Typos p. 13 (Part I): ignorarantly [= ignorantly]; p. 13 (Part I): Aeropagus [= Areopagus]; p. 14 (Part I): Universial [= Universal]; p. 9 (Part II): PHILISOPHY [= PHILOSOPHY]; p. 9 (Part II): implicity [= implicitly]; p. 9 (Part II): idealogical [= ideological]; p. 8 (Part IV): Pullitzer [= Pulitzer]; p. 14 (Part VII): simplicist [= simplistic]; p. 14 (Part VII): Borrough-Council [= Borough-Council]; p. 15 (Part VII): Colingwood [= Collingwood]; p. 11 (Part VIII): commuity [= community]; p. 16 (Part IX): intance [= instance]; p. 16 (Part IX): Progess [= Progress]; p. 14 (Part 10): aflicts [= afflicts]; p. 13 (Part XI): to by guided [= to be guided]; p. 13 (Part XI): as regard [= as regards]; p. 13 (Part XI): 18-Century [= 18th-Century]; p. 14 (Part XII): that its is [= that it is]; p. 14 (Part XII): Afred [= Alfred]; p. 15 (Part XII): Terra-del-Fuegian [= Tierra-del-Fuegian]; p. 11 (part XIV): peutdire [= peut dire]; p. 11 (Part XIV): traitre [= traître]; p. 11 (Part XIV): fonction. [= fonction."]
The false assumptions of democracy
Anthony M. Ludovici
- p. 13 -
No polysyllable is more constantly abused, by the educated unscrupulously and by the illiterate ignorarantly, than the word "DEMOCRACY"; and I say this though fully aware of the shameless and vulgar abuse of such words as "absolutely", "normally" and "definitely" to mention only these in modern England. The common man who has only just managed to scrape a nodding acquaintance with the three "Rs" finds in his favourite Daily examples enough of such abuses without needing to go further afield for them. But even in his traffic with his fellows they will also be made familiar.
Somebody, wishing to show his agreement with the view that fried bread is best for breakfast, will exclaim, "absolutely!" Another, who asks how often the Richmond bus passes Hyde Park Corner, will be told that "normally" it does so every so and so many minutes, as if its timetable were a medical chart. The words "usually" or "generally" have vanished from the language in such a context. One is not refined, if one uses them. Again, when a shop assistant is asked if the cream on a bun is real, she will reply either "absolutely" or "definitely" never anything so bourgeois or brief as "yes" or "quite."
But, to be fair to the illiterate among the English public, it must be stressed that the prostitution and the counterfeiting of the word "Democracy" in particular, is common to all classes. From the Prime Minister to the most analphabetic char-woman, no one in England uses the word with either the wish, intention or purpose, of expressing a precise idea, or of giving the impression that he entertains any precise idea about it. It is used in a hundred different contexts, none of which necessarily bears any relation to a clearly conceived political system. It may be employed as a mere stimulant, a cordial, a sedative, a cathartic, or even a carminative, according to the kind of listener or listeners addressed. It may be chosen as a compliment for a friend, a missile against an enemy, or as a means of intimidating an opponent before a mob. But never does it bear the slightest resemblance to a vehicle for conveying the notion of a well-defined political system having the same connotation for speaker and listener alike.
The first and last people, indeed, who could so use it were its inventors, the ancient Athenians, who, incidentally, were also the first and last people who understood it. For, from about 461 B.C., when the power of the Aeropagus in the Athenian State was transferred to the Council of the Five Hundred, every free adult male was in a position, through his right to attend the sessions of the General Assembly (Ecclesia), to participate directly in the control of State affairs. True, the total free population, at the time of this ultimate realization of democracy, could hardly have been more than 140,000, and the number of males entitled to conduct the government of the State was only about 30,000 a figure which made direct self-government a practical possibility.
But this is no excuse for using the same word, "Democracy," which conveys the idea of a people's direct self-government, to denote a condition of affairs like that now prevailing in England, France, America and many other countries, where the mass of the population have no direct self-government, would be quite incapable of carrying it on if they had, and possess only the right of voting very occasionally (mostly every five years in England) in favour of representatives who stand for policies the mass of the population do not understand, information about which is never either wholly available or resolutely sought, and the sponsors of which (i.e., the candidates touting for election) they do not necessarily know, are quite incapable of judging accurately (the most they can determine is whether such candidates have "a sense of humour" or not), and have no reason to trust out of their sight.
For it should be remembered that when we speak of direct self-government as applied to the Greeks of the 5th century B.C., we must also include the notion of a free adult male population which might at any moment have to shoulder the responsibility, not only of determining policies in the Ecclesia, but also of implementing these policies in an administrative capacity. Because, apart from the Strategi (Generals) and a few other minor offices, every free adult male over thirty might at any time be chosen by lot to undertake administrative duties in the service of the State. Every free male adult, therefore, was assumed to be a capable of entering some branch of the Civil Service; and the perfunctory examination which preceded his appointment excluded only the exceptionally ignorant and incompetent, or those who, through their past behaviour had forfeited, the public respect the sort of people which, in our modern democracies, in fact, constitute the majority of the electorate, but who are nevertheless allowed to sway the nation's destinies.
On the contrary, the relative safety with which selection for the administrative offices could as a rule be effected by lot in ancient Greece, shows how high the average level of capacity among the free adult male population was, and Professor A. J. Grant was abundantly justified when he declared that "the fact that the lot could work shows clearly how high was the average of ability in the Athenian State. No modern State could adopt such a system with such a measure of success." (GREECE IN THE AGE OF PERICLES, 1914, Chap. VII).
We can imagine the wild chaos that would ensue in our affairs if we did adopt such a system. There is chaos
It is therefore a manifest fraud to speak of Government, in the present English sense, as a "Democracy" and to imply thereby that it bears any likeness to the only true Democracy that of the ancient Greeks, which, as Professor Grant says, meant "not government in the interests of the people, nor government by the people or their representatives," but "direct management of the state by the mass of the people themselves." (Ibid.)
Yet, when English statesmen and politicians, together with their credulous dupes, use the word "Democracy" as denoting their form of government, their intention is obviously to give the impression that the Greek polysyllable, and all that it meant to the ancient Greek world, is being properly used to signify their own political system.
Nor is it any justification of this abuse to point out that at the time when Greek Democracy was first realised, there were about 100,000 slaves in the State, who were not allowed to take any part whatsoever in its management. For the Athenian notion of Democracy i.e., direct self-government by the free adult males of the population was in any case realized in full accord with its definition, which never included the servile elements in the community.
To argue that Athenian Democracy say, in 431 B.C. was not a democracy because these 100,000 slaves had no share in the government, is, therefore, about as reasonable as to claim that modern Universial Suffrage is not Universal Suffrage, because it does not include children. Just as the promoters and framers of Universal Suffrage never contemplated including children, and never imagined their inclusion as either practicable or commendable, so the founders of Athenian Democracy never looked upon the slave personnel as an essential element in the national government. Their direct self-government by the free adult males, alone, therefore accorded fully with their conception and definition of Democracy; and our use of their term to signify our own system of government, in which the popular control of national affairs is by a multiplicity of removes from direct self-government almost completely nullified, is nothing less than a false pretence, a suggestio falsi, which only a gullible generation could swallow.
In what respects, however, the English travesty of Greek Democracy has nevertheless contrived to preserve, as in cold storage, the fatal false assumptions which proved disastrous even to the Greeks themselves, and ultimately and all too rapidly destroyed their State, will be examined in the sequel.
- p. 8 -
Fundamental to the idea of Democracy is the principle that the self-governing people rule themselves as a whole for the welfare of the whole.
If their self-rule is to have any sense and justification, self-extinction, self-deterioration, self-belittlement and even self-enfeeblement, must be rigidly excluded from their policies. On the contrary, all adult members of a Democracy, whether they state it explicitly or not, are pledged to self-preservation and to the vigilant custody of all those features of their common life which enable them to survive and to safeguard their national identity, dignity and independence in the eyes of the outer world.
In short, team-work for the common good, is the ideal supposed to animate all democratic peoples. If it fails to do so, their humblest claim to supersede an oligarchic, aristocratic or monarchial polity, falls to the ground.
Now, the obvious inferences from the above principle are: first, that no merely individual ends, whether consistent or inconsistent with the common weal, must be pursued by any adult when functioning as a party to the government of a democratic State; secondly, that every such adult thus functioning, should after putting aside all personal interests, be capable of judging and correctly determining what policies are, and what are not, favourable to the common weal; thirdly, that every such adult, like every juryman at a trial, should be furnished with every possible item of information concerning the issues at stake; and, fourthly, when once these three conditions are fulfilled, that every such adult member should be sufficiently versed in public affairs, aware of his own and every other nation's history, far-seeing and objective and, above all, sufficiently wise, to pass judgments on proposed policies which will serve the common weal, including a long view of it.
That this is no exorbitant estimate of the prerequisites of a democracy is clear from the hundreds of treatises advocating Democracy and from the boasts, promises and sanguine prophecies, with which such treatises abound. Except at its own peril, indeed, not only can Democracy mean nothing less, but its most sober apologists also never intended it to mean anything less. For it was one of the many imprudences, both of the ancient Greeks and, to a far greater degree, of our own demagogues, always to assume as one of the strongest arguments in favour of Democracy, that all the conditions I have enumerated were, if not unexceptionally, at least predominantly fulfilled owing to the very constitution of human nature.
One famous English dreamer, with his head in the clouds Jeremy Bentham actually embodied this idea in a formula, and declared that "because each man sought his own happiness, the government of the majority would necessarily pursue the interests and the happiness of the majority."
But it is precisely because the average man does not and cannot always know his best interest, and yet, despite this deplorable fact, always thinks he knows it and therefore eagerly tries to secure it, that Democracy has invariably proved such a perilous venture.
Self-effacement for the sake of the common interest is a feat of which only exceptional people are capable. Besides, when confronted with the complexity of his nation's affairs and the problems they present, the average man in a democracy, be he ever so honest and well-meaning, slides insensibly into the simpler and easier routine of studying only what he imagines are his own interests and those of his class, the knowledge of which he at least has immediately at hand and for which he need prosecute no investigation or research.
Hence the power of every shrewd politician who, in a democracy, concentrates his attention on the coveted objects, the grievances and the venality of the mob, and who wins their allegiance by deliberately diverting their minds from the common weal (always an easy undertaking) in order to dwell on the means of furthering their own sectional interests in the State.
It was largely owing to the exercise of this power by eloquent demagogues in the Athenian Ecclesia that the whole State foundered within hardly a century after the realization of Democracy; and he who, after the
Hence Professor Grant's remark that "the real master of Athens was not the man who was elected to important offices, nor he who as president at any particular time represented the majesty of the State; but the orator who from the Bema of the Pnyx could by means fair or foul get the ear of the people and induce them to adopt his measures." (GREECE IN THE AGE OF PERICLES, Chap. VII).
For this reason it is immensely important, before losing one's heart to any particular political system, to make sure that one understands human nature not human nature in the philosopher or the saint, but in the mass of mankind. As the German Jesuit, Friedrich Muckermann, observed 26 years ago, "In discussing how men should be governed it cannot be a matter of indifference whether we consider human nature as being radically bad, as Luther did, or as being radically good, as Rousseau maintained."
Now the Liberals, whether of ancient Greece or modern Europe especially England plumped like Rousseau for the view that Man was born good; and it was this assumption that enabled them to believe that all the conditions enumerated above, on which a democracy must depend for the safe and proper exercise of its political functions, were providentially fulfilled by the basic nature of Man. For, as F. M. Cornford has observed, "To believe in Democracy you must believe in the essential goodness of common humanity." (THE UNWRITTEN PHILISOPHY, 1950, Chap. IV).
Nor is it without interest to note that, although many of the English Liberals who arrived at this fatal conclusion were, like Mill and Bentham, by no means orthodox Christians, and indeed thought their Rousseauesque assumption about Man's native goodness placed them intellectually above orthodox Christianity, they were as a matter of fact, from the psychological point of view, inferior to Christianity in their understanding of Man. Mill, indeed, frankly admitted the Englishman's psychological cecity. Why then did his recognition of this fact not warn him against trusting his own psychological judgments too implicity?
But this belief in the essential goodness of Man, which is the main mast of the Liberal idealogical windjammer, seems endemic among Anglo-Saxons even modern Anglo-Saxons ; for, from Abraham Lincoln to our own contemporary, John Cowper Powys, they all believe in it.
Naturally, therefore, they can believe in the workableness of Democracy and all that it implies in individual self-effacement for the common good, widespread objectivity, and so-called "unselfishness", if it is to constitute a safe and efficient system of government. Only when, as in Greece of the fourth century B.C., and in modern England, men and women are compelled by the ruins of their State about them, to wonder whether the Nemesis of all their hopes may be due to factors not wholly external and extraneous, does the error of this first fundamental assumption begin to dawn on them, and the ears of the more intelligent are attuned to the profound warning uttered by the Jesuit Father Muckermann.
Yet, two centuries ago, Montesquieu went to the root of the matter when he declared the only sound basis of popular government to be "the political virtue of the People;" and defined this virtue as "the ability to efface oneself," which, he said, "is always a difficult matter." (ESPRIT DES LOIS, 1750, BK. IX, Chap. V). When he pronounced these words there was still time for Europe to bethink herself and to avert the worst consequences of the romantic illusion of Liberalism.
What is the good, therefore, now that the harm has been done, for Movements like that of Moral Rearmament to try to convince us, however cogently, that "Democracy without high character and the discipline of high purpose, disintegrates?" What purpose do they serve by exhorting us now to reawaken "to the fundamental values on which democracy was built, and to rededicate "our people to those elementary virtues of honesty, unselfishness and love?" (TIMES 1.9.1938). What if these "fundamental values", as I have suggested, were extravagantly fanciful and contingent upon a false estimate of human nature?
