Below are grouped excerpts from CS Lewis’ 1958 article.
“The new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge… This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.
“I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in’. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science. Perhaps the real scientists may not think much of the tyrants’ ‘science’– they didn’t think much of Hitler’s racial theories or Stalin’s biology. But they can be muzzled.
“We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness, and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relieve it, in the other. In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves, in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers — a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians, a Church that can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfold, if only they will! Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again.
“All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel and dishonest.
The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?C S Lewis, The Observer, 1958
Longevity vs Quality of Life
“In ‘Possible Worlds’ Professor Haldane pictured a future in which Man, foreseeing that Earth would soon be uninhabitable, adapted himself for migration to Venus by drastically modifying his physiology and abandoning justice, pity and happiness. The desire here is for mere survival. Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.
“I am more concerned by what the Bomb is doing already. One meets young people who make the threat of it a reason for poisoning every pleasure and evading every duty in the present.
“To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death — these are wishes deeply ingrained in civilised man. Their realization is almost as necessary to our virtues as to our happiness. From their total frustration disastrous results both moral and psychological might follow.”
Curative Justice Concern
“One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory ‘cure’? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ The Straightener will reply: ‘But, my dear fellow, no one’s blaming you. We no longer believe in retributive justice. We’re healing you.’
The additional quotes below are taken from C. S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism, it is beyond doubt what he would have thought of our current times, along with Francis Schaeffer who entirely shared his Statist concerns.
“A tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
“The belief that the process which the Party embodies is inevitable, and the belief that the forwarding of this process is the supreme duty and abrogates all ordinary moral laws. In this state of mind men can become devil-worshippers in the sense that they can now honour, as well as obey, their own vices. All men at times obey their vices: but it is when cruelty, envy, and lust of power appear as the commands of a great superpersonal force that they can be exercised with self-approval.”
Under modern conditions any effective invitation to Hell will certainly appear in the guise of scientific planning—as Hitler’s regime in fact did. Every tyrant must begin by claiming to have what his victims respect and to give what they want. The majority in most countries respect science and want to be planned. And, therefore, almost by definition, if any man or group wishes to enslave us it will of course describe itself as ‘scientific planned democracy.’ All the more reason to look very carefully at anything which bears that label.“A Reply to Professor Haldane”; Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 71–72, 74–75.
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true… The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Man is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.C. S. Lewis, “Equality,” in Present Concerns, 17.
There are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows. That I believe to be the true ground of democracy.Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Essays, 168–69.
If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They might break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.C. S. Lewis, On Living in an Atomic Age