Typos p. 28: Campbell-Bannermann [= Campbell-Bannerman]; p. 29: guillibility [= gullibility]; p. 30: Kluckholn [= Kluckhohn]; p. 39: Kluckholn [= Kluckhohn]; p. 47: opprobious [= opprobrious]; p. 47: prosperty [= prosperity]
Is Democracy Safe? II
10 Are the English Masses Politically-Minded?
In her revealing autobiography [(92) p. 192], Beatrice Webb writes about this as follows: "Certainly if one judges the political intelligence of the masses by the speeches addressed to it by party speakers, especially the speeches of those most successful in pleasing it, one cannot estimate it very highly." (The italics are ours. A.M.L.)
This is probably true above all of the countryside where, after thirty years of Manhood Suffrage and some twenty years after the enfranchisement of all women of twenty-one and over, it is possible, as the present writer has found, to mention to people born before 1900 names such as Balfour, Bonar Law, Baldwin, and Campbell-Bannermann, without kindling a spark of recognition.
Lord Bryce acknowledges that "The proportion of citizens who take a lively and constant interest in politics is so small, and likely to remain small, that the direction of affairs inevitably passes to the few" [(95) II. Chap. LXXV]; whilst in Labour, Life and Poverty (Chap. XIII), Dr. F. Zweig declares that "apart from a small minority, British workers are rarely politically minded".
J. A. Hobson agrees. He says: "The greatest defect in our nominal democracy is the torpor which prevails among the electorate after performing its occasional duty at the polls. Save in a very small minority, there is no continuous interest in politics and therefore a lack of that 'eternal vigilance' rightly said to be the price of liberty." [(30) Chap. VI.] Later in the same book, he speaks of "the stupid indifference which normally prevails in the attitude of the majority of all classes towards the conduct of public affairs".
Professor Harold Laski denied this alleged "interest in
R. C. K. Ensor, for instance, declares that "Women (in the mass that is) have no day-to-day interest in politics. They will not patronize a paper that obtrudes too much serious politics upon them. They have very little interest in doctrines, arguments, or serious speculations of any kind". [(149) The Press.] Only a J. S. Mill could ever have supposed the contrary.
Writing some eighty years earlier, Walter Bagehot had already said of his countrywomen: "The women one half of the human race at least care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry." [(47) No. 11.] The frenzied struggle of the suffragettes for the Vote may appear to belie this statement. But, apart from the fact that the promoters of this movement had no conception of the unprintable motives which impelled them [(62) Chap. III], the whole body of female agitators was in any case but a ridiculous minority in the country.
If, however, English men and women were really politically minded, is it likely that Churchill would have suggested in the Commons, as he did in June 1948, that people who refused to vote should be prosecuted and fined?
Behind the Anglo-Saxon policy, ever since World War I, of pressing, if not imposing, democratic institutions on other peoples, European, Asiatic, or African, there has always lain the assumption, implicit or explicit, that Democracy is, and for many generations has been, workable in England, because of the People's "long training" and aptitude for politics; moreover, that unless other nations become "democratic", they could not hope to reach the beatific state enjoyed by the English and American nations. Nor is this a wholly recent attitude; for, according to Dr. A. L. Rowse, Marlborough, the ancestor of the man who made that surprising suggestion in the House of Commons in June 1948, is said to have wished to see France democratized even in the days of Louis XIV [(151) Chap. I.]
It never seems to occur to any English or American politician to ask himself whether his assumptions concerning Democracy, even if well founded, would apply to any other than his own people; and, least of all, whether other peoples, under an imposed democratic régime, would be likely to display that docility and guillibility not to use a less diplomatic term! which, so far, the English and American nations have displayed with such exemplary fortitude.
People regard it as axiomatic, for instance, that foreigners, at least as intelligent and well-educated as anyone to be found in
There is a pathetic ingenuousness in this extreme pride of Anglo-Saxons in their political institutions. As Herbert Spencer said over ninety years ago: "Partly from ignorance, partly from the bias of education, partly from that patriotism which leads the men of each nation to pride themselves on their own institutions, we have an unhesitating belief in the entire superiority of our forms of political organization." (57.) Ninety-two years later, Professor Kluckholn echoed this sentiment when, in [(99) Chap. X], he wrote: "To believe that the English-speaking or Western peoples can impose upon all others the parliamentarianism . . . and all the other idiomatic features of Western European patterns, is the misconception and blindness in so much of present-day thinking and planning."
