claims against the purse of their fellow subjects. Since a full lifernincludes the possibility of achieving one’s ambitions withoutrnthe hindrances that are presented by entrenched social classes,rnthen the right to lead a full life cannot be exercised without arnminimum level of subsistence, medical attention, and education.rnReal liberty, in other words, requires socialism.rnIf negative liberties, like the Ten Commandments, are arnseries of “thou shalt nots” reflecting the highest political moralityrnof the nation, positive liberties speak the language of empowerment.rnWhenever President Clinton or Senator Dolernspeak of “justice” or “social security” or what is “fair” to thernAmerican people, the simple translation is that they, the richrnand powerful careerists who own the army and the police, arernsticking a bayonet up your nose and robbing your children ofrntheir inheritance. That some small part of the money may bernspent on something useful is irrelevant, if only because mostrntax dollars end up in the pockets of politicians, their employees,rnand their dependents. But even if politicians and bureaucratsrnwere all altruists, most of what government does today wouldrnstill represent an abuse of power.rnThe legitimate functions of all government are few and limited:rnprotection from invasion, the maintenance of sound money,rnthe enforcement of laws protecting persons and property.rnDespite the unchecked growth of governmental powers, ourrnown national government refuses to defend our Southernrnborder against an invasion of illegal immigrants. As for soundrnmoney, the federal government is the greatest counterfeiter onrnthe planet, passing off its debt-scrip as legal tender, each dollarrnbill representing a notice of payment due that is awaiting ourrnunborn grandchildren. The federal role in law enforcementrnconsists, for the most part, of federal court decisions that enfranchisernthe criminal classes and shield them from the justicern—and vengeance—they deserve.rnWhenever these familiar arguments are made, the answerrnis sure to go something like this: But, my dear reactionary,rnthis is a democracy, where the people rule. If you don’t like thisrn”government by the people,” then you are free to emigrate. Inrnother words, a temporary majority of voters has the right to dornanything it likes. In Italy, a slim majority voting in an overheatedrnplebiscite toppled the monarchy. Here in America, therndemagogue Ross Perot has threatened that if elected, he wouldrnsubject our most fundamental constitutional liberties tornthe whim of an electronic plebiscite—a virtual reality townrnmeeting.rnConsidered in the abstract, positive democracy means thernpower of a majority to do as it likes, and since the majorityrnis always less rich, less intelligent, less educated, and lessrnbeautiful than the minorities, it would also mean the dictatorshiprnof the poor, the stupid, the ignorant, and the ugly who, inrnthe name of equality, would persecute their superiors. It is thernwodd of “Harrison Bergeron” and the Equal Opportunity copsrnin Washington. On the surface, the state of our current regimernfulfills Thomas Aquinas’s definition of democracy: “If a badrngovernment is carried on by the multitude, it is called a democracy,rni.e., control by the populace, which comes about when thernplebeian people by force of numbers oppress the rich. In thisrnway the whole people will be as one tyrant.” The reality is thatrnthe people have a short attention span, and what looks like mobrnrule almost always turns out to be a stage-show manipulated byrna ruling elite.rnThomas’s definition echoes Aristotle. A legitimate governmentrnof the people, according to Aristotle, is a politeia—arnname common to all governments— and as examples both hernand Thomas cite a group of warriors holding dominion over arncity. A democratic commonwealth, then, is in the hands of therncitizen soldiers of a Greek commonwealth like Sparta orrnAthens, the Roman Republic in its best days, or the Italianrncities and towns of Thomas’s own time. In none of them wasrnpower shared with women, children, foreigners, aliens, thernpropertyless. Unlike the Soviet Union of a few years ago or thernUnited States today, none of these commonwealths aimed atrnthe dictatorship of the proletariat.rnWhat Thomas knew best, of course, was the medieval civitas,rna chartered city run by a representative oligarchy. In a passagernof the De Monarchia, Thomas argues (again following thernPhilosopher) that man is by his nature gregarious, if only becausernas an individual he is not complete. There is some selfsufficiencyrnwithin a familial household which provides for itsrnown nourishment and rears children; and even more within arnneighborhood settled by members of one craft guild. However,rna city, which is community brought to completion, is selfsufficientrnin all necessities of life.rnWe do not have to imagine what sort of political arrangementsrnSt. Thomas had in mind, because we know a fairrnamount about the organization of medieval cities and towns inrnmedieval Italy, where the political structure was as decentralizedrnas anything Jefferson might have wished. Each city wasrndivided into well-defined neighborhoods based either on thernparish or on the dominant craft guild. Kinfolks tended to locaternin the same neighborhoods, and noble clans built theirrnhouses close together, connected with various passageways,rnand defended by strongly built towers that you can still seerntoday in San Cimignano, Pisa, and elsewhere.rnAny talk of “the state” or even of government would be veryrnmisleading. Thomas’s civitas is a highly decentralized politicalrncommunity, and the government more like a corporation thanrna bureaucracy. His vision of a commonwealth, restricted by lawrnand custom, not only finds fulfillment in the early Americanrnrepublic, but it also runs parallel, point for point, to Aristotle’srndiscussion in both Ethics and Politics. The Greeks are oftenrnsaid to have “invented” democracy (for social scientists, coiningrna term is the same thing as discovering something), and therernare still political intellectuals who say that ancient Athens—forrnall its limitations—came closest, of any commonwealth, tornachieving democracy: the direct rule of the people.rnThe imperfections of Athenian democracy were well knownrnto the men who drafted and ratified the American constitutions,rnand in the 20th century there is a widespread misconceptionrnthat the Greek polis—whether Athens or Sparta—was arnprototype for the total state, in which the state is all, the citizenrnnothing.rnIt is all too easy to recount the horrors and atrocitiesrncommitted by the Athenians in the name of democracy: therncondemnation of the victorious generals at Arginusae, thernreckless attack on Syracuse, the brutal conquest—actually arngenocide—of Melos, the execution of Socrates. Nearly all ofrnthese memorable outrages, however, including the trial andrnexecution of Socrates, were immoral exercises of legitimaterngovernment functions in a period that witnessed a brutal war, arntyrannical oligarchy, and a civil war. Two of the worst oligarchsrnwere friends of Socrates (and uncles of his chief disciple,rnPlato). The philosopher was condemned for playing Marcusernto a set of spoiled rich kids who ruined their country.rnJULY 1996/9rnrnrn