Typos p. 13 (Part III): Annointed [= Anointed]; p. 13 (Part III): annointed [= anointed]; p. 14 (Part V): 375 tot 415 [= 375 to 415]; p. 14 (Part VI): without having, in fair times or bad, having [= without having, in fair times or bad,]; p. 15 (Part VI): 1891 [= his Posthumous Works of 1891; de Quincey had died in 1859]; p. 13 (Part VII): poltical [= political]; p. 14 (Part VIII): Democarcy [= Democracy]; p. 15 (Part VIII): Raylor [= Taylor]; p. 18 (Part IX): PÄDOGOGIK [= PÄDAGOGIK]; p. 18 (Part IX): Mardie [= Hardie]; p. 18 (Part IX): bicarmeralism [= bicameralism]; p. 19 (Part IX): peadolatry [= paedolatry]; p. 13 (Part X): fundamental defect [= fundamental defects]; p. 12 (Part XI): Mills' [= Mill's]; p. 12 (Part XI): estabished [= established]; p. 12 (Part XII): à priori [= a priori]; p. 13 (Part XIII): Ugandians [= Ugandans]; p. 12 (Part XIV): und [= and]; p. 13 (Part XV): Main's [= Maine's]; p. 14 (Part XV): virtousity [= virtuosity]; p. 13 (Part XVI): Humbolt [= Humboldt]; p. 14 (Part XVII): fundmentally [= fundamentally]; p. 15 (Part XVII): PÄDOGOGIK [= PÄDAGOGIK]; p. 15 (Part XVIII): pasengers [= passengers]; p. 12 (Part XIX): sheeps' [= sheep's]; p. 13 (Part XIX): ne'erdewells [= ne'er-do-wells]; p. 14 (Part XX): geniune [= genuine]; p. 14 (Part XX): beneficient [= beneficent]
The essentials of good government
Anthony M. Ludovici
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Ask, What is Government? and you will receive many extraordinary replies. Nor will the most inane of these necessarily come from the uneducated. For in politics it is often the supposedly well-informed who are most prone to cherish sophisticated notions and romantic ideals concerning the way the world should be run.
And the reason for this is probably that, owing to their sheltered lives and unbroken experience of safety and security, the supposedly well-informed, nursed in the belief that their wholly artificial enjoyment of comfort and ease, with its promise of permanent well-being, is of the order of a Natural Phenomenon, as indestructible as the rocks, insensibly become idealists and Utopians. Their lifelong familiarity with the advantages of Law and Order and all the amenities of material comfort, tends to make them despise these civilized blessings, to forget their source, and to inspire them with a desire to experiment with untried reforms and half-baked social systems.
They forget the foundations on which their security and well-being rest even the light-houses along their coasts, the very lamp-posts in their streets, the Police, and all the various State functionaries who preside over the punctual discharge of commercial and other obligations, the fulfilment of contracts and the redress of grievances.
This probably explains the frequency with which the advocates of Anarchism and newfangled policies like Socialism, Communism and other forms of State ownership of the means of production, together with all the grave errors in Psychology which these systems involve, emanate from middle-class minds; that is to say, the minds of men who have never experienced want and have in their family lines long enjoyed the safety of a well-regulated existence.
From the ancient Greek, Zeno (B.C. 342267), who set his community, destitute of any government, against Plato's ordered State, down to our William Godwin, the Frenchman, Proudhon, the German, Max Stirner, and men like Thoreau and Tolstoy, all these professed Anarchists have come from middle-class families, traditionally contented with their lot and belonging to a type which might be fancifully described as "Surfeited with Smugness".
"A society," wrote Godwin in 1793, "can perfectly well exist without government" (ENQUIRY CONCERNING POLITICAL JUSTICE). "That government is best," said Thoreau, "which governs not at all" (CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, 1849). "Government of man by man in every form," said Proudhon, "is oppression. The highest perfection of society is found in the union of order and anarchy" (SYSTÈME DES CONTRADICTIONS ÉCONOMIQUES OU PHILOSOPHIE DE LA MISÈRE, 1846).
Proudhon meant by this that the moral perfection of men must eventually make all government unnecessary, and he believed in Anarchy only on the assumption that this ultimate perfection of mankind
Yet, unbelievable as it may seem, none other than our own level-headed, unemotional and scientifically-minded philosopher, Herbert Spencer, must be added to this list of more or less middle-class thinkers who believed in Anarchy as the ideal to which we must aspire. Arguing that Government was only a temporary expedient, a sort of pis aller, adopted in the course of human progress, and that the ultimate complete moralization of humanity, which Evolution promised to fulfil, would make conformity to social restrictions and conventions spontaneous and instinctive in all men, Spencer claimed that Anarchy was the natural destiny of human societies, and that the evanescence of Government as we understood it, was a certainty. This was the gist of his reasoning in SOCIAL STATICS (1851), and he supported it with so many illuminating examples of the abuses and injustices resulting from faulty Government (of which I also hope to give a few examples in the sequel) that he appeared to have a good case.
Even Emerson another middle-class mind in his Second Series of Essays (POLITICS), came very near to supporting this same ideal. He believed that "the less government we have the better", and argued, somewhat vaguely it is true, that ultimately civilization by moulding "private character" would render Government more or less superfluous.
There was, of course, enough bad judgment and mistaken direction in all modern Government to lend considerable support to these frank or covert advocates of Anarchy. But, whether they favoured it as an immediate or a remote reform, they were mistaken about the fundamental problem of their subject, and might equally well have been arguing about the politics of fairyland. For the fundamental question relating to Government is not whether we should have it or not; and for the simple reason that in every community of men, however small and highly evolved, there will always have to be some regulation of conduct, some provision for general defence, some organized vigilance aiming at forestalling untoward surprises, whether of a natural or artificial order, some means of redressing just grievances, composing internal differences, and preparing for corporate action in the event of an emergency.
The most fundamental problem connected with Government is therefore, not whether we should have it or not, but What should be the Authority behind it?
That is the crucial question, compared with which the debate about its necessity or superfluity is so otiose and unrealistic as to disqualify those who can engage in it for any participation in a political discussion. Proudhon's and Spencer's view that the ultimate perfection of humanity would render Government superfluous, is untenable, not merely because it implies a mistaken understanding of the process of Evolution itself, but also because it overlooks those forms of regulation and law which would still be required even in a community transformed into saints and angels. And it is one of the singular features of this controversy concerning Government, that the very man who coined the phrase "The Survival of the Fittest" and was most careful to explain its limitations and to deny that any melioristic results were to be expected from it, could, when his mind was diverted from Biology to Sociology, prove such a heretic vis-à-vis of his own published doctrines.
Nor does World history belie the view that the alternative, Government or Anarchy?, has no realistic validity. For the notorious cause of all the insurrections, rebellions and revolutions that have shaken or shattered governments in the past, has never been a popular desire to abolish Government, but always a popular attempt to alter the Authority behind it; the point at issue being, not whether Law, Order, Rules and Regulations were needed or not, but whether the existing Authority behind them was exercised with justice, wisdom and prudence.
Leaving aside as of no account those numskulls who from time to time have agitated and even committed assassinations with the object of instituting Anarchy, we may therefore safely conclude that the fundamental problem of all national Government is how best to give it Authority. And we cannot begin to understand the gravity of the problem of Government before we have examined and solved this problem.
The fact that it has been solved in many different ways does not make it easier to settle, and unless we are guided as much by a sound psychology as by a careful reading of history, political sagacity alone cannot help us.
Governmental Authority implies, not only Right, Power, Prestige and Competence, but also Wisdom, Responsibility and above all the ability to keep the governed nation if not pre-eminent and feared, at least highly considered, so that the body of its people may feel that gratification of their pride which is essential to national self-respect.
The reader may exclaim, "How complicated!" Yes, but omit only one of these factors and your Authority will be defective. Its armour will have a chink exposing it to the most lethal of all political weapons Contempt.
Although in a leader wisdom and competence are essential, if not of paramount importance, mankind's obedience, allegiance and loyalty are not gladly given in response to these qualities alone; because and this is what political socialists such as the Webbs, for instance, too often forgot there is in every nation a large majority incapable of assessing competence and wisdom outside their own spheres of activity and industry, and whom consequently the feats of the greatest political sage leave entirely unmoved and cold. If a ruler or ruling body holding Authority have not, besides wisdom and competence, qualities the illiterate, the ignorant and the ingenuous are able to measure and value, he might just as well be a statue of bronze or marble. Hence the error of thinkers like Plato and Bernard Shaw, who imagined a Utopia in which sages or philosophers would constitute the authority in the Government.
In contemplating the person or persons symbolising Authority in the land, the Common People must feel not merely confidence and safety, their hearts must also be warmed by an emotion amounting to self-glory. And they can feel this emotion only if the embodiment of Authority in their land is associated in their minds with tangible national achieve-
This fact was never more impressively brought home to me than when, many years ago, I happened to be speaking to one of the richest watch-manufacturers in Switzerland. After declaring himself unable to shake off a feeling of deep depression and frustration which, despite all his wealth, his beautiful home in Soleure, his intelligent and fascinating wife and good-looking young family, had long been hanging like a cloud over his life, I asked him to explain the reason of what seemed to me his unaccountable discontent.
"Ah," he replied, "you do not know what it is to belong to a small and relatively insignificant country like Switzerland, whose very existence hangs on the good will ("complaisance" was the word he used) and in reality the mutual jealousies of the Great Powers surrounding her!"
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My previous article ended with the suggestion that nations are more likely to honour and therefore to obey a Government that enables them to feel unbounded self-respect than one that gives them boundless riches.
History eloquently illustrates this rule. We have but to think of Frederick the Great and Napoleon, under whose rule the common people, despite the severe hardships caused by their rulers' wars, were probably happier than at any time in their history, in order to be at once convinced that Man never can and never will live by bread alone.
For that important, if not major, factor in the appurtenance of Authority Prestige was never more perfectly possessed by any ruler than by them. Indeed, such was the 24-carat Prestige they acquired by the glory of their reigns alone that throughout their lives they were able to dispense with all the factitious trappings of rulership, all the ostentatious props of Prestige, so necessary to those national leaders who are mediocrities, not to say nonentities. Because the illiterate and ignorant depend more than the less vulgar elements in a population, on external and visible signs of Authority. If and when the more genuine and natural grounds for it are lacking, they may be fobbed off with the Prestige suggested by rich regalia and the sparkling and costly equipment essential to the average and below average sovereigns of modern States.
To such an extent has Authority with the Prestige that accompanies it become a matter of artificial props that the abundance and splendour of the latter are generally found in inverse ratio to their wearer's actual achievements and merits.
Now we know that Frederick the Great not only never needed any of the artificial trappings of prestige, but also that he actually scorned to avail himself of them. Among the whole of his entourage, he was usually the most miserably clad. Throughout his life his wardrobe consisted of but one ceremonial dress, two or three old coats, fit for Rag Fair, a few yellow and shabby waistcoats stained with snuff, enormous Jack boots turned brown with wear, and an old battered hat. For sceptre, as Carlyle tells us, he had like Agamemnon but "a walking stick cut from the woods".
Yet, no ruler ever possessed so much prestige, exerted so much authority and gave those he governed such substantial grounds for self-respect.
Similarly, Napoleon, standing among his gorgeously attired marshals, might have been taken for the meanest commander present. Clad in the unassuming green coat, white waistcoat and breeches constituting the uniform of his favourite regiment the Chasseurs de la Garde no factitious props to prestige were visible in his apparel. And plain as his clothes were, every uniform he possessed he expected to last him at least three years (NAPOLEON IN TIME, by Arthur Lévy, 1912, Livre VI, v.)
His enormous genuine prestige could dispense with all artificial aids to Authority; and this was so only because few rulers have ever by the brilliance of their achievements given their nation sounder reasons for self-respect than he did. When, therefore, the end came, and he set off on that last sad flight across France to the port of Rochefort, it was the common people and the men of his old Army who at every stage in his journey flocked to the roadside to hail him and do him honour. It was in fact Macaulay's opinion that "Perhaps no rulers have in our time had a stronger hold on the affection of subjects than the Emperor Francis and his son-in-law the Emperor Napoleon." (Essay on THE EARL OF CHATHAM, 1844).
So essential indeed is this factor of Prestige in the abstract power constituting Authority, and so certainly does it depend on the amount of self-respect a Government can give to those it governs, that it is my firm belief that if only Charles I, instead of meeting with ignominious failure in all his military undertakings, had been eminently successful in his well-meant expeditions against Cadiz in 1625 and against Ré in 1627; had he succeeded in his first and second Bishops' War against the Scots in 1639 and 1640, and been able to recover the Palatinate for his brother-in-law, he would never have suffered as he did. But, unlike his brilliant father-in-law, who made his nation respected throughout Europe and thus endeared himself to his people, Charles was never able to enhance his subjects' self-esteem, and the consequence was they forgave him nothing.
During the second, third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century, three men Pitt the Younger, Nelson and Wellington all gave the common people of England substantial reasons for being proud of their nationality and for being satisfied with their lot, wretched though this often was for many of them particularly among the working population. But, in the glory which they shed on their generation, all the foibles and mistakes of this famous trio were overlooked.
Pitt, who was regarded by his contemporaries as the only statesman who could cope with Bonaparte was forgiven for his excessive drinking, the drivelling incompetence of his military administration and his misunderstanding of the state of France after the Revolution; and all because of his invincible determination to resist French aggression and his inspiring leadership throughout his nation's early struggles against Napoleon. Similarly, the cloud over Nelson's private life, and even the sinister influence exercised over him by his mistress Lady Hamilton, which, on a memorable occasion caused him to commit an injustice foreign to his noble nature such aspects of his career which to-day would doubtless have gone a long way towards wrecking a High Admiral's reputation, were, owing to the triumphs he had procured for his contemporaries, quite unable to dim his renown or diminish their admiration, gratitude and affection.
As for Wellington, although when he entered politics he failed to distinguish himself as Prime Minister and, during the agitation for Parliamentary Reform made himself so unpopular by the "reactionary" spirit he repeatedly displayed that once, on the very anniversary of Waterloo, he was actually hooted by the mob and found it necessary
Like Pitt and Nelson, he had been the means of enhancing the people's self-esteem and, despite the many causes of misery which then afflicted large sections of the labouring classes, even the poorest in the population were moved by feelings of pride and gratitude for the triumphs he had brought them.
Thus, when I speak of "one of the most essential factors in the abstract power constituting Authority in Government" and indeed the one surpassing all others in importance and often rendering the others unnecessary, as being the cultivation and preservation of a nation's self-respect, I wish to call attention to a feature of national politics too often overlooked.
For, as I hope I have sufficiently shown, I do not mean by this feature the sort of public expressions of self-praise with which modern politicians and notabilities try to delight the less thoughtful majority in the nation. I do not mean such bombastic utterances as "The English race is the finest in the world and has been bred on footer and cricket" (Gordon in A. Waugh's LOOM OF YOUTH, Bk. II, Chap. VI), or "The English woman is the finest in the world in character and beauty" (The Dowager Marchioness of Reading at Oldham Town Hall, Nov. 1955), or "The English are the finest people in the world" (Herbert Morrison in Labour Party's Election Broadcast, 29/6/1945), or "We are the most civilized people in the world" (Hesketh Pearson: THE ENGLISH GENIUS, p. 111), or "We are a great people" (stated twice by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in his speech at the Royal Academy Dinner, 1/5/63).
For apart from the fact that to people of good taste such tributes to a nation appear more seemly when they are not pronounced by natives of the country eulogized, who cannot escape the suspicion of offering themselves unsolicited bouquets, they hardly convince although they may temporarily elate the more vulgar in an audience.
When I speak of a Government fostering self-respect in a nation, and by this means increasing its prestige and exalting its Authority, I refer to mention only two examples to such governmental conduct as that of the younger Pitt and Lord Palmerston (the 3rd Viscount). The latter, for instance, although resolutely anti-democratic and no orator, became the most powerful statesman of his Age. Even against the formidable attacks of opponents like Gladstone and Disraeli he enjoyed the advantage of the country's support. And if we ask the reason of this, we discover as we might well have guessed that by inexhaustibly working for the dignity and security of the British Empire, he earned the gratitude of a nation whose self-respect he had enhanced and who thus never questioned his Authority.
Nor do I believe that it is in the least fantastic to assume that if the French people today, despite all their private feelings of dislike of General de Gaulle's autocratic disposition and his Algerian policy, are conscious of being borne up and sustained in their daily tasks by precisely that self-respect which is among the most precious possessions of a proud nation, it is because by his government he has contrived to enhance the prestige of modern France in the eyes of Europe and the rest of the world.
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My last article in this series ended with examples of what is meant by the major factor in Authority; and I defined it as that which inspires and sustains a nation's self-respect.
But this by no means exhausts the elements of which a Government's Authority consists. Although without it the ruling Authority must decline; Government's Authority has a wider and deeper foundation than the mere gratification of a people's self-esteem. And the Authority of past rulers has often been independent of this form of public appeal. Only when the interests of the Ruler and his subjects are identical are Government prestige and Authority enhanced by meeting the subject's need of self-respect.
This need may be ruthlessly ignored by conquerors, and for decades after a conquest the conquered may have little hope of seeing it gratified. After the Battle of Hastings the Anglo-Saxons could hardly have cherished feelings of self-respect. The Conqueror's Authority rested on his superiority as a victor and was sustained by a military hierarchy. Nor did his Authority rest on this alone; for European Rulers had inherited from Roman Imperial Law and from even more remote institutions, the principle of Divine Authority with which majesty was supposed to be clothed. And for centuries the idea of God's Annointed imparted sanctity to the Authority of the legitimate Ruler.
As early as the days of the Ancient Kingdom of Egypt, the Head of the State, the Pharaoh, was regarded as Heaven-appointed and even as a God, and thus arose the identification of loyalty with righteousness. To be disloyal was equivalent to blasphemy. The very endeavour of early rulers, whether in Greece or Rome, to trace their ancestry to some deity, so as to give their Government divine Authority, indicates that from remote times rulers felt the necessity of some unquestionable warrant for their Right to Command.
In some communities superiority in arms, intelligence, occult powers, even craftsmanship, was the main source of the ruler's Authority; and only when the particular form of superiority waned did his Authority lapse. Hence the custom among such peoples as the African Dinka and Shilluk, to kill their chiefs "at the first sign of weakness."
Owing to the reckless disregard of the conditions essential to a sound heredity, to wise marriages, and particularly to the dangerous practice of primogeniture, the seat of Government often fell to an unworthy and a disreputable occupant, and its Prestige and Authority insensibly declined in consequence. The too frequent repetition of such failures eventually shook Western humanity's faith in the principle of "Rule by Divine Right", which came to be recognized as a baseless superstition. To abide by it in the case of a sovereign of no merit seemed in itself tantamount to blasphemy.
But, from the moment the belief in the Ruler's Divine Right began to be questioned and regarded as no better than a savage's idolatry, the whole problem of governmental Authority was inevitably returned to the melting pot, and its source, instead of being traced to the Annointed of the deity, had to be sought elsewhere.
But where? That was the dilemma on the horns of which modern nations of the West have been repeatedly suspended ever since the first signs of collapse began to appear in Rulership by Divine Right in the 17th Century.
The deliberations, often hasty and shallow, to which the dilemma gave rise, were however unfortunately bedevilled from the start by the fact that the plight of modern Europeans who now disbelieved in God-inspired rulers, had been forestalled by two most important ancient States those of the Greeks and Romans. So that the problem of finding a new compelling warrant for governmental Authority was never examined by modern Europeans, as it were d'emblée, that is to say, with a clean slate. For the study of Classical Antiquity, having familiarized the governing classes in every modern European country with the political expedients improvised by the ancient Greeks and Romans to meet the difficulty arising out of the abolition of divinely directed monarchs, it was these political expedients that now began to influence, if not to monopolise the attention of the governing classes in question.
Without apparently pausing to examine and appraise other possible solutions of the problem confronting them, these modern nations took for granted that the two greatest peoples of European antiquity were politically wise and shrewd enough to be followed almost implicitly, and they therefore embraced all the essentials of the political expedients they had devised. A more striking example of blind faith could hardly be found in the whole history of our continent.
Never once did it occur to these moderns, that in thus letting themselves be carried away by the crude political improvisations of peoples as remote and relatively primitive as the ancient Greeks and Romans, they were arbitrarily handpicking out of a miscellaneous scrap-heap of exploded superstitions, one or two which for no satisfactory reason whatsoever they hastily assumed to be less puerile than the rest.
In their thoughtless zeal to fill the gap caused by abandoning the superstition of Rule by Divine Right, they forgot that the political expedients they were borrowing were improvised by the very same people who had been able to cherish any number of grotesque whims and fancies, destitute of all rational foundation a people who had believed implicitly in Genethliology (the art of assessing the influence of the planets on human destiny); in the aetiology of disease and bodily dysfunction from the conditions of a constellation and the position of a star; in the reading of reliable omens and portents by means of Haruspication (foretelling events from examining the entrails of animals), and above all in the gleaning of prophetic information by Hepatoscopy (divination by means of scrutinizing the livers of sacrificial animals). For the firm conviction of the ancient Greeks and Romans that the liver was the seat of the soul, led them throughout all periods of antiquity to allot to this organ the major role in that form of divination confined to the inspection of animal viscera.