And yet so deeply are we convinced of our soundness in this matter, that it never occurs to us to ask, even in strict secrecy, whether the persistence of our so-called "democratic" institutions at home may not indicate a minus rather than a plus of political acumen, not to say, intelligence.
As a supremely ingenuous example of this "unhesitating belief in the entire superiority of our form of political organization",, Robert Birley's broadcast, reported in The Listener of 8 January, 1948, is worth studying, and those who may doubt the validity of Herbert Spencer's generalization might well turn to it. Not only, however, did it uphold Spencer's dictum, but it also demonstrated Mr. Birley's inability to rise above a wholly subjective standpoint; for, after severely rating the German nation for having been "utterly incapable of resisting" the propaganda of the Nazis, he made it clear that he himself and the educationists on the Control Commission were engaged in putting across another form of propaganda the democratic. Thus, in the same breath, he charges the Germans with a grave fault, and then by implication commits himself to the hope that they will continue to be guilty of this grave fault in regard to his own propaganda, otherwise his own and his colleagues' efforts will be otiose!
At all events it is this much-advertised belief in democratic theory which probably provoked a foreigner, like Dr. Salazar of Portugal, to exclaim: "One of the greatest fallacies of the nineteenth century was that English parliamentarianism and English democracy were adaptable to every European country." See last section of (32).
But the spread of English democratic institutions has by no means in every case been the outcome of that pressure from without which Birley's broadcast illustrates. Often, as in France, it has been the result of voluntary emulation, stimulated by native publicists
The immense pecuniary prestige enjoyed by England until yesterday, inspired so much respect for all her beliefs and practices that, never suspecting the kind of psychological equipment on which a quasi-democratic régime like that of England relies, Continentals overlooked the fundamental unsoundness or, to say the least, lack of durable qualities, in the system. Thus they tended to accept and to copy the English way of life because they thought it might help them to repeat her material success.
Hence, although Democracy, like modern Socialism, derives from dubious and often patently unsound reasoning about the springs of human conduct (as Aristotle foresaw over two thousand years ago), it has spread and produced, both among Anglo-Saxon and other peoples, a state of disorder and instability which is ever more and more tending to drive the various nations towards dictatorship as the speediest and best corrective.
Benjamin Kidd is among those who recognized this powerful influence of English political theory and practice on the outside world [(122) Chap. IV], whilst Joubert, the early nineteenth-century French moralist, when trying to trace to its roots much that was specious in European political thought, observed: "C'est de l'Angleterre que sont parties comme des brouillards les idées metaphysiques et politiques qui ont tout obscurci." (Pensees: Du Caractère des Nations, LXXVIII.)
11 The People's Virtues in a Democracy
Political philosophers and historians, especially writers like Mill constantly assume that democratic institutions, by involving the whole people in the conduct of public affairs, have an edifying, educative, and chastening influence. Independence, energy, active talent, practical judgment, virtues in general, we are assured, will inevitably be added to a democratic people. [(124) Book V, Chap. XI.]
First of all, it is secret. This means, to take an extreme case, that if the issue is "Shall England perish or survive?", any man or woman may vote for the former alternative without incurring any blame, disgrace, or unpopularity whatsoever.
The abuses of the old open vote may have been grievous; but, as usual, the remedy was a reminder that hard cases make bad law. For, if it had been only a matter, in the days of the open vote, of raising the average voter above the lure of bribery or the penalty of reprisals, on the principle by which the incorruptibility of our judges is secured, we might have tried to place every elector financially above corruption. But merely to suggest the necessity of such a measure would straightway have revealed democracy as demonstrably unworkable. The ballot was, therefore, the alternative chosen.
But that it was a choice involving a "moral mischief" Mill himself acknowledges. The vote, he says, "is not a thing in which he [the elector] has an option; it has not more to do with his personal wishes than the verdict of a juryman. . . . In any political election, even by universal suffrage . . . the voter is under an absolute moral obligation to consider the interests of the public, not his private advantage, and gives his vote to the best of his judgment exactly as he would be bound to do if he were the sole voter and the election depended upon him alone". Consequently, "the duty of voting, like any other public duty, should be performed under the eye and criticism of the public, every one of whom has not only an interest in its performance, but a good title to consider himself wronged if it is performed otherwise than honestly and carefully". [(129) Chap. X.]