Nor does Mr. Middleton Murry help us much by assuring us that we can at this late hour still make Democracy workable if only we all re-enter the Christian fold. Would it follow that we should thereby fulfil the conditions of a workable democracy as outlined above? "The historical moment has come", he says, "when whatever hope there is of saving human society from degradation and destruction lies in the effort to make the Christian faith the dynamic of social existence." (A DEFENCE OF DEMOCRACY, 1938, Chap. VIII).
Finally, Dr. F. C. Happold, with a pessimism that does credit to his insight and eloquently reveals his alarm at present trends, exhorts us at once to found schools for a "New Aristocracy, without which democracy is unlikely, under modern conditions to survive." (TOWARDS A NEW ARISTOCRACY, 1943).
There are other witnesses to the same effect all disillusioned liberals. It is, however, characteristic of the whole group, that none of them hints at the futility of trying to save Democracy so long as human nature remains human; and all their bustle and hurry at this eleventh hour to modify Man so as to fit him to the ideal necessary for a workable Democracy, only emphasizes the deplorable myopia of the original Liberals.
- p. 10 -
A further fundamental principle of Democracy is the equality of all men. Any hierarchy based upon alleged qualitative differences between one man and another is therefore held to be a crime against the "People". The latest words of abuse reserved for anyone who challenges this Egalitarianism, are "Nazi" or "Fascist." No democrat who angrily hurls these epithets at a speaker or publicist who questions this equality, knows what they mean; but the ignorance of the precise meaning of a word having a political connotation is the very last reason in modern England for avoiding its use. If it can be used as a damaging insult and can replace, in these expensive days, the now obsolete rotten egg, that is all that is asked.
Nevertheless, although no child of average intelligence can reach the age of seven without becoming convinced that the alleged equality of men is a daring lie, as an adult it cannot fail to see that before Democracy could be desired, there must first have existed an ardent wish for equality.
What kind of equality?
Since no Procrustean process can possibly make men qualitatively equal, either in flesh, blood and bone, or in brain and character, the equality expected to be realized by Democracy must consist of factors extraneous to Man as an organism. But it is questionable whether more than one in a million of modern Western people clearly understand this, although they daily act and think as if they did.
Two men may be imagined, both clothed by Burtons, shod by Lillie and Skinner and hatted by Dunns, who are exactly equal in their integument. Give them each a Ford "Popular", a Council house with garage and the same kind of suburban whereabouts, and they will be equal in accessory equipment. But the dullest cretin would still boggle at declaring them organically, intellectually and characterologically, equal.
If then Democracy insists on human equality, it must mean only equality of integument, accessory equipment, and the implied equality of spending power. Equality with the Jones's therefore means being able, without humiliation, to survive the Jones's narrow scrutiny of our boots, our clothes, our car, our wrist watches, our home, our hair-dos and our lipstick. We must also be in a position to supply them with impressive and irrefutable evidence, when they ask us how and where we spent our Easter, Whitsun and Summer holidays.
At bottom, this is all the equality that Democracy was ever expected to achieve. It does postulate other equalities which will be examined in due course and most of which are illusory. But for the average man, and particularly for the average woman, realisable democratic equality boils down to equality in making a "good show". As Veblen graphically put it, "The struggle for existence has been transformed into a struggle to keep up appearances." The most naked and barefaced avowal of this truth was made some thirty years ago by President Hoover who, in order to ingratiate himself and his régime with the people of the United States, did not scruple to hold out the prospect of "two cars in every garage".
But since it is not a bit of good trying to keep up with the Jones's, no matter how many cars, pairs of boots, silver spoons and forks, and golf sticks we may flaunt before them, if the Jones's are entitled to sport a coronet on their note-paper and the door of their car, and to be addressed as "honourables", the whole trend of the more vulgar among Western nations has been steadily to diminish the prestige of hereditary rank and privilege so that the coronet will become less and less the sign of exceptional worthiness. Thus, after attacking Aristocracy and later even Squirearchy, the world is left only with Plutocracy.
From this brief preliminary analysis of democratic equality, it is plain that Democracy, cleared of all the idealistic froth with which demagogues are wont to recommend it, is merely a grandiose device for appeasing Envy. For to ache with the envy of privileges and powers which can be enjoyed only by being born of different parents, is intolerable. Envy can be endured only so long as there is a sporting chance that to-morrow by a turn of fortune's wheel a turn that may fall to the lot of any Tom, Dick or Harry we may be equal to the Jones's in the ability to pay our way handsomely. Thus, in a Democracy, the only differences tolerated are contingent on cash values, and the only inequalities suffered are therefore those which elevate a Plutocracy to the top, because this happens to be the sine qua non of everybody's having a chance of appeasing envy by acquiring cash worthiness. Democracy is consequently the polity of choice for an envious people.
Even so, however, it can be but a stepping stone, a spring-board, to a state closer to the desired end the total elimination of all causes of envy. For, the large majority in a democracy soon find that there is immense difficulty in keeping up with the more affluent Jones's. Envy is appeased only here and there; not universally. Total equality in integument, equipment and the standard of living, remains denied to millions. For the ultimate appeasement of the envy of these millions, a further change issues from Democracy as surely as the butterfly issues from its chrysalis; and Plutocracy is attacked, just as Aristocracy and Squirearchy had once been. Aristotle foretold this inevitable sequence of events over two thousand years ago (POLITICS, V. ii), and the transformation of Democracy into Socialism and finally Communism seemed to him unavoidable.
There is nothing new in all this. Twenty-six years ago, Bertrand Russell declared that "Envy is the basis of democracy" (THE CONQUEST OF HAPPINESS, 1930, p. 83). Eighteen years later, Louis Schneider, following Veblen, showed that the rise of Democracy and its persistence, where found, are due to envy (THE FREUDIAN PSYCHOLOGY AND VEBLEN'S SOCIAL THEORY, 1948, Chap. 6, i, ii, iii); whilst only yesterday Miss Barbara Wootton characterized our society as "acquisitive and envious" (THE HIBBERT JOURNAL, Jan. 1956); and Norman Douglas, referring to Democracy's ultimate unravelment as described above, exclaimed: "Are we never to learn that Socialism has its roots in envy and nothing else?" (LOOKING BACK, 1934, p. 388).
But long before these opinions were published, Veblen had already stated that Socialistic trends were due to
Thus Democracy, which is first advocated by the envious as the polity of choice for the appeasement of envy, ultimately ceases to fulfil their expectations sufficiently widely to satisfy them all, and the next and final change inspired by envy is inevitably Socialism and its extreme expression, Communism.
We are actually witnessing at the present moment the transformation Aristotle foretold as ineluctable when once Democracy had been established and, in this respect, a passage from Geoffrey Gorer's excellent book, EXPLORING ENGLISH CHARACTER (1955, Chap. 15), is worth quoting. The book consists of a report on data collected by a questionnaire circulated to a large cross-section of the English public. Altogether, 14,605 questionnaires were distributed and 11,024 were duly completed. Referring to the answers given to question 18 ("What do you consider your three worst faults?"), Gorer says, "the sin of envy is completely excluded . . . only a couple of respondents in the whole 11,024 admitted it."
Now, if we are ingenuous enough to believe that the average person is sufficiently frank and, above all, sufficiently advanced in self-knowledge, to make a damaging admission about himself, we shall regard this finding of Gorer's investigation as a refutation of what has been maintained in the above argument; for, that only two out of a total of 11,024 adults, in a nation alleged to have espoused Democracy out of envy, should have admitted their proneness to this "sin", appears to indicate that there must be something very wrong with our reasoning.
If, on the other hand, we not only doubt the prevalence of strict candour in the admission of faults, but also share with the ancients the view that self-knowledge is an uncommon trait and that, as a rule, as the Duke of La Rochefoucauld implied long ago, the most the average man will be honest enough to acknowledge is a foible that leaves his character unimpaired, we shall interpret Gorer's finding merely as one further proof of the difficulty of securing reliable data about a national character by canvassing the nationals themselves. (Incidentally, what La Rochefoucauld said on this matter was, "Whilst everybody will complain about his memory, no one complains about his lack of judgment." Because forgetfulness, whilst not seriously damaging one's credit, may often actually stand one in good stead; whereas to plead a lack of judgment would brand one as unreliable for all time.)
It is, however, both interesting and important to note that Geoffrey Gorer himself doubts the trustworthiness of this particular response to his questionnaire and, in expressing his uneasiness about it, admits what I have maintained above, namely, that the infirmity of envy has played a major rôle in the levelling process which has been going on in our society ever since the establishment of Democracy, and, therefore, that it must be a common trait in England.
"I do not think," Gorer says, "that it could be denied that in the political appeals and actions of the last decade (and much earlier), envy has played a major rôle; that in the policy of 'fair shares for all', the desire to see that nobody has more has been at least as important as seeing that nobody has less." Then he acknowledges that the omission on the part of his respondents to confess the infirmity of envy, indicates that "the self-knowledge, self-criticism and honesty of the English, has a blind spot."
But to anyone who still doubts that the basic democratic demand for Equality has its roots in envy, let me recommend the latest product of the Labour Party's intelligentsia, published on July 7th, 1956, and entitled, TOWARDS EQUALITY. There, I think, he will find my contentions fully confirmed, including my claim that we are now in the midst of the final transformation of Democracy into Communism.
- p. 7 -
My last article suggested that the advocates of Democracy assumed the equality of men, strove to adapt society to it, and succeeded at least in preparing the way for equality in Cash Worthiness; and that they did this unaided except by universal envy. This was misleading; for one powerful factor combined with envy to promote their Movement, a factor which, from Locke onward, lent zest to their zeal; and that was the palpable, the gross, the hardly credible incompetence and shortsightedness of Europe's aristocracies, especially of France and England, and the misery their inhumanity and imbecility imposed upon the masses.
When Thomas Paine in 1791 said of the French aristocracy, "It lost ground from contempt more than from hatred; and was rather jeered at as an ass than dreaded as a lion"; and when he added, "This is the general character of Aristocracy, or what are called nobles or nobility, or rather No-ability, in all countries" (RIGHTS OF MAN, I), he was unfortunately only too accurate.
I cannot expatiate on the singular fact that with but few exceptions, Europe's aristocracies seem never to have possessed a sufficiently strong instinct of self-preservation to see their best interest in sustaining by all means in their power the trust and respect of the common people, and thus securing their privileged position, prerogatives and leadership. For, although the influence of envy is formidable in European Man, so also is the influence of sloth and habit; and when men are well-governed and happy, covetousness alone will not make them revolutionaries.
Thus, when Aristotle declared that aristocracies are mostly destroyed when "virtue is not properly joined to power" (POLITICS, V. vii) he implied that envy unaided cannot bring about popular government. But the principle of Aristocracy which is that "the degree of power wielded by a dominant class should always be commensurate with their quality, and that any increase in their power should he contingent on an increase in their quality" (THE QUEST OF HUMAN QUALITY, 1952, Chap. V), seems never to have been understood by any European nobility north of Latitude 46; and this fact undoubtedly lent untold strength to the democratic Movement. It did more; for, by provoking a temper of impatience in the Liberal Reformers, whom the spectacle of mob misery left no time to examine their principles critically, it led to the acceptance of any number of False Assumptions in the formulation of the Liberal credo. We have seen what the assumption of the Equality of All Men was worth. But, as already hinted, other equalities were postulated Equality Before the Law, Equality of Opportunity, and Equality of the Right to a share in determining National Policies.
All these equalities are as nonsensical as that already examined; but this does not hinder their being acclaimed when shouted from a political platform.
A little thought soon disposes of them. Consider, for instance, Equality Before the Law nothing could be more unfair. Enforce its observance and there would be an end to Justice. Equity understood as the equal apportionment of praise or censure, irrespective of status, endowment and upbringing, is in fact always scouted by great rulers. As William Blake so vividly put it "One Law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression" (THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL, 1790).
The minds of the wisest legislators of the past were never clouded by such rubbish; and, to give but one example of their wisdom, they very reasonably were always more severe with the privileged and better-educated delinquent than with his social inferior. The Hindu legislators made the penalty for theft highest for the Brahmin, less high for the Vaisya, still less high for the Kshatriya, and lowest of all for the Sudra (LAWS OF MANU, VIII, 337338). "As his position was one of greater trust and responsibility," says J. H. Denison, "the wrong to the community was proportionately
The ancient Greeks and even the vulgar Romans more or less followed suit. Aristotle implies his readiness to implement the wise principle in question (POLITICS, V. vii); whilst Cicero states it with precision. Owing to the example they give, he says, "men of the upper class (principes) who do wrong are especially dangerous to the State . . . and infect the whole commonwealth with their vices." LAWS, III, xiv).
Only when Europe approached the modern Age, with its cads and morons in high places, did the commoner and pauper receive the severest penalties whilst their masters escaped with an admonition. But, even so, some exceptional European rulers still reflected the ancient wisdom. An instance of this was Frederick the Great's treatment of the nobleman, Schlubhut, in July, 1731.
Today, however, the ancient wise attitude is reversed. There is still no Equality before the Law; but, instead of the judges and juries frowning more darkly on the high-class delinquent than on his inferior, the whole court, including prosecuting and defending counsel, melts into tears whenever a person of great wealth, high lineage, or good education or all three stands in the dock. So deep is the compassion, that the disgrace he is supposed to have suffered is counted as a major part of the penalty inflicted on him. But this perverted sentiment, which logically amounts to punishing lower-class, with greater severity than "upper"-class, crime, although seeming only too natural to modern English people, would have dismayed the highly ethical Aryas of the past and, what is more, would have struck them as in the worst possible taste.
Be this as it may, such behaviour proves nothing in favour of the practicability of the principle of Equality Before the Law, which Louis Madelin quite properly stigmatizes as "The capital error of the whole French Revolution." (THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, 1916, p. 15).
As to Equality of Opportunity, the average modern democrat who has borne patiently with me so far, immediately brightens up and recovers his self-confidence at the mention of it. "Surely," he thinks, "I've got him on toast now!" It seems so obvious, so eminently fair and practicable, that even educated people will brand as flagitious in a Fascist sense any attempt to question it.
