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THE MONTESQUIEU CRITERION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

By Demosthenes Kyriazis

 

The French Montesquieu (1689-1755) is one of the greatest philosophers who set the foundations of Political Sciences.  In the perception of a Physicist, Montesquieu is what Newton for Physics; the father / founder of Political Science.  In his works, Montesquieu attempts to analyze and to find the fundamental principles and logic of various political systems by studying the laws; he proposes new methods of governance and new perceptions about the state. Montesquieu pioneering and liberal ideas are summarized in his book “The Spirit of Laws", which for many is the "Bible" of Political Science

 

The Montesquieu criterion

Montesquieu recognizes three types of regimes, of political systems: Despotism, Monarchy, and Democracy.

Despotism is the regime in which the power is exercised by the Despot without limitation and control by human laws and institutions. The term Despot is Greek and is used to designate Monarchs who are considered themselves Gods or representatives of God, as well as for the designation of supreme religious leaders.

Monarchy is the regime, in which power is exercised by a single person, but is limited by some fundamental institutions (eg the Constitution), the Constitutional Monarchy.

Democracy is the regime in which power is exercised by the citizens; it is the Democracy of the ancient Greek spirit, and not the Parliamentarism of the Anglo-Saxon spirit in which the power is exercised by inherited (no-elected) representatives or elected representatives.

One of Montesquieu important conclusions is that the appropriate, the optimum regime of a country depends on the size and population of the country. In particular, it considers that:   Despotism is the most appropriate regime for countries that are too large in size and population; Constitutional Monarchy for countries of moderate size and population; Democracy for countries of small size and population.

Conclusions such as this, in which optimization of a System is expressed as a function of some others measurable magnitude, are called Criteria in Mathematics and in Physics. We do not know, whether political scientists consider this conclusion to be important, either if they call it Montesquieu Criterion.  We believe, however, that this conclusion is rational and important for the historical data of digital age; that it can help the people of today's "Information Society" to choose the optimal regime, the optimal Constitution[1], which will serve the interests of all the citizens of a country.

 

The logic of the Montesquieu Criterion

This criterion is based on the logical analysis of the laws of the basic political regimes, but also on the historical experience of the countries where the Democracy has operated.

From these data, it follows that the basic conditions for the development and operation of True Democracy are two: (1) The existence of institutional   possibility and of citizens’ experience, to be able to make decisions for the sake of the citizens’ set with the power of logic and not with the power of instincts and motivations as the animals do. (2) The existence of good communication conditions in order to ensure: an interactive communication and information of citizens, as well as collective decision making by of low cost and high speed referendums. 

In contrast, the basic prerequisite for the development and functioning of the regimes of Despotism and Monarchy is for people to believe that «right decisions” can be taken only by the wisdom of a messiah/ leader; to believe that common citizens cannot take logical decisions, so they need to be exerted in order to make political decisions with the power of instincts and motivations, just like the animals.

 During the times, the Messiahs / Leaders had the status of God (Pharaoh of Egypt), of the representative of God (King from the willing of God), or of the illuminated protector of the people (the arbitrary and the elected dictators)

The foregoing leads to the following, compatible with the Montesquieu criterion, conclusions:

In the large countries where citizens are practically impossible to be gathered in "common space and time," in order to inform each other, to consult and to make decisions by referendums, the optimal regime is the Absolute Monarchy or the Constitutional Monarchy. In the people of these countries have to create a doctrinal mentality; a mentality in which the truth lies in the great spiritual and moral forces of the Messiahs, and not in the stochastic wisdom of the set of the people.

In small countries, in which there is the operational and financial capacity to carry out the above-mentioned functions, the optimum regime is Democracy; the Democracy which is an exercise for equality and freedom of people; which is an exercise in the development of logic and responsibility; which is the education of Paideia.   

Montesquieu criterion also leads to the following conclusion: Dogmatic perception is the foundation of Despotatism and Monarchy, while logical perception is the foundation of the true, of the Direct Democracy.

Until the end of the 20th century, Montesquieu criterion was of absolute value, since the realization of the aforementioned functions required the physical presence of people in a "common space and time". This requirement made the true Democracy to be feasible only at countries in small population and small size.  On the contrary, in the great countries the operation of Direct Democracy was practically impossible.