Clearly, then, Mill held that the Parliamentary vote was as indeed it is a public trust, and that to be able to discharge it secretly was to divest it of all responsibility. The trust thus became an arbitrary power, and since an irresponsible power opens the way to immoral behaviour, it became, as he says, a "moral mischief". Hence his claim that the secret vote "awakens and nourishes in him [the elector] the disposition to use a public function for his own interests, pleasure, or caprice". In countless cases, therefore, it must result, as he declares in a "moral mischief"; for irresponsibility tolerated in the citizen's most important public function must foster it in respect of lesser acts, public or private.
Cicero took much the same view. He regarded the ballot as one of the major causes of the downfall of the Republic (Laws, III, Chap. 3439), and even argued that, as a matter of fact, it never really prevented bribery.
A further corruption of public morals in a democracy results from the steady inculcation upon all of materialistically valuing political doctrines and proposals according to the body weight behind them and thus equating quality with quantity or weight. This error may be of hoary antiquity [(102) Chap. II]; but that no more justifies it than it does human torture.
Besides, what chiefly brands as deleterious the crude majority lest of value in a democracy is that it is applied by a population only a handful of which can appreciate its speciousness. Thus it can hardly fail to create a general scorn of all spiritual superiority, all thought, meditation, and the labour of seeking sound principles. In a word it establishes a system whereby a mob cannot only out-vote a god, but also feel exalted in so doing.
As if stating the obvious, Irving Babbitt remarks, "the notion that wisdom resides in a popular majority at any particular moment should be the most completely exploded of all fallacies". [(31) p. 263.] But the democratic system works only on the assumption that the notion is not a fallacy. It is, moreover, a notion which implies that Might is Right. True, the hand-to-hand struggle is waived and its outcome forestalled. But the result of the contest nevertheless illustrates the principle that Might is Right in all its nakedness, and the impression grows that any "arm-in-arm together" can always have its way. No such bullying of a minority is allowed in our jury system, where one dissentient, however weak, can neutralize the judgment of the remaining eleven and give an example of respect for individual thought and discrimination.
Perhaps in a learned body it might, at a pinch, be conceded that a majority opinion has a right to prevail, because there it would stand for a greater weight of expert knowledge. And this appears to have been the origin of the practice. [(102) Chap. II.] But when a heterogeneous and inexpert crowd overcomes a minority on a matter of political science, the principle that Might is Right is asserted with the utmost effrontery, and by inculcating the belief that sheer quantity can always outclass quality, reverence is rapidly reduced to an obsolete sentiment.
But probably the most repugnant consequence of the Parliamentary vote is the invitation it proffers to every adult member of the nation to perform a job of work badly i.e. unconscientiously, in a slip-shod manner, and without a trace of self-reproach. The
History, sociology, economics, moral philosophy, foreign relations are, more or less always, involved. But we have only to read Henry McNicol's admirable work (78) in order to appreciate the grave shortcomings of the average elector in the first subject alone. And as for the full information concerning the issues to be judged, this is hardly ever accessible even to the most scholarly elector.
Superficial thinkers often liken the democratic to the jury system. But they have hardly a feature in common. The painstaking thoroughness with which every scrap of relevant information is supplied to a jury about the case they have to judge; the care the judge takes to direct them on the technical aspects of the issue before they give their verdict, and the risk he runs of seeing his judgment modified or quashed if his direction is faulty all these aspects of a jury's working conditions stand in conspicuous contrast to the treatment of the electorate at a General Election. Indeed, if a jury were ever treated as a constituency always is treated, they would at once protest that they could not be expected to make a good job of their work, and they would decline to return a verdict.
And yet, at every Election, the populace is not only invited to form judgments on men and on political issues, under conditions in which no adequate judgment can be reached, but they are also expected to accept this invitation without either misgiving or self-reproach. They receive, in fact, a public mandate to offend their instinct of workmanship, and are thus encouraged to scorn quality in performance. Nay, under a ruler like Churchill, they would be prosecuted if they declined to violate their workman's conscience in this manner. (See Section 10 ante.)
But does anyone today, animated by the instinct of workmanship, ever protest that he or she would prefer not to vote rather than do the job badly?
Such a refusal was certainly recorded in the late seventeenth century at Salisbury when, presumably, the instinct of workmanship was still alive in England; nor is it without significance that the man in question was a musician i.e. one aware of the quality exigible in an artistic job.