Yet here again, a little thought and the whole notion founders. Take a few extreme cases: A tortoise cannot be given an equal opportunity with a greyhound to jump a stile. The Lawn Tennis Tournament at Wimbledon offers to all no equal opportunity with the champion class of winning the shield. Without special gifts no one can have an equal opportunity with a born painter to become an R.A. And so on.
Because an opportunity is not, like a spoon or a plate, something that is independent of the variety of its users, it cannot therefore be standardized to suit all comers. Its essence is contingency. An opportunity becomes a reality only when related to a creature that has a reasonable chance of using it to advantage. It functions only as a relative factor. Its relation to a particular animal or man alone completes its nature. Without this relation it means nothing. A system of Equal Opportunities for all could only be established if we were all exactly alike, enjoyed exactly the same circumstances and had the very same aspirations.
But, in a world where all are disparate, where one may become the Bishop of Birmingham and another the Chef at Claridge's, and where it would be utterly impossible to equip all our teeming millions with a capacity to seize any opportunity that our variegated society may offer, the idea of Equal Opportunities for all, must remain an amiable fantasy. I hear some readers object, "Why not an equal opportunity of becoming a financial success, surely that would be possible?" Even this would still baffle us. The millionaire, Pullitzer, began his meteoric rise to affluence by crawling ashore in America as a penniless refugee. Should we all try crawling ashore in America as penniless refugees?
In the seductive plausibility of the democrat's "Equalities" we have so far examined, one feature stands out with obtrusive conspicuousness, and that is the evidence of the superficial haste with which the original Liberals first devised them. The Equality of the Right to a share in determining national policies will be dealt with in my next article.
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An equal right to a share in determining national policies is implicit in the democratic demand for Universal Suffrage, made ever since the early 19th Century and even before. We know how the ancient Greeks realized this ideal. Their number as free citizens made it possible for each to share directly in the nation's government by his personal presence in the Assembly, and thus to acquire a full knowledge of every issue at stake and of the circumstances relating to it.
The vaster populations of modern States having made such direct democracy impossible, the solution was sought in a system of representation, whereby each individual citizen exercised his right to determine national policies through the agency of the representative he helped to elect to the deliberative Assembly.
Because of the individual citizen's indirect influence on policies under this system, some political philosophers, including Thomas Paine, have preferred the term "Representative" before that of "Democratic" to designate the English system of government; for it is a delegated form of Popular Control. As such, however, it involves two important removes from the direct method conceived by the originators of Democracy. Not only is the influence on policies, for the great majority, second-hand; but so also the information necessary for judging policies that is, if it is not altogether wanting. So that whatsoever was faulty in the genuine Democracy of Athens, is doubly, if not trebly so in our system. Because occasions for confusion, deception and misjudgment, which were plentiful enough in ancient Greece, become multiplied to the extent to which chosen representatives may fail either in alertness, knowledge, candour, honesty, courage, political scholarship, or intelligence; and to the extent to which the necessary information for judging policies may be either imperfect, distorted, inaccessible even to the representatives themselves, or of too complicated and abstruse a nature to be lucidly passed on to the electorate, or even to be clear to their Members in the House.
Since, however, the voting of representatives into the Assembly depends on the policies they stand for, the necessity for the voting groups (constituencies) to understand these policies and their short and long-term effect, and to be equipped with the information needed to reach a sane judgment about them, are the assumed pre-requisites of Popular Government.
One more essential pre-requisite, without which Popular Government can but lead to national confusion and disaster, is that the voting groups should themselves be competent to discriminate wisely, not only between one policy and another, but also between one candidate and another for election to the lower House of Parliament.
These are all assumptions of such forbidding magnitude that they have only to be pondered in order to be recognized as romantic. To suppose that the problems of government as complicated as are those of the average modern State, can fail to baffle common people, when we are too well aware of how regularly they baffle the professional politicians and statesmen who at least possess all the relevant information, requires such a heroic feat of credulity and, above all, such a stubborn faith in democratic institutions, that, unless one is unusually gullible and prone to respect mere verbiage, one cannot accept the democratic ideology.
We have seen that the real master of Athens was not any member of the executive body, but the orator who, from the Bema of the Pnyx, could "by means fair or foul," hypnotize his listeners to do his will; and this in a system of direct popular control. What then are we to think of a system in which this chance of swaying a listening gathering, is twofold first, vis-à-vis of the electorate, and later vis-à-vis of the elected Assembly itself?
The M.P.s surfeited with verbiage may perhaps be blasé enough to resist up to a point the blandishments of a cunning orator and to sift his wisdom from the dross of his rhetoric. They may even be able to curb the human infirmity of granting everything he has said that has made them laugh. But what of the multitude outside, confronted with the task, not only of judging their candidate as a man and of assessing the virtue of the policies he stands for, but also of inferring from his personality and his professions, whether he is a fit person to be given the responsibility of championing the causes he has proclaimed? Will they be able to resist the vulgar tendency to accept as demonstrated all that he has driven home with a joke? Besides, in these days, when the highest in the land repeat ad nauseam the parrot cry about the indispensability of a "sense of humour" if a character is to be rated high, will they, whilst their low-comedian candidate is performing, be able to recall, if they ever knew it, that many of the most abandoned villains of history also had a sense of humour?
When, added to all this, we bear in mind that in England to-day politics has become a lucrative trade and, what is even more to the point, one for which no training is required and in which the tradesmen them-
Nor, in view of the tendency of all voters, high and low, to give up trying to master the complex problems of their nation's affairs, to cease from attempting to judge the policies candidates propose, and to fall back on the easier task of thinking only of their sectional interests, can we wonder that constituencies get from their potential representatives only what they expect in low-comedy humour, slap-dash thought, short-term remedies (if any), and promises of purely sectional advantages. Hence Dean Inge's remark that the English political system had been "revealed as government by mass bribery." (HIBBERT JOURNAL, July, 1952). Attend any election meeting, and you will soon grasp that the audience considers itself ill-used if it is bored by any profundities, any long-term solutions of national difficulties, any promises of merely national-wide and not sectional advantages, and is allowed only a niggardly supply of jokes.
Yet, despite all the features I have mentioned as inseparable from Representative Democracy, we are still exhorted to believe in the ineffable virtues with which its inventors endowed it.
"The representative system of Government," said Thomas Paine, "is calculated to produce the wisest laws by collecting wisdom from where it can be found." (op. cit. Part II, Chap. III). This implies that the voting masses by perspicacious and exacting methods of selection send the wisest of their fellows to the legislative chamber to pass the wisest laws. Now, this was already quite untrue when Paine stated it in 1792. To-day it is even more false; for the constituencies do not even "find" the candidates. These present themselves on their own initiative and, what is more, take this initiative on no one's estimate of their capacities except their own and perhaps that of the local Party Committee. Nor is it any secret that when this committee ratifies the candidate's own exalted estimate of himself, it is influenced less by his sagacity and character than by his generosity towards the local charities, cricket-clubs, Boy Scout troops, etc.
Besides, even if we could imagine the constituencies wishing to seek the wisest in the land to represent them, with what justification could we suppose them qualified to recognize them when they saw them?
A more recent writer than Paine, Dr. David Spitz, argues that "democratic government may be regarded as an institutional device for securing proper and adequate leadership" (PATTERNS OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT, 1949, Chap. III, iii (a)). This is but a different way of stating Paine's assumption, quoted above; for the learned Doctor adds that the fundamental advantage of Democracy is the chance it gives the people of dismissing unsatisfactory and electing satisfactory governments. (ibid. Conclusion). But the unwarranted assumptions here are three: First, that the People possess sound criteria for their rejections and selections; secondly, that they are competent to apply these criteria to both their representatives and the latter's policies; and, thirdly, and above all, that a pool of available better political leaders always lies to hand, from which fresh selections can be made. A moment's thought reveals that not one of these assumptions is even approximately justified; and, in these degenerate days, least of all the third.
Then what are we to think of the democratic assumption that every one has an equal right to a share in determining national policies and that this right, exercised through representatives popularly chosen, will lead to good government?
We can but conclude that, like most democratic principles, this assumption is no more than grandiloquent and empty verbiage, designed to fire the imagination only of the thoughtless.
- p. 7 -
In a country where, for generations, if not centuries, nobody has ever dreamt of engaging a servant for simple and mostly manual work from a cook or housemaid to a stable-boy without first obtaining from the servant's previous employer a testimonial regarding character, ability and trustworthiness, we should not expect to find many people able to rely on their independent judgment alone, in order to form a correct estimate of a fellow-being's personality. We should rather expect to find most people ready to acknowledge that they could not trust either their eyes or ears to give them an even approximately accurate impression of a fellow-being's nature and capacities.
What then are we to conclude from the fact that, in this very same country, the choice of a fellow-being who is expected to perform far more complicated, responsible and intellectual duties than those of the manual servant, and to help in determining the fate not only of his contemporaries but also of generations to come, should be left, and regarded as safely and securely left, to the unaided judgment of every Tom, Dick and Harry, and every Judy, Janet or Jane, who would regard it as a personal insult if you questioned their ability to form a sound judgment without some sort of testimonial or evidence of "character"?
Even the choice of a horse requires some kind of expertise, without which its new owner may soon find himself in a ditch. But the system of Representative Government cannot brook such niceties. The choice of an M.P. we are implicitly assured requires no expertise whatsoever either in judging the character, ability and trustworthiness of the Candidate, or in estimating the wisdom of his political programme and proposals, or in the equally difficult task of assessing their ultimate national effects.
This, of course, enormously simplifies the demands which the democratic ideology makes upon the common people and on their Parliamentary representatives; and, were all our institutions, especially in the educational sphere, run on similar lines, there would be no limit to the number of our dons, professors and pedagogues, and an end to learning. In the political sphere, as in the case of horse-purchase, however, it must not surprise us to learn that such methods soon land a people in the ditch.
It is often argued that the electoral system of government has this advantage over the hereditary system, that it excludes altogether self-appointment that is to say, it suffers no arbitrary imposition of an individual ruler upon a community. But is that true?
If instead of asking, as all democrats do, "Who selects your Aristocracy?", we venture timidly and humbly to ask, "Who selects the prospective M.P.?", we shall find that whereas in the case of the former there may be one arbitrary imposition, in the latter there are actually two.
In the first place, the aspirant to Parliament, after discovering the possession of a certain glibness of speech among his or her native gifts; after narrowly scrutinizing his or her image in a mirror and concluding that it is not completely repellent (if a woman, sex-appeal will be all to the good); and after deciding that in any case, as he or she has not made much of a hit as a bus-driver, barrister, bath-attendant or ballet-dancer, Parlia-
The emoluments are tempting, the qualifications apart from those he or she has ascertained as above are nil, and the mass of those who are to effect the final selection are known only too well (for does not she or he belong to it?) to be unexacting, inexpert and accommodatingly gullible.
If, therefore, the local Party Organization and perhaps (not always) the Central Office of the Party, confirm the candidate's self-appointment, the man, or woman, becomes a full-fledged aspirant for a seat in the Lower House of Parliament. Thus, as a mere Candidate, he or she is already at this stage the product of two preliminary selections, in neither of which the electors have played the smallest part.
Even one of our most learned and ardent apologists of Democracy, Dr. Spitz, acknowledges that the democratic voter's choice only occurs "after the alternatives are set". (PATTERNS OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT, Part III, 4. iii). That is to say, the voter in a General Election is confronted by alternatives in the choice of which he has had no say whatsoever. To argue, therefore, that, in contrast to Aristocracy, there is no arbitrary appointment of rulers under Democracy, is simply to stake on the political listlessness and ignorance of the common man and woman. There is in fact even greater arbitrariness; for the Aristocrat, deplorable as he may now be, is certainly no more deplorable than the average M.P., and at least he has to hail from some family honoured in the remote or recent past; whereas the Parliamentary Candidate needs no qualifications whatsoever, beyond his own high opinion of himself and the ratification of this opinion by his Party's local Committee.
When once all these low hurdles have been successfully negotiated and the Election Campaign has opened, the Candidate faces the electors of the area he hopes to represent. From now onwards, if he wishes to be popular, the slogan, "Surtout pas de zêle!" must in his situation be translated by, "Above all no earnestness, no depth of thought, no long-term policies, however sound and urgently needed they may be, no boring reminder that the occasion is essentially political!" All his proposals must be simple and obvious. The more slap-dash they are the better.
He must not only feel himself, he must actually be, on the same intellectual plane, the same cultural level, as the least educated and least intelligent of his constituents, in fact, as the majority. The more the limits of his knowledge and wisdom approximate to theirs, the happier and more confident will he make them. Hence the failure as M.P.s of superior men like Mill, Lecky and Belloc. Even an outstanding personality like Félix Pyat, an exceptionally intelligent philosopher and historian like Edgar Quinet, and a great genius like Victor Hugo, failed to achieve any success in the French Assembly of 1848. Indeed, it is surprising that such men were ever elected at all.
If he desires the love of his constituents, the Candidate will admit that two years ago he could hardly have found Cyprus on the map; that the only history he ever knew was what he learnt at his grandmother's knee; and, when he adds, "And that's good enough for me!" some tears will flow. As for mathematics, he will confess that he never shone at it, but at least he and they knew more about figures than their grandfathers did, and that thirty shillings, or a couple of pounds a week, no longer equal a man's fair wage. In this matter he and they quite properly insisted on a much more swollen pay-packet for the first term of the equation. (Loud laughter and prolonged applause).
Can we wonder that, like the original Democracy of Ancient Greece, the representative Democracy of England should be rapidly consummating the nation's decline?
Hegel observed that "The people is that part of the State that does not know what it wants." But if this were really so Democracy would be nationally less lethal than it actually is. It is precisely because the people are only too keenly aware of what they want and too abysmally ignorant of what their nation wants for its survival in prosperity and strength, that Democracy is so disastrous. The people want advantages concerning which they have the fullest and most intimate information and in which their most powerful passions are engaged. The rest is all blurred, vague, unsupported by any facts to which they have immediate access, or are able to obtain success.