Nor was this the only form of divination and clairvoyance at least not among the ancient Greeks for a baffled and plundered householder in Hellenic times would think nothing of rushing up to the Oracle at Dodona and asking it to reveal the whereabouts of the few cushions that had been stolen from his house the day before.
If moreover we turn from superstitions such as these to consider the philosophical discoveries for which the Ancient Greeks and Romans were
Confidently, however, as modern Europeans accepted many of these dangerous Graeco-Roman philosophic theories, their gullibility reached its apogee when they appropriated lock, stock, and barrel, the more fundamental of the political improvisations with which the man of Athens and Rome stopped the gap left by their abolished kings.
We need waste no time considering the many minor modifications by which, after we had adopted the main principles of their political systems, we proceeded to adapt them to our own national conditions. For, at bottom, all that it amounted to was this that by emulating their mode of reasoning, we substituted for the old superstition of the Divine Right of Kings, the modern superstition of the Divine Right of Parliaments, and of anonymous Crowds and Majorities.
Heedless of the formidable difficulties presented by the change for to locate the source of Authority in legislative assemblies elected by the populace and to be able to attach to that Authority all that would make it sacred and unquestionable was certainly no easy matter our forefathers, with their blind faith in the ancients, unhesitatingly embraced their political innovations.
Obviously, the main difficulty was to settle the question of Responsibility without which Authority could hardly be understood. For the legislative assembly, or Parliament, elected by the popular vote, had no independent status. It did not stand on its own feet. It was the first remove from a Crowd. But the Crowd had no identity, and a thing that has no identity cannot even be known, much less therefore held responsible.
When a crowd errs it cannot be prosecuted, deposed or beheaded. Even if it could be proved that a crowd has used the franchise in a spirit of cupidity, disloyalty to the nation as a whole, or even rank treachery and Anarchism, you can do nothing. A majority of the nation's population cannot be shot.
In any case, in a modern democratic State, even if you could shoot down a majority suspected of having used their Divine Political Right (Vox populi vox Dei) treacherously or maliciously, how could you identify the culprits, absolutely concealed as they now are by the secrecy of the ballot?
Yet, in ultimate analysis, if there is any source whatsoever of Authority in a popular government, it must be sought in the voting Crowd.
Recently indeed, we have actually witnessed many examples of the abuse of the suffrage for merely sectional profit. And to mention only one example of the kind in Britain, take the legislation which establishes Family Allowances. By means of the measure legalizing these benefits, many men to-day are able to live a life of complete leisure at the expense of their neighbours simply as the result of their venereal pastimes alone.
But although you can identify the beneficiaries of this measure and recognize them as they stroll along the streets at eleven o'clock in the morning with their loaded perambulators, you cannot identify their benefactors the Crowd induced by demagogues to support the measure in question.
Then added to all this, the Parliamentary system is plagued with the further disease of Party Government; then, not only have you divided counsels, and competitive demagogy in the legislative assembly itself, but you also have the seat of Authority more thoroughly obscured by being shared by two opposing Crowds in the population.
Furthermore, in addition to the fact that the contending elected legislators now become rivals for Office and for the Parliamentary pay-packet, every legislative measure advanced by the Party, in Power is perforce reviled and ridiculed, not necessarily because it is really objectionable, but, because the Party in Opposition cannot afford to lose a chance of discrediting and destroying its political rivals.
Fanatical democrats will reply: "Yes, but does not the Party system provide the country with an alternative Government?"
Aye! But it is this very fact that causes it to attack, misrepresent and resist every measure, even the wisest ever proposed by a Party in Power, as if it were the most dangerous human iniquity could devise. How many beneficent laws have thus been smothered and buried alive in the last hundred years of English history, it would be quite impossible to count.
Yet we find female wiseacres like Lady Violet Bonham Carter capable of arguing, as she did on Jan. 26th 1962, that it was dangerous for a country to have no alternative Government." (B.B.C. evening programme: ANY QUESTIONS?)
Can one imagine anyone being so silly as to ask in the reign of a wise ruler like Henry IV, or Frederick the Great, "Where is our alternative Government?"
Such examples of priceless wisdom have we garnered from our emulation of the Graeco-Roman superstition of the Divine Right of voting majorities! And I hope in my next article to discuss the whole question of Majority Rights and their justification.
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Habit and convention convince us so insidiously of the sanity, if not the necessity of our national usages, outrageous though they may be, that very few Westerners to-day are troubled by doubts concerning the wisdom of governing a country by means of mob-majority votes. Indeed, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that to most modern Europeans and Americans this system seems to be of the order of Nature: a practice compared with which the Divine Right of Kings is but a savage superstition.
Yet only the spiritual heirs of the ancient Greeks and Romans appear to have contracted this peculiar mental aberration; and it is thanks to the vulgar prestige of their immense wealth and prodigious technological achievements that they have been able to infect the rest of the world with it. It is true that in the native States England and America have conjured into being in Africa, enough mother wit has already been displayed by their coloured rulers to make them entertain grave doubts regarding the merits of mob-majority rule. But this only shows that, when free from the Graeco-Roman clouds still darkening Europe and America, the human brain does not yield kindly to a belief in the infallibility of a mere superiority of weight in flesh and bones.
It can therefore hardly surprise us that at least three highly intelligent and civilized peoples survived the evanescence of their monarchy, or its abuses and periods of misrule, without ever once in their wildest dreams imagining mob-majority voting as an adequate alternative form of government. I refer to the ancient Jews, the Hindus and the Chinese, all of whom thus displayed a degree of sagacity unparalleled by any European people. Nor was it until they became inextricably entangled with the sophistries of the West did any of them abandon their instinctive distrust of popular government.
Before that, they had always been content to wait patiently, even in bad times, for the scion of their own flesh and blood whose gifts would entitle him to lead them. And, in the case of the ancient Jews, during the anarchy of the latter years of the monarchy and after their last king, it was the inspired prophets who from time to time, by reviving respect for the spiritual heritage of the race and rekindling the passion for national unity, restored Law and Order on the basis of the Torah and established the standard of a good way of life.
A striking illustration of this kind of recovery is provided by the events following King Cyrus's release of the remnant of the Jewish race in 537 B.C. after their 70 years of captivity. These repatriated Jews found their former home in a state of most utter desolation. Jerusalem was a heap of ruins; the whole country was devastated; no economic organization existed, and everything had to be built up afresh.
Did the people in their desperate and leaderless plight imagine that a multitude of nobodies could by mob-voting usurp the directive powers of a qualified leader? No! As if aware of the futility, if not danger, of such slap-dash political devices, they set to work as best they could to restore their old civilization and, amid repeated errors, persisted in their blind struggle while still counting on the advent of an inspired chieftain. It is as if each had said to the other: "Let us be in no hurry with makeshifts. We are but common folk. How can we presume? A leader will surely come."
And at last Haggar and Zechariah appeared. Without delay they infused fresh life and confidence into the community. Under their influence the task of rebuilding the Temple was resumed and the repatriated settlers were exhorted to discharge the higher obligations of a well-ordered society. Thus, by 524 B.C. i.e., in four years time the Temple was finished and a reorganized nation witnessed its solemn consecration.
Then gradually the spiritual revival waned and powers of disorder and anarchy gained the upper hand. Alien cults found favour and, worse still, rampant miscegenation threatened the integrity and survival of the race. Disorder began to reign in every department of the small nation's life, and the sounder elements in the community were appalled. Then, just as every hope seemed to have been abandoned, the small colony of Jews still living in Babylon, hearing of the dire peril of their kin in Palestine, rallied to their help and the pro-
On arrival, Ezra was horrified by what he found, especially the havoc wrought by the prevalence of mixed marriages. For he saw at once that if it were not arrested his people would forfeit their identity and all their precious heritage of gifts and native virtues. With all the strength and fervour at his command, he therefore addressed them in the square outside the Temple, and such was the compelling passion of his appeal that his listeners themselves came forward with the suggestion that their mixed marriages should be summarily dissolved. He had opened their eyes to the danger threatening their type and character and, as Josef Kastein says, this shows that "those responsible recognized that the Jews might be possessed of particular qualities" which could only be preserved by mating with their like. (HISTORY AND DESTINY OF THE JEWS, 1933, Part I, Sect. 6). At all events, a commission of the elders of the people was entrusted there and then by Ezra with the task of dissolving all miscegenated unions.
But the benefit of these drastic measures did not long endure, and disorder soon broke out afresh. The very restrictions Ezra had imposed incensed the neighbouring non-Jewish races who, as Kastein declares, "felt that they had been spurned as inferior to the Jews". Although there was no such implication in Ezra's intention (for to recognize a sharp difference is not necessarily to claim superiority or inferiority for either of the differing types of people), the surrounding non-Jewish communities, feeling themselves affronted, opened war. Jerusalem was attacked; its walls demolished and its gates burnt down; and the invaders "did as they pleased in the city".
Everything seemed lost once more. But once again the Jewish colony in Persian Babylon came to the rescue. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in 445 B.C. and straight away took all the necessary steps to re-establish order. He caused Jerusalem to be rebuilt; gave the community a constitution based on the Torah, and renewed the rules against miscegenation. Then, after twelve years of his wise administration, believing the community sufficiently settled and secure, he thought he might be allowed to return to Persia.
He was however mistaken. Chaos and anarchy quickly followed upon his departure and he was soon obliged to return. When he did come back he at once perceived that he must banish all trouble makers and everyone who refused allegiance to the regulations he had established. Moreover, "with a view to applying the selective principle with renewed vigour", as Kastein says, "he carefully studied the register of births, and ejected from the community even Aaronite families whose ancestry could not survive the strictest scrutiny. He forcibly dissolved all mixed marriages contracted during his absence; made every infringement of the law against them punishable, and among those who volunteered to return to the city all who failed to establish the undisputed purity of their stock were refused entry." (Op. cit.)
Thus he preserved for his countrymen that heritage of gifts and stock qualities which enabled them in subsequent centuries to perform the feats of endurance and world-ascendancy which were to make them the powerful and successful element they ultimately became in Western Europe and America; and their type flourished largely because, as Maurice Fishberg remarks, "the Jews are an exception among a world of universally mixed races". (THE JEWS, 1911, p. 21).
"Thus cleansed I them from all strangers," Nehemiah is quite properly entitled to boast, "and appointed the wards of the priests, Levites, everyone in his business". (NEHEMIAH, XIII, 31).
But what we must note above all is that, throughout all the period of their tribulations and trials, from the day of their first repatriation to the moment of their final dispersal, and even on the eve of Nehemiah's legalistic triumph in 430 B.C., not once did any Jew think of adopting the policy of mob-majority voting in order to carry on the government in his leaderless society. And if for a moment we pause to ask ourselves what would probably have happened had such a step been taken, can we doubt what the answer would be?
With complete assurance we may assume that had mob-majority voting been resorted to, the preponderating section of the people, in order to ease their tender hearts and to follow the line of least resistance, would most certainly have favoured the course of yielding to the protestations of their affronted neighbours, of recognizing the "obvious justice" of their grievance, and consequently of allowing the miscegenation with strangers and foreigners to continue. For crowds are always sentimental, prone to follow the line of least resistance, and never capable of taking a long-term view. We may therefore feel sure that had majority voting been adopted as a governmental device, all Ezra's and Nehemiah's wise reforms would have gone by the board.
But to their credit let it be said, the Jews never had recourse to mob-majority voting, and as a result they preserved for their posterity the precious heritage of stock qualities that made them what they are.
How and why, within recent memory, they at long last altered course, became ardent Liberals and everywhere became the fervent advocates of indiscriminate and unlimited outbreeding although themselves strictly continuing to enjoin endogamy at least on their own males all this would take too long to tell; and in my next article I propose to discuss the question of majority rule in the light of ancient Hindu and of Chinese civilization.
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Almost everywhere kings have had a religious as well as administrative function, and ancient Egypt is believed to have furnished the model for this form of rulership. Only in comparatively recent times have the two functions been separated and the religious duties taken over by a body known as the priesthood.
In pre-Mohammedan and pre-Mogul India the separation of the two offices existed from the start, and the Brahmin who belonged to the highest and priestly caste occupied his exalted position from the dawn of the monarchy. "It was even suggested," says R. P. Masani (THE LEGACY OF INDIA, 1937, Chap. VI), "that the king ruled by the authority delegated to him by the Brahmin." According to some Indian scholars, the caste system is supposed to have originated in the desire to prevent racial adulteration i.e., the deterioration of the Qualities of a higher class, an élite, by mixture with the class beneath it, and thus to avoid the enfeeblement or loss of the capacities and skills inherited by the members of different workers, administrators or craftsmen in the nation.
In this way it was believed the gifts of the intellectual, the warrior, the agriculturist and the ordinary craftsman and labourer would be preserved. For, says R. P. Masani, "the sages of the Vedic Age considered it imperative to view every social question
At all events, the king usually hailed from the Warrior or Kshatriya Caste; but, under Brahmin supervision, had a relatively restricted authority. Generally unencumbered by the shortsighted practice of primogeniture, the royal line provided a succession of kings who, as administrative specialists, were carefully trained and expertly advised. Thus, for centuries the throne was securely maintained, and the only thought was, not how to provide an alternative to kingship, but how to make the king as efficient as possible. Hence apart from occasional spells of unrest and disorder, the monarchy lasted from the reign of Chandragupta to that of Harshavardhana (321 B.C. to A.D. 648).
Throughout almost the whole of the 927 years, the sovereign was supported by selected members of the ruling Caste the Brahmins whose creed admirably fitted them for the exercise of influence without any tendency to acquire secular power; for, as Mr. N. Parkinson observes, "they could restrain royal power without ever wishing to supersede it" (THE EVOLUTION OF POLITICAL THOUGHT, 1958, Chap. IV). Buddhist counsellors may also have been enlisted under some kings and probably were under Asoka (B.C. 269), "the greatest and noblest ruler India has known", according to A. L. Basham (THE WONDER THAT WAS INDIA, 1954, Chap. III).
What made the Brahmin particularly suitable as a minister was partly the rule governing his life; for he was expected to spend at least the last quarter of it as a propertyless ascetic, depending for his maintenance on charity alone. This meant that ancient Hindu society enjoyed the singular advantage, unique in human history, of a superior class that could command and obtain respect without the vulgar necessity of ostentatious opulence, without causing the universal disease of our civilization Aching Envy and without being motivated by worldly ambition in the exercise of their considerable influence.
In any case, during the whole of the native monarchial period of India, there was never any suggestion of an appeal to mob-majority voting as an alternative form of government. As Mr. Parkinson tells us in the admirable treatise already quoted, "Indian thought is not directed towards discovering alternative forms of rule, but rather towards considering how to make monarchy effective."
We have but to look at the time-table of royal duties given in Kautalya's ARTHASASTRA, the political manual of the Age, to learn that the kingly office was no sinecure, for although the timetable the author describes may not always have been followed, it shows the monarchy could not have been a refuge for the idle, the dissolute or the merely pleasure-living. Nor was it ever allowed to degenerate into the purely ceremonial institution of modern European States, in which, as Disraeli declared, the Sceptre has become a pageant.
And this ancient Hindu monarchy not only produced a great culture which, according to Mr. Basham, reached its apogee under Chandragupta II (A.D. 375 tot 415), but certainly at the time of the Gupta Empire, also made "India perhaps the happiest and most civilized region of the world." Sir George Dunbar sets the greatest period slightly later between the 5th and 7th centuries A.D.; but both authorities agree about its splendour. Even in science, ancient Hindu achievements were by no means negligible; for the Indian astronomer Aryabhata (born 476 A.D.) "maintained the rotation of the earth round its axis and explained the cause of the eclipses of the sun and moon," whilst in mathematics a higher standard was reached in Algebra than anything ever attempted by the Greeks. (HISTORY OF INDIA, 1936, Chap. III).
But what chiefly concerns us here is that in good times as in bad never did the leaders of the ancient Hindu people think of having recourse to mob-majority voting as a means of governing their country.
Now, although this applies also to the people of China, it does so in a different way.
Every student of Chinese history and politics must have come across statements which may seem to indicate that throughout her history China has been inclined to favour the sort of mob-majority rule now operating in countries like England and France. But this impression is I submit completely false and results from a misuse by even distinguished sinologues of the word "democratic". It may be true that in common parlance this word and its cognate forms are susceptible to wide differences of meaning, and I once heard a bishop of London (Dr. F. A. Winnington Ingram) speak of "the Democracy" three times in the same speech, when all he meant was the working population.
This does not however excuse the loose employment of the word in historical treatises written by careful authors, and in connection with China in particular, the mistake may lead to serious misunderstanding.
Thus we find even a famous and erudite sinologue like Professor H. A. Giles describing the Chinese government as having always been "an irresponsible autocracy democratic in operation" (THE CIVILIZATION OF CHINA, 1911, Chap. II). By this he certainly could not have meant that China was ever subject to the affliction of our form of mob-majority rule, but merely that, under the autocracy certain liberal features were tolerated which sometimes, though not necessarily, may be found in democratic régimes. I refer to the absence of class distinctions, the horror of injustice, and la carrière ouverte aux talents, i.e., access to the highest posts in the land being made available through examination rather than through birth royal favour or wealth.
The fact that the absence of class-distinctions is, however, not an essential feature of democracies, is shown by conditions in present-day England and France, where, despite all the evils of an unlimited ochlocracy, class-distinctions remain sharp and conspicuous. They have, however, nothing whatsoever to do with gradations of quality, but only gradations of wealth. For in the societies in question, although there is indeed perfect equality in the degree of vulgarity, tastelessness, ostentation, ill-health and lack of personal dignity displayed by all classes, there is nevertheless a rigid order of rank based solely on differences of wealth, so that all but the richest are tormented by envy, and all but the poorest enjoy the privilege of looking down on their less prosperous neighbours.
When, therefore, Professor Giles tells us that "China has always been at the highest rung of the democratic ladder", it is obvious that the word "democratic" is used inaccurately. And none better than Professor Giles must have known that no government could have endured as he tells us China's did for "nearly twenty-two centuries" had it been truly democratic. (Op. cit. Chap. XII).
Even Lin Yutang, in his able treatise, MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE (1936, Epilogue, IV), is equally misleading. For, when he maintains that
As in the very same book, Lin Yutang is able to declare that "The Chinese religiously abstain from talking politics; they do not cast votes, and they have no club-house debates on politics" (Chap. 6, 1); and that moreover he, as a Chinaman "cannot accept democracy in the sense of Parliamentarism" (Epilogue IV), it is perfectly plain that, like Professor Giles, when he speaks of the Chinese as "democratic" he cannot mean what we mean by the term, nor what the ancient Greeks meant by it.
To-day, of course, things are very different. For, after nearly 22 centuries of monarchy, the Chinese in 1911, having been dominated and harassed by Westerners for many years, at last found their age-long customs and policy so disorganized that their leaders, mistakenly inferring from the material and technological achievements of Westerners that the latter's political forms must be the source of their successful aggressions, adopted a republican form of government and extended their imitation of Western peoples to the point of emulating their mob-majority practices.
But, as in the case of India, such reforms are too clearly the outcome of alien influence to be of purely native provenance, and they do not invalidate my claim that, in three peoples the Jews, the ancient Hindus and the Chinese there was in their greatest periods no belief in the necessarily infallible wisdom of mob-majority decisions, as if the two were related by natural law.
The very fact that China, for instance, "is the country in which the old man is made to feel at ease," and that Lin Yutang feels able to assert that "the old man in China is a most imposing figure, more dignified and good to look at than the old man in the West", and "that accounts for the poise and serenity of old age" (Op. cit.) this very fact proves that democracy as we know it can never have been agreeable to Chinese taste, at least in the nation's best days. For old men always represent the minority in any society; their wisdom which is the fruit of experience is the safest guide to groping juveniles, and where old people and their knowledge are held to be negligible, not to say contemptible, as they now are in the West, we may be sure that the mania for mob-majority rule, half-baked schemes, and snap judgments, will be the guiding principle of government.
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We have now reviewed the history of three peoples the Jews, the ancient Hindus and the Chinese who for centuries lasted as either patriarchal monarchies or as political orphans mourning their vanished rulers, without having, in fair times or bad, having had the frivolity to descend to the alternative of a voting ochlocracy for their government. Indeed, their history shows that, far from having attracted them, this alternative never even occurred to their minds. At no time did they take for granted what Westerners have come to regard as self-evident the Divine Right of majority rule. And we obtain the impression that no matter how grave their political plight might have become, they would never have sunk to the intellectual level of a Rousseau or a Locke by conceding such a right.
Yet even in the West, the right was not established without a struggle in high quarters, although this struggle was largely concealed from the public eye. For it would have been strange if such a palpable absurdity had escaped the nimble intellects of the best mediaeval clergy.
Thus, behind the backs of the mob, high and low the struggle to wrest authority from majority judgments took place within the councils of the Church where the best brains of the Age were collected. And this is only one of the signs of the superiority of Thought and Psychological Flair so often displayed by the men of the Middle Ages. We have only to think, for instance, of the soundness of their attitude towards primogeniture, their belief in the higher claims of health over ill-health (a principle we have reversed), and the unassuming conscientiousness and good taste which they cultivated in their craftsmen.