Speaking as one who has never voted in his life, the present writer finds it difficult to understand why modern people are not affronted by this recurring public incitation to violate their instinct of workmanship. But it can hardly be doubted that, in the end, the
In a Ministry of Education booklet (20), the county college is exhorted to reproduce in its policy, organization, and detailed management "the characteristics of a good society . . . it should reflect in all its activities the following qualities: a high standard of integrity, a recognition of and respect for quality", etc. (Part III.)
But no matter how alarmed the authorities may have become about the loss of a sense of quality in the nation, what is the good of inculcating respect for it in our schools if, in the democratic régime itself, there is a persistent and powerful influence promoting the scorn of quality?
Another deplorable result of the incitation to violate one's instinct of workmanship at every General Election, is the cultivation throughout the population of the frivolous habit of passing "snap" judgments on all matters, important, sacred, or otherwise. Nothing in the domain of human affairs is too complex, too intricate, too exalted, to be subjected to the meanest judgment, and thus the populace becomes practised and versatile in an obtrusive impudence which shrinks from no problem. It cannot, therefore, astonish us that a political philosopher like Carleton Kemp Allen should, despite his democratic bias, feel constrained to declare: "It is open to question whether the vote has had that educational effect, and has given that stimulus to civic duty, which Mill hoped for." [(32) Section IV.]
What then becomes of the claim that participation in democratic institutions is educating and chastening? What remains of the correlative claim that these institutions may with advantage be imposed on countries not yet in possession of them? Very little beyond the grandiloquent and empty verbiage in which they have been couched.
12 The Gravamen of the Charge Against Democracy
Compared with the charges already made, the present charge is so much more serious and indefensible that it makes all others sink into significance.
For Nature does not produce supremely successful specimens in as great a profusion as average, mediocre, and inferior specimens. This is so even in the best circumstances attending animal breeding. But in human communities, especially those of "civilization", where there has been much dysgenic mating and humanitarian zeal in enabling inferior life to subsist and multiply, the occurrence of exceptionally fine specimens is correspondingly much more rare.
On this account, all Ages that have become muddled and uncertain about their fundamental values should approach with becoming respect those periods of the past in which the plant Man has flourished at a high level of achievement over long stretches of time, and carefully study the selections and rejections (positive and negative valuations) which marked them.
At all events, it should be clear that at any time and under any conditions, to grant everyone the right to an opinion on what should and should not be selected, amounts not only to anarchy, but in the end also to suicide. And it is because, in a democratic world, voices which cannot help expressing the Taste, and therefore the Choice, of mediocre, impoverished, or actually moribund life, exert the same influence as the rare voices of Flourishing Life, and moreover, owing to their greater volume, completely drown the latter, that, as pointed out in (29), Democracy must in the end mean death to those who adopt it.
The question is discussed in detail in (29), but it may be summarized as follows:
Since Democracy invites to the National Council Board, not merely a majority who are incapable of voicing the Taste of Flourishing Life, but also crowds which may even make selections adverse to Flourishing Life, or actually lethal, it follows that, in its ultimate result, Democracy must mean extinction to those who attempt to put it into practice. Nor need this extinction mean annihilation. It may mean merely relegation to an inferior rank in the hierarchy of nations.
Thus Taste i.e. the power of distinguishing good from evil in doctrine, diet, conduct, form, stature, appearance, weight, build, habits, occupations, social aims and pastimes, and the day-to-day routine of human life is seen to be essential to the permanence and eminence of a group, a stock or a people. And those groups or stocks
The reader who sees little importance or even usefulness in this point of view will, as the sequel will show, overlook one of the most essential features of all cultures and civilizations. He will be more likely to feel at home with Macaulay than with either the present writer or the poet Southey.
In 1829, at a moment when the Industrial Revolution was still young, Macaulay, confronted with Southey's magisterial condemnation of it on the grounds of its ugliness and its cruel consequences, and amused rather than shocked by Southey's gloomy forecast of its ultimate outcome, dismissed the whole indictment as the nightmare of a maniac and, summoning all the pomp and sonorousness with which he was wont to clothe even his most jejune cogitations, proceeded to defend the factory system, and all that it involved, against Southey's attack.