Even a confirmed democrat like Agnes Headlam-Morley, in commenting on the use of the Referendum, unwittingly acknowledges this; for to prove the impracticability of this device, she says: "It is scarcely to be hoped that the people as a whole will ever acquire sufficient knowledge and interest to make profitable a continual reference to them of difficult questions of legislation." (THE NEW DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTIONS OF EUROPE, 1929, Part IV, Chap. VIII). But is it more to be hoped that when the reference occurs only once every five years that it will be profitable? If it is, why does she go on to say of most of the democracies of Europe in the late twenties that "the failure of parliamentary democracy to produce an efficient government has led to a growing distrust not only of cabinet government but of democracy as a whole"? And why does she add, "There is a growing tendency to reject democracy in its entirety"?
She does not seem to see the fundamental unfairness of democracy. For, if it is hopeless to expect the masses to be sufficiently knowledgeable and interested to judge the difficult problems of legislation, is it not unmerciful to hold them ultimately answerable, and to let them suffer, for the changes their popular control has brought about? Should we hold ourselves guiltless if disaster overtook our children when we had left them to determine the safety of the ice on which we let them skate? When Macaulay wrote to H. S. Randall (23/5/1857): "I have long been convinced that institutions merely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilization, or both," was he thinking of this?
At all events, until political philosophers are honest and courageous enough to declare average men and women too busy with the daily problems of their work and home-life, too indifferent to the wider aspects of home and foreign politics, too ignorant of the relevant facts, to be able to understand even the simplest of their nation's affairs, and even with the best will in the world, too much absorbed in their own private concerns to master the far more complex matters relating to their nation's survival, prosperity and strength, we must expect the present stampede to Nemesis to continue.
For we cannot expect the toxin to be sounded by the politicians themselves. They are the professionals battening on the hoax, the souteneurs living on other people's erring lives. We might as well expect the lawyers to start a movement to make an end of litigation.
No, the demolition of the democratic ideology must come from an independent authority; and this authority, embracing all political philosophers of weight, must act quickly; for the time is short and doomsday is near.
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The alarming state of affairs described in my last article was not only foreseen before Universal Suffrage was granted; but it has also been repeatedly acknowledged since, even by convinced democrats themselves. Nor did it require exceptional intelligence even to foretell what was bound to happen when once you bundled masses of ordinary people, concerned exclusively with their own private problems and untrained in Political Science, into polling booths to appoint their legislative assembly.
Indeed, something in the nature of mental defect was needed to state, as Thomas Paine did in 1792, that "the representative system diffuses such a body of knowledge throughout a nation, on the subject of Government, as to explode ignorance and preclude imposition." (THE RIGHTS OF MAN, Part II, Chap. III). But a degree of stupidity bordering on dementia was needed by those, including above all the Suffragettes, who could fight like savages to realise this alleged Utopia.
Among the earliest to suggest what was once upon a time (and, alas! still is) looked upon as the surest corrective of Universal Suffrage, was Robert Lowe, when, after the modest Reform Act of 1866, he exclaimed in Edinburgh, in 1867, "We must educate our masters", or words to that effect. Since then, it may be truly said, hardly anybody, least of all the democrats themselves, who have perceived the perils of Democracy, has failed to advocate "Education" as the remedy.
Assuming that ignorance whether of the Classics, Mathematics, History, Geography, Music, Science, or Modern Languages, or all seven together was the chief danger of Popular Government, it seemed obvious to the simplicist minds of both the first and latest believers in "Education", that no "educated" person could or would vote either in favour of an undesirable Parliamentary Candidate or of an unwise political programme. In other words, wisdom of choice both in regard to M.P.s and national policies, was held to be guaranteed by "Education".
Yet, no assumption relating to Democracy could be more riddled with error.
In the first place, the kind of ignorance that is politically dangerous is not that of the subjects taught imperfectly at our public schools and universities, which, in any case, could never be taught, even imperfectly, to a whole nation. It is the ignorance of the statistical, economic, strategical, demographic and international factors bearing on national policies, which the popular assembly has from day to day to consider. And this kind of ignorance, far from being the monopoly of the "uneducated", is, more often than not, shared even by the People's Parliamentary representatives. Indeed, in Foreign Affairs, it is commonly enjoined by the exigencies of State security upon all but a handful of Cabinet Ministers.
Secondly, no amount of proficiency in the subjects composing the curriculum of higher education, necessarily makes for political, or any other kind of wisdom. We have but to live with the so-called "educated" and to know about their gross political errors in the past, in order to appreciate the fallacy of supposing that education means wisdom. It was not only Oscar Wilde, with his great experience of the educated, who recognized that "people are made stupid by education" (DE PROFUNDIS, 1949, p. 108); Herbert Spencer, when Oscar Wilde was only four years old, had already declared, "How little that which people commonly call education prepares them for the use of political power, may be judged from the incompetency of those who have received the highest education the country affords." (ESSAY ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, 1860); whilst Lord Bryce, in 1920, observed that "Attainments in learning and science do little to make men wise in politics." (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, Vol. I, Chap. VIII). Thus, there was on the part of the so-called "educated" gross unconscious self-overestimation in supposing that the remedy for the ills of Democracy was education of the masses.
Thirdly, in the acquisitive and envious atmosphere of modern Western society, no amount of education, even if it could make men wise, would ever be able to make them (of what class soever) politically moral; and by this is meant what Montesquieu meant namely, possessed of that deeply honest sense of responsibility which makes them, whether as "voting cattle" or as active politicians, always act politically in the best interests of the nation as a whole, even when, as Montesquieu insists, these interests clash with their own. The greatest erudition cannot help here. In fact, the very downfall of both Aristocracy and, now, Plutocracy, has been caused by the immense difficulty civilized Man feels in subordinating his own class advantages to those of a wider community.
Fourthly, even if Education could make men politically wise and politically moral, how could the majority of the population ever be given enough knowledge of what constitutes the best interests of the whole, and enough sound judgment to support only those policies which serve those interests? It would be unfair to expect such political behaviour of common men and women, even if they were moral enough to display the public spirit such behaviour requires. Hence, at bottom, all that Representative Government makes possible apart from what it encourages and, with the ballot, actually cultivates is the pursuit of clashing sectional interests.
Fifthly, even if all the desiderata enumerated above could be realized, how could control be exercised over the voting so that no moral back-sliding, no self-interested voting took place?
This could be done only if the voting were open and not secret. But all the voting that Universal Suffrage has secured for the People is now secret. By the introduction of the ballot in 1872, England made an end of any safeguards to moral voting, i.e. the voting Montesquieu regarded as politically moral.
In all actions vitally important to the nation as a whole, whether criminal trials, Bankruptcy examinations, Parliamentary debates, Coroners' inquests, or County-Council or Borrough-Council sessions, it is recognized that there can and must be no secrecy, no loop-hole for asocial influences to work entirely in the dark. Yet, in the all-important matter of determining the present and ultimate state of his nation, the ordinary voter, far from being compelled to show his hand and reveal the extent of his sense of responsibility to his fellows, is vouchsafed the most complete secrecy. So that, to take an extreme case, were the issue, "Shall England perish or survive?" any man or woman can now vote for the first alternative
J. S. Mill, himself, admitted that the ballot involved a "moral mischief". "The voter", he says, "is under an absolute moral obligation to consider the interests of the public, not his private advantage;" consequently, "the duty of voting, like any other public duty, should be performed under the eye and criticism of the public, every one of whom has not only an interest in its performance but a good title to consider himself wronged if it is performed otherwise than honestly and carefully." (REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1861, Chap. X).
Cicero took much the same view and, in his LAWS (III, Chaps. 3439) he argues that the ballot was one of the major causes of the downfall of the Roman Republic.
When, therefore, President Woodrow Wilson told Congress on April 2nd, 1917, "The World must be made safe for democracy", he actually expressed the converse of what Robert Lowe had implied when, fifty years previously, he had said "We must educate our masters." For by this Lowe meant "Democracy must be made safe for the World." And this "must" is still an urgent imperative. Everywhere knowledgeable people like Middleton Murry, Dr. F. C. Happold, T. S. Eliot, Sir Fred Clarke, and Professors R. G. Colingwood, Alfred Weber, Wilhelm Röpke and Karl Mannheim, have been, or are, claiming not only that Democracy must be made safe for the World (i.e., Western Civilization), but also that "Education" is the means whereby this safety may be secured.
And what has been the consequence?
The palpable pretentiousness of the policy of Education, applied to the vast masses of a large nation, inevitably becomes apparent when it is sought to realize it. For apart from the fact that the question "Educate for what?" cannot be satisfactorily answered in this connexion, and has not yet been so answered, if we wish to make its implementation even meagrely practicable, we have to whittle it down to such a minute travesty of what it is supposed to mean, that it cease to bear any resemblance to a policy of preparing people for the rational and enlightened judgment of national politics.
Thus, confronted by the total impossibility of "educating" the whole population, what did the authorities do? What were they compelled to do?
They could undertake only to teach the majority to read, write and perform the simplest arithmetical calculations. So that even if it could be argued that Education is the cure for all democratic ills, this cannot be said to have been effected. And the fact that even the very modest objective of the three Rs is not even attained to-day, and that illiteracy is rampant, shows how even this absurdly shrunken and shrivelled caricature of "Education" has proved unrealizable.
The majority can certainly read and be misled by the fraudulent advertisements that disfigure their favourite dailies; their lack of taste and wisdom is certainly catered for by the flood of low, vulgar and corrupt literature for which their power of reading has supplied the demand. But as for improving their minds by giving them access to the nobler authors of their own and other nations; as for giving them the chance of cultivating their taste, judgment and discernment, by reading the educative literature that exists in such profusion these results of mass "Education", which were so sanguinely foretold by the idealists of the past, everybody knows have failed to come about.
So that it amounts to this: In the mad haste to "educate our masters", we have but rendered them more vulnerable than ever they were before to the thousand and one influences of corruption presiding over their daily lives; and meanwhile, Democracy has still to be made safe for the World.
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The romantics who gave us the blessings of Democracy were never tired of assuring us that, in the wake of their reforms, there would inevitably follow a startling advance in human consciousness, intelligence and virtue. They maintained that the control of national politics by the whole of the adult population would magically release all the spiritual treasures still lying dormant and concealed in the souls of common men and women, and cultivate a sense of responsibility, public spirit and national solidarity in the people, which would make them superior both as human beings and citizens.
As we have seen, Thomas Paine was among these benevolent romantics. But J. S. Mill ran him close. An increase of intelligence in the masses, like that of good sense, provident habits, a spirit of independence and a feeling of responsibility, was regarded by Mill as the inevitable sequel to their being granted ever greater control of their nation's affairs. (PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1865, Book IV, Chap. VII and CONSIDERATIONS ON REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1861, Chaps. III and VIII); whilst, more recently, J. S. Fulton and C. R. Morris have maintained that "every democratic citizen will take his human dignity, not from the routine labour which he contributes to the daily service of the machine, but from his political activities in the broadest sense of the term." (IN DEFENCE OF DEMOCRACY, 1935, Chap. X).
These sound such plausible and sweetly rational doctrines that we may perhaps forgive the careless haste and credulity of the generation that accepted them. Harder to forgive is the shallowness of the educated and experienced men who could sincerely propound them. For, when we look on modern England and study her recent records, it is not easy to discover where all the moral and intellectual improvement expected from Popular Government has occurred. Indeed, the more the matter is examined the less can we commend the prophets who foretold these blessings.
Far from moral improvement having been achieved, crime and depravity in all classes of the commuity have become a commonplace. The statistics forbid any claim that national morality has increased. As to intelligence, as I showed in this journal of May, 1956, not only is no improvement noticeable, but all the authorities with one voice declare stupidity to be increasing in England. The decline in intelligence is set at "one or two points in the I.Q. of the country per generation."
Nor should these conditions have been unexpected; because, apart from the heavy contributions made by the constitutional degeneration of the people, their type-miscegenation, the artificial feeding of infants, family limitation, the decline in Discipline, and the deterioration in the standards of manners and morals, to the general weakening of morality, intelligence and character, the practices introduced by Democracy itself cannot be exonerated from blame.
In my last article, I showed how, by the secret ballot, a "moral mischief" had already been introduced in the way of life of a so-called "self-governing" people, and drawn a dangerous veil of secrecy and concealment over a public duty which, as Mill himself declared, could be kept clean and upright only by being performed in the open. C. Seymour concurs with Mill in this and quotes as one of the main objections to ballot, that "the motives under which men act in secret are as a general rule inferior to those under which they act in public." (ELECTORAL REFORM IN ENGLAND AND WALES, 1915, p. 428).
So that here, from the start, we have a factor which, even if some might dispute its demoralizing effect, cannot be shown to be morally improving.
Unfortunately, it is not alone in hindering the moral amelioration of the People. A much more harmful influence is exercised by the majority principle itself, which is inseparable from democratic practice. This postulates that any mass of men, arm-in-arm together, can by their sheer body-weight, and irrespective of their spiritual endowments or attainments, defeat and nullify any idea, proposal or plan, advanced by a superior authority, no matter how exalted.
Thus there is diffused among the preponderating numbers of the population, such a contempt for thought, wisdom and spirit in general, that a materialistic bias favouring physical Might against spiritual Right inevitably becomes the prevailing attitude. As I put it in my DEFENCE OF ARISTOCRACY, where the political institutions provide the means whereby a mob may outvote a God, we must expect what we now already see about us i.e., a cynical indifference to the appeal of all higher spiritual endowment and a corresponding faith in sheer quantity as a defence against quality, especially in the pursuit of any merely sectional advantage.
When, therefore, Church prelates and the spiritual leaders of the nation inveigh against the increasing materialism of the Age, the evils of which are by no means confined to politics, let the basic majority principle of Democracy not be spared the chief blame. For, at bottom, the lesson it ultimately inculcates upon all is that body-weight alone counts, with the consequence that respect for quality of any kind vanishes, and with it, not only the ability to discern quality where it presents itself, but also the very belief in the possibility of superior quality. It is hardly necessary to stress the demoralizing effect of such an attitude.