Originally, the early Christians, infected by the Graeco-Roman traditions of their period, certainly displayed a democratic spirit. Church offices were filled by election and priests and bishops were chosen by the decision of majorities in their flock. But, as time went on, the leaders of the Church became increasingly uneasy about the quality of the priesthood, and recognized that to allow ecclesiastical appointments to depend on the judgment of inexpert and ill-informed majorities was inimical to the highest interests of their body. As Dr. G. G. Coulton says, the Church "accepted the law of simple and absolute majority only with difficulty." For even the idea, common to rudimentary civilizations, that group decisions must show complete unanimity, as they are still required to do in our jury system, seemed wiser than rule by unqualified and ill-informed majorities. (MEDIAEVAL PANORAMA, 1938, Chap. II. For most of this argument I am indebted to Dr. Coulton's valuable treatise).
At all events what most forcibly struck the leading minds in the Church was, that whereas in a body of specialists and experts, whether in Theology, Law, Astronomy or Medicine, a majority judgment might conceivably have a prescriptive right to prevail, because it represented a greater weight of informed opinion and experience, there was no possible justification for allowing an unselected and heterogeneous gathering of ignoramuses or at least of well-meaning but ill-informed people to determine any issue whatsoever, and to do so could only have the most untoward consequences.
A quality distinction in electors was therefore insisted on, and the Church leaders ruled that in any contest of opinion between groups, the side able to show not only more, but also "sounder" electors (major et sanior pars) should carry the day.
But, except by the examination of every individual voter, it was not an easy principle to apply, and owing to the uncertainties in determining the sanioritas of a particular side, the tendency arose usually to allow a two-thirds majority, no matter how composed, to have its way. When, therefore, in mid-16th century, the Council of Trent adopted the Ballot, the majoritarian principle was concentrated for good and all; because it was obviously hopeless to attempt to trace the soundness, or any superior title to command authority, in the unidentifiable members of a crowd.
Thus the last intelligently-conducted battle against the Divine Right of majorities was lost on the only European field where it had been bravely fought, and, just as Cicero had formerly condemned the Secret Ballot as a major cause of the downfall of the Republic, so the wiser heads of the Holy Catholic Church must have felt that the Ballot decision meant the death-blow to their struggle against a superstition that might one day imperil civilization itself.
Therefore, no respectable and large body in Europe ever attempted a serious assault on the majority principle, and to question it seemed to most Westerners not merely heresy but almost evidence of dementia. Indeed, to give but one recent example of this attitude, at the Liberal Party's Assembly in Brighton on September 11, 1963, one of the suggestions put before the thousand delegates present, was actually that the age at which the franchise should be granted to the epicene mobs of England, be reduced from 21 to 18. And far from arousing merely loud derision or leading to the prompt expulsion of the authors of the proposal, as practical jokers, the motion was solemnly put to the vote. True, it was defeated by 69 votes, but the relative insignificance of the opposition surely provides a clue to the intellectual level of the Liberal Party. For the proposal was made at a time when every feature of English life proclaimed the immaturity and crudeness of the Age.
To not one of the delegates we may be sure, did it occur to ponder the ultimate and inevitable inhumanity of majority rule, and it would have taken longer than their whole session to make them see how and why mob-majority rule is not only nationally indefensible, but also uncharitable and cruel in its effect on the voting mobs themselves. For no multitude of ill-informed people, mostly unschooled in the ability to judge the long-term consequences of their majority decisions, can mercifully be left to shape even the conditions of their own immediate existences, let alone their own and their progeny's future destiny. Least of all may they be safely left to do this when we know that their decisions as electors are always reached under the influence of emotions whipped up by candidates
Over seventy years ago, before universal epicene franchise had been granted, Sheldon Amos said of the difficult political problems electors are called upon to solve, "in proportion as the question rises out of the region accessible to common experience; as it involves strict logic for its treatment; demands the casting aside of prejudices due to habit and a narrow experience, and calls for moral as well as mental equilibrium and introspection, it is the few rather than the many who are most likely to give a true reply to it." (THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS, 1890, Chap. VI).
Yes! But what political questions do in fact ever fall short of the difficult kind Mr. Amos describes? Is it not therefore uncharitable and unfair to lay the burden of such momentous judgments on the shoulders of multitudes wholly unequipped to reach even approximately wise decisions concerning them? Can they be held to blame if their descendants ultimately suffer from the outcome of the courses they have followed?
It required an Anglo-Saxon brain like Locke's for Jeremy Bentham to assume that "as there is no one knows what is for your interest as well as yourself" (MANUAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1798), therefore a population all pursuing what they know as their own interest must result in "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." True, de Quincey in 1891 and J. M. Keynes in 1926 assured us that Bentham was talking nonsense; but over 150 years ago this nonsense had set the seal to mob-majority government.
In my seven decades of life I have seen what was once a great British people, a nation composed of a proud, independent, thrifty and self-respecting race, a race that courageously discharged its own obligations, insisted on standing on its own feet and refusing to owe charity to any man so that the poorest were ashamed of soliciting parish assistance I have seen this race, I say, transformed almost overnight into a populace expert in shifting its legitimate burdens on to the backs of its neighbours, in battening on charities extorted from its fellow men, and expecting State aid and compensation even for performing the primitive function of procreation.
The havoc wrought in the character of this once proud people has now become visible in every department of their life. Self-respect, self-help and independence are dead. Wasteful spending and vulgar ostentation have supplanted the thriftiness of yore; for what is not earned by toil is readily squandered. The whole population thinks chiefly of obtaining something for nothing. Hooliganism reigns in the youth of the nation, because discipline has ceased to be regarded as desirable and is now classed with Fascism as not quite decent. Blackmail levied under threats of intolerable public privations, is the accepted method of increasing the pay-packet and reducing the hours of labour And the effrontery with which subsidies for mere lustfulness are pocketed by both sexes arouses no indignation. It is as if the original fibre of the race's moral nature, sedulously built up by the taste and discernment of its ancestors, had rotted and perished.
And how have these lamentable changes come about? Need we ask? What else could have been expected? Can an uninstructed, incompetent multitude, invited every few years to choose both the men and the policies that will shape their own and their descendants' destiny, hope to choose correctly, least of all wisely? Can we be so simple as to suppose that the majority in any nation will ever shrewdly reject the glowing promises, the bribes and offers of free benefits always laid before them by the competing demagogues of the various political parties, anxious for office? Would the people be human if they did reject such lures?
This demagogy of which I speak, tends as Salvador de Madariaga truly observes, "to involve prejudice, passions and emotions which deform the highly complex problems of the nation's collective life" and to "indulge in electoral outbidding which does not hesitate to sacrifice the good of the country and even the long-term interests of the electors to their own immediate and apparent interests." (DEMOCRACY VERSUS LIBERTY, 1958, Chap. 11, 7).
All too true!
And it is precisely in respect of such consequences as these that I brand mob-majority government as both uncharitable and inhuman. For it is manifestly unkind to place such a heavy burden of momentous political problems on the shoulders of ordinary men and women, unable to appreciate the immediate, let alone the remote, effect on themselves and posterity, of the solutions they reach concerning them.
The very fact that statesmanlike Burke rejected majority rule absolutely, was surely due to his insistence on the long-term view in politics.
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We have found ourselves left with but one possible explanation of the Divine Right of Majorities, which is that they must prevail in a free fight.
As no modern democracy demands or expects any particular degree of competence, knowledge, experience, intelligence or even mental soundness in the anonymous epicene voters who impose majority judgment, taste and outlook on the community, a majority's only claim to prevail is that, in a physical contest, it would win.
Sheldon Moss acknowledged this over seventy years ago. "The practice of deferring to a majority", he said, "is simply that of giving way in time and by decent ceremonial to those who would have their way if they chose to take it." (THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS, 1890, Chap. VI).
Thus as we have already implied, the basis of democratic government is sheer material preponderance, and the Suffragettes who, at the beginning of this century fought like maenads to obtain the franchise for their sex, unwittingly disclosed what more intelligent women would have done their utmost to conceal, namely their blind eagerness to adopt masculine practices, however crude and primitive, and their readiness to set matter above spirit, body before mind.
At all events, the modern democrat's widely publicized and much belauded scorn of dictators, despots and tyrants, reveals his or her constant failure to recognize the tyranny that can be exercised by the mere weight of flesh and bones.
Because a despot or a tyrant may perchance be a person of knowledge, intelligence and public spirit and, if he is not, he can always be shot. But what chance is there of any of these qualities being possessed by an epicene majority composed of modern mobs high and low, hardly likely to represent a high intelligence ratio, and stirred emotionally by the blether of competing demagogues to go to the polls chiefly as self-seekers? At least the common people of Athens were to some extent protected from demagogues by a law which made it a criminal offence to mislead the public. But we have no such law, and more is the pity; for, as President Adenauer once remarked, "God made a great mistake when he limited the intelligence of man, but did nothing to limit his stupidity".
Indeed, when we reflect on the fundamental attributes of a capable government Authority and Responsibility and remember that their anonymity and vast numbers enable epicene majorities to escape all responsibility whilst yet being the source of Authority; when we bear in mind that behind the Secret Ballot they can avoid discovery even if their vote has been treasonable towards the nation, can we any longer doubt the perils of majority tyranny? For there is no need to stress the risk of treason in their use of the franchise; the dangers resulting from mob stupidity, faulty information, acquisitiveness and lack of public spirit, may be just as injurious to the nation as treachery.
It was surely for this reason that Plato and Aristotle both acknowledged that democracy "lays the foundation of despotism", because by the anarchy which it spreads, it ultimately makes a despot or dictator an urgent necessity. (THE REPUBLIC, Bk. VIII, passim). Aristotle perceived that, as democracy demands liberty and every man in the end does as he likes or as the demagogue directs, absolute popular power differs little from absolute monarchy. (POLITICS, II, Bk. IV, 1292a and Bk. V. 1302a). We have only to think of the damage done by Athenian crowds swayed by Cleon, whose sinister influence in the 5th century B.C. was already a matter of history when Aristotle was teaching, in order to understand the force of this thinker's reasoning and his identification of demagogues with "flatterers".
History shows how the heads of modern democratic States sometimes try to avert or postpone the social chaos resulting from the tyranny of majority rule. But the means chosen for this purpose are not always easy to apply.
The measures adopted by the Executive of modern democratic governments to circumvent the embarrassing interference of the ill-informed populace so as to mitigate the harm it may cause, consist largely of various forms of chicanery which it hopes the public will not fathom.
As that exceptionally shrewd statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, once said to A. J. Balfour on the subject of English governmental powers, long before universal epicene suffrage had been granted (i.e., March 1866): "Our misfortune is that we live under a system of government originally contrived to check the action of kings and ministers, and which meddle far too much with the executive of the country." (CHAPTERS OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by A. J. Balfour, 1930, Chap. XV).
Exactly! Was Chamberlain perhaps remembering how Democracy "jockeyed the British Government into the Crimean War"? Was he complaining about a state of affairs which years after his death led to the disastrous Peace Settlement of Versailles when "For the first time in the history of British diplomacy the full weight of the masses was brought to bear upon momentous decisions fraught with incalculable consequences", and which on another occasion was to force the Abyssinian policy on the Government and "throw Mussolini into the arms of Hitler"? (On these three points see DIPLOMACY IN FETTERS by Sir Victor Wellesley, 1944, Part III, Chap. 11 and Part II, Chap. V). In any case it is perhaps not irrelevant to remind readers here that at least the Boer War "was started over the heads of the English people". (DEMOCRACY AND A CHANGING CIVILISATION, by J. A. Hobson, 1934, Chap. III).
The means sought by governments to curb popular interference or to lessen its worst consequences, may take any form. But only in wartime does an administration ever dare, by its "emergency measures" to be wholly despotic hence the extreme charm of war for all Prime Ministers, and their customary attempts to prolong it as long as possible. Examples of such war-emergency despotism are, in World War I, The Defence of the Realm Act, and in World War II, Regulation 18B, which gave the Government the right to override the various HABEAS CORPUS Acts and the ancient
A recent example of this kind of governmental action to control public interference by a barefaced violation of such traditional and honoured Anglo-Saxon privileges as the Right of Free Speech and of Private Judgment, is the Machiavellian shift of a Police Regulation authorising the arrest of anyone behaving in a way "likely to cause a breach of the peace". For by this cunning provision the Authorities can, even in peacetime muzzle or suppress either the provoker of a public disturbance or the body of disturbers themselves, according to which party to the breach of the peace happens to be more embarrassing to the Establishment. And the general public have been successfully duped by this subtle ruse largely because, when their own private interests are not immediately involved, they are usually destitute of any political interest or alertness.
Mr. Michael Stewart M.P., commenting on the fact that "it is illegal to say in public things so provocative that a 'reasonable' man may fear that they will cause a disturbance", remarks, "To translate this idea into law . . . . is not easy". No! But think what a wide field it gives to the Authorities in which to exercise their discretion and to decide on their choice between prosecuting or condoning!
But attempts by the Executive to mitigate some of the more embarrassing interferences of the populace with the business of government are on the whole feeble and infrequent. And against the heavy and incessant pressure of popular influence exerted through the electorate, the Official Opposition and the sway over the masses wielded by competing demagogues, a government to-day can do very little. Indeed, if the poltical Party that happens to be in power feels, as it usually does, that its chances of being returned at the next General Election depend on its acquiescing in even unwise and extravagant demands put forward by the majority in the nation, it usually yields, even at the risk of expediting the kind of national decline and disorder which I tried briefly to sketch in article VI of this series. Thus, for instance, in 1936 Mr. Baldwin confessed that he did not dare to propose re-armament as he could not 'think of anything which would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain'!" (See Sir Victor Wellesley, Op. cit.).
Both in the matter of safeguarding the individual subject's rights against the Executive, and of protecting the Executive from the shortsighted and too often harmful interference of the general public, a carefully drafted and rigidly observed Constitution, under the strict supervision of the Law, may in a democracy serve a useful though merely a temporary purpose and delay for a while the decline of the régime into anarchy and chaos. But unfortunately, both in England and France, no such carefully drafted and rigidly observed Constitution exists; and although this deficiency has long been an important factor in the political development of both countries, its effects in each have been strangely dissimilar.
But the question of the British Constitution must be left to my next article. Meanwhile, however, as a comment on the arguments in this article, it may be interesting to point out that in his autobiography (ORDERS OF THE DAY, 1953, Chap. XXIV), the Right Honourable Earl Winterton, an old and experienced Parliamentarian, was careful to call the attention of his readers to the "increasing difficulties of every British Government answerable to a nation enjoying universal suffrage, especially since a large portion of the electorate is imperfectly fitted to understand either the doctrine or the heresy of the moment."
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Because a responsible authority is among the first essentials of good government, and the anonymous epicene majority of electors constituting the Authority behind a democratic government cannot be called to account for its decisions and policies, no matter what these may be or how they may turn out, all democratic rule must be, as Sir Henry Maine declared eighty years ago, an extremely difficult undertaking. "Popular Government," he said, "especially as it approaches the democratic form, will tax to the utmost all the political sagacity and statesmanship of the world to keep it from disaster." (POPULAR GOVERNMENT, 1885, Preface).
We shall, however, see below and also in the sequel (especially in article XIV of this series) that many of the worst vices which have now developed from it in England and also, but to a lesser extent, in France, are not necessarily inherent in its nature.
Its life, for instance, may be to some extent prolonged and preserved from serious calamities if the damage resulting from the electorate's ignorance, slip-shod and emotional snap-judgments, together with the undesirable consequences of their response to the appeals of competing demagogues, can be mitigated by rigid restrictions, carefully defined from the start, and designed to control and check the violence of the people's direct influence over public affairs. And the means of effecting this machinery of checks and control consist in a body of accepted rules, legally protected, known as a Constitution. For where, as in England and France, the House of Commons and the Assemblée Nationales are "Sovereign Assemblies", with the right to make and unmake laws, the government, as Aristotle maintained centuries ago, is likely to degenerate into an ochlocratic tyranny unless the community has some safeguards in a Constitution.
To those who may be inclined to doubt whether democracies necessarily degenerate into tyrannies and dictatorships. I would strongly recommend the perusal of a book such as Mons. Louis Rougier's L'ERREUR DE LA DÉMOCRATIE FRANCAISE (1963), especially his Chapter VII Parts 1 to 5, in which he discusses how l'omnipotence parlementaire peut conduire a la dictature ("how parliamentary omnipotence can culminate in a dictatorship").
"Since it is true", says Mr. Michael Stewart M.P., "that a Government with a majority in Parliament can legally do as it pleases, the legal defence against tyranny seems weak." (THE BRITISH APPROACH TO POLITICS, 1958, Chap. II).
As the only bulwark against such a tyranny, a legally protected Constitution is therefore not only necessary in a Democracy, but also a sine qua non. For it serves both to define the limits of governmental powers and to check the excesses and passions of the populace. As Gwendoline M. Carter and H. Herz aptly maintain, "Constitutions define and thereby limit public power". (GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, 1961, Chap. VI). And when English and French people speak the former always proudly of their "Constitution", they vaguely imagine that it stands for something of the sort. The trouble is that, in their case, because they have no completely written Constitution, protected by Law, their ideas on the subject are always lamentably obscure and vague.
When, for instance, a group of average Englishmen speak of "Parliament", they usually mean no more than the House of Commons; the reason being that, in practice, this sovereign member of the Constitutional triune has swallowed up all the effective powers of the other two members whose functions were formerly quite as important as its own. For although the "British Constitution" still presupposes a Parliament composed of three essential components, two of them are now as good as defunct.
Legally, Parliament means the reigning Sovereign, the Lords and the Commons acting together in governing the country. Yet, such has been the high-handed and presumptuous obtrusiveness of the Commons, resting its claims on the Divine Right of Majorities, that, in the absence of any strictly defined Constitution, legally protected, the popular assembly has in recent years taken upon itself to discard the co-operation and even to doubt the very raison-d'être of the Sovereign and the Second Chamber. And apparently this subversive proceeding has been accomplished step by step without any member of the usurping body having been aware of the heavy price we might one day have to pay for the loss thus sustained. Indeed, the history of this radical constitutional reform points to the conclusion that very few of the general public, in any case, have ever understood that there has been any loss whatsoever connected with it. And the fact that politicians continue to speak of the "British Constitution" as if these terms still meant something, indicates the levity and shallowness with which politics are regarded in the country.
Yet, as the authors of GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (Chap. II) pertinently remark, "Genuine constitutionalism is absent where Constitutions are forever made and remade, changed and abolished so as to fit the political needs of the respective power-holders".
At all events, the last 300 years i.e., the whole of the period that has elapsed since the Restoration, of the monarchy have shown the steady progress of two movements, the speed of which became greatly accelerated in the 19th century: on the one hand that aiming at reducing the share of the Throne, and on the other that of reducing the share of the House of Lords, in the government of the country. And although it may seem odd that a régime as desperately in need as a Democarcy is of such checks and controls as the Throne and a Second Chamber could supply, should have spurned both of them, it was precisely the most democratic of the three components of Parliament that performed this precarious sacrifice. Well might Lord Bryce maintain that "the people who most need to be protected against themselves are the least disposed to provide such protection." (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, 1921, Vol. II, Chap. LXIII).
When we reflect on what has happened to
Thus, we learned without either astonishment or protest that in a Common debate of December 17, 1947, on the allowance to be granted to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Mr. Attlee (now Lord Attlee) had actually declared that "Broadly speaking we have accepted the conception of a ceremonial monarchy . . . . I do not think this country wants anything in the way of a monarchy that is not ceremonial." (TIMES, 18.12.47).
This amounted to saying that this country "wants nothing more than a monarchy that is ceremonial". And did the remark provoke any indignant national protest? Not for a moment! A leader in the DAILY MAIL of Dec. 18, 1947, actually implied that without the pageantry and ceremony the monarchy "would be nothing". Meanwhile, however, every British voter continued glibly to speak of the "British Constitution" as if the words still had some definite meaning.
So completely has the Royal power been curtailed that the Sovereign now acts and speaks only at the bidding and under the dictation of the Party having the majority in the House of Commons; and Messrs Taylor Cole, D. R. Deener and A. Brady need certainly not be suspected of any humorous intention when they gave as an example of the Queen's present personal prerogative "the naming of her son Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in the summer of 1958." (EUROPEAN POLITICAL SYSTEMS, Edit. by Raylor Cole, 1960, Chap. 4, i). Even the Royal Assent to Bills passed by the Houses of Parliament, is now no more than a polite fiction, and "no Sovereign has refused to assent to a Bill since 1707." (BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, by S. D. Bailey, 1959, Chap. 2).
This is not to imply that it would be desirable to give any present Royal House in Europe greater powers than they now possess; nor is it to imply that it would be wise to restore to modern English Royalty the power that was taken for granted by those generations who insensibly framed the British Constitution. But it is to imply very emphatically that, for a Democracy like that which has developed in this country, the demotion of the Crown as a factor in the administration, has constituted a serious loss. Because, given the right type, and assuming that he has been appropriately trained for his unique office and not brought up in one of the ordinary schools of the country as if he were one of his own subjects, there is no member of the Parliamentary triune who could do better service to his nation than the monarch.
