On February 9th, the Acton Institute welcomed Micah Watson to the Mark Murray Auditorium to speak on the topic of “C.S. Lewis vs. Democracy” as part of the 2017 Acton Lecture Series. Watson, an associate professor of political science and the William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar Chair at Calvin College, guides us through an examination of the political thought of the brilliant and celebrated author known primarily for his works of fiction and Christian apologetics. Lewis was skeptical of the ability of democratic societies to preserve virtue and liberty, in large part because of the ease with which people can use the concept of “democracy” to turn envy into a virtue. Here is Lewis, speaking as the demon Screwtape, in his essay “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” which was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1959:
You are to use the word [democracy] purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal.Especially the man you are working on. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.
The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you.
Micah Watson’s Acton Lecture Series address is available in full via the video player below.