Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.

    Throughout history there have been as many forms of government as nations. Some 2,500 years ago, Aristotle, a well known Greek philosopher, told us: in media via stat virtus – virtue stands in the middle of the road. Going to extremes, either to the left or to the right is not conducive to good mental health and stability. The best form of government, from every aspect one can imagine, seems to be one that is concerned with the physical and mental welfare of all people from every walk of life and profession.

Governmental Responsibilities

    Any government, regardless of the name it chooses to carry, that promotes the welfare of some to the exclusion of others should be viewed as bad and abusive. Regardless of the various philosophies that we may present to justify one government over others, it remains a fact that the government, in many ways, carries parental responsibilities. These responsibilities do not stem from people’s opinions of one kind or another. They stem from the Natural Law, which has been designated by God from the first moment of creation.

    In accordance with the Natural Law, human beings have a sacrosanct right to receive all basic help needed to survive and to become eventually an asset to society. To this end, they are entitled to a good health care system and to a good education. After all, a nation is as strong or weak and as capable or incapable as the quality of its people who are its backbone, its real foundation. Also, since good nourishment and good homes are essential for the creation of a healthy environment, the government is responsible for such elements as well.

    A government is judged not by the name it carries but by the action it takes in terms of priorities in expenditure and good opportunities provided for the nation’s citizens. A rapid glance at the 20th century enables to see how countries with an entirely different government tended to refer to their government by the same name, which, in a way, it was confusing.

    To quote just a couple of instances, both North Korea and East Germany referred to themselves as the Democratic Republic of Korea and the Democratic Republic of Germany, even though both were officially two staunch communist nations. At the same time, the United States, which represents the seat of capitalism and stresses that it is built on democracy is run by the rich. This means it is essentially a nation of plutocracy. The question that the younger generation is raising is this: What exactly constitutes democracy? Can a nation that represents the seat of capitalism use democracy as its system of government?

Analysis of Social Democracy

    Before we go into the nature of social democracy, we need to raise another question. Can a nation that represents the seat of communism use democracy as its system of government? The purpose of this presentation is to show why the best form of government is social democracy. The word democracy is derived from two Greek words: demos + kratia, that is, people + government. In democracy the people govern themselves through those they choose to elect. If not pleased with their performance then the same people could have them replaced.

    In a truly democratic nation, political candidates have equality of opportunity to present their ideas to the people. To this end, the news media has the obligation to bring all prospective candidates to the attention of the nation’s people. If the news media focuses attention only on those candidates that pay a high price for advertisement, then we cease to have a genuine democracy. In this case, we have a façade of democracy where the so called advertisers use available news media merely to make a mockery of democracy.

    The word social is derived from the Latin word: societas, which deals with human relations that involve mutual benefits. It is in itself a non-political word since all vital benefits are shared in a way that no one tries to advance in life at the expense of others. When in a nation we have the people in charge of their destiny through elected public officials that make the welfare of all people without exception as top priority of their government, then we have a genuine social democracy at work.

    The “abuse” of democracy should not lead us to condemn democracy and refer to it as bad. Likewise, the “abuse” of socialism should not lead to condemn socialism and refer to it as bad. When Pope Paul John II was asked in Mexico as to whether we would ever have peace in this world, he did not hesitate to say: “Yes, world peace is possible but only after two of the greatest evils of the 20th century are gone.” He continued to say: “These two great evils are communism and capitalism because they both advance their causes through the exploitation of people.”

    Three years later, communism collapsed with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the world took a great sigh of relief. Instead of concentrating on providing solution to numerous world problems that were making tens of millions suffer atrociously around the world, the United States, the seat of capitalism, embarked on a military build-up that made the weapons industry and the waging of wars become a lucrative business. The Pope’s statement proved to be prophetic. The world is still looking anxiously for the collapse of capitalism as a sign that world peace may literally be close at hand.

Our Present State of Affairs

    Regardless of what some American public officials may still say, the US capitalistic system, which is erroneously referred to as “democracy,” puts top priority not on the welfare of the people but on the interests of big corporations. The ultimate concern of these corporations is to pile up more money and wealth even at the expense of the American people, let alone the rest of the world. Such an approach and such a philosophy would be anathema to a nation where social democracy becomes the genuine brand and characteristic of the government.

    In other words, in social democracy we have a nation governed by the people from every walk of life and profession. At the same time, those that were elected by the people to represent their vital needs and necessities will put top priority in the nation’s expenditure on such vital needs and necessities. There has never been one country in history, which espoused truly social democracy that put top priority on negative and destructive elements such as the manufacture and indiscriminate sales of weapons along with the waging of wars.

    Just a bird’s eye view over the past 65 years is enough to make us realize that the vast majority of weapons and the waging of wars stemmed from countries whose governments have been viewed to be either communist or capitalist. These proved to be two extreme forms of government which disqualifies them automatically to bring about permanent peace in the world. In the philosophy of social democracy we view the whole world as one big family. In everything we try to do we always keep in mind the welfare of all people.

    This way we tend always to be drawn to do anything that is merely positive and constructive. Also, we will never allow anything, within our power, to take place that is negative and destructive. Should we ever pinpoint something negative and destructive in a country, which claims to espouse social democracy, that dark spot should not apply to the system of social democracy. It should rather be attributed to those in power who abuse the system. Let us keep in mind that to err is human but to persist in error is diabolical.

    Regardless of our cultural and religious background, we need to dehypnotize ourselves from the false beliefs we were fed with since we were born. No one seems to be embarrassed by identifying oneself to democracy since this form of government always proved to be an asset to entire populations. By same token, no one should feel hesitant to identify oneself to society, not only locally but on a regional and global scale as well. Socialism deals with the vital needs and necessities of all people from every walk of life and profession. It enables us easier to do to others what we would want others to do to ourselves.

Good and Irreplaceable System

    There are quite a few countries from across every continent nowadays that practice social democracy. In such countries, we do find people that are in pretty good health and that are properly educated. As a result, we notice that such people have considerably less tensions than those who live under a system of government that is not versed in social democracy. On the whole, they also tend to experience less worries and less turmoil. This should not surprise us at all for, as St. Catherine of Siena used to say, anima sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind is found in a healthy body.

    In the opening of this presentation we indicated that a good government should carry parental responsibilities, especially as they refer to the people’s good health and good education. Let us bring to our attention here the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: nemo dat quod not habet – no one gives anything one does not have. When the citizens are in good health and carry a sound education they will be in a much better position to make positive and constructive contributions to society in the best interest of everyone involved and concerned.

    For those who might have been indoctrinated to view “socialism” as a bad word, they should take an immediate step toward having their mind clear as to begin to see the realities that surround us into truer perspective. The world has had more than enough of struggles and wars. We need to create a new generation of healthy and well educated young men and women as to make the dream of world peace become a reality. In the sphere of religion and culture we need to procure them with outstanding virtue and great respect for others.

    In the sphere of government, we need to implant the philosophy of social democracy, regardless of the various names of governments. We need to get rid of the labels we attach to each other that serve to divide us rather than to unite us. A good government is one that avoids extremes. As stated earlier, media via stat virtus – virtue stands in the middle. This is revealed in providing people with their vital needs as top priority, which amounts to social democracy at work.


Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.
President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 May 2009.

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