He stands aloof from all Parties; in pondering the political problems of his people he has no axe to grind, no electors to cajole or to woo; he is alone in being able to take an objective, impartial view of all legislation; is necessarily in favour of stability, because no change can improve his position; he can therefore fearlessly exercise justice and display Public Spirit, and, like such an exceptional statesman as the first Duke of Wellington, he can subordinate all other considerations to what appears to him the interest of the nation.
Above all, owing to his exalted rank and conspicuous position in the land, he is eminently able to be an example to his people. As he is the source of all honour, so also can he give the population their life-pattern; and what he and the Élite about him do and choose, will become the country's standard of taste and judgment. For, as Aristotle observed, "what those who have the chief power regard as honourable will necessarily be the object which all citizens will aim at" (POLITICS, II, Bk II, 1273a, 1273b).
This is why all the great styles, whether in living architecture, literature, manners, art, and even furniture, have always been the creation of societies presided over by a monarch and an Élite; and it is precisely this important aye indispensable function of giving a nation its Tone, that modern political philosophers so often overlook, when they discuss the conditions on which a good government rests or when they consider the merits of monarchy and aristocracy.
It is the absence in our present society of any tasteful tone-setters with the power of presenting the people with a compelling model for their emulation, that is among the greatest dangers of our civilization. For a hierarchy based as ours is merely on differences of wealth, places at the apex of the community only the more affluent. And as everybody, however vulgar, can soon learn how to practise lavish expenditure, ostentation and luxurious living, Culture, as we see it in England and France today, tends to decline and to sink into a mere chaos, in which different degrees of pecuniary prestige become the sole measure of merit and honour.
In my next article I propose to consider the problem of a Second Chamber and the rôle of an Élite in a well-governed society.
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In article VIII of this series I called attention to a fact not often appreciated today, whether by politicians or the public, and that is, the considerable contributions a crowned head may make to the deliberations of his country's governing body. For, if it looks not at the throne, a people may seek in vain among its compatriots for anyone capable of complete detachment in pondering questions vital to the welfare of the country.
To advocate an active rôle for Royalty in the government of a modern State now tends to provoke little more than an amused smile, especially among the ignorant and all those who, though supposed to be educated, have studied history divorced from psychology. Yet, if we ask ourselves where else than on a throne we might expect to find a wholly impartial and disinterested judge of the public interest, where else we could hope to light on an umpire whose single individual veto would suffice in a just manner to dismiss, or defer for careful consideration, any government measure deemed by him to jeopardise the general weal, few of us would hesitate to point to a monarch.
Subject always to the proviso that he would be worthy of his position, appropriately trained, and liable to be replaced if unworthy, we should all agree that the old notion of a sovereign, functioning as the chairman on a board of national councillors and consulting with them concerning State administration, is in the light of universal history incontrovertible.
We have had our hard lessons. We now know the disastrous effects that may follow a too rigid observance of the rule of primogeniture, the unhappy consequences of unwise royal matings, the mistakes of education in the training of princes mistakes due chiefly to the vulgar belief (not shared by Kant for instance) that although the prince is to occupy a unique position in the land, he need not be made to undergo a unique training, but, in accordance with liberal and romantic dreams of a popular creed, may be instructed in the curricula and subjected to the training, prescribed in the best schools for commoners in his country. (See Kant's ÜBER PÄDOGOGIK, Edit. by Prof. Willmann, particularly pp. 6269 on the education of men of exalted station).
But the errors of the past do not commit us either to their repetition or to the abandonment of the principle of royalty; and the gravity of our predecessors' blunders does not reduce us to the foolhardy Western policy of depriving the deliberations of the national government of the only unbiassed contributions they can hope to obtain.
The slip-shod and slap-dash thinking that induced a Keir Mardie in May 1901 to say in the House of Commons that he could not "see the uses of the Royal Family", might possibly be condoned on the score of the definite article before "Royal" in his remark. But let us not exceed his benightedness by using the indefinite article in the same sentence.
When we bear in mind that in a country like England, actually possessed of the pretence of a Constitution which once included both the invaluable factor of Royal participation in State councils and the contribution that could be made by an Élite composed of what ideally were supposed to be the best in the land; when we remember, I say that in such a country, both of these valuable components of Parliament have been sacrificed or at least docked of all real power, in order to establish and consolidate the undisputed primacy of irresponsible mob-majorities alone, we can but marvel at the profound pessimism, the loss of faith in the inexhaustible resources of human nature, which must have animated those who through recent centuries have helped thus to debase our present political system.
Turning now to the second factor in the British Parliament the House of Lords the power of which has now been almost wholly annulled it may serve our purpose best to consider what constitutional provision can most effectively check and control the decisions of the Sovereign on the one hand and of the Commons on the other.
Owing to the question of House of Lords Reform which, ever since the years 19091911, has directed attention to the powers and membership of the Upper House, the merits of bicarmeralism and the problem of its organization have been prominent subjects of political controversy.
We need not here review the circumstances which led to the Parliament Act of 1911 and gave the primacy of the Commons statutory form. For although this Act illustrated the serious flaw in the political system of England i.e., the lack of any legal defence of the Constitution against the arrogant exactions of the Commons, and the error of granting both legislative and constitutive rights to the popular and elected Chamber it will be more profitable to concentrate merely on the problem of the necessity of a Second Chamber and of its optimal composition.
The necessity in question is by no means self-evident. Many politicians see no reason for it whatsoever, and ever since 1649 its utility has been repeatedly denied. Yet, unless we believe in the Divine Right of Majorities, unless we are convinced of the infallible wisdom of the epicene mobs high and low, which to-day determine the nature of our laws and order our way of life, are we meekly to submit to their judgment? Are we certain that even the more inane among them, if released from the toils of demagogues and agitators, would not themselves be glad of a competent audit of their decisions by an independent and authoritative body? Because in the past the Commons have displayed an over-weening temper, are we to assume that the masses, as Carlyle alleged, are really such fools as to assume the omniscience their elected representatives claimed?
"La démocratie," de Toqueville declared, "peut conduire au despotisme ou à la liberté. Elle conduit au despotisme, si l'on ne met rien au dessus du pouvoir de la majorité." (L'ERREUR DE LA DÉMOCRATIE FRANÇAISE, by Louis Rougier, Chap. XIII, ii: "Democracy may lead to despotism or to freedom. It leads to despotism if nothing is set above the power of the majority.").
And Lord Bryce warned us over forty years ago that "Every people that has tried to govern itself has . . . recognized the need of precautions against the errors it may commit, be they injurious to the
The need of a Second Chamber to act as a revisory committee, as a brake on hurried or possibly impassioned decisions reached by the popularly elected Assembly, and capable, thanks to its authority, independence of Party and of electors, of dealing with national problems in a public-spirited and experienced manner; this need, if not self-evident, is at least cogently arguable, especially in a Democracy based on universal epicene suffrage. The only difficult problem it leaves us to solve, is the composition of such a body. For history plainly shows that, at bottom, the discredit that it has incurred in the past, and the growing public prejudice against it, have been caused more by its composition than by its institutional relationship to the other two components of Parliament.
In other words, if, as I have repeatedly shown in these columns, the House of Peers had always been composed of men worthy of their responsible and exalted duties, animated by Public Spirit and, in short, truly the seniors and best in the nation, instead of being merely pseudo-aristocrats and ermined vulgarians, it is most unlikely that the need of a Second Chamber would never have been questioned.
I would be the last unduly to exaggerate the intelligence of the masses, but I cannot believe that they would ever have been so benighted wantonly to sacrifice the value of that "second opinion" which in both Medicine and Law they so regularly insist on, if in politics it had not frequently proved either untrustworthy or unfair.
Far be it from me to wish to disparage the judgments and tastes of young people, or to deny the innovatory influence their freshness sometimes exercises. On the other hand I can think of nothing more ridiculous than the resolute over-estimation and adulation of youthful Thought and Opinion which is rife today in all classes of the nation. Nor do I doubt that much of this fanatical peadolatry has political implications.
When we reflect on the fact that youth always constitutes the majority in the population, and that the composition of the Lower House is the work of a majority of epicene voters, it cannot be extravagant to suggest that this absurd exaltation of juvenility to-day may be connected, however occultly, with the worship of majorities and with the scorn commonly expressed for the idea of a Second, qua Senior Chamber an assembly where appeal may be made to the experience of elders.
Centuries of communal life have familiarized mankind with the knowledge that a senior's contribution to a discussion, his participation in an inquiry, is often revelatory, not to say indispensable; and government duties are so frequently found to be discharged with success by the elders in a community, that the rôle of a senior or seniors in the business of rulership is a commonplace in the political history of most societies, even the least civilized. The very word "Senate" is significant in this respect.
This is not to suggest that it would be wise to reform the Second Chamber by retaining its present quasi-aristocratic and hereditary character whilst at the same time attempting a regeneration of the Aristocracy. For any such plan would in the present state of England savour too much of utopianism and dreamland. But it is to suggest most emphatically that the present policy of continuing to carry on the government with only one limb of the Parliamentarian tripod still extant, is both farcical and even dangerous, and that therefore, if a democratic régime is to continue, a prompt reorganization of the Second Chamber is an urgent necessity.
The nature of its composition will be discussed in the next article.
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Lord Bryce revealed one aspect of the House of Lords Reform problem when he said, "What can be done, while respecting the principle of majority rule, to safeguard the people against the consequences of their own ignorance and impetuosity?" (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, Part III, Chap. LXIII).
Passing over its awkward implication which amounts to a condemnation of democratic government (because ignorance can be a source of Authority only if Nemesis is desired), this statement gives us a clue to the solution of our problem. For it calls upon us to seek in the personnel of a Second Chamber men who are not ignorant and whose wisdom inspires the confidence on which Authority depends.
The principal difficulty of realising the benefits of such an arrangement is that wisdom is wont to take a long-term view of all policies and projects, whilst crowds especially when epicene and composed chiefly of emotional, ignorant and inexperienced people can only with great pains be induced to take anything but a short-term view of the courses they favour. And it is this collision of disparate points of view which in my opinion is the cause of the fatal clashes which, under a democratic régime, wreck the relationship of an unelected Second Chamber to the elected and mob-supported Lower Chamber. Nor is it easy to see how this conflict can be avoided.
Take for instance the familiar adage: "Hard cases make bad laws." This deplorable truth constitutes a danger to society only if crowds are the judges of the hard cases in question. And the fact that England's Statute-Book is crammed with the very sort of bad laws arising from hard cases, is evidence of the misdirected pressure which for many decades now has been brought to bear on Parliament by ignorant, sentimental and short-sighted crowds, incapable of the long-term view, whether in regard to their own personal practices, their day-to-day decisions, or even the treatment of their own offspring.
This constitutes a difficulty likely to remain among the more formidable flaws of democratic rule. For, no matter how you may compose your Second Chamber, if wisdom is to be the first pre-requisite of its members, and wisdom and calm reflection can take none other than a long-term view of any policy or course of action, the members of the Lower and popular-elected House are fated always to look on all doubts, hesitations and objections their measures may encounter in the Upper House, merely as gratuitous obstruction and intolerable tyranny.
I can see no way of resolving this difficulty; because it results from a conflict between the attitudes which broadly speaking belong to youth and age respectively. And by "youth" I do not mean in this context merely juvenility, but all the characteristics that accompany it inexperience, lack of information, hastiness of judgment, and uncurbed passion. Having often tried in my small way to help ill-informed and presumptuous people to take a long-term view of their practices, I have generally found their indurated habit of forming snap-judgments, cultivated in them by long democratic tradition, too deeply rooted to be cured.
This is not to say that the conflicts which, before the Parliament Act of 1911, used often to flare up between the Commons and the Lords, were always the outcome of the difference of attitude I have described. It would be idle to claim that, although traditionally the two Houses had in law equal powers, the Upper House usually displayed the wiser judgment, or always showed that wisdom, maturity of outlook and calm which enabled them to take a long-term view of the policies submitted to them by the Commons. Indeed, the equality granted to the two Houses by law too often extended to the very failings which it was the Lords' raison d'être to correct. But to regard these shortcomings as inevitable in any system which posits a Second Chamber, with the functions I have enumerated, as an essential component of the Parliamentary tribune, would be mistaken. For the fundamental defect of the so-called "aristocrats" who have hitherto composed the personnel of the Upper House, have too often been due, as I have repeatedly maintained in these columns, to the fact that only exceptionally were they aristocratic at all i.e., of the best in the nation. Hence, when conflict arose between the two Houses, the Lords, who in the main were in their House by hereditary right, never enjoyed the Prestige (except pecuniarily) and Authority which would have secured that acceptance of their rulings, which the populace readily accord to their medical, legal and even their plumbing advisers. And this was so, not because there is necessarily anything mischievous or fanciful in the principle of hereditary rulership, but because the hereditary body of rulers in question, though in some cases descended from good ruler stock, never observed the laws of hereditary transmission which might have preserved their heritage of mental and physical qualities.
But this does not mean that an Upper House of truly superior human material would necessarily fail in the same way. If then, without in any respect admitting that, under a democratic régime, a Second Chamber could be so composed as to function successfully as a salutary check on the popularly elected Chamber and as a means of watching and influencing the Executive, what are the people we should regard as suitable for appointment to such a Chamber and
In the absence of any genuine Élite in modern England a lack recognized by many advocates of Democracy who have recently actually admitted the urgent need of reconstituting such an Élite (see, particularly: Sir Fred Clarke's EDUCATION & SOCIAL CHANGE, 1940, and FREEDOM IN THE EDUCATIVE SOCIETY, 1948; Dr. F. C. Happold's TOWARDS A NEW ARISTOCRACY, 1943; Prof. A. Weber's FAREWELL TO EUROPEAN HISTORY, 1948; and Prof. W. Röpke's CIVITAS HUMANA, 1948) we are reduced to the expedient of drawing up a specification of the kind of human character likely to meet the requirements of a Second Chamber and to discuss how it may be found. This may appear a fanciful undertaking. But to the reader who takes this view let me recommend the literature just quoted.
From what has been said, the conclusion emerges that members of the Second Chamber should at least be seniors and form a Senate in the accepted sense of that word. All mankind's pre-historic and later experience in the matter of social law and order, has perhaps very naturally led to a quasi-instinctive belief in the indispensability of seniority for chieftainship and ruler duties. The frequency with which primitive peoples have been found to be governed by their elders and the common occurrence of patriarchal rule among barbarian and even civilized communities, indicates not only the deference that mankind tends to pay to experience, but also the faith in seniority which social life through the ages seems to have cultivated and confirmed.
We have but to think of the Council of Five Hundred in Athens, every member of which had to be at least nine years older than the minimum age for admission to the Assembly; of the Council of the Areopagus consisting of ex-Archons; and of the term "gerusia" applied to the council of elders that assisted Spartan Kings in the government, in order to appreciate the extent of the ancient Greek world's faith in seniority. And much the same remarks apply to ancient Rome, where the Senate, which was composed of a collection of past magistrates, exerted its power in the three fields that of legislation, foreign affairs and finance.
Thus did antiquity express its belief in the principle which Plato defined in Bk. III, 412 of THE REPUBLIC as follows: "There can be no doubt that the rulers must be the elderly men, and the subjects the younger . . . And also that the rulers must be the best men among them."
Similarly, both in modern France and the United States, membership of the Senate is contingent on seniority. Under the Fourth Republic in the former country, though a member of the National Assembly had to be at least 23 years of age, a member of the Council of the Republic (which replaced the old Senate) had to be at least 35 years old. And these conditions have been retained by De Gaulle's 5th Republic. In the Senate of the Third Republic, members had actually to be at least 40 years old, and even so "in this very sober and dignified body, influence often went with seniority." (POLITICS IN POST-WAR FRANCE, by Philip Williams, 1958, Chap. 17). In the United States a like difference of age is insisted on for members of the two Houses; the minimum age for membership of the Senate being 30, whilst that for the House of Representatives is 25.
Thus, in defiance of the absurd modern vogue of paedolatry in every sphere of our national life, we should only be following time-honoured practices if at the head of Upper-House qualifications we placed that maturity which is usually a promise of experience and worldly wisdom. I say "usually" advisedly because men are not unlike wine in their tendency only to improve with age provided that they were good from the start; which explains why there's no fool like an old fool.
Secondly we should require such an Upper-House candidate to be a man who, by his conduct and character, independently of his pecuniary situation, has won the respect, if not of his country, at least of his locality, and therefore constitutes the choice of the more substantial and responsible of his fellow-citizens. If, in addition, he can have achieved distinction in any field, so that his judgment has long inspired confidence, and especially if he can show worthy antecedents, his suitability will be greatly enhanced.
These qualifications are more or less what the French and American system of selection for a Second Chamber prescribe and, as Mr. Gordon Wright declares its effect "was to favour candidates possessing local prestige, whatsoever their national party connections" happened to be. (EUROPEAN POLITICAL SYSTEMS, 1959, Chap. 9).
Writing to the Prime Minister (Lloyd George) in 1918, Lord Bryce recommended the following types as worthy of Second Chamber status: "Persons of experience in various forms of public work (judicial, local-government, Civil Service, or Parliamentary); persons possessing special knowledge of important departments of the national life (Agriculture, Commerce, Industry, Finance, Education, Naval and Military Affairs) and persons possessing a like knowledge of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs . . . persons who are not extreme partisans, but of a cast of mind which enables them to judge political questions with calmness and comparative freedom from prejudice or bias." (BRITISH GOVERNMENT Select Documents, 1955, by G. H. L. Le May, Sect. II).
Makeshift such as any such list of criteria must necessarily be; in the absence of a carefully bred and conscientiously dedicated national Élite, it is probably the best provisional means of making good the deplorable deficiency. At all events it is better than the old system of filling the benches of the Upper House chiefly with the eldest sons of hereditary peers, whose membership depended only on their birth in homes not always truly aristocratic, and on their having been the first-born and consequently not necessarily the best of their stock.
Even assuming, however, that the most perfect and strictest selective method could now be applied for membership of the Second Chamber, it is most improbable that, under a democratic régime, the Lower House, elected by the populace and consisting largely of men and women chosen for no other reason than their "sense of humour" and ready flow of pleasing verbiage, would now be prepared to accept their seniors' rulings or criticisms, let alone be able to assess and recognize the superior qualities which had entitled them to sit in the Upper House.
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Before concluding our discussion of Democracy, which we have found to be a form of administration difficult to control and, when based on universal suffrage, prone to degenerate into an ochlocratic tyranny, a few words are called for concerning the tendency of a democratic community to split into factions supporting conflicting policies and ideologies.
"There is no reason in theory," says Mr. Sydney D. Bailey, "why a democratic system of government should not function perfectly without political parties." (BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, 1959, Chap. 7). But true though this may be, we find in modern Europeans and their kin all over the world, certain traits which, far from fostering political harmony, are actually potent causes of discord. And foremost in this respect stands the weakness for ideological schismatism.
With the gradual evanescence of religious conformity, which began in the 16th century and led to the belief that every ordinary person is competent to settle the most abstruse theological problems for himself, there arose, even in countries that remained Catholic, a spirit of self-assurance not to say, impudence which emboldened everybody to assume that there was no question too complex or obscure for the ordinary mind to understand and hold an opinion upon.
For, if matters as sacred and profound as religious doctrine could be mastered by the average uninstructed layman, it was surely finicky and captious to pronounce him incompetent to decide simpler and more mundane questions. Had not St. Paul himself said: "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?" (I. Corinthians, VI. 2,3).
Unfortunately, there were no means of preventing this attitude of mind from spreading to politics; and to-day even to suggest that there may be some political problems beyond the range of the ordinary mind, is tantamount to impugning what people believe to be one of the most self-evident rights of Man. To exclaim to the average voter, in the words of Job, "O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom," (XIII, 5), would now amount merely to incurring a charge of behaving in a manner likely to cause "a breach of the peace".
With such a spirit prevailing, schism, which had destroyed the unity of the Church and had proliferated in England into scores of antagonistic sects, inevitably multiplied ideologies in other spheres, and fanatical ideologists became as plentiful in political as they had already become in religious thought.
Perhaps it is an abuse of language to speak of "Thought" in connection with the basically visceral processes by which popular ideologies are reached and acclaimed. And it is merely a polite fiction which prompts one to ask the average man or woman what he or she "thinks" about the Eucharist, the Confessional, or about Nuclear Disarmament and the Nationalisation of the Means of Production.
Be this as it may, political parties are no more than the logical outcome of that spirit of exorbitant self-assurance that arose in the post-Renaissance period of our era and, although as Mr. Bailey declares, "most public men" in the 17th century "attacked any sign of the growth of parties as conspiratorial attempts to divide the nation", (op. cit.), they were bound to come into being and prove a rich source of national disunity and eventually of anarchy. For they render inevitable the following untoward consequences:
(1) That the leader of the Government, or the Prime Minister pro tem. (i.e. the Head of the Executive and therefore the virtual ruler) is perforce detested and reviled by that half of the nation, more or less, which, under its own leader, does not share the Prime Minister's party's political views and abhors their policies. Indeed, as Mr. G. M. Young points out, "It is in the nature of things that, when government by party is the rule, public men should never be wholly trusted and never generally liked." (LAST ESSAYS, 1950, Chap. 13).