Again, in the processes by which Popular Government operates, there is a profoundly immoral influence; for, when once we have admitted with Sir David Lindsay Keir "that only a small portion of the electorate is sufficiently well-informed to judge politics on grounds of pure reason." (THE CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF MODERN BRITAIN, 1950, Chap. VII) and who can fail to admit this? we are committed to the conclusion that, in voting in support of any candidate at a General Election (which in fact, means voting in favour of a certain body of political proposals), the average voter is not merely invited, but also actually encouraged, to perform an important piece of work, a nationally momentous job, unconscientiously and badly.
At every General Election, moreover, he is expected thus to offend his instinct of workmanship without either
Nor is it without interest, as a reflexion on our times, that I have been unable to discover any instance of such a conscientious and workmanlike refusal to vote, later than the end of the seventeenth century.
In a Ministry of Education booklet (CITIZENS GROWING UP, 1949, Part III), the county college is exhorted to "reflect in all its activities . . . a high standard of integrity and a recognition of and respect for quality." But of what use is this evident concern of the Authorities about the loss of the sense of quality in the nation, and what purpose can be served by trying to inculcate a respect for quality upon the People, if in the democratic régime itself there is a persistent and powerful agency promoting both the scorn of good workmanship and with it its concomitant, a contempt for quality? Nothing could be more depraving than this broad hint, issued to every adult male and female at every General Election, that they may give their instinct of workmanship a holiday by voting on matters that far transcend both their understanding and their command of the relevant information.
Besides, there are influences enough in the nation, which cultivate in every man, woman and adolescent the frivolous and immodest habit of passing "snap judgments" on all matters, sacred and profane.
Nothing to-day seems too intricate, too exalted, to be submitted to the meanest and most incompetent judgment; and the democratic polity which encourages the populace to become proficient and versatile in an obtrusive impudence that shrinks before no problem, however profound, will one day certainly have to pay dearly, most probably in blood, for the megalomania which it has made endemic wherever its system is established.
Whom the gods wish to destroy they first send mad; and if to infect a whole population with arrogant pretensions, overweening claims and swollenheadedness, amounts to making them demented, then Democracy may fairly be accused of wishing to destroy Western humanity.
We cannot, therefore, dispute Carleton Kemp Allen's most moderate view, that "It is open to question whether the vote has had that educational effect, and has given that stimulus to civic duty, which Mill hoped for". (DEMOCRACY AND THE INDIVIDUAL, 1943, Section IV); and if we ask, What remains of the claim that participation in the control of their national politics is both edifying and chastening to a nation? all we can reply is, Very little beyond the grandiloquent verbiage in which it is usually couched.
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If quite dispassionately we pass under review the European and other States which, either recently or some time ago, have adopted full-scale representative Democracy, and compare their condition before and after the adoption, we find it difficult to conclude that their change of policy has done aught else than bring about a marked decline in their discipline, orderliness, efficiency, psycho-physical standards, prosperity and power. But, although this is true particularly of the one nation that boasts of having begotten the "Mother of Parliaments," the fact seems to have done little to shatter the general belief that "Democracy is Best".
Indeed, so bigoted is the faith in Representative Democracy of the English brand that, wherever and whenever English statesmen, with unanimous popular support, have been concerned in imposing new constitutional forms on other peoples, after both World War I and World War II for instance, British Parliamentarianism has always been the form chosen. Even when introducing new constitutions among savages and primitive races, the same policy is pursued; so that today Democracy, whether voluntarily or involuntarily set up, has been foisted on long-suffering mankind wherever Anglo-Saxons have had any say.
This pathetic faith in their own political institutions is, in view of Anglo-Saxon experience of Democracy, hard to account for. Herbert Spencer tried to explain it a hundred years ago, but not quite successfully. "Partly from ignorance," he said, "partly from the bias of education, partly from that patriotism which leads the men of each nation to pride themselves on their own institutions, we have an unhesitating belief in the entire superiority of our forms of political organization." (Essay on REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1857).
What he fails to make clear is that it is chiefly the passion for the relative equality that Democracy secures, that causes the masses to overlook its many deleterious influences. As explained in the third article of this series, it was the fact that Democracy abolished all inequalities except those of wealth, whilst at the same time leaving to every Tom, Dick and Harry at least the chance to achieve cash-worthiness, which chiefly endeared democratic institutions to the People.
But to assume that the pervasive envy which in England caused such a passionate devotion to these
Ninety-two years after Spencer made the statement above-quoted, Professor Kluckholn remarked: "To believe that the English-speaking or Western peoples can impose upon all others the parliamentarianism and all the other idiomatic features of Western European patterns, is the misconception and blindness in so much of present-day thinking and planning"; whilst Dr. Salazar of Portugal has observed that "One of the greatest fallacies of the nineteenth century was that English parliamentarianism and English Democracy were adaptable to every European country." (MIRROR FOR MAN, 1949, Chap. X, and DEMOCRACY AND THE INDIVIDUAL, by C. Kemp Allen, 1943, last section).
The fallacy lay in assuming that a political system could be transplanted regardless of any community of temperament and character between the transplanters and the transplantees. Without such a community, the transplantation of a political system, as contingent as Democracy is on Anglo-Saxon character, could lead only to confusion and disorder. As H. N. Spalding, with exceptional insight remarks: "The British Constitution has been more often admired than understood . . . it can be transplanted only if the (British) character can be transplanted too." (CIVILIZATION EAST AND WEST, 1939, Chap. VII, ii, 2).
There had to be, indeed, a simplicity almost infantile in those people in England who could assume, and still do so, that English parliamentarianism is best for everybody; and we have but to look at the political chaos it has created in a country as highly civilized as France, to appreciate how harmful its indiscriminate spread has proved. As we have seen from Agnes Headlam-Morley's admission about the other democracies of Europe (article VI of this series), the imposition of democratic institutions upon peoples unlike the English, was leading in the late twenties of this century to "a tendency to reject democracy in its entirety."
So far, not once does it seem to have occurred to any English statesman, politician or political philosopher, to ask himself modestly whether the tolerance of Democracy in England might perhaps be due, less to superior endowments in the People, than to certain shortcomings. But surely, such a question is not extravagantly far-fetched! It would, for intance, be difficult to maintain that the English are more intelligent, more politically virtuous (in Montesquieu's sense), more public-spirited and less gullible than the natives of, say, Germany, France or Italy. Yet, when either by force majeure, or by emulation, Democracy has been transplanted abroad and foreigners have shown little tolerance of it, or else have failed to make it work, it is always sweepingly assumed that they are in some way sadly lacking or defective.
Why? This is perhaps the most arrogant of all the assumptions arising from the doctrine of Democracy; for might it not well be the other way about? Is it so very churlish to suggest that it might be the other way about?
But the most insolent, not to say affronting, assumption of all, is that which issues from the actual genesis of popular government. Historically, it is now well-established that popular government tends to arise where leadership, ruler wisdom and political genius cease to be displayed by the governing class of a nation. As Froude aptly remarked, "The growth of popular institutions in a country originally governed by an aristocracy implies that the aristocracy is not any more a real aristocracy." (SHORT STUDIES ON SOCIAL SUBJECTS, On Progess). Nietzsche pronounced the same principle when he declared: "The best shall rule: the best will rule! And where the teaching is different, there the best are lacking." (THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA, Old and New Tables, 21). This was certainly true of England.
Holland Rose expressed the same truth another way when he said that "the chief propelling power of democracy in England was misery." (THE RISE OF DEMOCRACY, 1912, p. 19). We may quarrel with the use of the word "chief" in this statement, because, as we have seen, envy also played a major propelling part; but we must acknowledge that, since the misery of the masses in England was due to the gross incompetence, self-indulgence and general lack of ruler qualities in the English aristocracy, who thus forfeited both their leading rôle and the privileges associated with it, Rose's statement is but a variation on Froude's and Nietzsche's theme.
To insist, therefore, on foisting Democracy upon everybody, which has been Anglo-Saxon policy ever since World War I, amounts to assuming that wherever it is proposed to impose it, the governing classes must have forfeited their leadership and ruler position, together with their associated privileges, as they forfeited them in England herself an offensive and often quite gratuitous assumption. Compared with this, the forcing upon his wife and young family by a chronic invalid, of the unguents, tinctures, drugs, liniments, powders, purgatives and clysters, which his disease have made indispensable for him alone, is but benevolent despotism.
Nowhere is this form of oppressive violence more gratuitous and, therefore, more injurious and insulting, than where a well-governed community, presided over by fully competent and enlightened native head-men or chieftains, is cavalierly dismembered by democratic fanatics, and a half-baked, or quarter-baked alien political system imposed as a "progressive" innovation.
Such arbitrary political transformations, effected by on alien agency, can but bewilder and disorganise a hitherto sequacious and contented people; not because their ability to perform their newly improvised public functions is necessarily inferior to that of the average common man and woman in England, but because of the sharp difference in their traditions, instincts and habits; and, above all, because of the fact that there is no reason whatsoever always to assume that, like the English proletariat of the Nineteenth Century, they have utterly lost faith in their ruler class and had the very best possible grounds for so doing.
Agnes Headlam-Morley hits the nail on the head when she says, "To imitate the institutions of another nation is a difficult and often an unprofitable labour" (Op. cit. Chap. II). How much more difficult and unprofitable must it therefore be when the imitation is enforced or proscribed by a superior power or combination of powers!
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Whenever a detailed and well-documented attack is made upon democratic doctrine and practice it is customary for every average Englishman and especially for his sisters, cousins and aunts, to challenge the attacker and to protest triumphantly, or at least apodictically, "Well, and what could you have instead?"
This is supposed to floor the attacker and implies that, in spite of all he has maintained, Democracy is still best.
Yet, the moment we subject this challenge to a narrow scrutiny, it is seen to be little more than a defeatist's self-justification. In the first place, it is prompted by a sense of helplessness and political bankruptcy. It means that, whilst not denying the truth of the attack, both he and she who challenge the attacker can see no way out of the democratic morass. Moreover and here is the element of impudence in their attitude he and she assume that because they are incapable of seeing any escape, nobody else can. Professor R. G. Collingwood's is a more or less good example of this attitude.
But, lamentable as it may be, the vast majority in England to-day, including her intelligentsia and political leaders, are all on the side of the hopeless and destitute challengers who, shrugging their prematurely stooping shoulders, mutter mechanically, "Democracy for ever!"
Secondly, and for the reasons just stated, the challenge is a symptom of the psycho-physical morbidity of our time; for it is tantamount to acquiescing in a state of sickness and decline simply because the sufferer himself does not know any cure for it.
There are, it is true, a few exceptions. Worthy of honourable mention in this respect are Dr. F. C. Happold, Middleton Murry, Lord Lothian, J. H. Denison, Sir Fred Clarke, T. S. Eliot, and three foreign professors: Alfred Weber, Wilhelm Röpke and Karl Mannheim; all of whom, whilst keenly appreciating the danger of "Democracy for ever," acknowledge, albeit timidly and with profuse apologies, that the only dependable therapy for our sick generation is as rapid a creation of a new aristocracy as the conditions in England will allow.
The fact that they suggest as the means of realising this end only what they believe will be popularly acceptable viz., Education may seem to the intelligent and well-informed reader to render their judgment rather suspect. But we must not be too hard on them. After all, they have at least recognized the total lack of any élite in modern England, and do urge, immediate measures for re-creating one. This places them leagues ahead of the democratic stick-in-the-muds. Nor is it impossible that later on they may muster enough courage to take the next necessary
At all events, apart from this absurdly small minority, no one certainly no one with any authority or effective control either of the Press or Broadcasting does anything else than humbly to bleat the familiar and hackneyed slogans which are now de rigueur if one wishes to dodge the verbal missiles "Nazi" or "Fascist." And this explains why nothing whatsoever is done.
In a sense, however, the attacker himself has to agree with those who challenge his arguments. He also has to admit that there is at present nothing to put in the place of Democracy. Indeed, this very fact constitutes the tragedy of the actual state of affairs in the nation. For, search the classes high and low as you may (and in this Age high and low mean only affluent and less affluent), no élite will you find. Hence the cogency of the plea that we must quickly set about rearing a new élite or perish.
The only difference between the non possumus of the challengers and that of the attacker and it is a most important one is that, whereas the former cannot see any alternative, the latter knows there is one although it is not immediately to hand. And there's the rub. Because it is impossible to create a human élite overnight. More especially is this so to-day. For, where are the quality stocks in our present world which would provide us with a nucleus of higher beings from which to start? It is a matter of creating a new élite de toute pièce; and this cannot be done in one generation as Middleton Murry too sanguinely suggests. The minimum demanded for this undertaking by the ancient Hindus was seven generations, and even this estimate now seems much too low in view of the inferior psycho-physical quality of even the best in our existing population.
There is a French proverb which says that men are punished according to the way in which they have sinned (On est puni par ou on a péché); and the gross neglect of the biological aspects of Man, particularly in England, where for centuries the ruling values have diverted men's attention from human biological desirability as if one could with impunity neglect the body and expect the mind or spirit to remain unimpaired this neglect has so much impoverished our stocks and left them so heavily riddled with hereditary taints, disabilities and imperfections of all kinds, that the process of selecting creatures of approximately promising quality, and rearing a new élite from them, would certainly demand very much more than the seven generations prescribed by the ancient Hindus.
"We are trained by our society," says Margaret Mead, "to keep our bodies out of our minds" (MALE AND FEMALE, 1949, Part II, Chap. IV). Yes, but she very significantly does not dare to name the exalted source of the values that have caused our society to train us in this way; nor does she venture to draw the corollary, that by steadily keeping our bodies out of our minds, we are all now steadily going out of our minds. For body and mind, we now know, are inextricably related and interdependent.