Since the late 20th century, the largest amount of information is handled by digital technology systems, rather than by traditional method. This obviously means that the Direct Democracy is now feasible in every technologically advanced country, regardless of its size and population.

 

The effect of Media Technology on the political regimes.

The Mass Media technological systems (newspapers, magazines, radio, television), play an important role, at the development and operation of the political regimes of the recent period.  As is well known, in technology of Media, a large crowd of people can receive the information sent by someone. But those who receive it do not have the ability to respond and to state their view.  Information is not interactive, it is passive.  As expected, the few people who enjoyed this privilege gained a lot of power, many more than that of the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary Power. So Media were called the 4th Power.  The root cause of this phenomenon is not the institutions or the great intellectual and moral forces of the men of Media, but is the technical and economic characteristics of Media technology. The conventional technology of Media therefore, is an "oligarchic technology" because it provides the ability only to few persons to send mass information; only to those who have money, high skill and frequencies which are inadequate natural resource.

The great contribution of the Media, in particular of Radio, to the development of oligarchic regimes is also apparent from the following historical events.

The epidemic of dictatorial regimes in Europe (Germany / Nazism, Italy / Fascism, Spain / Fascism), coincides with the take-off of Radio Technology of electronic tubes.  Nazi Germany, understanding the great power of Radio to promote its goals, developed a simple and low-cost radio, which the Germans could buy with ... stamps!!  The reasons for this offer of the Nazi regime are understandable

In the years of TV, no epidemics of dictatorships occurred, but phenomena of the abolition of the Spirit of the Laws with preserving of the "Letter of Laws” appeared. The power of television, which broadcast information in form of speech, text, image and video, is so great that it has defeated the Spirit of the Laws. Obviously, the selfishness of the rulers strongly helped for this "victory".

The dream of the Humanists, as well as the aspirations of the competent Scientists, was to develop a technology that would provide to all citizens - rich and poor, of upper or elementary education - with functional and economic capability of sending and receiving mass information. Such technology would obviously be appropriate for a democratic regime but inappropriate for an oligarchic one.  

This technology, developed in the last 10 years of the 20th century, is the technology of INTERactive  NETworks,   is the INTERNET technology, which, in terms of communication capabilities, "made the whole world a small village"..

 

The application of the Montesquieu criterion in the digital age

Taking into account the new possibilities of transfer and processing of information, we can now formulate the Montesquieu criterion as follows: “Countries, in which the penetration of Internet Technology is sufficient, can and must have the regime of the Direct Democracy, regardless of their size and population." The logic of the above wording of the criterion is supported from the following:

New technology is already being used, and will be used to a greater extent, as a tool for exercising power, regardless of the form of the regime. Consequently, its use in the exercise of power by the few, even if they are elected representatives, will lead for increasing the entropy of the system with natural/law certainty; will lead to the "Big Brothers", who can know thanks to technology, where are we at any moment, how much money we have, where we have them, what diseases we suffer and when we die! !  The Ministry of Electronic -Government aims to use technology under the current Constitution rather than the extension of the principle of Direct Democracy;   aims at strengthening rather than changing existing system of Representatives’ Power.

 

The digital age in Greece

The penetration of internet technology in a country is expressed by the percentage of people accessing the Internet and becoming familiar with its use.  In our country, about 60% of households have broadband connections of fixed telephony, to which should be added the broadband connections of mobile telephony networks. That means a total penetration of about 80%.  Along with this growth, both the quality of applications and the familiarization of citizens with the use of new technology, have been improved. These data lead to the conclusion that the critical activity for the enlargement of the Parliamentary Democracy to the Direct Democracy principles is the constitutional / legislative changes and not the maturity of the technology.

 I wish, the use of the new technology, which is applied in so many problematic areas (of taxation, health, social security, public security), to extend also to the area of exercising of power by the citizens. 

I wish, Greece to become again the Cradle of Democracy; to become the Cradle of the Digital Direct Democracy.  

 

 



[1] According to the late Professor of Constitutional Law, Aristobulus Manessis, "The deeper concept of the Regime coincides with the concept of the Constitution". This, in the language of mathematics, is formulated with the equation: Regime = Constitution.

 

 

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