And yet Southey's shrewd and timely warning was surprisingly profound. Had it been understood and acted upon, much that has since proved disastrous to England and the world might have been averted. But, because Southey based his strictures on Taste, Macaulay, utterly disconcerted by this use of an artistic yardstick in economics, could only resort to ridicule, and in doing so earned the eager support of the influential élite who were "cashing in" on the ugliest innovations of the Age.
"Mr. Southey's political system," Macaulay wrote, "is just what one might expect from a man who regards politics not as a matter of science, but as a matter of taste and feeling."
How abundantly does this condemnation of Southey's Colloquies justify Beatrice Webb's criticism of Macaulay as "an unscientific and slap-dash intellect"! [(92) p. 85.] Certainly his article on Southey in The Edinburgh Review of January 1830 stands as a monument to his vulgarity, just as his dismissal of Cardinal Newman, as a man with "the intelligence of a rabbit", reveals, as Professor Catlin says, " his puerile judgment". [(83) Chap. XVI.]
"We comfort ourselves," he wrote, "that Mr. Southey is no prophet." The fact that he has proved a better prophet than Macaulay, precisely because he consulted Taste, Macaulay, unfortunately, did not live to appreciate.
In (40) the argument is taken up again, and it is pointed out that only the fewest in any generation are qualified to demand change as progress, and they are the rare specimens who, standing above existing institutions and constrained to stoop if they are to
Now compared with this twofold charge against Democracy, all other charges sink into insignificance. Yet, strange as it may seem, it is not mentioned by our most popular and famous political philosophers.
True, Mannheim and Röpke have recently pointed to the essential rôle played in society by the creators and promulgators of valuations. After showing that "people tend to imitate the actions and opinions of the ruling classes", and that "national character . . . is really the behaviour which is characteristic of the ruling classes and is gradually adopted by their subordinates" [(104) Introduction, iii], Mannheim says that "it is definitely not good to live in a society whose norms are unsettled and develop in an unsteady way". Then, referring to the chaos of conflicting values now prevailing, he deplores the fact that "there is nothing in our lives, not even on the level of basic habits, such as food, manners, behaviour, about which our views are not at variance". [(43) Chap. II, i.] "To counter the ill-effects of this variety," he adds, "one would have to find some method of gradual standardization of basic valuations in order to regain balanced attitudes and judgments." Otherwise, he warns us, "sooner or later everyone becomes neurotic, as it gradually becomes impossible to make a reasonable choice in the chaos of competing and unreconciled valuations". [(43) Chap. II, ii.]
Thus, he argues, "the first step to be taken in the democracies, in contrast to their previous laissez-faire policy, will consist in giving up their disinterest in valuations. We must not shrink from taking a clear stand when it comes to valuations, nor maintain that in a democracy agreement on values is not feasible". [(43) Chap. II, iv. The second italics are mine. A.M.L.]
These are momentous admissions on the part of a champion of Democracy, confirming all that was maintained some thirty years ago in (29). But Mannheim outlines no scheme whereby the promulgation of a standard code of sound values is to be restored. He commits himself to no programme such as will be found in the sequel to these chapters. He urges us only "to regain balanced
Röpke is equally aware of the crisis brought about by the chaos of our values and the lack of an authoritative source of basic valuations, but tries to place the onus of valuing on Science. He thus ignores the teaching of history which plainly establishes the fact that the source of standardized basic valuations making for Flourishing Life can derive only from the examples of Flourishing Life themselves.
"What has today become problematic," he says, "is the precise sphere of a demonstrable and therefore scientifically legitimate objectivity . . . where it is a matter of deciding between good and bad, between the beautiful and the ugly, between healthy and unhealthy, between the normal and the degenerate, and the emphatic representations of this decision with the authority of someone who knows." [(21) Chap. II.]
Then, contesting the commonly advanced plea exemplified for instance in George Pitt-Rivers's Conscience and Fanaticism (1919) that value judgments cannot be legitimately scientific, he makes out a good case for the opposite view. (Ibid.)
Other modern thinkers support him in this matter. For instance, Kluckholn [(99) Chap. X]; also Mannheim who, seeing the connexion between the much-stressed "relativity" of value judgments, Democracy, and the decline of respect for moral values, remarks: "One of the deepest sources of the insecurity of democratic culture lies in the fact that people lose respect for ethical standards in general." [(43) Chap. V, i.]
