commission [Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[25] What I have said here concerning the legislative in general holds true also concerning the supreme executor, who having a double trust put in him, both to have a part in the legislative and the supreme execution of the law, acts against both, when he goes about to set up his own arbitrary will as the law of the society. He acts also contrary to his trust when he employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society to corrupt the representatives and gain them to his purposes, when he openly pre-engages the electors, and prescribes, to their choice, such whom he has, by solicitation, threats, promises, or otherwise, won to his designs, and employs them to bring in such who have promised beforehand what to vote and what to enact. Thus to regulate candidates and electors, and new model the ways of election, what is it but to cut up the government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of public security? For the people having reserved to themselves the choice of their representatives as the fence to their properties, could do it for no other end but that they might always be freely chosen, and so chosen, freely act and advise as the necessity of the commonwealth and the public good should, upon examination and mature debate, be judged to require. This, those who give their votes before they hear the debate, and have weighed the reasons on all sides, are not capable of doing. To prepare such an assembly as this, and endeavour to set up the declared abettors of his own will, for the true representatives of the people, and the law-makers of the society, is certainly as great a breach of trust, and as perfect a declaration of a design to subvert the government, as is possible to be met with. [Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[26] ‘A monarch decides who will advise him, and when and where; so he can hear the opinions of men who are knowledgeable about the matter in question—men of any rank or status—and as long in advance of the action and with as much secrecy as he likes. But when a sovereign assembly needs advice, it can’t have advisers from outside its own body; and of those who are in the assembly few are skilled in civic matters—the majority of them being orators, who give their opinions in speeches that are full either of pretence or of inept learning, and either disrupt the commonwealth or do it no good. For the flame of the passions dazzles the understanding, but never enlightens it. And there’s no place or time at which an assembly can receive advice in secret; there are too many of them for that’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

‘…it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion…To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,–these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution…Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is adeliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far, as any other, from any endeavour to give it effect’.

[Speech to the Electors of Bristol, Edmund Burke, 1774]

[27] ‘It would absurd for a monarch, having invited the people of his dominion to send him their deputies with power to make known to him their advice or desires, to think that these deputies, rather than himself, were the absolute representative of the people. (The absurdity is even more obvious if this idea is applied not to a monarch but to a sovereign assembly’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[28] The power that every individual gave the society when he entered into it can never revert to the individuals again, as long as the society lasts, but will always remain in the community; because without this there can be no community—no commonwealth, which is contrary to the original agreement; so also when the society hath placed the legislative in any assembly of men, to continue in them and their successors, with direction and authority for providing such successors, the legislative can never revert to the people whilst that government lasts: because, having provided a legislative with power to continue for ever, they have given up their political power to the legislative, and cannot resume it. But if they have set limits to the duration of their legislative, and made this supreme power in any person or assembly only temporary; or else when, by the miscarriages of those in authority, it is forfeited; upon the forfeiture of their rulers, or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the society, and the people have a right to act as supreme, and continue the legislative in themselves or place it in a new form, or new hands, as they think good.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[29] ‘Furthermore: whether or not he enters into the congregation, and whether or not his consent is asked, he must either •submit to the majority’s decrees or •be left in the condition of war he was in before, in which he can without injustice be destroyed by any man at all’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

[30] ‘He that has once, by actual agreement and any express declaration, given his consent to be of any commonwealth, is perpetually and indispensably obliged to be, and remain unalterably a subject to it, and can never be again in the liberty of the state of Nature, unless by any calamity the government he was under comes to be dissolved…submitting to the laws of any country, living quietly and enjoying privileges and protection under them, makes not a man a member of that society; it is only a local protection and homage due to and from all those who, not being in a state of war, come within the territories belonging to any government, to all parts whereof the force of its law extends. But this no more makes a man a member of that society, a perpetual subject of that commonwealth, than it would make a man a subject to another in whose family he found it convenient to abide for some time, though, whilst he continued in it, he were obliged to comply with the laws and submit to the government he found there. And thus we see that foreigners, by living all their lives under another government, and enjoying the privileges and protection of it, though they are bound, even in conscience, to submit to its administration as far forth as any denizen, yet do not thereby come to be subjects or members of that commonwealth. Nothing can make any man so but his actually entering into it by positive engagement and express promise and compact. This is that which, I think, concerning the beginning of political societies, and that consent which makes any one a member of any commonwealth’

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[31] ‘Differences amongst commonwealths come from differences in the sovereign, or the person who represents every one of the multitude. The sovereignty resides either in •one man, or in •an assembly of more than one; and ·when it is an assembly· either •every man has right to enter the assembly or •not everyone but only certain men distinguished from the rest. So, clearly, there can be only three kinds of commonwealth. For the representative must be one man or more than one; and if more than one, then it’s either the assembly of all ·the multitude· or an assembling containing only some of them. When the representative is •one man, the commonwealth is a MONARCHY; when it’s •an assembly of only some of the multitude, then it is called an ARISTOCRACY; when it’s •an assembly of all that are willing come together, it is a DEMOCRACY or popular commonwealth. There can’t be any other kind of commonwealth, because the sovereign power (which I have shown to be indivisible) must be possessed •by one, •by more than one ·but less than all·, or •by all’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