In this way, the general public quite unwittingly, but none the less most effectively, apply the principle of "divide and rule"; for, by occupying a position similar to that of the spoilt child between parents contending for and jealous of its affection, they can insensibly exert pressure on opposing Parties to grant them anything they happen to covet, always with the object of making their lot softer and easier.
(2) That, owing to the eagerness for Office and Power, the Parties naturally vie with each other in demagogy and vote-catching bribery; though, unlike the demagogues of ancient Athens, they incur no risk of a prosecution when, in practising these wiles, they mislead the electorate. In this way, the political decisions of the majority tend more and more to be prompted merely by the material advantage, not the nation at large, that they themselves are likely to derive from their vote. At least this is an issue they can understand and they master it with enough skill to set at naught Mills' principle that the vote is "a public trust" which "the voter is under an absolute moral obligation" to discharge only with the "interests of the public" and not "his private advantage" in view. (REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, 1861, Chap. X.)
In 1842 Monckton Milnes (later Lord Houghton) maintained that "Everyone voted at an election for one reason only: because they believed that some benefit would accrue to themselves or their own interests from the policy of the favoured candidate." (MONCKTON MILNES, by Pope-Hennessy, 1949). On the other hand, Samuel Morley, in an election speech at Bristol in 1868, referring to the Reform Bill of 1867, said: "I do not so distrust the character of Englishmen that they will employ their newly acquired privileges for selfish and unworthy purposes."
Both of these statements were made before universal epicene suffrage was estabished. And can anyone now doubt that Milnes was right and Morley wrong? At all events it was Dean Inge's belief in 1952 that "Democracy stands revealed as government by mass bribery" (HIBBERT JOURNAL, July), and the legislation passed during his later years and even more recently abundantly confirms his view.
Indeed, it is in the very nature of things that crowds, confronted with all the incomprehensible complexities of national politics, should necessarily
Thus, in the Commons, the People's representatives will, if there is any chance of discrediting the government by so doing, always exaggerate hard cases to the point of wringing the heart-strings of the multitude, and bad laws accordingly follow. Hence more and more latitude tends to be granted to self-indulgence, sloth and unruliness. Licence masquerades as liberty, discipline declines, and the nation's fibre slowly softens as anarchy spreads. Even the prisons, through the misguided sentimentality of reformers like Alexander Paterson, for instance, are transformed into second-class boarding-houses or sanatoria.
And, meanwhile, committees of learned jurists, psychologists, female busy-bodies and other wiseacres, are solemnly convened to fathom and suggest remedies for the soaring incidence of crime, vandalism, juvenile delinquency and profligacy in the country.
(3) That, as the ideal function of the Official Opposition, whose Party Leader now receives £3,750 a year, is to criticize and improve the measures the Party in power propose, a situation is created whereby the Opposition as the rival of the Government Party is constantly tempted utterly to condemn rather than amend, and summarily to reject rather than to consider, every measure, however salutary and wise, which the Party in power propose. For obviously it cannot be the wish of the Party out of Office to improve its opponents' Parliamentary record.
In this way, many a good measure is either defeated, drastically disfigured or so completely mutilated as to be unrecognisable; and schemes of reform involving a long-term view of the nation's welfare are often nipped in the bud, or not even presented to the House, lest they give the Opposition too favourable a chance of loudly bewailing their short-term disadvantages for the voting masses.
As Lord Bryce said, "Though in theory the duty of the Opposition is to oppose only the bad measures, and to expose only the misdoings of the Administration, in practice it opposes most of their measures and criticises most of their acts." (MODERN DEMOCRACIES, 1921, Pt. III, Chap. LXVIII).
Professor Harold Laski, less temperately maintained that "We pay a large number of members of the House of Commons to obstruct public business as much as they can, to take the maximum advantage of the Government's mistakes, to insist that it is ruining the country, to extract from it if possible information by which this can be proved, and to flood the electorate with propaganda intended to show that the Government, however good its motives, is in fact doing the worst possible things in the worst possible way." (PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT IN ENGLAND, 1938, Chap. II).
Can anyone doubt that this basic evil of our system results from Party Government and the bitter rivalry it fosters? Would it not otherwise be the endeavour of any critical group in Parliament only to amend and ameliorate the Government's measures, and to condemn them only when they promised to prove pernicious? For opposition can be unbiassed, honest and constructive only when it is prompted by convictions and rationally defended principles. If it springs from mere rivalry, from a determination to defeat at all costs, and from the thwarted ambition of men panting for Office and Power, who think only of posturing heroically before an ill-informed gallery, it can only exercise a deleterious influence on the life of the nation.
At General Elections the Party System certainly introduces the excitement of a boxing contest into the dreary business of estimating the merits of policies never properly understood by an electorate only really interested in political programmes that touch their pocket. But this one virtue surely does not compensate us for the damage it causes in other directions.
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Before turning to more constructive arguments, let us now summarise and recapitulate what has been said in the last three articles by considering how any assembly of true scientists reach their decisions and discuss problems connected with their particular branch of knowledge.
Even if some disagreement arises, they all speak and behave as if governed by the one wish to serve the best interests of their speciality. A hostile faction bent only on denigrating and defeating the rest of the assembly is unknown. On the contrary, even adverse criticism is directed towards furthering the ends of Science, to which all are dedicated. Far from being resented, it is welcomed and valued.
No contribution to the discussion is intended to gratify an ignorant public outside. Nor between the participators in the debate is there any rivalry for the approval of this lay mob. None of those present depends for his position or income on this approval.
Why is this so? Because in the world of Science, not only is Vox Populi not Vox Dei; but also to deny that it ever can be, constitutes no damning heresy. Science alone appears to have recognised from the start that so-called "Free Thought" implies the contempt of Thought. Science alone in this Age of Reason has escaped the superstitious bondage imposed by the canonisation of the Voice of the People.
Outside scientific circles to-day only a mere handful of people ever feel nauseated when hearing the average man and woman pronounce the words "I think" before passing judgment on a matter obviously beyond their ken. Typical of such painful displays is the B B.C. programme ANY QUESTIONS, in which a panel of allegedly "thoughtful" people, presided over by Freddie Grisewood, never have the courage to admit that their customary opening words, "I think", really mean no more than, "I have been conditioned by my newspaper and the town talk to state . . ."
In a particular speech made late in 1963, for instance, one silly woman on this panel voiced her conviction that the "Colour Bar" was wrong and evil. And, as she prefaced her remark with the customary naïve "I think", it was obvious that she imagined her sentiments were the offspring of her own brain and that she expected her audience to accept them as such.
Now Science has kept aloof from this sort of vulgarity. It has consistently championed and maintained the Sanctity and Dignity of thought, and left "Free Thought" to the Women's Institute, the Mother of Parliaments, and the discriminative cogitations of those whose votes fill the benches of the House of Commons.
Science has also remained uncorrupted by the lure of Party; because, certainly since Roger Bacon, it has had loftier aims than to degrade intellectual activities to the plane of boxing contests with their appropriate prizes.
As to Science's Court of Appeal, its Second Chamber this is supplied by the scientific fraternity of the whole world. It is his confrère and colleague, wherever he may be, who in a dedicated spirit examines, tests, modifies and accepts or rejects the scientist's findings.
And does anyone suppose that National Politics in Britain could not follow a similar plan? Is there any reason why 630 men, sitting as a body of Royal consultants (their traditional rôle), and consisting of adults of presumed ability, knowledge and experience, could not debate problems concerning the Public Good by means of an orderly, calm and friendly exchange of views? Must a committee, even so large a one, necessarily be split into hostile factions, bent on mutual humiliation and vilification, in order to reach fruitful conclusions? Cannot a verbal duel be profitable unless it is animated by à priori hostility and venom? Is the prospect of ultimately filling your opponents' shoes, wielding his power and pocketing his emoluments, calculated to make your reasoning more disinterested, your judgments more fair, your opposition more sincere, and the outcome of your debate nationally more beneficial?
Let those who to-day have no knowledge of Parliamentary deliberations before Party Politics became the rule, and who therefore imagine that factional pugilistics in Parliament are of the Order of Nature let such people, I say, ponder the questions I have set forth above.
Over 200 years ago, one of the wisest thinkers these islands have produced was well aware of the baneful effect of factional strife in legislative deliberations. Writing on the advantages of discussions conducted by groups all united in the task of securing the Public Weal, he said: "Factions subvert government, render laws impotent, and beget the fiercest animosities among men of the same nation, who ought to give mutual assistance and protection to each other. And what should render the founders of parties more odious, is the difficulty of extirpating these weeds when once they have taken root in any state" (OF PARTIES IN GENERAL, Essay VIII, 1742). Elsewhere, moreover, he said: "When men act in a faction, they are apt, without shame or remorse, to neglect all the ties of honour and morality, in order to serve their party" (ON THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT, Essay IV, 1942).
So much for David Hume's considered opinion, on Party Government! What would he have thought of our present practice of paying the leader of the Official Opposition £3,750 a year for thwarting, frustrating and maligning the Party conducting the government of the nation?
Over and above this, when we find our 630 M.P.s in Britain, who ideally should be men of good will and honest purpose, refusing to entertain even the hope that a second opinion on their findings might perhaps be helpful, if not actually revelatory, what are we to think? What are we compelled to think? Is not their refusal tantamount to laying a claim to their own infallibility, their own perfect omniscience? And this in a society whose national Church and its scores of dissenting bodies all loftily gird at the idea of Papal Infallibility as a foolish if not an impious, superstition!
The French revolutionary politician, Siéyès, who lived to witness the rise and fall of Napoleon, main-
In 1858, Lord Lyndhurst maintained that it is often argued that a Second Chamber is a means of checking what he called "the inconsiderate, rash, hasty and undigested legislature of the other House" (BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, by Sydney D. Bailey, 1959, Chap. III).
But this is to assume that the decisions reached by the Lower House, after adequate and protracted discussion and reflection, may always be deemed rash, hasty and ill-digested, and that it is only on this account that their revision is necessary. Is this not, however, a perfectly gratuitous belief? Does it not rest on the supposition that only decisions reached in a hurry and without due caution are susceptible of amelioration and beneficial modification? Does it not imply that all well-pondered and maturely-considered decisions cannot be improved upon? But if this were true, the whole practice of the Legal, Medical and Engineering professions in seeking second opinions before embarking on any important or hazardous undertaking would be quite otiose, the appeal to a second party or body for their judgment, does not necessarily imply any scorn of the first party or body. It amounts simply to a form of re-insurance.
Thus, no solution of this vexed question could have been more enlightened than that of Sir Henry Maine; and what he said should be compared with Lord Lyndhurst's statement quoted above, and that of Lord Bryce on House-of-Lords Reform quoted in article X of this series.
"What is wanted from an Upper House", said Sir Henry Maine, "is the security of its concurrence, after full examination of the measure concurred in" (POPULAR GOVERNMENT, 1885, Essay III).
Precisely! In our appeal for a second opinion, we want the equivalent of a final warrant that we may safely go ahead, that we have the considered approval of an independent judge for doing what we proposed to do. The composition of the Second House, its personnel, may present difficulties. To settle this matter may require much long and searching inquiry and thought. But that a Second Chamber, a final court of appeal, is wholly superfluous, can only be the sort of conclusion one would expect a raving mob of 5th of November teenagers to reach in Trafalgar Square after a sleepless night.
In this sense, the virtual elimination of a Second Chamber in England, amounts to a profession of faith, a gesture of submission to a dogma. And what is this dogma? It is nothing more than a command to believe that the Voice of the People is the Voice of God. It is essentially to claim that the members of the Lower House, the representatives of the mob high and low, are infallible. And this is altogether to leave out of account the elimination of that additional safeguard against error and inadequate reflection, which the Crown was once able to provide.
The fact that both of these losses have been incurred at a period in our history when Party Politics have never been pursued with greater bitterness, heat and rivalry, constitutes one of the most serious dangers of the Age. For the customary mood of passionate antagonism in which all political problems are now examined and debated, far from reducing, has only multiplied the possible causes of faulty legislation, and there was therefore never a time when the sort of re-insurance of which Sir Henry Maine speaks, was more indispensable to good government than it is at the present day.
The popular "hubris" displayed by the haughty elimination from the legislature of both a Second Chamber and the Crown, has created a political situation of the utmost gravity. One can but hope and pray that the proverbial penalties which, according to ancient Greek myth, usually attend such acts of arrogance and pride, may not be suffered in our time or at least not in full. For that a substantial portion of them are already being inflicted can hardly be doubted.
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So that some reference may be made to the cultural effects of Democracy on the peoples practising it, this is only a postscript to article XII and not the first chapter of a more constructive treatment of our subject.
Having in my lifetime seen the electorate of Great Britain increase from 3,000,000 in 1883 to 34,600,000 in 1951, I have had unique opportunities for observing the changes in the national character which, if not due to this increase, have certainly accompanied it. And some of these changes have already been indicated in article VI of this series.
Most noticeable of all has been the deterioration in the manners, intelligence and especially the self-reliance of all classes. In Politics, Taste, Public Spirit and Behaviour, Journalism, the Drama, Honesty, the Sense of Justice and Chivalry, Discipline and Self-Control, standards have all been lowered. Incidentally, too, during my visits to France in the same period, I have been struck by a similar deterioration in every aspect of the nation's way of life. Nor have I any doubt that it has been due to the same causes. Most surprising of all has been the decline in French intelligence, which has been as serious as that scientifically registered in Great Britain.
At all events, these deplorable changes have led me to wonder whether possibly the democratic practice of repeatedly inviting the masses to pass judgement on matters they are unqualified to judge; of regularly accepting from them, on complex State problems, directives which it is palpably false to regard as the outcome of their knowledge, experience and understanding, and of constantly allowing them, through the appeals of rival political factions, to be prompted to reach decisions in which self-interest and short-term vision inevitably play a more important role than Public Spirit and Prescience I say, I have sometimes wondered whether such political practices can possibly fail to produce in democratic communities a gradual deterioration in many of the more precious human character traits painfully cultivated by centuries of civilization.
Even the indefatigable broadcasting of the blessings of "Freedom" and of belonging to the "Freedom-Loving Peoples", tends to multiply the influences making for disorder and anarchy; because it is manifestly unfair to expect the average man and woman, let alone the average teenager, to possess that precision and scrupulosity in reasoning habits which would enable them to distinguish nicely between Liberty and Licence.
The lamentable frequency with which in my lifetime, when protesting against some gross breach of social behaviour, I have been met with the retort, "This is a free country isn't it?", has convinced me that both in England and France the fulsome and full-throated reiteration of the wonders of "Freedom" has made substantial contributions to the loosening of all restraints on popular unruliness and even on wanton vandalism, and has seriously weakened self-control in the population.
But the average ignorant or half-educated member of a democratic State is not in a position to apprehend and elude these injurious consequences of his national political system, or to detect in the Liberal slogans of his Age their soporific effect on his primitive sagacity and acumen. Otherwise we might expect to see more widespread alarm concerning the danger of democratic practices for the national character.
Strange to say, however, my most painstaking researches have so far failed to disclose more than one instance of any unwillingness to comply with democratic forms, and it relates to a Salisbury musician's refusal in the late 17th century to enjoy the privilege of the Parliamentary franchise. But it is significant that the man in question happened to be an artist and was therefore well aware of the hard apprenticeship required before anyone can competently perform a skilful job.
We certainly hear of primitive populations declining the right to a Parliamentary vote, and this enlightened action has recently been reported of the Ugandians who, after three weeks of intensive propaganda urging them to register as voters in Kampala, their Capital, the results were derisory; whilst in Jinia the situation was more farcical still. (DAILY MAIL: 14.11.63). There may therefore be in primitive folk a pristine sagacity, long lost to us, causing them to sense the occult perils of Parliamentary Democracy. Be this as it may, when once armies of ordinary people have been induced to exercise their democratic rights, the effect on their character and intelligence is unlikely to be innocuous, and for the following reasons:
(1) By habituating the man in the street to pass judgments and criticize superiors on matters he imperfectly understands, the population as a whole acquires a cocksureness, an overweening temper and superciliousness, which are unfavourable to a proper and sane attitude towards knowledge, experience and authority, and are inclined to destroy respects for law and order and even to prevent a wise direction of their own private lives by the mass of the nation. And when Sir Henry Maine spoke of "the chief democratic right" as that of being "to censure superiors", he implied as much. (POPULAR GOVERNMENT, 1885, Essay 1).
(2) By inculcating upon the masses the belief that they can perform a task as difficult and complex as that of passing judgment on political programmes or lines of policy without proper preparation, knowledge or experience. Democracy invites them to perform a job of work badly, and thus undermines their instinct of good workmanship and their sense of quality. Incidentally, too it schools them in the habit of scorning special qualifications and all claims to competence in the judgment of a problem or the solution of a difficulty. They thus acquire a tendency to be slap-dash in their thinking and slipshod in their work.
Most significant in this respect is a statement recently made by Major-General B. G. Ralfs before a Conference held at Eastbourne on November 27th by the British Productivity Council Speaking as the Chairman of The National Council for Quality and Reliability, he said that the total cost to the nation of bad workmanship amounted to probably more
(3) By arming the populace with a weapon like the Vote, which in practice may be used to defeat the wisdom of a god, they acquire faith in purely materialistic methods of deciding most issues; and this in an Age and a quarter of the Globe in which devotion to "spiritual" standards is constantly shouted from the house-tops!
The practice, moreover, of settling all questions according to the sheer weight of flesh and bones behind the parties respectively for or against them, leads to the neglect not only of those aspects of national problems requiring experience and special knowledge and intelligence for their solution, but also of those very pre-requisites themselves, with the result that the mental calibre of the population as a whole tends to decline.
About eighty years ago, Sir Henry Maine stated this aspect of the matter as follows: "Crowds of men can be got to assent to general statements, clothed in striking language, but unverified and perhaps incapable of verification, and thus there is formed a sort of sham and pretence of concurrent opinion. There has been a loose acquiescence in a vague position, and thus the People, whose voice is the voice of God, is assumed to have spoken. Useful as it is to democracies, this levity of spirit is one of the most enervating of national habits of mind. It has seriously enfeebled the French intellect. It is most injuriously affecting the mind of England . . . It threatens little short of ruin to the awakening intellect of India" (Op. cit. Essay II).
Incidentally we have statistical proof of the recent decline of intelligence in England (See, for instance, the data given in article IV of my series on WOMEN'S CONTRIBUTION TO BRITAIN'S NATIONAL DECLINE, South African Observer of May 1956, and other more recent articles); but although the decline of French intelligence in recent decades has been too obvious to remain unnoticed at least by me I have been unable to obtain any scientific data about it. In Gunther Schwab's LA DANSE AVEC LE DIABLE (1963, Chap. V) there is certainly some reference to it; but it is ascribed to sickness and faulty nutrition rather than to the influence of the French political system. Faulty nutrition and the disorders it causes no doubt play an important role in impairing intelligence and there is much French and English evidence pointing to this conclusion. But the causes to which Sir Henry Maine alludes probably also make a considerable contribution to the same effect. For to be repeatedly invited to pass judgment on matters of moment in a slipshod, superficial and ill-informed manner, cannot be good training for the mind.
(4) By exposing the masses to the periodical appeals of rival demagogues, people are encouraged to use their vote only in what they believe to be their own private interest, and not as Mill maintained they should, exclusively in the interest of the Public at large. Thus, whatever Public Spirit they may possess, is steadily weakened. They tend more and more to regard their political privileges as a means of getting something for nothing, and acquire a cynical indifference to the fraud of discharging what is ideally a Public obligation as if it were a source of private gain. Meanwhile, they naturally learn to be beguiled by mere eloquence and always to accept it as a proof of statesmanship. Nor is this delusion confined to the General Public alone; for, according to A. J. Balfour, even members of Parliament are subject to it. "We habitually assume", he said, "that anyone who is competent to debate must be competent to administer" (CHAPTERS OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1930, Chap. XII).
Thus the field of politics is inevitably surrendered to the glibbest speakers, who are also usually the most unscrupulous demagogues; and mere fluency, instead of being, as Lord Vansittart maintained, "more frequently a disqualification" (LESSONS OF MY LIFE, 1943, Chap. VIII), becomes the open sesame to the highest political honours.
How demagogy, by always stressing the most harrowing aspects of isolated hard cases, induces the least reflective and most sentimental elements in both the mob and the House of Commons to initiate and promote bad legislation, and how the resulting bad laws, besides placing unfair burdens on the taxpayer, tend to soften the fibre of the national character, destroy self-reliance, and cultivate habits of sloth, self-indulgence, dependence and debauchery in the population, could be illustrated by innumerable recent examples. But there are three lately reported which are typical:
"Whenever Jesse Gamble (of Nottingham), 45-year-old father of 14 children, was offered a job he turned it down. For, a court was told yesterday, he felt he had no need to work. He drew £8 a week from the National Assistance Board, £4.8.0 in Family Allowances, and £3 from his working children a total of £15.18.0 a week" (London DAILY MAIL, 2.9.59).
"Peter Blackman, 22, went on a three-months holiday to Cannes while he was out of work and on National Assistance . . . A probation officer told the magistrates, 'Blackman has not been working since January and was drawing £4.15.0 a week in assistance. By July he had saved so much he was able to go on a three-months holiday in Cannes'." (London DAILY MAIL, 15.11.63).