"We English," said John Galsworthy in 1919, "have bartered our heritage of health, dignity, and looks, for wealth, and badly distributed wealth at that. (ANOTHER SHEAF, Chap. V). We are now paying for this by being reduced to Democracy as the only possible form of Government. Shall we be able to escape from the consequences of this cruel though just punishment before it is too late?
The nine thinkers honourably mentioned above, think we shall be able to do so if we now pull ourselves together; modestly admit that we possess no élite, and take steps to produce a new one. But before we can listen to them with patience, they will need to change their minds fundamentally about the means whereby this desirable end may be achieved.
Over two thousand years ago, that incomparable wizard, Aristotle, declared, "It is certain that there are some persons whom it is impossible by any education to make good men" (POLITICS, Book V, 1316a). Were he with us to-day, we may feel sure that he would, in addressing the nine well-meaning reformers mentioned above, paraphrase this remark of his and say, "It is certain that there are some people whom it is impossible by any education to make men of quality." So let these good gentlemen think again. They deserve to be given another chance. At least they have refused to countenance a continuation of our leaderless, rudderless world. At least they have had the good sense and courage to tell us that they see no hope in Democracy. But the time is short. It is particularly short for such long-term policies as they propose to apply the rearing of a new élite out of the rubbishy human material of our present world. Nevertheless, as this is our only hope of salvation, it would be reckless to leave it untried. Desperate plights demand desperate remedies.
So by all means let the proper start be made without delay, and in this matter, if we cannot turn to T. S. Eliot, who says pessimistically that we now lack the necessary criteria for our selection of the nucleus of human quality on which to build our new élite (NOTES TOWARDS THE DEFINITION OF CULTURE, 1948, Chap. II), let us at least give ear to Dr. F. C. Happold who, with greater faith in our future, at least attempts to outline a set of criteria which could help us to determine the essentials of a potentially aristocratic stock. (TOWARDS a NEW ARISTOCRACY, 1943). He suggests that the criteria in question should be used in selecting the pupils for the schools of leadership which he proposes to found and from which the New Aristocracy will one day emerge.
But, although his criteria include much with which an ancient Greek even of the type of Theognis would agree, and although, in his enumeration of them, we can but applaud his insistence on "character, sensitiveness to fine impressions and qualities of personality and grit," besides "every form of actual and potential ability and skill, technical, musical, and artistic, as well as literary and scientific;" he has yet to learn that all this and much more of the same kind will not suffice. For there are deeper causes of lack of an English élite than he supposes.
He believes, for instance, that the sickness of our time is due to a "breakdown which is both moral and intellectual." Like the other eight reformers, what he fails to recognize is that the sickness of our time is due not only to this breakdown, but also, and above all, to our loss of stamina, wholesomeness, straight and strong spines, sound heredity and freedom from morbid taints a loss which aflicts us all.
Creditable though his attempt to save us is, that is why he and his fellow-reformers will be compelled ultimately to acknowledge that Education, even when applied to groups selected according to the Happold criteria, will never be a radical solution of our problems. Sooner or later every one who is earnest about this vital matter of creating a new élite, will have to accept the fact, stated with commendable brevity by Disraeli, that "the superiority of the animal man is an essential quality of aristocracy." (SYBIL, 1859.)
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No criticism of Democracy could be complete without some mention of,
(1) Those infirmities of the human mind which play havoc with Popular Government, and;
(2) The abnormal state of a population which can desire Democracy and acquiesce in it.
Regarding (1), it is because a man's self-analysis, or "introspection," is rarely honest and truthful, and because, even when he is most upright and willing frankly to admit his failings, he seldom has the insight to be aware of his deeper shortcomings, that we have wanted social psychologists like Gustave Le Bon and Georges Sorel to reveal those rooted foibles of human character which, in the end, wreck any nation that meddles with Democracy.
Yet, if any man of only average candour and perspicacity would compare himself when alone, with himself in a crowd, or in a moderately large gathering, he could hardly fail to appreciate that, in each of these situations, he is a very different person. As Le Bon stated 60 years ago, the member of a crowd "is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to by guided by his will." (PSYCHOLOGIE DES FOULES, 1895, I. Chap. I).
His readiness to laugh, weep, grow indignant or compassionate, feel irrationally kindly or brutal, reason illogically, and, above all, to let his emotions run riot, is multiplied a hundredfold the moment he is shoulder to shoulder with a large number of his fellows and senses their warmth, gladness, resentment or woe. Usually unaware of the contagion he suffers, he believes he is still his old self. But as Le Bon says, this "Contagion . . . must be classed among those phenomena of a hypnotic order." (Ibid.) When, however, he has occasion to examine the conclusions to which this contagion committed him, he often cannot understand how he ever reached them.
This may not hold of one of a jury of twelve, and perhaps our forebears fixed this number for a man's peers in a tribunal, because they divined that eleven was the utmost of his fellow-men's magnetism the average man could resist. There may, moreover, be some individual men independent and self-possessed enough to mingle with four times that number without losing their self-command and usual wisdom. But, as Le Bon points out, "The individualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strong to resist the suggestion (of the prevailing passions) are too few in number to struggle against the current." (Ibid).
We have therefore to reckon with the average; for this is what determines the practical value of an institution; and since, in a democracy, we are concerned with numbers around the average man usually higher than three or four times eleven, we are bound to conclude that in most of the deliberations on which Popular Government depends from those conducted at Election Meetings to those occupying the 600 odd M.P.'s in the Commons during the life of a Government the mental state and the judgment of those present is inevitably inferior as regard intelligence, objectivity, rationality and civilized impulses, to what they are when the average member of either of these crowds deliberates alone.
In plain English, a man surrounded by large numbers of his fellows, whether at an Election Meeting or in the Commons, is a bigger fool, a greater sentimentalist, a worse reasoner and, generally a less civilized being, than when he is alone with his thoughts.
As Le Bon says, "by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization," and the conclusion drawn is "that the crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual." (Ibid).
When, therefore, a crowd takes to legislating, all the disabilities to which men are prone in such circumstances, necessarily afflict them and impair the value of their decisions. Thus, Le Bon says, "The parliamentary system is the expression of the idea, psychologically false, but generally accepted, that a large gathering of men is much more capable than a small number of coming to a wise and independent decision on a given subject." (Op. cit. III Chap. V).
(A) The many bad laws passed and mistaken decisions reached in the last hundred years;
(B) The frequency with which the policies adopted in Foreign Affairs have jeopardised rather than secured the stability of the Western World; and,
(C) The alacrity with which, in a spirit of sheer expediency and opportunism, imprudent slogans of a sentimental kind, calculated to discredit or embarrass an enemy at a given moment, have been formulated and broadcast, which, in due course have always hurtled back like boomerangs to cripple or destroy those who first propounded them.
Only two examples of (A) can be given. The first is the recent passing of the "No-Hanging Bill", when a full House of Commons rejected, or had never known, the principle of determent as ably stated by the 18-Century judge Sir Thomas Burnet; and against the expert views of leading lawyers, Home Office and Police Officials, abolished Capital Punishment amid the cheers and tears of a majority that had not yet lost a close relative through murder.
The second is the massive support the House of Commons gave throughout the 'Thirties and later, to the dangerously shallow view that people of the English Left could safely flood all Government Departments and positions of trust. Arguing that, because Hitler and Mussolini were bitter anti-Communists and the English Right was the same, Fascism, Nazism and the English Right must be identical, it was assumed that, in the cold war against the Axis Powers, the Administration could more safely employ men and women of the English extreme Left than even moderates of the English Right. Thus, even the Foreign Office recklessly recruited people of known Leftist leanings for positions of trust; and the fact that, after 1945, many grave betrayals occurred, in which these same recruits let England seriously down, was due wholly to this idiotic non sequitur, and was only what might have been expected.
But how could male English adults have been so stupid as to identify the English Right with the Axis Powers merely because both happened to be anti-Communist? (The fact that English women reasoned in this way need not surprise us).
"The mode of reasoning of crowds," he says, "resembles that of the Esquimaux who, knowing from experience that ice, a transparent body, melts in the mouth, concludes that glass, also a transparent body, should also melt in the mouth." (Op. cit. I. Chap. III). Thus, only one common feature between the English Right and the Axis Powers sufficed for their complete identity to be assumed by the moronic minds of the crowds in Parliament (including Ministers of State) and, above all, of the crowds of the general public outside.
I, myself, owing to my life-long connexion with the English Right, was subjected, not only to the gravest suspicion, but also to many indignities at the hands of the Authorities in World War II; and one fool, the Chief Constable of Suffolk (Colonel A. F. Senior), wasted a whole morning of my time, plying me with ridiculous questions, because he had heard from some other fool the profoundly suspicious fact that I had translated Nietzsche into English!
As examples of (B), I cannot quote all Sir Victor Wellesley (Deputy Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1925 to 1936) has maintained about the influence of Democracy on Foreign policies; a few passages must suffice.
"It was the voice of the people," he says, "which jockeyed the British Government into the Abyssinian policy and thus threw Mussolini into the arms of Hitler," and with what disastrous consequences for the whole world may be gathered from Luigi Villari's ITALIAN FOREIGN POLICY UNDER MUSSOLINI (1956). Mr. Baldwin's confession," Sir Victor continues, "in 1936, that he did not promise re-armament as he could not 'think of anything which would have made the loss of the election more certain', is a good illustration of how democracy can jeopardise the highest interests of the state . . . The memorial signed by a large and influential body of M.P.'s supported by the Press and presented to Mr. Lloyd George during the Peace Conference at Paris urging the imposition of an impossible figure for reparations is an excellent example of the mischievous influence of an all-powerful but ignorant public opinion." And, commenting on the result of this, he says: "In 1919 democracy certainly helped to sow the wind; twenty years later it was to reap the whirlwind."
Summing up, he says: "Democracy has now come to mean government by the ignorant many rather than by the expert few" and the fact that it "can no longer function at moments of supreme national crisis unless it becomes authoritarian is a severe reflection on its efficiency under modern conditions and stamps it as a fair-weather system." (DIPLOMACY IN FETTERS, 1944, Part II, Chaps. V and IX).
Thus he paraphrases what Hippolyte Taine long ago maintained against the romantic assumptions of our Paines, Benthams, Mills and Churchills. "Two million ignoramuses," he said, "don't make one man of knowledge." (Deux millions d'ignorances ne font pas un savoir).
Nor is the situation any better in the U.S.A., and anyone wishing to know what Democracy has done for diplomacy there, should read Edgar E. Mowrer's THE NIGHTMARE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY (1949).
As examples of (C) it must suffice to quote the slogans, "THE RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION OF SMALL NATIONS" and "NO COLOUR BAR". The first became in due course such an embarrassing principle for English statesmen (with the skeleton of the Empire in their cupboard) to live up to, that, in September, 1955, poor Mr. Harold MacMillan was given the unwelcome task of eating his predecessors' words by disavowing it and proclaiming, in reply to Turkey's Foreign Minister on the subject of Cyprus, that "We do not accept the principle of self-determination as one of universal application". (TIMES, 8.9.55). Needless to say that, when it was found expedient to propound this principle in order to discredit Germany in World War I, no hint of any limit to its application was ever allowed to be whispered.
The second slogan which was a sort of conjoined twin of a red herring, was calculated to serve a twofold end first, by a sentimental appeal to the public, to condemn the spirit of Hitler's racial laws; and, secondly, by making the appeal sufficiently wide to divert attention from the immediate Allied purpose of opposing these laws (to which the really important and essential objection was their anti-Semitic character), to lead the public to accept an attitude of No Racialism without knowing exactly why.
But although the slogan "No Colour Bar" was easily put across a population as gullible as are the modern English, it saddled both the English and American peoples with a most embarrassing principle. And we have only to watch what is now happening both in the U.S.A. and England, in regard to coloured elements in the population, in order to appreciate how rash and short-sighted the slogan was.
But this is how Democracy has to work. Nor is this surprising; for, as we have seen, every decision in a Democracy is the product of a crowd and, to quote Le Bon once again, "In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated." (Op. cit. I. Chap I).
In my next and last article in this series I shall discuss the abnormal state of a population that can desire and acquiesce in Democracy.
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I propose now to answer a question that must have been forming in the minds of all those readers who have so far followed me with intelligence and understanding. The question is: "What abnormality must first afflict a population before it can desire Democracy in its present dress, and, above all, put up with it?"
I have already ascribed the growth of democratic institutions in England to two factors: On the one hand, Popular Envy, and on the other, the exploitation and oppression of the masses that followed upon the total decay of England's élite.
Leaving aside the second factor because in its twofold aspect it is sufficiently and convincingly revealed and explained by history; let us consider only the first, and ask, how does Envy become the ruling passion of a population? For, if envy has been as potent as I and many more learned than I allege it has been in promoting the rise of modern democracy, it would be at least reasonable to suspect that at the inception, and during the progress, of this rise, some change must have come over the population, which caused envy not only to help initiate the Movement towards Popular Government, but also to increase the tempo of the Movement as the years elapsed.
Roughly speaking, the period covered by the progress in question may be said to be conterminous with the beginnings and increasing development of industrialism in England; for, to speak of Democracy as existing before the end of the 18th Century, is to display a naïveté and gullibleness peculiar only to the kind of historian who supplies the reading material for Girls' High Schools.
If, therefore, we look on 1800 as the starting point of our inquiry, we have to try to discover why envy then suddenly began to play a major part in our domestic politics, and gathered strength as the century advanced. To do this, we must first investigate the mind of the envious person and ask what it is that makes him look with restless covetousness about him, instead of reposing happily amid the conditions of his own destiny. What causes that sleepless vigilance which never ceases from measuring self against non-self? Without further ado we may confidently answer: The perpetual concern with self, a concern akin to the concentrated self-observation of invalids, amounts to an anxiety, an agitated focussing of one's optics on one's own being, with concomitant glances outwards to compare what one has seen with what one perceives outside oneself.