‘The majority having, as has been showed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing, and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]

[32] ‘The sovereignty resides either in •one man, or in •an assembly of more than one; and ·when it is an assembly· either •every man has right to enter the assembly or •not everyone but only certain men distinguished from the rest. So, clearly, there can be only three kinds of commonwealth. For the representative must be one man or more than one; and if more than one, then it’s either the assembly of all ·the multitude· or an assembling containing only some of them. When the representative is •one man, the commonwealth is a MONARCHY; when it’s •an assembly of only some of the multitude, then it is called an ARISTOCRACY; when it’s •an assembly of all that are willing come together, it is a DEMOCRACY or popular commonwealth. There can’t be any other kind of commonwealth, because the sovereign power (which I have shown to be indivisible) must be possessed •by one, •by more than one ·but less than all·, or •by all. Books of history and political theory contain other names for governments, such as ‘tyranny’ and ‘oligarchy’. But they are not the names of other forms of government; they are names of the same forms, given by people who dislike them. For those who are discontented under monarchy call it ‘tyranny’, and those who are displeased with aristocracy call it ‘oligarchy’; so also those who find themselves aggrieved under a democracy call it ‘anarchy’, which means lack of any government, but I don’t think anyone believes that lack of government is any new kind of government! Nor (to continue the line of thought) ought they to believe that the government is of one kind when they like it and of another when they dislike it or are oppressed by the governors. Obviously, men who are in absolute liberty may if they please give authority to one man to represent them all, or give such authority to any assembly of men whatever; so they are free to subject themselves to a monarch as absolutely as to any other representative, if they think fit to do so’

[Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651]

‘The majority having, as has been showed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing, and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy; or else may put the power of making laws into the hands of a few select men, and their heirs or successors, and then it is an oligarchy; or else into the hands of one man, and then it is a monarchy; if to him and his heirs, it is a hereditary monarchy; if to him only for life, but upon his death the power only of nominating a successor, to return to them, an elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these make compounded and mixed forms of government, as they think good. And if the legislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more persons only for their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme power to revert to them again, when it is so reverted the community may dispose of it again anew into what hands they please, and so constitute a new form of government; for the form of government depending upon the placing the supreme power, which is the legislative, it being impossible to conceive that an inferior power should prescribe to a superior, or any but the supreme make laws, according as the power of making laws is placed, such is the form of the commonwealth. By “commonwealth” I must be understood all along to mean not a democracy, or any form of government, but any independent community which the Latins signified by the word civitas, to which the word which best answers in our language is “commonwealth,” and most properly expresses such a society of men which “community” does not (for there may be subordinate communities in a government)’.

[Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, 1689]


10 replies

  1. Alhamdulillah, this was quite eye-opening. It’s sad that we have Muslims who are running around and spreading this ideology that is fundamentally founded upon shirk.


  2. I think this is possibly the end of times shirk that the Messenger of Allah (saw) described as a black ant, on a black stone, on a dark night. My Allah protect us.


  3. “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

    — John Adams (1797-1801) Second President of the United States and Patriot


  4. Voting based on political pledges without any public enforceability, is a transfer of power, consent and legitimacy on any future actions taken by the incumbent legislator, on the back of empty promises. Meaning we the electorate are responsible to the nth degree to any policies, laws and actions taken by the government, whether we are in agreement or not.

    Democracy in this sense is essentially a coup of power through a tyranny of the masses, who pledge allegiance on the false premise and the ill-conceived notion that the status quo, as dictated and impressed upon the political class, by the power of finance and corporate hegemony, will be sidestepped in favour of the will of the people is absolutely incredulous.

    Historic precedence proves otherwise that ‘Solemn declarations by opposition parties frequently become meaningless once they have a whiff of power.’

    And this all ends with a bitterness, better not would it be that we restrict consent and counter the narrative with a uncompromising intellectual resistance that favours the creation of an alternative rather than succumbing to a financial corporate hegemony which present the illusion of choice and any meaningful representation?


  5. ===(1) First of all, thank you for this article ===
    It is important to know the western paradigm on voting, especially for those living under their political systems. But also as pointed out, for those outside the west who naively believe they can “vote out liberalism”. That is like betting against a casino. If you start dominating the game, they will just change the rules or kick you out of the casino.

    ===(2) Secondly on voting itself ===

    While it is true that the founders and believers of secular liberalism perceive voting to be a form of consent to the ruling system itself, in this case the secular state, this is a gross logical fallacy based probably in wishful thinking.

    =(a) Actions may indicate intentions, but are not proof of intentions=

    The key about the action-intention combination (choice) is that identical actions can be done for completely different, often hidden, intentions. This is clear from the well known hadith Imam Bukhari chose as the first hadith of his Sahih compilation.

    Sahih al-Bukhari 1
    Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab:I heard Allah’s Messenger (?) saying, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.”