"More and more unmarried mothers expect the State to look after their children. Dr. Ernest Millar, medical officer of a city where one baby in ten is born illegitimate said yesterday, "Increased maternity benefits . . . made the unmarried mother more independent" and "the resources of many local authorities including Birmingham were being overtaxed by the problem of the unmarried mother" (London DAILY MAIL, 28.11.63).
Can we wonder that Oswald Spengler should have felt justified in exclaiming that Republics and Parliamentarianism mean "Dictatorship of the demagogues"? (THE HOUR OF DECISION? 1943, p. 137).
Now, before the vast extensions of the franchise witnessed in my lifetime, it was not within the power of the masses, under the influence of competitive demagogy, to extort such gratuities from their countrymen in order to defray the cost of their own indolence, self-indulgence and fornication.
Nor even now can they be held wholly responsible for the abuses which their voting rights have made possible, and which are rapidly corrupting their character. For without the puerile psychology and congenital imbecility of the Liberal male and female dreamers and idealists of last century, and the early decades of this century, all the changes which universal suffrage have brought about would have been impossible.
Nevertheless, if these same dreamers and idealists could return to the scene of their labours and, with those of their like who still survive amongst us, could behold the havoc their reforms have wrought in the stamina, self-reliance, independent spirit and even the industry of the British masses, surely they would be compelled in honesty to admit, if not the stupidity, at least the shortsightedness, which led them to assume that democratic institutions would necessarily prove educative and edifying for the nation at large.
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As it would be politically unfair und historically inaccurate to hold Democracy with Universal Suffrage alone responsible for the deplorable changes in the character and intelligence of the English masses, described in the previous article, allusion must be made to at least one other major cause, which was the failure of England's élite during many generations to set a high Tone to the nation, and frequently their talent for actually setting it a very low one.
Although every reputable political thinker of the Right has stressed the dependence of a nation's civilized behaviour on the Tone set by its "Upper Classes", I have deliberately chosen to quote Sir Fred Clarke on the subject, because, as an ardent democrat well-known for his championship of Popular Government, his insistence on the indispensability of an élite, of a class composed as he says of the beati-possidentes of a nation, if that nation is to acquire a good Tone and a decent way of life, constitutes a compelling argument in support of my own emphasis on this pre-requisite of good government.
"The vast bulk of the higher cultural achievements of mankind," he says, "have come from the presence in society of a minority so placed that either through its own free energies or its discerning patronage of genius, it could concern itself with the higher refinements of living." And, he continues, "It would be a grave and disastrous mistake to assume that the free society of the future will dispense with such a minority as being contrary to the principle of democratic equality." (FREEDOM IN THE EDUCATIVE SOCIETY, 1948).
Here we have from the lips of an ardent democrat, not only the admission that the task of Tone Setting has always been the function of a national minority, an élite, concerned with the higher refinements of living, but also that the future even of a free society can be saved from disaster only if this function is ably and punctually performed.
Now, among the chief causes of the deterioration of our way of life in recent centuries has been the hopeless collapse in every Western country of a truly aristocratic class an élite capable of discharging the very duties which Sir Fred Clarke has declared indispensable if a community is to have a decent social Tone.
Besides the causes of national degeneration discussed in article XIII of this series, we have therefore to take into account such further evil factors as the absence of a genuine élite, and above all the vicious influence exercised by the pseudo-élite or mock aristocracy that replaced them a class which, although in a leading position, was unable to spread over Western Society anything but a self-indulgent, ostentatious and vulgar way of life.
This lack of a worthy model by which the masses could fashion their own behaviour and tastes, began to be noticeable, especially in England, very early in the 18th century, when the full effect of the Puritan or tradesman's rebellion against a tasteful and thoughtful monarch, and the mischievous influence of the Tudor upstarts, showed signs of gathering strength.
A new rapacious spirit began to spread throughout all classes. Envy and ostentation became the spurs to all endeavour; men judged each other by a cash yardstick alone, and the halcyon days when according to Trevelyan, envy caused no heart-ache among the subordinate classes of the nation, gradually and inevitably passed into oblivion. (See ENGLISH SOCIAL HISTORY, 1944, Chap. VI).
Here and there an exceptionally sensitive spirit recognized the odious vulgarity of these new trends and uttered a protest. In his COMPLEAT ANGLER, as early as 1653 (1. 13), Izaac Walton, for instance, wrote: "I would rather prove myself a Gentleman by being learned, humble, valiant, inoffensive, virtuous and communicable, than by a fond ostentation of riches."
In the first decade of the following century, Steele, in a midsummer issue of The TATLER
Bolingbroke tried to remind the members of his class of their sacred obligations (see ON THE STUDY OF HISTORY, certainly written in the first half of the 18th century, pp. 156, 157); but, as the century advanced and especially after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (circa 1760), the example the English pseudo-élite set before the People became more and more destitute of noble attributes. No matter what his gifts or achievements might be, unless a man could convince his fellow creatures of his ability to pay, even to the extent of displaying actual wastefulness in expenditure, he could hope for little prestige. Thus Addison felt justified in maintaining in the SPECTATOR of August 22, 1712, "the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."
As Veblen was to put it very much later: "efficiency in any direction which does not redound to a person's economic benefit, is not of great value as a means of respectability. One does not make much of a showing by unremitting demonstrations of the ability to pay." Hence he argued, the struggle for existence in modern England insensibly developed into a vulgar "struggle to keep up appearances" (SOME NEGLECTED POINTS IN THE THEORY OF (SOCIALISM, 1892).
Even the source or origin of a man's wealth came to be regarded as negligible. The fact that he had it sufficed to establish his worthiness. As Balzac was to maintain early in the 19th century, "Les écus même tachés de sang ou de boue ne trahissent rien et représentent tout". ("Even blood- or mud-soiled money arouses no suspicion and commands full respect". SARRASINE, 1830).
Thus, virtues such as honour, candour, honesty and magnanimity, gradually ceased from being the prescriptive attributes of gentlemanliness. The term "Gentleman" therefore suggested simply one who, no matter what his character, breeding, or culture might be, had ample means.
And the fact that the pseudo-élite of the nation and its intelligentsia in 1831, six years before Victoria ascended the throne and only twelve months after Balzac had written the words quoted above, were already converted to this vulgar point of view, is shown by a remark made by no less a celebrity than Macaulay historian, politician and essayist who, in speaking of Charles I, in the EDINBURGH REVIEW of December, said: "It would be absurd to deny that he was a scholar and a gentleman . . . but he was false, imperious etc." Thus, in 1831, both Macaulay and those who read him with respect and approval, saw nothing outrageous or anomalous in connecting gentlemanship with falseness, a fact sufficiently illustrative of the deep decline in the standards of the pseudo-élite of the period.
When, over a century later, a writer like Mr. Maurice Woods could speak of Charles II as one who "died, as he had lived, at once a great rogue and a great gentleman," this naturally provoked no surprise, much less remonstrance; for by that time the whole of the English world had long accepted the narrow definition of a "gentleman" as that of one who had a good bank account.
In his AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1873), John Stuart Mill inveighs against all this vulgarity, and his remarks reflect his observation of his fellow men in mid-Victorian days. Thus he concludes: "Riches and the signs of riches were almost the only things really respected, and the life of the people was mainly devoted to their pursuit." Then, referring to the pseudo-élite of his day, he said, "Most people of any really high-class of intellect make their contact with it so slight, and at such long intervals, as to be almost considered as retiring from it altogether. Those persons of any mental superiority who do otherwise, are almost without exception, greatly deteriorated by it." (pp. 171 and 228).
Yet this same man, who had the candour to imply that he was no psychologist, so misunderstood the nature of the low character traits he was deploring that he became one of the most passionate advocates of Female Suffrage. Ignorant of the biological forces, quite beyond woman's control, which have induced the female throughout Nature and in every species, instinctively to secure abundant provision for her progeny for just as female butterflies and moths select the plant or tree with the most luxuriant foliage as a repository for their eggs, so women in all societies favour and exalt affluence above all other qualities in their mate Mill failed to recognize that woman's influence must always promote precisely what he most condemned: the adulation and blind worship of riches. If only Mill had had the good fortune to meet a contemporary like Baudelaire, he would have learnt that, at least in this respect, "La femme est toujours vulgaire" (MON COEUR MIS À NU, Chap. 6: "Woman is always vulgar."), and that therefore any society in which her influence prevails must be plutocratic and plutolatric.
Another sign of the times, and but a further symptom of the prevailing vulgarity, was the foundation of the Salvation Army in 1878. At a moment in English history when what most stared all thinking people in the face, was the pressing, crying need of saving the Upper Classes from absolute and irretrievable moral extinction; at a stage in the country's civilization when everything indicated that the disease spreading over our society came not from the dregs, but from the "cream" of the population, to have thought that the hope of the future lay in saving the paupers and destitute of the community, was but another proof of the crass vulgarity that had taken possession of all minds, even those of the charitable.
In 1860 a Salvation Army for the rescue of the "Upper Ten" alone might possibly have sufficed to regenerate the whole nation. Now, in the second half of the 20th century, it is doubtful whether a Salvation Army for the whole population a much more formidable undertaking! could hope to effect any salutary change.
No wonder that only five years before William Booth's dream was realized, Froude had felt entitled to maintain that "Great Wealth is regarded with the self-surrendering and disinterested devotion which used to be felt for God Almighty." (SHORT STUDIES ON GREAT SUBJECTS: England at War.)
When, therefore, we contemplate the masses of England today and behold the signs of deterioration in their character and intelligence, let us beware of laying the whole of the blame on Democracy and Universal Franchise. For the substantial contribution made to their deterioration, their tendency to self-indulgence and ostentation, and their vulgarity of outlook, by the precept and example of many generations of England's pseudo-élite should not be forgotten.
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Although many people would agree with Sir Henry Maine's condemnation of Democracy as an unstable régime, prejudicial to the character and intelligence of the masses, this does not mean that it must always degenerate into the mob tyranny we have in England.
It may therefore be worth our while to consider which of the democratic pitfalls that have led to this result are not inherent in the system.
1) First of all, it is not an inevitable feature of Democracy that a country should have its whole adult population, whether ignorant, inexperienced and benighted, or learned and intelligent, in a position to pass judgment on specific political programmes and policies. As a body of consultants their original and ideal function not expected to be conversant with Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Foreign Relations and Finance, all they can reasonably be asked to do, is to express approval or disapproval of a fait accompli, of the effects local or national (especially the former) of the régime under which they live. The most that can be granted them is to applaud or censure the consequences to themselves of administrative measures already applied.
Hence, a whole People can acquiesce in, or condemn, their political régime only retrospectively. To ask them to agree in advance to specific policies or measures is to give them a task beyond their corporate competence; and to imply that they are really able to perform this task amounts to a fraud. Thus the only political role a whole People can play in a democracy is to manifest contentment or discontentment and accordingly to remain docile or else to revolt.
Nor is it without significance that two such profound though vastly different political sages as the Chinaman Mencius and the Italian, St. Thomas Aquinas, should both have conceded the right of Revolution to unwisely ruled societies a concession indicating their conviction that it is unfair and above all otiose to burden the minds of the populace with the complex difficulties inseparable from the judging of governmental measures otherwise than by a backward view, a posteriori. (See THE CHINESE CLASSICS, Trans. by Dr. James Legge, Vol. II, Bk. 3, Chap. 8, and Burckhardt's DIE KULTUR DER RENAISSANCE IN ITALIEN, 1860, Vol. I, p. 6.)
As retrospective judgments on Government measures are necessarily confined to matters of fact, they are less likely to be influenced by the inflammatory verbiage of agitators and demagogues. Nor does their formation necessarily involve partisanship. For about plain matters of fact there can hardly be two opinions; nor do well-authenticated conditions experienced by all inevitably issue from different ideologies, or lead to their creation.
It would therefore appear, on these grounds, that there is something to be said for Mr. Sydney D. Bailey's view that "There is no reason in theory why a democratic system of government should not function perfectly without political parties". (BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, 1959, Chap. 7.)
2) Even if a democratic People may, despite their ignorance, low average intelligence and inability to take a long-term view of policies and laws, be reasonably expected to pass judgment on the effects of their régime. It is in nowise a necessary feature of this form of government that their representatives in the Commons, who have to judge political programmes and policies in advance, that is to say as legislative proposals, should also be as ill-informed and on an average as unintelligent as the electorate, Yet, as things are at present, anybody, male or female, who has reached the age of 21 and is not a certified lunatic may stand for Parliament.
I should be the last to claim that "Education" as now understood, is any proof of wisdom, least of all of political sanity; for I know only too well what England and the World at large have had to pay for the so-called "Thought" of the English educated classes. Were not the whole epicene bunch who clamoured for Female Suffrage some sixty and more years ago all highly educated people? Have not all the extensions of the Franchise, from 1832 to 1918 been due exclusively to the meddlesome minds of the educated. For, as Lord Bryce has admitted, "For
Nevertheless it is surely odd that although admission to the Police Force, the Civil Service, the B.O.A.C., the R.A.F., etc., depends on candidates having a certain minimum of knowledge and intelligence, no limit should be set to the ignorance, imbecility and irreflection of men and women who think themselves able to administer our national affairs. For, no matter how defective the educated may still be on passing out with their academic distinctions, few would deny that, as a rule, people who have shown some proficiency in the more exacting disciplines of higher education, are at least likely to show more general understanding and a greater ability to distinguish mere lumps in their throats from actual thoughts, than are the graduates of the three Rs. But even if a certain standard of education is not demanded of our M.P.s., at least they might be subjected to one of the approved Intelligence Tests, if only to make sure that they are not among the "uncertified lunatics" with which our modern world abounds.
3) Thirdly, Democracy does not necessarily mean a régime uncontrolled by a written and legally promoted Constitution. This has already been discussed in articles VIII, IX and X of the present series, and the harm resulting from the absence of such a Constitution in England the sacrifice of the disinterested contribution a Royal Head can make to a government; the loss to the administration of the advantages of obtaining a "second opinion", and the consequent unchecked tyranny of the Popular Assembly has been duly considered.
In his POPULAR GOVERNMENT (2nd. Essay), Sir Henry Maine shows how constitutional provisions have abated the anarchical tendencies of Democracy, and deplores the modifications already made in his day owing to our Constitution's having been imperfectly secured. "We are drifting." he said, "towards a type of government associated with terrible events a single assembly (the Commons) armed with full powers over the Constitution, which it may exercise at pleasure."
And today, with the assistance of the monarch discarded, and the co-operation of an Upper Chamber rejected, who would deny the accuracy of Sir Henry Main's prophecy, uttered 80 years ago?
The members of the Lower House, convinced of their self-sufficiency, have taken upon themselves to mutilate the Constitution so as to leave only their assembly to rule the country, unhindered by the safeguards of a second opinion and by the criticism of one uniquely placed for offering disinterested judgments.
Such has been the consequence of a Parliament which, as Michael MacDonagh has said is "the least fettered in the world by a written Constitution." (THE PAGEANT OF PARLIAMENT, 1921, Vol. I, Chap. IV, 3.)
Meanwhile, because the American Government had a written and legally protected Constitution, its Second Chamber, far from having suffered eclipse, "increased its authority" (EXPERIMENT IN FREEDOM, by C. F. D. Clarke, 1951, Chap. II), and the stability of the régime was thus "proportionately strengthened." "The Senate of the United States," says D. W. Brogan, "has long excited the admiration and the wonder of the foreign observer as "the only second chamber in the world that has held its own with the popular house; what conservatives in other lands have dreamed of is here achieved, a body not representing the people in any crude numerical fashion, exempt by the terms of its election from the ordeal of facing, as a body, popular approval or disapproval." (THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM, 1931, Part V, Chap. III).
4) Fourthly, it is no inevitable feature of Democracy that a whole nation should be deprived, as the English and French are to-day, of cultural leadership, of a class able to set them a decent Tone. And it is one of the strangest flaws in most political treatises that this vital function of government is overlooked.
When we consider the brilliant feats of artistic taste, of conscientious and usually anonymous craftsmanship, and of creativeness in new and exquisite styles, of which Europe, under her recent monarchies and aristocracies was once capable feats which were the material parallel of the Way of Life of the peoples concerned we may well ask ourselves what can have led to our present sterility in precisely these forms of material expression, paralleled as is it with us by a Way of Life both vulgar and mean. Nor can we ponder this disquieting contrast without ultimately suspecting the probable reason why even convinced democrats like Sir Fred Clarke, Dr. F. C. Happold, Middleton Murry, and Professors Alfred Weber and Karl Mannheim, have begun lately to clamour for the revival of aristocracy, of a national élite, in order that Democracy may be saved.
I began by saying that there is no reason why Democracy should necessarily make the existence of a Tone-Setting élite impossible; and if we understand the "Sovereignty of the People" as consisting merely in the right retrospectively to approve or disapprove of their country's Administration after the fashion described by Alexis de Tocqueville in his ANCIEN RÉGIME ET LA RÉVOLUTION (Vol. II, Livre I, Chap VI) this is true. For de Tocqueville describes the French mediaeval custom, correctly termed "democratic" I believe, according to which the inhabitants of every township and rural parish, were allowed to gather in the square outside their Church doors, in order to compile what was called their "cahier des doléances du tiers état," i.e., their "register of third-estate grievances", which could be little else than retrospective and could therefore exercise no direct influence on the nature of governmental measures, and least of all supersede the power of the élite in shaping the national Way of Life.
The very fact that de Tocqueville, speaking as a believer in Democracy, both insisted on the need of such an élite and actually defined its Tone-Setting function, indicates that he conceived a democratic society only in the sense implied above. "Une aristocratie dans sa vigueur," he said, "ne mène pas seulement les affaires, elle dirige encore les opinions, donne le ton aux écrivains, et l'autorité aux idées." (Op. cit. Vol. 1, Livre IV, Chap. 1: "An aristocracy in its prime not only administers the nation's affairs, but also guides public opinion, sets the Tone of literary work, and lends authority to prevailing ideas).
But Sir Henry Maine, evidently thinking of the kind of democratic rule we now see in England and France i.e., not limited to a People's retrospective judgment of the administration concluded, as I believe correctly, that it cannot produce an élite. "I have sometimes thought it one of the chief drawbacks of modern democracy," he says, "that while it gives birth to despotism with the greatest facility, it does not seem to be capable of producing an aristocracy, though from that form of political and social ascendancy all improvement has hitherto sprung." (Op. cit. Essay III).
People challenging Sir Henry Maine's pessimistic
All this sounds convincing and appears to conflict with Sir Henry Maine's views; but, only until we consider one or two other facts having an important bearing on the question. First and foremost, we have to remember the notoriously brief duration of Greek democracy, the rapid decline of the culture after the Periclean Age, and the unlikelihood of any causal connection between the prevalent beauty of the people and their democratic régime.
Even if we assume that this régime started with Solon as early as the sixth century B.C., this would still mean that only a little over a century was required for the new régime to build up in the nation all the virtues and gifts which came to flower in the architecture of the Parthenon, the sculpture of Pheidias, the creations of Euripides, and, a decade or two later, in the works of Polycleitus and the plays of Aristophanes. It would still mean that in little over a hundred years, the Way of Life established by the new régime had succeeded in producing a people almost uniformly sturdy and well-constituted, and able to supply its artists with types of surpassing beauty.
But to assume all this would be grossly to overrate the speed and thoroughness with which the most sanitary and tasteful administration could, by the Way of Life it established, so influence the biological processes involved as to produce these wonderful results. And those who fondly ascribe all the feats of Athenian architects, sculptors, poets and dramatists to the peculiar nature of the régime that came into power soon after the first decades of the sixth century B.C., forget that the mills of biological change grind much more slowly than that.
It is true that the ancient Greeks were, owing to their marriage customs, more closely inbred than were any later European people; and uniformity of type and comeliness are more rapidly achieved by endogamy than exogamy. But even so, it is more consistent with all we know of genetics, and more accurate historically, to regard the gifted and prepossessing population capable of the great cultural achievements we have enumerated, as the ultimate product of conditions and rules of life established much earlier in their history i.e., in the days of their Kings and their Aristocracy than to suppose that they owed their virtuosity, genius and personal beauty to any conditions created by Democracy.
What happened was that the generations born after Solon's reforms, continued to draw on the treasures garnered in their race by conditions established centuries before by their royal and aristocratic rulers.
Indeed, much the same result of former garnerings of virtousity, though on a much inferior plane, occurred in England. For, just as the inbreeding and slow accumulation of various human gifts and character-traits, throughout England's Middle Ages and Renaissance Period, even up to the middle of the 18th century, stored up the racial qualities which were to make a phenomenal success of the Industrial Era, but which were by no means the product of it, so Classical Greece cashed in on the virtues cultivated in her people centuries before the appearance of Pheidias and Aristophanes.
Those readers who know the Rev. V. A. Demnant's RELIGION AND THE DECLINE OF CAPITALISM (1952), particularly Chap. IV of that book, will remember that he ascribes the whole of the productive and commercial success of capitalistic civilization to the pre-capitalist layers of virtue which England's earlier Way of Life had implanted in the character of the people, and had been established by the Tone-Setters of the nation's past. It is interesting too in this respect to bear in mind that the English people belonging to this past, were much more comely and healthier than they are to-day. (For abundant evidence of this, see my QUEST OF HUMAN QUALITY, 1952).