Further sidelights on the subject are to be found in Can Man be Reasonable? by Professor Brand Blanshard, and Ethical Principles of the New Civilization, by Professor P. A. Adams (both in Our Emergent Civilization, 1947); and in Dr. C. E. M. Joad's Logical Positivism and Theory of Knowledge (Hibbert Journal, 19.10.49).
Thus, at bottom, Mannheim and Röpke scout the only fundamental method of meeting this gravest of all charges against Democracy, and never ask: How can sound valuers be reared? Least of all do they appear ready to ask, How can the mass of average and mediocre people be given the power to recognize sound valuers as such? As this book is concerned chiefly with solving this compound problem, and the problem itself is now seen to be more than a mere figment of the author's brain, perhaps no further apology is needed at this hour for a treatise on the source, function, and way of life of an Aristocracy.
13 The Psychopathology of Democracy
As it is here claimed that the People are constantly at a disadvantage in a Democracy and that to mention only one of the dire results of the régime the People's will cannot avert even the catastrophe of war, some explanation is required of why Popular Government continues to be popular.
For he who is vain and who is not so today? strives, by creating a favourable impression of himself, to bolster up his ever flagging self esteem. Thus, in order to still the envy which aggravates inferiority feelings, he always tries to induce others to envy him. And it is this incessant striving which drives him to the behaviour that the world associates with vanity. Buckle [(23), Volume II, Chapter III] gives an excellent explanation of vanity which bears out this analysis.
True, certain prominent laymen anticipated Adler's diagnosis of modern man, and saw in his striving, either to direct admiration towards himself, or else to level everything down so as to create a world in which fewer provocations of envy existed, the very condition which Adler made a speciality.
Napoleon, for instance, said: "Qu'est-ce qui a fait la Révolution? La Vanité. La Liberté n'était qu'un prétexte." [(70) Chap. III.] In Le Cabinet des Antiques, Balzac also remarked: "En France, ce qu'il y a de plus national, est la vanité. La masse des vanités blessées y a donné soif de l'égalité." Tennyson, in Locksley Hall, Sixty Years After, held the same view of Liberal England, for he wrote:
"Envy wears the mask of love, and, laughing sober facts to scorn,
Cries to weakest as to strongest, 'ye are equals, equals born'."
If, then, we may assume that Adler was right and, not only in France, as Balzac in his Gallic insularity supposed, but also in all civilized countries, including England (as Stendhal well knew), vanity is now the prevailing passion and is constantly associated with inferiority feelings, it follows that, no matter how disastrous Democracy may prove, it makes, with its "Equality" and steady destruction of all distinctions not within everybody's reach, an irresistible appeal.
Proudhon unwittingly disclosed the pathological nature of the modern world's clamour for equality when, early last century, he wrote: "L'enthousiasme qui nous possède, l'enthousiasme de l'égalité. C'est une ivresse plus forte que le vin, plus pénétrante que l'amour; passion ou fureur divine que le délire des Léonidas, des Saint Bernard, et des Michel-Ange n'égale jamais." (uvres Complètes, 1867, II, p. 91.)
This revealing outburst from an ardent champion of equality,
Reginald Lennard declares that "Democracy is favourable to the social progress which leads to a class-less society". (Democracy, Chap. I.) But, in order to give satisfaction, "class-less" must mean, not "free of the adequate gratification of vanity", but "free of all barriers between economic levels which cannot be surmounted by ordinary people".
Except for Veblen and Schneider, democratic publicists rarely mention this essential condition. If, however, Democracy, is to be understood, it must be plainly stated that, in order to survive despite the many cruel miseries it creates, it must meet the following requirements:
It must abolish all class barriers which average men cannot scale and which, therefore, provoke the ache of hopeless envy. It must provide a way of life for all, in which superiority, or worthiness" is of a kind which all can attain by means at the command of average people.
Finally, the form of this worthiness must be such that, like a conspicuous badge or a uniform, it may be instantaneously recognized by the meanest intelligence, without the need of protracted contact and observation, and without inquiry as to origins or source.
Born of the busy, hurrying, and superficial throngs of cities, this desire for an unmistakable external sign of worth, has no use for the respect which grows only by long acquaintance, or investigation. All, even the most ignorant, must be able to see it at a glance. Only when these conditions are fulfilled, does the democratic way of life soothe the modern Man's aching feelings of inferiority.