    Evil intentions can corrupt noble acts,
    and good intentions can reduce the sin of evil acts if done in a position of weakness of power or intellect.
    And like with the story of Khidr and Musa r.a., it is clear that apparently evil acts can have a deeper good intention behind them.
    However be careful false justifying your sins.
    “To sin is human, but to justify sins is satanic.”
    Only Allah knows what is truly in peoples hearts.

    =(b) Voting does not prove the intention of the voter for supporting the political system in power =

    While secular liberals may wish and even assume this to be the case this is false.
    A quick chat with a few voters usually indicates this to be so.
    “Yeah they are all bad, but I don’t want party X to be in power because they are really bad!”
    “I am voting against/for policy Y”
    It may be that they all truly believe so strong in the system, that mentioning the obvious (that they vote because they support democracy in general) becomes stating the obvious.
    This is however merely an assumption.

    Lysander Spooner said it best in No Treason. No. VI. The Constitution of No Authority [1870]

    “In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot [8] himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man attempts to take the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot—which is a mere substitute for a bullet—because, as his only chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defence offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him.

    “Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government in the world, if allowed the ballot, would use it, if they could see any chance of thereby meliorating their condition. But it would not, therefore, be a legitimate inference that the government itself, that crushes them, was one which they had voluntarily set up, or ever consented to.

    “Therefore, a man’s voting under the Constitution of the United States, is not to be taken as evidence that he ever freely assented to the Constitution, even for the time being. Consequently we have no proof that any very large portion, even of the actual voters of the United States, ever really and voluntarily consented to the Constitution, even for the time being. Nor can we ever have such proof, until every man is left perfectly free to consent, or not, without thereby subjecting himself or his property to be disturbed or injured by others.”

    -end quote-

    I recommend the entire book for those interested in arguments against secular liberalism. It not only disproves ‘indirect representation through voting’, but the validity of any constitution itself which is not explicitly given consent to by the people directly.

    mp3 audio:

    This conundrum of the voter is in game theory called “the prisoners dilemma”

    ===(3) Should Muslims vote in a secular state? ===

    Firstly I would like to say that this is not the subject of this article and we should probably reply to this article instead for those matters.

    However there is one issue related to Muslims voting in a secular state which is directly related to this article.
    The issue of consent, intention and thus of shirk (polytheism) and kufr (disbelief).

    For a Muslim who votes because he believes the laws of the state to be morally just and true even if they contradict Islam and what is in the Quran, then it is clear he is rejecting Islam and the Quran itself.

    If a Muslim votes because he tries to promote “the lesser of those evils”, then this is still wrong but perhaps this is the best he can come up with at them moment. He can be maybe depending on the circumstance be accused of weakness or ignorance, but he cannot be accused of rejecting Islam itself.
    If the Muslim in for example the UK would be able to organize and use that organization to lobby and use their votes as political pressure to get specific deals with the government in favor of Muslims, would that still be classified as shirk?

    Likewise we all have to live under government laws we sometimes dislike, but it is not realistic to avoid them every time. You cannot stop paying tax, because you disagree with how they use that tax to kill innocent women and children, unless you are willing to face trial. Obeying a law does not mean you agree with it!
    We even have many social customs which are not enforced by the government, but which severely penalize those who don’t conform to them. Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right and go against laws and social customs, but often it is not really wise to do so if you are not able to affect change.
    Fighting difficult battles is noble and takes courage. Fighting clearly unwinnable battles which can easily be avoided is not noble, it is foolish.

    Regardless of our intentions, any form of voting may be seen by secular liberals as support for the secular system.

    So what Muslims should really do takes much more deliberation and is dependent on the specific situation.
    However my point is that there are two universal things a Muslims should always do.
    1. Always believe that Allah’s law is higher than man made laws, regardless whether they vote or not, while keeping clearly in mind that all laws, divine or not, always need a human interpreter.
    That is where the Khawarij sect differed with the Muslims.
    2. Not accuse Muslims who do vote of shirk or kufr. Most Muslims are not scholars and don’t know all this political philosophy, so be patient with them and discuss these matters with them in a good a positive manner. First acknowledge their goodness and then discuss it in a positive manner. You will get more results like that.

    Finally to Abdullah al-Andalusi, great work! I am looking forward to the next article.


    • Neither is knowledge of democracy and political science a necessary part of the religion. So most Muslims don’t need to know this neither did 1400 years of Muslims bother with it that all of sudden its now the most biggest threat and shirk out there that Muslims should fear for, even though Prophet (peace be upon him) said the opposite and did not fear Ummah turning to shirk again. All of this debate is same old cycle of non-scholars picking up obscure issues and throwing it to people less capable seeing depth of it, and then 20 years later when actual learned people address the subject, this turns out to be no more than “scientific miracles in the Quran” type of exaggerations.


  6. excellent piece, really looking forward to part 3



  1. Should Muslims Vote in Secular Liberal Democracies? | Abdullah al Andalusi
  2. Should Muslims Vote in Secular Liberal Democracies? The Bigger Picture | The Muslim Debate Initiative Blog

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