Thus, after examining four of the principal vices of our modern English political system, it has been found that they are not necessarily inherent in democratic government. Whether, however, Democracy even purged of them, can ever be capable of producing a great and enduring culture may be doubted. And what is even more doubtful is whether modern English democracy could now be purged of them, and, having been purged of them, could ever produce a generation of men of taste and wisdom i.e., an élite capable of once more setting a high Tone to the nation and giving it a noble and dignified Way of Life.
For, as I have implied above, the mills of biological change grind very slowly, and when once a whole people have been delivered up to their own low average taste and judgment, subjected to the sway of rival demagogues, there can be little hope of a Renaissance of virtue, and great character-traits among them.
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When facing the task of framing a Constitution for his country, the Statesman's first thought should be to reach a correct estimate of the nature of Man. For, if he fails here, both the Constitution and the Laws designed to protect it, will be unable to maintain Order, produce a decent Culture and rear a population which, in health, virtuosity and character-traits will stand as a shining example to the world.
With this crucial problem before him, if the Statesman cannot rise above sentimentality, wishful thinking and pleasant fictions; if instead of soberly pleasuring Man in the mass, he is bewitched by the estimates of humanity formed by romantic poets, and takes too timid and too disingenuous peeps into what St. Augustine called the "abysmal depths" of his own personality, the outcome of his political labours will more probably set the teeth of posterity on edge than secure it happiness and well-being. For if from the outset he is not aware that true generosity, mercy and kindness do not consist in delivering up the crowd to its own free choice of ways and means, to its own taste, and to its own judgment, he is more likely to forfeit than to earn the gratitude of his nation for his pretended benevolence.
But, to be competent as a leader, he must know the nature of the human material he is handling. His fundamental question must therefore be, "What is the true nature of Man?" For the failure of all Liberals and their disciples to solve this problem correctly, has been the root cause of most of the upheavals and confusions that have, ever since the 16th century, shaken Western society. Nay more, the gravamen of the charge that may be brought against Liberal political philosophers is that they have either never thought it necessary, before embarking on their socio-political adventures, to settle the Question of Man's true nature, or have blindly accepted unrealistic and pleasant solutions of it.
We owe to a German Jesuit, Friedrich Muckermann, one of the wisest statements ever made on this matter. In an article on Dictatorship and Christianity he said, "In discussing how men should be governed it cannot be a matter of indifference whether we consider human nature as radically bad, as Luther did, or as radically good as Rousseau maintained." (DICTATORSHIP ON ITS TRIAL, 1930, Chap. III.)
Machiavelli certainly implied that he recognised the importance of settling this question before thinking of governing humanity, for he wrote: "They who lay the foundations of a State and furnish it with its laws, must, as is shown by all who have treated of civil government and by examples with which history abounds, assume that all men are bad and will always, when they have a free field, give loose to their inclinations." (DISCORSI, 1531, Bk. I, Chap. 3.)
Great Britain's most profound thinker, David Hume, after acknowledging that "Political writers have established it as a maxim that in contriving any system of government . . . every man ought to be supposed a knave," himself concludes, "It is therefore a just political maxim that every man must be supposed a knave." (ESSAY VI: OF THE INDEPENDENCY OF PARLIAMENT.)
Hume's great contemporary, Samuel Johnson, who evidently practised introspection with exceptional honesty which cannot be said of men like Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, Owen, Morris, etc. is reported to have said: "I hate mankind; for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am " (JOHNSON-IANIA, by Mrs. Piozzi.) This is reminiscent of that other candid philosopher, Pascal, who a century earlier had maintained, "Le moi est haïssable" and "La vraie vertu est donc de se haïr" (PENSÉES: "One's self is hateful", and "thus the only true virtue is to hate one's self.").
Admittedly, it is sadly rare to come across such honesty. But there are one or two others who have displayed it. Among them we find Alexander von Humbolt and the Englishman, George Moore (see the former's MEMOIRS and the latter's CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN, 1886, XIII, iii). Yet one would have thought that every man and woman, even of only average intelligence, could hardly reach middle age without having learnt enough about themselves to be able to hold but a poor opinion of human nature.
Indeed, a merely cursory acquaintance with the past history of our race and with the present state of the Western World should surely suffice to convince every one that most of the worst disasters that have befallen humanity and threaten to overtake it in the future, may be ascribed to the defective psychological flair of Western political thinkers and their persistently false estimates of their fellow creatures and themselves.
The very fact that a widely-read English journalist like G. K. Chesterton, who must have influenced countless numbers of readers in the first three decades of the 20th century, could have thanked God that he was no psychologist a boast only too deplorably true! (AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1936, Chap. II) is typical of the frivolous disregard of the essential equipment of a teacher and guide even as recently as thirty years ago. Yet Chesterton never scrupled to pontificate on both politics and morals.
It is true that before Freud the science of Psychology in the Western World was stagnating at a most elementary level. For although Montaigne in the 16th century and Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in the middle of the 19th century had already adumbrated a few of Freud's major discoveries most people remained unaware of them until he presented us with his masterly exposition of them
Nevertheless, to the brightest brains in Europe, certain broad and fundamental truths about Man's character had, from the days of Ancient Greece, been well known; and among them was the fact that Man is most certainly not born good. The very Fathers of the Church in the first centuries of our era, had themselves proclaimed that only by an act of Grace could Man be redeemed from his congenital iniquity. And in this respect the psychological erudition displayed by the ancient Church, puts to shame Modern and particularly Liberal "thought"; for which reason alone, it is superficial to charge at least ecclesiastical Christian doctrine with having spawned the trashy ideas of Socialism and Communism.
There was thus little excuse for those Liberal political philosophers of England, together with their pathetic dupes on the Continent, who based their speculations on the assumption that Man was born good and that consequently the Utopias and their
Had they once reflected on the immense importance of first determining whether Man was fundamentally good or bad, an enormous amount of clotted rubbish now burdening the book-shelves of our political libraries would never have been produced.
A striking example, among many such, of the actual retrogression of psychological insight during the 2,200 years separating us from the dawn of the Hellenistic period of Greek history, is supplied by the conflict between Herbert Spencer and Aristotle on one of the most elementary features of humankind its eternal need of guidance in all matters outside the routine of its breadwinning labours and the day-to-day concerns of its domestic life.
Overlooking the ability, native or acquired, of some men to guide and direct their fellows, and the readiness with which such guidance is welcomed, Spencer wrote: "The desire to command is essentially a barbarous desire. Whether seen in the ukase of a Czar, or in the order of an Eton bully to his fag, it is alike significant of brutality. Command cannot be otherwise than savage for it implies an appeal to force should force be needful. Command is the growl crouching in ambush. It is inconsistent with the first law of morality. It is radically wrong." (SOCIAL STATICS, 1850, Chap XVI, 5.)
If we compare this sorry nonsense with Aristotle's statement that "It is natural that some beings command and others obey, that each may obtain their mutual safety," (POLITICS, II Bk. I, Chap. II, 1252a), we appreciate how little political thought advanced or how much it receded in the interval between the two philosophers.
For it will be noticed that Spencer does not speak of the ability or the qualification to command, but of the desire to do so, as if this covered all the relevant situations in which the exercise of authority is either necessary or indicated; also, that he chooses as his examples of command the egregious and by no means general use of it by a despotic ruler and an Eton bully. From these features of his statement we may I think justifiably infer that his words were dictated more by emotion and passion than by thought. Moreover, he entirely overlooks the important factor of safety which is so frequently associated with situations in which commands are necessary and in which, as Aristotle implies, he who commands happens to be more knowledgeable, experienced, or wise than he who obeys.
We have only to think of the Alpine guide, whose commands, if disobeyed, may mean disaster for the disobedient, in order to perceive the limitations and prejudice of Spencer's doctrine a doctrine which would, however, instantly appeal to all anarchists and in fact to every so-called "thinker" of the Left in politics.
Yet it is important to remember that Spencer was after all one of the wisest Englishmen of the Nineteenth Century. He was considerably wiser than such contemporaries of his as Alexander Bain, Martineau, Lord Salisbury, and Professor Green to mention no others ; and scores of English and American people were ready to accept his teaching without question.
But, to return to our main theme the obligation a political philosopher, and above all a Statesman, is under to decide whether Man is good or bad it seems obvious that merely in view of their self-knowledge and uprightness alone, all intellectually honest people would feel compelled to conclude that the latter alternative is the only correct one, and that therefore a fundamental principle of good government is the necessity of forestalling mankind by means of anticipatory measures of defence and restriction, in all those situations in which their naturally evil propensities may find a loophole and a chance to express themselves.
For it is in this respect that the grossest errors of Liberal and Socialist policies have been made. By assuming that Man was born good, they framed constitutions and régimes in which the liberties or rights conceded gave mankind every possible opportunity of committing abuses and of sacrificing the Public Good to Private Gain.
By overrating even the intelligence of the masses, as Bentham did for instance, and assuming that common sense would inevitably abound where common people were gathered, they made it possible for Freedom to be understood as licence, and lack of restraint to manifest itself as vandalism, social disorder and ultimately crime. Herbert Spencer himself, the professed enemy of what he called "over-legislation", had to confess nine years before his death that his "faith in free institutions, originally strong," had "in later years been greatly decreased by the conviction that the fit character is not possessed by any people, nor is likely to be possessed for ages to come." (Article on "The Late Professor Tyndal", FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, Feb. 1894)
Finally, by never once suspecting that it might be ruthless, if not actually callous, to deliver up a whole people to their own devices, to their own taste, and to the mercy of their own free judgment and choice of ways and means, the Liberals and Socialists not only condemned the masses to that worst form of "indecision neurosis" which afflicts the child deprived of parental control, but also to the fatal character deterioration which is the sequel to defective discipline.
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We have seen that they who have to govern a nation are wise if they first determine the nature of Man, and it is safer for them to regard him as bad, as Machiavelli, Hume, Johnson and the Christian Fathers did, than to assume with Rousseau and Locke, that he is good. We also concluded that in this context "bad" means "asocial", or prone to behave in an uncivilized, unrestrained and self-indulgent manner, regardless of the peace, security, well-being and freedom of other people.
If, however, Man is fundmentally bad and conforms to the conventions of his group only by overcoming primitive instincts which, in spite of centuries of civilized life, still influence his will, what about his rulers? Can they, being human, be otherwise than Bad?
Certainly not! And it is therefore just as romantic and discordant with the few wise polities of past Ages to suppose that a Monarch, an Oligarch, an Aristocrat or any member of an Élite, is likely to be fundamentally good as to assume a like freedom from evil in common people.
The native iniquity of Man is not automatically extirpated by being conjoined with superior intelligence, education or material resources; for all such advantages merely multiply the means and opportunities to make ill-deeds done. Yet, strangely enough, just as few modern and Liberal polities have provided against the natural iniquity of Mankind in the mass, so in the whole history of civilization have few polities framed measures for restraining the evil propensities of Man when he happens to bear the regalia of Sovereignty or the insignia of high rank.
It is as if in this sphere the psychological mistakes committed by modern Liberal thinkers in respect of Mankind in the Mass, had been anticipated, if not surpassed, by all political philosophers throughout history in respect of powerful minorities. Hence the failure, to which I have often called attention in these columns, of all Oligarchies and Aristocracies, let alone of all Monarchies, to discipline and supervise the members of their own order.
It may be objected that Monarchs are not members of an order in the sense that they have no colleagues in their own nation who could watch over them and censor their conduct. This is true. But students of history will recall that, in the Middle Ages at least, the Church often acted as a super-monarch, and actually kept watch on kings who, by virtue of their lonely office, had no fellow State-craftsmen to control them.
Not that the Church always discharged this necessary function wisely or fairly. But it certainly tried to meet a need no other institution in Christendom was equipped to meet.
We have but to think of the pressure exerted on Henry II in 1172 to make him purge himself of the guilt of Becket's death in December 1170; and more particularly of the staggering feat of St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, who in 390 A.D. refused to admit the Emperor Theodosius the Great of Rome to the Eucharist till he had entered Milan Cathedral to do public penance for having punished a riot in Thessalonica by the wholesale massacre of 7,000 of its inhabitants.
In the attitude of Israel's ancient prophets to their kings we have some presage of this Church practice. But when in Europe the Church lost the authority to function in this way, Monarchy in the hands of ruffians like Henry VIII of England and Louis XV of France not to mention others of a like stamp easily degenerated into irresponsible despotism. The idea of Kingship by Divine Right, by obscuring the human and therefore basically evil nature of the Monarch, left a badly-governed people no other remedy than revolt.
After the demise of the Church as a super-monarch, one of the safeguards against despotism was the English invention known as "Constitutional Monarchy," a régime amounting to the total abolition of Royal Power and its replacement by a mock or nominal kingship, the holder of which had as his principal role to be a decorative figurehead in all pageants and important public celebrations; to act as the chief Government host in entertaining foreign potentates; and to pose as the symbol and incarnation of the unity and solidarity of the Commonwealth.
As a monarchy, this Constitutional Regalism is fundamentally bogus and has hardly flourished at all outside England and possibly Scandinavia. The French threw it up in 1848 after a brief trial and, if the Liberal reforms of Napoleon III may be regarded as foreboding it, again and finally in 1870. In Germany, Italy and Spain in fact in all nations temperamentally intolerant of shams, it has failed and current events in newly established States indicated that it is unlikely to survive in the form it has acquired in England.
It may be unfair to suggest that England's Constitutional Monarch's functions are limited to the staging of occasional spectacles, more or less theatrical, for the delectation of women and children, and to purely representational and ceremonial duties. For, by constituting the Fountain of Honour and the headpiece of the social hierarchy, it helps to kindle a desire for honorific recognition and thus promotes a spirit of zealous service in the populace.
But its most substantial value to the nation is probably the sparing of expense in rewarding public services. For, without it, the various Orders, from the C.M.G., C.B., C.H. etc., right up to the K.G., which cost the nation nothing and give enormous satisfaction to their recipients, would be shorn of so much of their glory that it might become necessary to give financial rewards in their stead. But whether the economies thus effected set off the expense of maintaining the Royal Family in the manner traditionally expected by people of their rank because the pomp and splendour of their living conditions have by no means diminished pari passu with their power may well be doubted.
Nevertheless, as I have already observed, the profit an administration can derive from the counsels and criticisms of a consultant uniquely placed for preferring disinterested and public-spirited advice, is nowadays forfeited in states where, as in England, a sort of obsessive basileiophobia so drastically limits the monarch's influence as to convert him, as, Mr. Herman Finer has maintained, into "practically nothing but a purple rubber stamp." (GOVERN-
Furthermore, in order to exercise a good influence in helping the national élite to set a decent Tone among a people, a monarch needs to be a gifted and tasteful man. And this is precisely where the principle of Monarchism confronts its most formidable difficulty i.e., the problem of finding a worthy successor to an able and gifted ruler. Indeed, it is this difficulty which has probably been the chief cause of the evanescence of kingship in most civilized societies.
For the preservation of quality in a human stock or souche is no easy matter. It certainly cannot be left to chance, and the sort of civilization which Europe developed after the downfall of the ancient world, with its frivolous neglect of biological laws (at least in human breeding) was never calculated to ensure the hereditary transmission of any precious character-traits that a royal aristocratic family may have cultivated. The prevalence of the rule of primogeniture, alone, apart from that of injudicious mating, sufficiently illustrates the levity with which the garnering of quality in human strains has been regarded by European peoples.
Much too late have they and particularly their leaders learned from their scientists the elementary fact, well-known to the ancients, that "The inborn qualities of mankind, whether good or bad, may be established, maintained and extended in a family by, and only by, appropriate marriages" (THE FAMILY AND THE NATION, by W. C. D. Whetham, 1909, Chap. V.)
It is therefore important always to bear in mind that the principal reason for the evil repute of Monarchy, has not been its intrinsic worthlessness, but the persevering and hardly sane disregard of those elementary biological laws, the strict observance of which, alone, can secure anything like permanence for the superior endowments of a particular human strain or line.
It would seem not merely fantastic but also ludicrous, at this moment in our history, to attempt to revive even in a modified form some of the matrimonial practices by which the ancient Egyptians sought to retain in royal and noble families the all too rare qualities needed for efficient and beneficent rule. Nevertheless, it may not be without interest to state that the endurance of Egyptian civilization, set at 50 centuries by Dr. G. Maspero (ART IN EGYPT, 1912, Preface), during which "no attempts to overthrow the existing order were made" (THE BIRTH OF CIVILIZATION IN THE NEAR EAST by Henri Frankfort, 1951, Chap. IV), argues exceptionally high quality in the rulers.
Egyptologists are mostly agreed in praising the royal dynasties which preceded the Age of the Ptolemies, and George A. Dorsey says of them: "At the very height of Egypt's magnificence her kings depended on their own almost naked majesty and not on vainglorious gewgaws. Her kings were kings, and not clothes-horses." (CIVILIZATION, 1931, Part II, Chap. VII.) They were moreover educated for their work with consummate skill and care, and by tutors who kept constantly before them the accomplishments exigible for their exalted office.
In this respect again, European monarchs have usually suffered serious disadvantages and, except as soldiers, have as a rule been inadequately prepared for their difficult duties. This drawback in modern England is of no consequence because of the Crown's insignificance. But were monarchy to be taken more seriously and the monarch's education planned more intelligently, much might be learned from ancient practices, and many hints drawn from the lives of past monarchs, their final admonitions to their successors, and even from such treatises on Education as Kant's UEBER PÄDOGOGIK.
At all events, the fundamental requirements of a potential ruler's training are that it should prepare him for holding a position unique in his world and for performing unique functions and exercising unique powers. Consequently, to train him as if he were destined to compete with the common crowd for success in their tasks; to subject him to the disciplines of mind and character suitable for the multitude of his subjects, is totally to misunderstand his political significance, and prejudices his chances of success in his unique position.
The result of such fallacious policies, which we have now for generations been able to observe in vivo, is by no means encouraging, and he who pronounces it a success can hardly have studied it with much thoroughness.
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If a nation is to enjoy the advantages of a decentralized administration under rulers capable of stern mutual control and supervision, the government of choice is certainly an Aristocracy. But, owing to the natural iniquity of Man, if the body composing the Aristocracy is to endure as a wise and just power, it will be in as much need as a Monarchy of those checks, restraints and sanctions which will control its conduct and maintain its quality.
For History has repeatedly shown that what has most often exposed mankind to the miseries of misrule and to the bad taste, flatness and general vulgarity of Democracy, has been, not any inherent vice in Monarchy or Aristocracy, but the viciousness of those who have wielded power under them in those nations England, France, Germany and Russia, for instance that have failed to improvise methods of controlling their rulers and left them free to display all the evil propensities latent in mankind.
In this sense it may be said that, just as the ultimate loss of the Church's authority as a Super-Monarch was among the factors that lowered the power and prestige of Royalty in Europe and brought about that bogus form of kingship known as "Constitutional Monarchy", so the lack of control over their aristocracies in certain countries, established the fashion of decrying Aristocracy and of exalting Democracy as a world-wide political panacea.
In article XVII of this series I gave two instances of the Church's effective intervention as a Super-Monarch. But her tenure of this role did not last long and had already terminated in the first half of the 16th century. For when Pope Paul III, who in May 1535 had created John Fisher (Bishop of Rochester) a presbyter cardinal, heard in June of the same year of his execution on Tower Hill because he refused to acknowledge Henry VIII's supremacy in the Church, he was so angry that he intimated his intention of depriving Henry of his kingdom, and to this end appealed to all the leading powers in Europe for help in carrying out his sentence. Yet, although this was one of the most serious affronts ever given to the Holy See by a European monarch, he met with no response and was obliged to consume his rage in impotent silence.
But, with the evanescence of all censorship and control, European monarchy, no longer subject to any chastening influence, lost much of its sanctity and prestige, and this fact, coupled with all the follies and vices of monarchs like Louis XIV, Louis XV and Charles II to mention only these sufficed to seal the fate of genuine monarchy and paved the way for that travesty of it which we know in England, Denmark, Norway and Sweden
It is facts such as these, consistently overlooked by even learned political philosophers, which have hitherto provided advocates of Democracy with their strongest argument; for, when confronted with the incontrovertible truth that rule by the best is necessarily the most desirable form of government, they retort, as Dr. David Spitz does and, as they believe, apodictically: "What if the aristocrat does wrong but refuses to arrest, imprison, or execute himself? We cannot look to another aristocrat for the remedy, not merely because the other aristocrat may also have done wrong, but because, by the logic of this construction, only the aristocrat himself can judge himself." (PATTERNS OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT, 1949, V. ii.)
The fact that Dr. Spitz dared to put such a question and thought he could do so with impunity, supports my contention that, in the mind of modern Man there is no knowledge of any possible rational defence of Aristocracy, because in the leading nations of Europe, the idea of a controlling force within the ruling oligarchy itself, capable of checking, restraining and penalising any of its erring members, has either never existed, or has too long been totally extinct.