For such a man will not mind professing an academic equality with Tom, Dick, and Marry, however mean their status, provided he has, or can hope to acquire, by methods open to all, the unmistakable marks of worthiness which Tom, Dick, and Harry, however besotted, can at once perceive and understand.
T. S. Eliot appears not to have sought the psychological basis of modern popular institutions with enough care; for apropos of the demand for Equality of Opportunity, he says [(110) Chap. VI]: "The disintegration of class has induced the expansion of envy, which provides ample fuel for the flame of 'equal opportunity'. But this is putting the cart before the horse. It was the gradual extension of envy, due to the spread of inferiority feelings, which led to the disintegration of class. The nonsensicality of the demand for "Equality of Opportunity" [demonstrated in Chap. III of (63)]
Now, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the only external signs of worthiness which, while commanding respect, fulfil the other requirements listed above, and yet place no insuperable barriers between the individual members of a society, are the signs of pecuniary prestige. They can be instantly perceived by the crowd, however benighted, and they can be paraded by anyone who can obtain the infinite assortment of gadgets, ornaments, garments, etc., which advertise the ability to pay.
Hence the profound emotional appeal of Democracy to modern civilized populations. For, besides abolishing all those forms of prestige which compete with pecuniary prestige for respect and are inaccessible to common men hereditary rank and honours, noble blood, nobility of appearance and behaviour, even peculiar hereditary gifts Democracy guarantees la carrière ouverte aux talents i.e. of silver.
In every democracy, pecuniary achievements consequently tend to become the most coveted and admired of all, not only because they meet every demand of vanity-cum-inferiority feelings, but also because everybody of even mediocre gifts can reasonably aspire to them.
They proclaim worthiness at sight and are not bound to any native endowments which only intimacy or prolonged intercourse brings to light. In the complicated, rushing traffic of social life, they vouchsafe the casual passer by quick and concrete evidence of their presence. Above all, owing to the snap shot speed with which pecuniary "worthiness" may, without betraying its source, be immediately recognized and inspire awe, no one dreams of asking whence it comes. If, occasionally, someone should think of asking, "How was this money acquired?" he is thought to be rather cranky. Moreover, if, after discovering that it was acquired none too respectably, he shuns its owner, he may even be suspected of some abnormality, and the richer the man he shuns the deeper will be the crowd's belief in his mental instability. But, in the majority of cases, the dramatic effect of wealth is too awe-inspiring to leave modern men the lucidity for criticism. As Balzac observed: "Les écus même tachés de sang on de boue ne trahissent rien et représentent tout." (Sarrasine, 1830.)
It is, however, important to bear in mind that since, unlike native gifts (noble birth, perfect symmetry of form, beauty, etc.), pecuniary "worthiness" is accessible to all, it does not affront modern envious men nearly as much as generally inaccessible possessions. For tomorrow it may be within their reach. Hence the rise and wide popularity of quick money-for-nothing rackets.
Russian Bolshevism has shown, however, that even Communism does not in the end fulfil the people's expectations. For, in spite of its economic egalitarianism, almost the same marked differences in economic levels arise under a Communistic as under a Democratic régime, and the People are ultimately deluded. But, as we have shown, this is also true of Democracy. Hence Rabaut de St. Etienne's remark (1793) that "political equality established, the poor soon feel that it is vitiated by the inequality of fortunes". [(83) Chap. XIV, 9.]
To return, however, to the main theme, it is the operation of the bias in favour of one kind of prestige alone the pecuniary which, in a Democracy leads to the decline of taste and quality; for only those achievements and those performers, whether in manufacture, art, science, philosophy, or scholarship, etc., are acclaimed, which are materially successful, no matter how mediocre they may be in other respects. This need not, of course, apply to past and dead performers and achievements, because, whether materially successful or not, at any rate they no longer provoke envy.
Now, it is easy to see that all the advantages which the envious demand from a régime (except ultimate complete economic equality) are found in a Democracy and, wherever inferiority feelings prevail there will always be a deep, if often unconscious and unreasoning, devotion to democratic institutions, however disastrous.
Strange to say, only Veblen and Louis Schneider have so far dared frankly to profess these views, and this section owes all its main ideas to them.
Schneider then remarks: "The individuals observed and treated in the clinic are the products of our specific culture," and psychoanalytical evidence indicates that the character trends they manifest are "even with 'exaggeration' . . . likely to be widespread in the population". And he supports Freud's belief that the neurotic bears a fundamental resemblance to his fellows in a community. [(69) Chap. 6, III.]
