Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worse state, an intolerable one. –
Thomas Paine, American Revolution activist
It took one man, strong of body and mind, to man up with a small army of tested and trusted soldiers to convince fearful people that they needed safety and security through order and law. Rex non potest peccare – the king can do no harm – made kings and divine powers inseparable. Remembering the future is serious business.
So began the concept of government as theocracies led by priestly kings 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia (Iraq), India, Egypt and China. The Greeks and Romans entered the political stage much later hoping to offer something more durable and endurable.
History claims direct democracy as a Grecian concept. No sooner had they established a rule-by-people form of government, than Greek leaders began stifling peoples’ right of expression. Socrates, an early victim of unfair trials, was executed for opening Grecian minds.
The enduring persuasions of religion and law automatically became dependable co-conspirators to continue downgrading and denigrating democracy. Many more shepherds appeared to hound the dissenters and conscientious objectors. The sheep turned into insurgents, separatists, rebels, and other ‘enemies of the state.’
Machiavellian punishments like Operasi Lalang ousted the rule of law in many nations to weed out the public’s expressions of distaste and distrust of government. Direct democracy was forced into a permanent vacation.
Autocratic democracy was welcomed as a two-edged sword with forked-tongue promises advanced by Janus-faced politicians. The people accepted their roles as pawns having had handed over the rights to think and express themselves to their elected shepherds. People and sheeple united.
Experiments in war produced republics after snuffing out monarchies underscored by a timocracy creating rights of property owners to form governments controlled by veiled niceties of language reduced to writing in declarations, petitions, proclamations, treaties, constitutions, and laws that spawned government policy – the only gladiator that entered the arena. The sheeple cheered.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) conceptualised four pillars of the economy – land, labour, capital, entrepreneurship – which set in motion a super-charged semblance, sense and system of government of need and greed. Capitalism was birthed. Adulthood came as exploitative plutocracy where the rich ruled.
Labour laid the groundwork for unions and socialism which inevitably led to communism. Both sides of the curtain openly condemned each other with the veiled threat of a nuclear war. Enter, the Iron Curtain.
Ergatocracy – government by the working class – took root in Poland with the Solidarity movement in 1989 rejecting communism and the crumbling of the Iron Curtain. Appointed leaders worked for the workers who led the charge to be in charge.
President Ronald Reagan whose famous clarion call, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall . . .” is well-known for claiming that ‘government that governs best is one that governs least’. At best, he was a ‘great communicator’ who artfully dodged bullets.
Salus populi est suprema lex – the welfare of the people is the supreme law – was reduced to quotable quotes in law textbooks good only for reference purposes and election promises.
The cruel cut, and upshot, of this hodgepodge of monarchies, theocracies, republics, democracies, oligarchies, socialism and communism is that it’s at the beck and call of one ubiquitous dictator swearing blind allegiance to himself. Human nature is deadly.
Malaysia supposedly practices parliamentary democracy overseen by a constitutional monarchy. With three co-equal organs of state ostensibly keeping the third eye open on the doctrine of the separation of powers, the two organs are at the mercy of the third member of the unholy trinity – the Executive in the person of the prime minister.
Although the British-inspired Federal Constitution contains no promissory punitive panaceas, it did entrench the office and person of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the superior Executive whose constitutional powers and authority are unassailable. Despite their multiple faults, follies, fibs, fallacies, fears and favours, the British genuinely realised the true meaning of ‘kerajaan’.