Excusable as it may be, however, for the average modern European or American to think and speak as I have quoted Dr. Spitz as doing, it is unpardonable for him as a scholar and political philosopher to do so. For what he implies is that, having searched the world's records, he has found that the universal flaw and sin of aristocracies has been that they have always lost their ability to rule wisely and justly, and above all their quality as a social breed, a "souche", because they have invariably failed to improvise the checks and disciplines essential for preserving their order and its power from sinking into the self-seeking vulgar plutocracies which have hitherto masqueraded as "the best" in England, France, Germany and Russia.
Now, this is quite untrue. But, just as we can well picture the incredulous wonder with which most modern men would learn that the decline of Monarchy has been due largely to the Church's ultimate loss of her authority as a Super-Monarch, able to censure, castigate or excommunicate erring royalties, and if necessary even absolve a king's subjects from their allegiance to him, so we can sympathise with the average democrat of today who can hardly believe his ears when he learns that Aristocracy has become discredited owing to the failure of the aris-
Have we anything to learn about this important matter from the history of ancient aristocratic societies? We certainly have; but whether we should now be able to apply the lessons this knowledge would give us, is a different matter. For, in regard to the whole problem of social Law and Order, what chiefly cripples modern societies in their efforts to deal effectively with the natural iniquity of Man, whether manifested in ordinary criminality or in the conduct of rulers, is modern Man's inveterate softness, sentimentality and infirmity of purpose in devising and administering deterrents designed to check disreputable behaviour in all ranks and classes of the population.
Whether this is owing to the preposterous Liberal belief in the fundamental goodness of Man, which has played such havoc with Psychology and our knowledge of ourselves, or whether it is due to both this and the supineness which is fast spreading over the Western world as the result of our increasing degeneration, it is hard to say; but its consequences are apparent on all sides, and consist on the one hand in a general disregard of Law and Order, and on the other in a neurasthenic phobia of deterrents severe enough actually to deter.
Thus, we now have prisons which, thanks to the lamentations of sentimentalists like Alexander Paterson, are little inferior to many seaside boarding houses; we have influential societies and organisations which habitually manifest greater sympathy with the murderer than with his victim; we have a general population that does not seem to mind supporting both the offspring and parents of families that deliberately take advantage of our legally enforced charities (Public Assistance Boards, Family Allowances, Maternal Benefits, etc.) in order to lead utterly indolent lives; and we have a community which, although severely penalized through taxation and borough rates for the repair of damage annually resulting from wanton vandalism (destruction of park seats and huts, street lamps, railway furniture and upholstering, and other public property), patiently and resignedly acquiesce in every measure which will protect juvenile and adult delinquents from adequately suffering for their uncontrolled aggressiveness and malice.
In such an atmosphere it seems idle to examine and discuss measures devised by certain communities of the past in order rigidly to maintain high standards of quality and performance in their rulers, and for the simple reason that today there would be little hope of seeing such measures restored and rigorously applied.
For where people habitually shrink from applying deterrents which are meant to deter, and where hearts are always wont to melt at the moment of inflicting the most inadequate punishments, the native iniquity of human beings inevitably luxuriates in all classes of society, and of course with the most fatal consequences in the ruling élite, until in the midst of our complex material culture with all its magical evidences of scientific genius, we are nevertheless steadily reverting to barbarism. In the absence of beasts of prey, our own fellow men are reviving all the perils and trepans of the primaeval jungle. Every day gangsters and thugs stage scenes of violence and slaughter which, but for the superior cunning of their weapons, might be re-enactments of episodes in our troglodyte past. To speak of our present condition as "Civilisation" and to maintain, as our War Prime Ministers have done ever since 1914, that it is a civilization worth fighting and dying for, is no more than flippant political quackery.
For, despite all our intricate devices for easing our medicated survival, we have long ceased to be civilized. Life in our mastodonic cities is but a spectacle of social chaos, sinking ever lower and lower, amid a setting of architectural abortions reaching to the clouds.
One typical example and I say "typical" with deliberate intent of our extreme disorder will suffice. The newspapers on March 26, 1964, reported that in the tunnel near Greenock station, on the line between Glasgow and Wemyss Bay, 60 feet of the track had been loosened by the removal of 75 bolts fastening the chairs to the sleepers, so that the 10.30 a.m. from Glasgow was of course derailed and wrecked. Only a miracle saved its 59 passengers from serious injury or death; for had the train been travelling fast and had not fallen against the wall of the tunnel, all of them might well have been killed.
Two boys aged 14 and 15 were detained by Greenock police in connection with the affair and appeared in court on March 31. But I ventured to prophesy before then, that if these youths were found guilty, a howl of indignation would go up from the Labour benches in the Commons, and particularly from the women members, if a hair of these poor boys' heads was hurt.
Thus I repeat, in such an atmosphere, it seems idle to examine the measures devised by certain communities of the past in order rigidly to maintain high standards of quality and performance in their rulers. Nevertheless, as there is still much we can learn from ancient, and what modern conceit regards as "less civilized" peoples, it may be worth our while to study what many communities of the past contrived and applied in the nature of rules calculated to secure governing castes that could maintain high standards of conduct in spite of the natural iniquity of Man, and who could do so without forcing on the populace the alternative of Revolution or the miserable make-shift of Popular Government.
But, in view of the importance of this inquiry and the fact that it cannot be scamped without diminishing the value of its lesson for us, we must make it the subject of later articles.
Meanwhile it was reported on April 2, 1964, that the two boys above-mentioned, whose deliberate villainy jeopardised the lives of 59 pasengers, had been found guilty and, as I anticipated, had merely been sent to a Reform School. It would be interesting to learn what the 59 passengers in question thought of this dangerously mild sentence.
What the boys themselves thought of it, may be inferred from a case that was reported on April 7th. This concerned a boy of 17, found guilty of possessing a firearm without a licence, of stealing, and of assaulting the police. The Court was told that the authorities at the Approved School where he had recently been detained, had considered him "a problem". At all events, when the Recorder at Ipswich Quarter Sessions on April 6th, ordered him to be sent to Borstal, he merely laughed! (EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES, 7.4.64).
Can we wonder that crime increases in a country like England, where a sentimental, putty-fibred epicene Group like the Labour Party, boils with indignation at the mere thought of an adequate deterrent for unmitigated thugs?
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Mention has been made of the tendency in modern English people to shake at the knees and relent when in the very act of administering condign punishment, however mild, to an adult or juvenile delinquent, and it has been hinted that owing to the prevalence of this temper the methods adopted by some ancient societies to discipline their rulers, will, owing to their severity, be hardly likely to recommend themselves to our Western World. For what chiefly characterized past civilizations in this matter was their enlightened realism, as contrasted with the unscrupulous romanticism of modern generations.
Some time before World War I, I had a conversation with an old South-Down shepherd. He explained how he had to train his dogs to abstain from molesting his ewes and then added that if, however, proper discipline was to be maintained, it was necessary from time to time for the sheep to be reminded that the dog's harmless bark was not the utmost limit of his frightfulness, and that if adequate control was to be preserved they had to be made aware of the animal's teeth and of the fact that his bite was worse than his noisy bark, however tiresome this might be. To this end, therefore, whenever my shepherd noticed that his 200 ewes were beginning to grow too defiant and showing signs of scorning the dog's vocal demonstrations of authority a state of affairs pregnant with serious mischief for the future, especially when conducting the flock along a highway he had to order his dog to adopt sterner measures than barking. The intelligent animal would accordingly seize the next convenient opportunity to distribute here and there a few bloodless but quite impressive nips (usually about the sheeps' ears), and this sudden resort to frightfulness would cause such consternation among the astonished ewes that order would instantly be restored and another long spell of becoming respect inaugurated, which could be maintained by the bark alone.
It struck me that there was much to be learnt from my shepherd's methods, and ever since this conversation I have often thought that, certainly in England, owing to the resolute romanticism of Liberal idealists, the Law had long ago reached the stage when the relative harmlessness of its bark alone had become too familiar to the populace especially its least decent members to inspire respect, and that if discipline was to be restored, it was high time that the law should use its teeth.
And indeed, voices have from time to time been raised in favour of this very course. But alas! they have been too few. Only the other day, for instance, Sir Cyril Osborne, Conservative M.P. for Louth in Lincolnshire, tabled a motion demanding the re-introduction of flogging, after a violent raid on another bank; whilst a young clergyman, Vicar of St. Andrews, Basildon, Essex, actually called for the death penalty for persistent sexual offenders, thugs who maim their victims, and people who ill-treat children.
These appeals certainly indicate an increasing awareness of our degraded condition. But England has grown too soft for any such revival of adequate deterrents. The Labour Party in particular to judge from its sentiments and policies might be composed entirely of maudlin old washerwomen who shrink with horror from any suggestion of exercising effective firmness in dealing with lawlessness. One hundred years ago my shepherd's methods were still feasible, and one notorious example bears this contention out.
A form of brutal violence known as "garrotting" had become prevalent in London during the winter of 186364. The thief approached his victim from behind; threw a cord over his head and, whilst almost throttling him, emptied his pockets. But an Act of 1863, which imposed the penalty of flogging in addition to penal servitude for the offence almost completely abolished this form of crime.
This was, however, in the days before the existence
Many years ago I was prophesying to incredulous listeners, who regarded me as unduly pessimistic, that soon money would have to be conveyed through the streets of our towns and cities in armoured cars. And, lo and behold, today this means of transferring large sums from bank to bank has become a commonplace. I understand that considerable expense is incurred by those who are compelled to adopt this method of transporting money. But, as England is now constituted it is considered much better to put innocent and decently-behaved people to untold trouble and expense rather than to administer adequately deterrent punishments to the criminals who now infest our society.
Thus, on this 31st of March, 1965, I venture to prophesy to the readers of the South African Observer that the day is coming and cannot now be far distant when military guards, armed to the teeth, will have to be posted at the doors of all banks, and only those people will be allowed to enter who are able to satisfy these formidable janitors by means of passports, business documents etc. that they have bona-fide business to transact with the bank and that they carry no arms of any kind on their persons. This will, of course, entail long delays (because both male and female searchers will have to be employed) and greatly add to the bank's charges on current and deposit accounts. But anything anything is better than to be merely firm and to administer deterrents that really are what they are professed to be.
Turning now at last to consider the measures that may be devised to maintain the efficiency, honesty, justice and above all the quality of rulers in a civilized community, it seems unnecessary to state that they can only be of two kinds either they must chastise erring rulers during their lifetime, or else posthumously, that is by some form of post-mortem execration and defamation.
The method confined to threatening evil-doers, whether rulers or not, with posthumous execration and possibly with disembodied tribulation of some kind, depends for its efficacy as a deterrent on the evildoer's having some deep religious faith and wherever it has been used tradition shows it to have always been linked with eschatological beliefs of some kind. The doctrine of hell-fire in Christian theology is an example of this kind of deterrent. Its principal drawback is that its force naturally tends to decline with the abatement of religious fervour. But, as we shall see, in some societies of the past it was effective enough to maintain a high standard of performance and quality in the rulers and their subordinates. Even in this form of moral sanctions, however, it is noticeable that the attitude towards human iniquity has considerably softened in modern times, because at the present day one of the charges frequently brought against Christian teaching is that the threat of eternal suffering in Hell-Fire, for sins however grave committed on earth, is inconsistent not only with the idea of a benevolent Creator, but also with that of human justice. Indeed, even some of the retributive measures alleged to have been prescribed by Jehovah against certain evil-doers or whole peoples, as reported in the Old Testament, are now often condemned as so excessive as to shed doubt on the validity of the whole of the biblical narrative. I refer of course only to opinion of Rationalists in this matter.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that in the very harshness of some of these measures and of the threat of Hell-Fire in particular, the evidence of ancient mankind's firm belief in the dependence of a deterrent's efficacy upon its frightfulness, its severity a belief which at least reveals a deeper and more realistic knowledge of human nature than our present-day flabby softness.
Posthumous deterrents may, however, take another form, favoured by one or two communities of the past. It consisted in penalising an erring ruler vicariously by fining, degrading, or otherwise chastising his family and dependents. This form of deterrent had the advantage of being independent for its efficacy of any deep religious beliefs in the offending ruler himself and was consequently unaffected by any fluctuations in a nation's religious fervour.
As an indirect form of castigation, it nevertheless relied for its efficacy as a deterrent on the offending ruler's attitude to his family. Given a ruler who cared not a rap how much his relatives might suffer after his death a man like Louis XV of France or Henry VIII of England and the disciplinary purpose of this method would fail. Only when a ruler loved and cherished his kith and kin sufficiently to dread inflicting hardships upon them could the method operate as an adequate deterrent.
Be this as it may, one aspect of this form of posthumous chastisement did reveal the superior wisdom of those who devised it, and that was the very natural desire on the part of a ruler's family to use their influence and to bring pressure to bear on their exalted relative in order to keep him steady, dutiful, just and public-spirited; and this influence alone could often prove an important factor in promoting good ruler behaviour.
Incidentally, we might to-day learn a useful lesson from this form of ancient discipline; for if parents of delinquent juveniles were always heavily fined for any damage their children might do, and the judges presiding over Juvenile Courts refused to accept from the parents of young criminals the plea that they were completely "out of hand", we should probably very soon see a diminution in the number of these young ne'erdewells.
Regarding the policy of punishing the evil-doer, qua ruler, in his lifetime a form of discipline independent of religious beliefs and of his attitude to his relatives this naturally depends on two conditions only too rarely present in the societies of the past, least of all in England, France and Germany i.e., a body of peers qualified and ready to function as monitors of their order, and in a position to implement a code of conduct framed to maintain high standards of capacity and performance in its members.
Examples of both forms of ruler-discipline will be described in my next article.
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The question of deterrents capable of promoting humane, wise and public-spirited conduct in national rulers, was introduced in Article XIX of this series, and it was pointed out that such regulators of behaviour in rulers, were of two kinds: (1) Those applicable to the ruler during his life; and, (2) Those that might be applied post mortem.
It was also maintained that whilst the latter depended on two conditions a belief in life after death and devotion to surviving relatives; those applicable during lifetime depended on the existence of a body of monitors or public watch-dogs, in a position to discipline and chastise an erring ruler and thus induce him to mend his ways.
But one essential condition for the success of any of these measures was a proper understanding of the true function of a deterrent. Modern people, even in the most enlightened classes, have lost all sense of the nature and purpose of a deterrent. They tend to regard all such measures as oppressive and brutal. This is because they are misled by Liberal and unrealistic ideas concerning the true nature of Man. In order to establish the democratic régime the early Liberals had to pretend that Man was essentially good. Consequently they found themselves compelled to deny the ancient realistic belief that all men, when not otherwise directed, will tend to behave in a self-gratifying manner regardless of the public interest.
This classical view of Man enables us immediately to understand the function of a deterrent as a means of transforming a self-gratifying action, which happens also to be asocial, into an action which no self-seeking man would willingly and consciously perform. We teach animals their man-serving antics in this way. We impress on them from their early days that their self-gratifying behaviour is not invariably as rewarding as they expect.
A deterrent, therefore, is a device for transforming self-gratifying conduct into self-injuring conduct. And in all Ages like the present, whether in England or America, when asocial conduct is increasing hourly by leaps and bounds, we may be sure that the brain-softening influence of Liberal ideas concerning basic human nature is spreading, like the plague it is, throughout the whole of the nation's life.
A deterrent ceases therefore to be geniune if it is unable to effect the transformation I have described; and in a Liberal atmosphere it fails because as a rule the modern mind shrinks from the severity that would make it effective and genuine. When once the trainee, whether animal or man, has learnt to eschew self-gratifying actions which are also undesirable, they soon display complete happiness and serenity in conforming to what is desired of them. Indeed, their appearance in action confirms this claim.
For millenniums, without a murmur from any humanitarian, not even from St. Francis of Assisi, and without a protest from those who object to the practice of exhibiting performing animals in public, draft and saddle horses have been trained all over the world to perform antics which could by no means be called natural. Yet no one who has watched a young horse being lunged would maintain that its training consists exclusively of benevolent and patient kindness.
The spectacle of human life in a country like modern England, with all its prevalent delinquency, both juvenile and adult, and with all its lack of public spirit, so that in addition to serious crime, hooliganism and the wanton damage to public property are a commonplace and entail endless loss to municipal authorities and the ratepayers this spectacle, if correctly interpreted, proves to be merely a symptom of the fact that modern civilized man, at least in the West, has under the brain-softening influence of Liberal ideas, failed conspicuously to train his species to perform the antics which are consistent with good social order and decency. He has failed to transform, by means of adequate deterrents, self-gratifying conduct which is asocial into self-injuring conduct.
This being so, we can hardly be surprised that the recent past should have shown our lack of any understanding of the nature and purpose of deterrents in the discipline and chastisement of rulers, and that we should have set the whole world an example in Anarchy, Chaos and Governmental blundering. We have preferred the Licence of Mob-rule to the task of devising a system of discipline and condign chastisement to control our rulers and to maintain a breed, a souche, of competent leaders with the character traits essential for wise and beneficient rule.
In this respect, many peoples of the past have shown themselves more prescient and enlightened than ourselves; and we have but to think of the ancient Egyptians, the Jews and above all the Venetians, in order to recognize that the rigorous control of those entrusted with rulership is not only a practicable but also an indispensable measure if we are to spare ourselves the miseries and ignominy of popular government.
In ancient Egypt, before the coffins of the dead could be transported to the place of burial "it was lawful" says Wilkinson, "for anyone who thought proper to bring forward his accusations against the deceased and "if it could be proved that he led an evil life, the judges (42 in all) declared the body unworthy of the accustomed sepulchre." The character of the king himself was doomed to undergo the same test, and if anyone could establish proofs of his impiety or injustice, he was denied the usual funeral obsequies. And Oiodorus tells us that the result of this was that succeeding kings, fearing the eternal stigma attaching to the disgrace, tried to deserve the good opinion of their subjects.
The Jews also denied a wicked monarch the right to repose in the sepulchre of his forebears. Thus Joash, though buried in the City of David, was not interred in the sepulchre of kings. Manasseh too was buried in the garden of his own house, and several kings of Judah and Israel were denied the highest honours of a royal burial. (See Sir J. G. Wilkinson: MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS, 1878, Vol. III, pp. 453 et seq.)
These measures certainly depended for their efficacy on the consideration a ruler might have for the feelings of his relatives. They would hardly
But in Venice, measures of a similar kind were, owing to their greater severity, more effective. For in this nation, which has been acclaimed by all authorities as having had the best rulers for generations, in succession, the system of controlling those who governed was both elaborate and ruthless.
The control-organization set up and run by the patricians themselves to keep their colleagues always efficient, honest and humane, was perhaps as thorough and effective as any that human ingenuity could devise. The famous Council of Ten, founded in 1310, was a Watch Committee of the patricians, elected annually by the Grand Council from among the more illustrious of their order, and it was controlled by three chiefs (Capi dei Dieci) whose term of office was a month only. Their function was to superintend the whole of the administration of the Republic, including especially the behaviour and actions of their fellow-rulers, even the Doge himself, and their powers were as absolute as their decisions were final. Three times in 1582, 1628 and 1792 attempts were made to abolish this Council, and every time it triumphed over all its critics and its authority was vindicated. According to the historian Diehl, it was the strongest pillar of the régime.
To make assurance doubly sure, in addition to the functions of the Ten, a rigorous discipline was exercised by the Inquisitori del Doge defuncto, whose duty it was to examine the record of the Doge after his death and, if any serious shortcomings could be attributed to him, to punish his family accordingly
They were three in number and were to examine into the rule and administration of the late Doge, and if in any case they found him wanting they could call upon his heirs to atone as far as possible for the shortcomings laid against him." (Alethea Wiel: VENICE, p. 155). Even cases of Doges deposed and disgraced during their lifetime were not unknown. No wonder Lecky was able to observe that "the most enduring aristocratic government that the modern world has known was that of Venice" (DEMOCRACY AND LIBERTY, Vol. I, p. 354).
Thus the whole history of the Venetian aristocracy reveals a deep and realistic understanding of the nature and purpose of deterrents even when applied with the object of securing and maintaining good government in a nation. It demonstrates two important facts generally overlooked by political philosophers. First, it shows that a permanent, wise and beneficent aristocracy is no idle dream and that the degeneration of an efficient noble class into a body of self-indulgent self-seeking oppressors is by no means an inevitable development, leading to democracy and even ochlocracy.
Secondly, it shows that good government, as I have repeatedly emphasized in these columns is contingent on an accurate and realistic understanding of human nature, and therefore that those who, under the brain-softening influence of Liberal ideas, shrink sentimentally from applying suitable deterrents, whether to check asocial conduct among the populace, or to prevent the abuse of power in high places, are doomed to the kind of moral and physical decay which we are witnessing to-day in all countries which have surrendered to the plausible, shallow and specious blandishments of the cloud-cuckoo idealists and would-be philosophers, from Locke, Voltaire and Rousseau down to those well-meaning but misguided political agitators who were responsible for the various Reform Acts which transformed England's system of government.
This is not to say that the system they abolished was defensible, but merely that the method chosen to amend it was worse than the old system itself; for only desperation could have induced men like Bright and Gladstone to suppose that you can expect any good to come from giving the mob the authority and power which a decadent and worthless aristocratic class had misused.
The only hopeful step would have been to try to re-create and cultivate a new order of leaders. This is the task that still waits to be undertaken if the West is to be saved, and there are signs that some of our deeper political thinkers are already becoming aware of the urgency of the undertaking.