But in a peaceful environment, with no threatening enemy at hand, can this be normal? Does it not indicate a morbid and obsessional pre-occupation with one's state, status, or even stature, relative to one's neighbour's state, status and stature? And if we ask the New Psychology the meaning of this preoccupation, is not the reply, "Inferiority Feelings"? i.e., vague secret impressions of one's own unworthiness, which are not necessarily conditioned by any definite economic relation to one's fellowmen, but which most people always interpret as such.
The fact that improving this relation too often fails to remove this basic sense of inferiority, shows that its is due to a deeper factor, a neurosis in fact, which makes an able interpreter of the New Psychology, such as Philip Mairet, declare that "modern men are haunted by a craving to be reassured of their worth" (ARISTOCRACY, 1931, Chaps. III and IV).
It is this nagging and incessant ache to be reassured of their worth, that makes modern people, not only ready always to meet affronts to their dignity more than half way, and not only difficult to get on with for long periods at a stretch, particularly in marriage, but also persistently anxious to measure themselves in relation to their neighbours and to draw comparisons satisfactory to their self-esteem. It but exacerbates their uneasiness about themselves to perceive any superiority in others. As Professor Louis Schneider has pointed out, modern Western Man, harassed by inferiority feelings, is intolerant of "any signs of excellence in others". (THE FREUDIAN PSYCHOLOGY AND VEBLEN'S SOCIAL THEORY, 1948, 6. III). Why?
Because such signs only increase his sense of unworthiness; and this, at bottom, is the origin of Envy.
"Yes," the reader may retort, "but what causes the vague sense of inferiority that turns everyone today into a perpetual and anxious ready reckoner of his own and his neighbour's worthiness"?
Afred Adler, one of the most penetrating and shrewd of the modern school of psychology, gave the only correct
On the basis of his experience and knowledge as a medical man and of his acquaintance with the findings of Anthropology, he argued that in modern Western Man who, as I have abundantly shown in previous articles, belongs to a civilized order of beings riddled with every kind of physical defect, hereditary taint and abnormality, there is, even in the least sensitive, a sub-conscious awareness of his defectiveness, which causes him constantly to feel uneasy about his personal worth.
In sensitive men, like Walter Pater, Tolstoy and D. H. Lawrence, we happen to possess evidence of this awareness and of its depressing influence on their minds; whilst, on the other hand, in primitives, it has been found that there is an obverse awareness i.e., a sense of physical superiority which, as among the Terra-del-Fuegian tribes for instance, makes them disinclined to wear clothes and to look on all forms of integument merely as a means of covering physical inferiority. (See on this point E. Lucas Bridges' account of the Ona Men in THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH, 1948, Chaps. 38 and 42).
So that it is consistent with what we know about human psychology, to assume that in most, if not all men, an awareness, quite or only partially conscious, of their physical state, is a constant factor in their waking hours; and that consequently we are justified in concluding, as Adler did, that Western white people must be vaguely or clearly aware of their physical unworthiness. We may also safely infer that, from adolescence onwards, this awareness of their organic unworthiness converts them into chronic neurotics incessantly harassed by inferiority feelings (the precise origin of which they need not necessarily know), and that it is these feelings that give rise to their indefatigable and anxious reckoning of their own worth compared with that of their neighbour.
Every apparent superiority of the neighbour, therefore, instantly and insensibly becomes anchored to the already heavy burden of their more or less conscious unworthiness; just as every failure and inferiority of the neighbour tends to lighten that same burden. Envy is thus seen to be the inevitable human infirmity of any civilization in which the optimal requirements of a sound and wholesome population have been consistently neglected, as, of course, they have been with us. The fact that the clamour for the complete realization of Popular Government, with its essential concomitant, Universal Suffrage, should have steadily increased pari-passu with the steady decline of the psycho-physical standards of Western and particularly of Anglo-Saxon populations, demonstrates, as it were by a side wind, the validity of the connexion between Envy and the pervasive sense of organic inferiority.
In his SELECTED ESSAYS (1932, VII, 1), T. S. Eliot, describes mid-nineteenth century England as entering "an age of progressive degradation". But if I understand him correctly, he does not wish to suggest that this degradation was also and chiefly psycho-physical. He implies that it was merely moral and religious. Like many another critic of our Age, he seems to forget that there is no such phenomenon in human nature as unilateral spiritual degradation. His stricture, therefore, confirms what I here claim; to wit, that, from 1800 onwards, both the mind and body of Western mankind deteriorated, to the accompaniment of ever increasing neurotic symptoms, the chief of which was the anxiety caused by organic inferiority.
Stated in other terms, it is impossible to make a man, endowed with forest stamina and sound in mind and body, begin to understand the infirmity of Envy. His buoyant health and high spirits are immune to the depressing agency of another's display of superiority. He is not given to bitterly brooding over his subordinate status, or to leering covetously at a neighbour's contentment.
That is why it is reasonably safe to conclude that Democracy, as we know it, is essentially the political institution of a sick, spineless and seedy generation. Before men could desire it, the world to which they belonged, from its élite down to its meanest operative, had to undergo a marked deviation from the normal; and before they could put up with it, they had not only to forget a more golden Age, but also to learn, as a matter of habit and routine, always to set above health and beauty, other, baser, uglier, meaner and generally less admirable desiderata.
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In this series on Democracy, something must be said about religion in modern England; and, for this purpose, we may well consider the Church of England. For, although the members of this Church do not include all active English Christians and millions worship outside it, it is after all the Established Church of the land.
It claims 2,294,000 members and 12,683 churches, the majority of those buildings being the ornaments of the areas in which they stand and many of them the larger ones in particular being, together with the beauties of the Book of Common Prayer, the most enchanting advocates of the Faith.
The Non-Conformists, on the other hand, claim about 3,000,000 members and only 13,000 churches and chapels, most of which disfigure the landscape, and the ritual and prayers of which, like the architects of the buildings themselves, eschew, usually with deliberation, aesthetic appeal.
The very existence of this army of Dissenters is due to the democratic spirit actuating men and women even in religion and presiding over every aspect of Protestantism. Its keynote is Luther's claim of Freedom of Conscience, and when, in his TREATISE TOUCHING THE LIBERTIES OF A CHRISTIAN (Trans. by J. Bell, 1579), he told every man that "if he chose he could be his own priest", he surrendered religious doctrine to the vagaries of individual judgment, which he declared sufficient and conclusive.
The inference from this assurance, though palpably obvious, is, strange to say, never drawn by the average man (and least of all by the average woman); nor was it drawn by Luther himself. For, as de Quincey was one of the first Englishmen to point out, it implies a defective sense of the paramount importance of religious thought (See his POSTHUMOUS WORKS, 1891, Brevia: 4).
To surrender to a whole populace the right of individual judgment on any matter, is always hazardous, and we need but picture the attitude of one who could deliver up Medicine, Law, Navigation, Military Strategy, or Engineering to the deliberations of the multitude, in order to appreciate how defective must be a man's sense of the profundity of religious problems, before he could abandon them to individual judgment.
In fact, the whole concept of "Freedom of Thought" in Western Civilization, particularly in England, comes perilously near to a sub-conscious admission that thought does not really matter. No wonder Western Civilization is sinking into anarchy, chaos and disease!
The fact that such an attitude led to widespread religious schism, is not therefore strange. But, although the Church of England necessarily suffered in a substantially reduced following by the schisms resulting from granting every Alf, 'Arry and Ass, let alone every Gert, Glad and Goose, this Freedom of Judgment in highly recondite and profound matters, an equally serious menace both to its prestige, authority and leadership, has been the doctrinal inconsistencies prevailing within the ranks of its own clergy.
Nor do I refer here merely to the famous clashes between "High" and "Low" Church, or Ritualists and Evangelists, or Religious Liberals and Fundamentalists; but to the marked disparities in teaching displayed by the different prelates and lower clergy of the Church.
Only yesterday, for instance, had any Anglican layman sought doctrinal guidance from the Bishops of
Nor is the layman's bewilderment the only dangerous consequence of these inconsistencies at high ecclesiastical levels; for, from the Church's point of view, a more serious outcome is the scepticism they may foster, or else the believer's transfer to some other denomination where he knows he will find safe anchorage in doctrines that do not vary from see to see, or even from country to country. And this last danger cannot seem negligible to the leaders of the Church, seeing that in 1954, with only 2,196 churches, Catholics in England and Wales numbered 2,918,000.
But the inconsistency of doctrine prevailing among the prelates and lower clergy of the Church of England, serious though its consequences are, is really less detrimental to the Church's prestige than are the inconsistencies in the minds of individual priests themselves; and when one of these happens to be the Head of the Church, any palpable incompatibility between his various opinions, whether on doctrine or on its application to Life, assumes an importance in the eyes of the world which cannot fail to shake public confidence in the Established Church.
Many instances of this individual inconsistency might be given; many more than the one I propose to give could be cited even of the leading figure of the Church himself. But my limited space compels me to deal with only one example, and it is outstanding.
Early in 1956, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in protesting against the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal to introduce Premium Bonds, whereby investors in State Securities might hope for an occasionally money prize, said, among other things: "A Government's duty is to see that indulgence in the gambling instinct is properly controlled and kept within limits, and not itself to appeal to that instinct." He also said: "What may be overlooked when it is small and unorganized and occasional, may become menacing and dangerous when magnified into a vast and organized and always prevalent appeal to look to luck and to bank on chance." (DAILY MAIL, 1.5.56).
I therefore wrote to his Grace, pointing out that there was a lamentable inconsistency in thus condemning Premium Bonds, seeing that, as far as I was aware, he had done and said nothing to condemn a "vast" and "organized" appeal to the gambling instinct which had for generations been encouraged and indeed largely supported by one element in the Government of the country, to wit, the Crown. And I argued as follows:
The Bishop of Willesden had in 1952 declared that in 1951 £600,000,000 had been spent on gambling in Britain a fact he deplored. But even that figure was an understatement; for ten years ago, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, advocating the nationalization of all gambling, showed that the gross receipts from betting on greyhound racing, alone, was £333,000,000, and from horse racing scarcely less than £380,000,000. With the receipts from gaming machines, pintables and football pools, gamblers in 1946 laid out something between 778 and 793 million pounds; and, as he said, "by the end of 1947 they should have increased their aggregate investments by about £100,000,000", the inference is that Mr. Wyatt's total estimate for 1947 (£893,000,000) is now substantially increased.
On the score of the probable present figure for horse racing alone, his Grace's objections to Premium Bonds, therefore revealed two important inconsistencies; for not only was an element in the Government here an active participator in the indulgence of the gambling instinct, but, by its ceremonial and less formal attendances at race-meetings and its contribution of competitors to the races, it imparted to the whole sport the stamp of exalted official approval. Nor could it be argued that the influence of the Crown in the Government of the country was now so slight as to invalidate its inclusion as an essential part of Government, for no less an authority than the late Lord Balfour had stated that it was indeed essential. (Intro. to Walter Bagehot's THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, 1927 ed.) Besides, with the Church, Royalty plays a most important rôle as a moral example to the nation, and the prominence of the Crown makes its moral influence in any case most powerful; for, as Quintilian aptly observed, "Quid quid principes faciunt proecipere videntur." (DECLAMATIONES, III).
In my letter of May 5th. to the Archbishop, I said I felt sure that he would not dispute all this, and asked him how it was that, in spite of his countless opportunities of meeting H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and the members of her family, he had never hitherto as far as I was aware expressed to them his marked disapproval of the powerful stimulus they gave to the gambling instinct by their active participation in horse racing. I was careful to point out that this did not mean that I personally disapproved of this participation; that, on the contrary, I even went so far as to agree with Mr. Wyatt that the exploitation of the gambling instinct might be nationalized, and I had only referred to the part Royalty played in appealing to it in order to provide a conspicuous example of his inconsistency in tacitly acquiescing in this Royal part whilst condemning Mr. Macmillan's appeal to gamblers with his Premium Bonds. For his Grace could hardly plead that horse-racing was negligible in the sense of his second objection (quoted above), because it was neither "vast" nor "organized". Besides, if we are to choose between betting on horses and investment in Premium Bonds as methods of gambling, the former is by far the more iniquitous; because whereas on the turf the punter's stake is forfeited if he fails to back a winner, the investor in Premium Bonds, whether a prize-winner or not, loses at most only the interest on his stake.
I received (11.5.56) no more than a formal reply to my letter and it was signed by the Archbishop's Chaplain. I therefore wrote again and asked if his Grace had any intention of adding anything to this formal acknowledgment as I wished to publish the correspondence and should be glad of his permission to do so. I then received a second letter, dated June 1st, in which there was no attempt to answer or meet the charge I had made, but merely the intimation that his Grace could not grant me permission to publish his contributions to the correspondence.
I have described this matter at length, not only because of the importance my reasoning has in justifying Mr. Macmillan's issue of the famous Premium Savings Bonds, but also and chiefly because of the vivid light it sheds on an infirmity that seems to be endemic among the Anglican clergy, even the most exalted, and serves as an impressive illustration of this infirmity. For, in my opinion, it is this frequent inconsistency in the members of the Anglican Ministry that is one of the principal causes of their loosening hold on at least the more alert and more thoughtful in the population.
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There is perhaps nothing more pathetic and abject than the spectacle of braggarts who, having long and loudly boasted of their democratic self-sufficiency and their scorn of superior counsels, are at last reduced to calling desperately for help. It is then that the guttersnipes who have been looking on are tempted to laugh, and laugh they certainly would were they not too well aware that they themselves are bound to be involved in the cataclysm threatening to overwhelm the objects of their derision.
For over a hundred and fifty years now, the western world, lured by the siren songs of democratic theorists, has been led into courses which, it was affirmed, were certain to inaugurate an age of bliss. Whilst nothing fundamental was done to remove the suspicion that this promise rested on a dream, every possible measure was adopted to jeopardise its fulfilment.
