Lewis, C. S. Present Concerns. Edited by Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt, 1986.
Lewis begins the essay, “I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man.” He notes that most democrats follow Rousseau and are democrats because they believe in the goodness of mankind. But Lewis argues, “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.”
This leads him to vitally important observation: “I do not think that equality is one of those things (like wisdom or happiness) which are good simply in themselves and for their own sakes. I think it is in the same class as medicine, which is good because we are ill, or clothes which are good because we are no longer innocent. I don’t think the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was in itself a degrading or evil thing at all.”
Having the right conception of equality is important: “When equality is treated not as a medicine or a safety-gadget but as an ideal we begin to breed that stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority. That mind is the special disease of democracy, as cruelty and servility are the special diseases of privileged societies. It will kill us all if it grows unchecked.”
A wrong view of equality will kill us because equality is an unattainable ideal: “Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”