Forgetting, or rather deriding, the principle formulated by J. H. Denison to the effect that "the success of a democracy depends upon its ability to produce a ruling class with the loyalty and sense of honour that characterized the Samurai" (EMOTION AS THE BASIS OF CIVILIZATION, 1928), and disbelieving in the view summed up by a confirmed democrat like Sir Fred Clarke, when in 1948 he astonished his partisans by declaring that "the bulk of the higher achievements of mankind have come from an upper class, from the presence in society of a minority that could concern itself with the higher refinements of living" (FREEDOM IN THE EDUCATIVE SOCIETY), all the democratic publicists and politicians of the 19th Century and a little later, staked their reputation and authority on the assurance that faith in the multitude and in its ability to establish its own reign of honour, harmony, health and happiness on earth, was the only sound political position.
Everything else reeked of unfair privilege, superstition, and the exploded bigotries about blood and breeding.
Thus for generations nothing was done to guarantee the existence of a minority in the van of the nation's millions, with abilities commensurate with the heavy responsibilities of leadership, and with the essential quality of commanding the confidence of their followers. Not a thought was given to the need of cultivating leaders, of rearing a competent élite, or producing and preserving sound human stocks from which gifted individuals could
be drafted into the nation's directing spearhead.
Had the democrats of recent decades known our modern jargon, especially its terms of abuse, they would have derided such objectives, as the more benighted Leftists still do, as "Fascist" or "Nazi." To have told the people of England even as late as 1930 that unless we very soon secured a competent leader class, we should be faced with disaster, would have provoked merely a sneer.
Yet, only 20 years later, a fanatical democrat like Lord Beveridge could be heard asking his countrymen, "where will leadership come from in an economically flattened society? That is the most interesting problem facing us to-day . . . Just from where, in our classless collective of men and women, the leadership will come to make us a society with a sense of unity in service to one another and to the world, I do not know." (BROADCAST ON THE NIGHT OF Dec. 30th, 1951).
No, of course he does not know; and in any case it is a little late to ask; for an élite, unlike 650 members of Parliament, cannot be produced in 24 hours. Besides, why does he speak of "an economically flattened society" when the chief trouble is that ours is a society intellectually and characterologically flattened, a society in which outstanding ability, like outstanding stamina and health, have given place to pervasive and truculent mediocrity?
Moreover, as the chaos and anarchy of our democratic world increase and the crowd's sense of dereliction becomes more acute, the cries for help grow ever more strident. Last November, for instance, Dr. Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, in a farewell address given at Brighton, urged "that seven or ten wise, honest men of different parties should be allowed a clear hand to lead Britain." (TIMES, 18.11.57).
A week later, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at an industrial service at Croydon, said, "My dream is that not three but seven or more wise men able to create confidence in everybody, should be appointed jointly by the chief parties to our predicament," to be consulted on economic problems connected with the "battle against inflation." (TIMES, 25.11.57).
Such outbursts were to be expected. They might have been confidently foretold at any moment during the last hundred and fifty years, and they vividly disclose our plight. Dr. Bell feels the urgent necessity of allowing a "clear hand" to a few wise honest men "to lead Britain." Dr. Fisher, conscious of the same urgent need, adds the essential condition that such saviours of our society, should be able "to create confidence in everybody."
But, whilst heartily sympathising with the anxiety of these two prelates about the state of their nation, it is difficult not to wonder at the naïveté that could have prompted them to see any purpose in thus expressing themselves. For apart from the prohibitive difficulty of discovering in modern England, after generations of the total neglect of breeding, and the absence of any concern about human quality, even seven wise and honest men, whose wisdom and honesty would be commensurate with the magnitude of the problems facing them, how are such men to be found who can also command or "create confidence in everybody"?
That there should certainly be such a body of men in an old civilization like that of England, is undeniable. Also undeniable is the fact that such a body should be able to create confidence in everybody. But you cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot squander human quality and allow it to vanish uncared for, and also possess it. As for "creating confidence in everybody", where is the order of men to-day who have stood sufficiently firmly aloof from popular passions, remained sufficiently indifferent to popular approval, and displayed enough disinterested wisdom, to command respect and confidence in the nation as a whole?
The unpardonable fault about the men from whom such a body might, at a pinch, have been recruited, even in our degenerate days, is that they never have stood aloof and never have sufficiently scorned the suffrages of their contemporaries in order to set truth and reality above public acclaim. On the contrary, the alleged "sages" and "thinkers" of the western world, by having condescended to "sell" their thought, committed themselves to the duty of pandering to public prejudice and taste, and appealing to public passions; else how could they have become best-sellers? Except for Tolstoy, when do we hear of one of them feeling any shame about selling his thought?
But, in this way, they lost aye, they irretrievably forfeited, their claim to that detachment, disinterestedness and aloofness which alone commands and creates confidence in everybody. They stepped down into the arena, became articulate figureheads of conflicting parties; expressed only those views that reinforced the particular corpus of doctrine and opinion that their partisans held. Hence the vogue of our Shaw's, Wells's, Kiplings, Barries, Bennetts et hoc genus omne. It is true that only Yellow Press journalists ever spoke of Shaw as a sage; but that alone shows the inextricable muddle we are in.
As Julien Benda observed over thirty years ago, "L'humanité moderne entend avoir dans ceux qui se disent ses docteurs, non des guides, mais des serviteurs. C'est ce que la plupart d'entre eux ont admirablement compris." (LA TRAHISON DES CLERCS, 1927, Chap. III. "Modern mankind looks on those who propound its doctrines and beliefs, not as its guides, but as its servants; and the majority of such 'guides' have understood this admirably.")
Humanity, however, no matter how besotted it may have become, is still sensitive enough to distinguish mere panderers to its tastes and prejudices, from the kind of men who, throughout the ages, have led their fellows forward by directing them insistently towards quality, justice and truth; by forbidding the sacrifice of the greater to the less (a crime repeatedly perpetrated and applauded to-day), and by never flinching from suffering unpopularity in the defence of a just Cause.
And, since this latter class no longer exists, it is idle to hope for the wise men to whom our prelates would gladly offer Dictatorship (for, candidly, that is what their outbursts mean). Only their poor understudies are to hand, and these, as Drs. Bell and Fisher well know, cannot "create confidence in everybody."
Benda goes so far as to say that the touchstone by which we can determine whether mankind's professed guides really are such, and not mere flatterers of popular taste, is the immediate cold shoulder they are now shown. "On peutdire à l'avance," he adds, "que le clerc loué par des séculiers est traitre à sa fonction. (Ibid. Chap. III. "One can tell a priori that the thinker or "sage" who is publicly acclaimed betrays his function.")
Only the democrat's vulgar belief in the mystic power of numbers; only his assumption that truth must be where he sees the greatest show of hands, could have reduced us to the condition Benda so eloquently describes.
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In conclusion, the arguments showing the advantages an Aristocracy enjoys over a Democracy will now be briefly stated. They are platitudinously obvious, but are stealthily concealed from the Common Man by all the Powers controlling publicity. If, however, they are so obvious, the ordinary man could surely see them for himself! This objection overlooks the fact that the Common Man of our Age, like his counterpart in the past, would not be what he is were he not always ready to take the status quo with all its associated opinions and standards, or lack of standards, for granted, without a moment's independent reflexion. Were this not so, what would be the purpose of advertisements and propaganda?
To-day, therefore, when every loud-speaker, whether mechanical or human, and every printed page, acclaims Democracy as the most perfect form of Government contrived by Man, and when every schoolboy learns that the blessings of Aristocracy are an exploded myth, as bogus as the magic of witches and goblins, the Common Man may be forgiven if he now needs some coaching before he can see through the elaborate hoax that has been played upon him. Hence this summary, which a few may perhaps think superfluous:
(1) As, in order to be nationally beneficial, rulership must be wise, prescient and public-spirited, and as in even the most virtuous and gifted population, the wise, the prescient and the public-spirited are necessarily fewer than those not so endowed, it is clearly more practicable and easy as Montesquieu pointed out 200 years ago, to recruit a small body fit to rule to the advantage of the nation, than to hope to effect this end by mobilizing the whole population.
But the fundamental error of democratic theory is to assume the converse namely, that it is easier and more practicable to find a whole population possessed of these qualities. Hence the tragic regularity with which democratic nations always founder. The error is really statistical and concerns a romantic view of the incidence of lofty gifts in a population.
(2) All advances, great or small, in Civilization, have been due, not to crowds, but to individuals or small minorities. This is not a mere opinion, nor is it the wishful thought of a special pleader, but a historical fact. Only simple people, ignorant of world history, would contest it; and when we find an ardent democrat like Sir Fred Clarke constrained, albeit reluctantly, to acknowledge its truth, we may safely infer that history does not lie. "The bulk of the higher cultural advancements of mankind," says Sir Fred, "have come from an upper class, from the presence in society of a minority so placed that either through its own free energies or through its discerning patronage of genius it could concern itself with the higher refinements of living." (FREEDOM IN THE EDUCATIVE SOCIETY, 1948).
In short, humanity has never owed anything to a crowd except, of course, noise, litter and carbon-dioxide; and since democratic theory rests its whole case on faith in crowds, it is a self-confessed dangerous delusion.
Useless to object that many aristocracies of the past and present above all, the English have failed to display any qualities (except opulence) that have made them superior to Common Men, or, if superior, that have enabled them to retain their ascendancy.
Such historical facts, deplorable as they may be, argue nothing against Aristocracy. They merely indicate, either the congenital lack of aristocratic quality in the nations concerned, or else, given this quality in a few at a limited moment of time, their inability so to order their lives, and especially their matings, as to preserve it for their family lines.
(3) Aware as people should be of the complexity of a modern State's affairs, of the mass of miscellaneous data, contemporary and historical, that must be marshalled and mastered before any national problem can be understood, let alone wisely solved; and of the
When, in any crowd or gathering, one contemplates the men and women, young and old, absorbed in the only literature most of them ever see whether their favourite "Daily," or their trashy novel or novelette the assumption in question demands an amount of credulity, beside which a child's belief in Santa Claus and the Stork's contributions to its family, is the acme of enlightened understanding.
(4) For its healthy survival, a nation depends not only upon wise direction in its practical affairs, but also on sane and wholesome leadership in its way of life, in its exercise of taste in all those situations in which an important choice has to be made, and in those forms of behaviour and conduct which secure harmony, happiness and good order in the traffic of its citizens. It cannot dispense with sound and inspiring examples of discrimination in the various fields of culture, in the use of its leisure, wealth and power, and even in its dietetic habits and the hygiene of its daily routines.
Hence the gross, the palpable absurdity and vulgarity of a cry like that of the late Horatio Bottomley (with whom in this matter millions of his educated contemporaries agreed) for the need of "Government by Business Men." For, in regard to the blessings enumerated above, which may be called the "Tonal" elements in Government i.e., those functions of every governing body which establish the general "Tone" of the nation and the standards by which it regulates its life these cannot be conferred on a population by any order of beings except the innately tasteful, or those in whom Nature has at long last, after generations of slow refinement and cultivation, acting on good initial endowment, implanted the gift of instinctive good taste.
Here again, history demonstrates the validity of my contention; for whenever and wherever such an order of beings has either failed to supervene, or, having supervened, has ultimately degenerated, social anarchy, disorder, the absence or decline of sound institutions, of bodily health and beauty, and of morality and manners, has always resulted.
No crowd, least of all one composed of "business men," can restore sound social institutions and habits, and good taste in living, when once these have broken down. No crowd whatsoever, no matter how strenuously and stridently it may vote, can resuscitate the good Tone of a nation when once it is dead hence the final utter chaos and devolution of all democratic states, and the cruel penalty a people pays when it applies to politics the belief, essential to Democracy, in the fundamental goodness, wisdom and public spirit of a whole population.
But such is the tenacity of error and superstition, and so excruciating has the suffering of mankind to become before it abandons in succession each false creed, to which periodically it bends the knee, that we must, I fear, expect a reign of anguish and misery far greater and more widespread than that ever inaugurated by World Wars, religious persecution, pestilence or famine, before latter-day Democracy is finally revealed to all as the colossal swindle and racket it actually is.
For, as we have seen, the prospect of enjoying economic equality, which, together with ruler incompetence, first kindled mass enthusiasm for Democracy, proved in the end to be an unrealizable ideal for so many that the democratic institutions ultimately secured tended insensibly to drift in the direction of Communism, in which economic equality and the consequent appeasement of gnawing envy are more widely experienced.
But and this is where public disillusionment reaches its unexpected zenith neither the partial economic equality allowed under Democracy, nor the more general economic levelling promised and largely secured by Communistic policies, incorporates any agency whereby wise government in its twofold aspect is realized.
To the genuine astonishment of the mobs which, in successive generations, ever since the dawn of the Nineteenth Century, have been interpreting the whole of their unhappiness as the consequence merely of economic inequality, and have therefore been jockeying the nation ever further and further towards Communism, it was found that, despite all the appeasement of envy and the universal improvement in living conditions, national well-being still remained a distant vista, and the two essential conditions on which it depended Good Government in the nation's material affairs and, above all, Good Government in the form of tasteful leadership and example for the nation's Tone continue to be wanting.
And, since the misery caused by these two wants inevitably increases pari passu with the enduring absence of rulers capable of regenerating the national life, the democratic and finally the Communistic pursuit of happiness through economic levelling gradually proved to be a dismal failure.
The contentment and serenity which Liberal and Socialistic dreamers, from Paine to Bernard Shaw, fancied as the necessary sequel to their forms, is seen to be as far out of the national reach as ever.
Now, it is impossible to conjecture how long our miseries will have to last before the majority ultimately discovers that, without aristocratic rulership, civilized life inevitably becomes a nightmare.
It is not improbable that, owing to the lack of this rulership for generations, modern mankind may sink to such depths of mental and bodily deterioration as to be incapable of any intelligent discovery whatsoever, let alone one as enlightened as this.
Be this as it may, unless some such discovery is made quickly, there can be no hope for the World; because no domination by clowns, cads and togged-up "constitutional" figure-heads which is all that Democracy and Communism can promise could ever restore erring humanity to the right road, the highway that will lead it to a wholesome, decent and serene national life.