Trigant Burrow, who speaks of Man's "universal neurosis", claims that "neurosis is pandemic to Man", and that "the real problem for Man is Man's neurosis", also denies that the so-called "normal" population differs as widely as many imagine from its neurotic examples. [(107) Chap. V, X, and XIV.] Mannheim also claims that "in an adequately functioning society, the neurotic is only the borderline case. In a state of general disorganization [like the present] it is he who sets the pattern". [(104) Chap. X, iii (i).]
Now, Schneider continues, the neurotic wishes to make a show of superiority, and this wish is accompanied by intolerance of "any signs of excellence in others", which immediately suggest "a comparison that provokes feelings of ill-will and envy. . . . The 'neurotic' wishes his superiority to be manifest on his sleeve . . . and if no type of endeavour of which the individual is capable will finally give him a peaceful sense of worth in his own eyes", he naturally displays a "ceaseless activity either to convince himself that he is worthy or to elicit acknowledgment from others". [(69) 6, III.]
Thus, Schneider declares: "The acquisition of money easily confers power and unquestionably enables the manifestation of 'superiority' over others", and is "admirably adapted to making an impression quickly." As, therefore, in a Democracy, money gives everyone the chance to show superiority "it would be difficult if not impossible to find a system of institutional arrangements that 'fits' better with the trait indicated". The whole of Parts II and III of his book should be studied. But the above brief excerpts give an idea of his compelling arguments. [(69) 6, IV.]
As long ago as 1892, Veblen, contesting Spencer's inadequate theory about the origins of Socialism (67), pointed out that it was not due, as the philosopher maintained, to mass feelings of ennui and restlessness, which prompted a desire to change the posture of the social body, but that "in our fundamentally industrial society, a person should be economically successful, if he would enjoy the esteem of his fellows" . . . and that "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' in the eyes" of the world, "except by unremitting demonstration of the ability to pay".
Therefore Veblen denied that the mere relief of ennui and restlessness could appease the discontents "whose source is the craving of everybody to compare favourably with his neighbour". And he ascribed this discontent chiefly to jealousy "envy if you choose". The struggle for existence, he said, in modern conditions, "has been transformed into a struggle to keep up appearances". (Some Neglected Points in the Theory of Socialism.)
True, Veblen, unlike Schneider, never perceived the eminent suitability of democratic institutions for appeasing envy and allowing average people accessibility to the accepted form of "worthiness". Nor did he see the dependence of the crowd's envy and their desire to compare favourably with the neighbour, upon the prevalence of inferiority feelings. Finally, he did not see what Schneider so ably propounded and the history of all democracies reveals namely, that democracies have usually sprung from more hierarchically formed communities in which all other claims to prestige than the quickly recognized and generally accessible one of money noble birth, hereditary honours and privileges, etc. have been steadily abolished one by one. This democratic impatience vis-à-vis of all "worthiness" that cannot be bought is the most conclusive evidence in Schneider's favour.
And although Veblen failed to perceive these additions to his masterly analysis of pecuniary prestige, it is only fair to say that Schneider could hardly have made them had not Veblen's genius shown the way.
Thus it amounts to this Democracy is a form of mass neurosis,
If, therefore, we again ask why, despite all the anarchy, chaos, conflicting and irreconcilable values, material difficulties, declining stamina, beauty, and character, and the loss of quality in every aspect of life, Democracy still finds ardent support from the masses, we may now reply that it is because the unconscious impulses which blind modern men to this régime have the compelling force of an unresolved complex, and find relief for an ache which otherwise would be intolerable.
Thus the deep satisfaction which, often only half-consciously, most modern people think they derive from their democratic institutions, is too manifold, too obscure, to be seen for what it really is; and that explains why whenever someone arises, who points to the inevitable shoals and rocks ahead, he is rejected as a "pessimist", a, "spoil-sport", or any other object of popular dislike, for which the fashion of the day finds its appropriate and opprobious term.
Needless to say, Spitz in (116) makes no attempt to meet this criticism and analysis of Democracy.
14 A Final Objection Met
The alert reader may object that there is an inconsistency in the reasoning of the above Sections. For, if it is true, as maintained in Sections 3 to 5, that the will of the electorate can always be overruled or neutralized by wealthy and powerful minorities, the claim made in Section 12 to the effect that, by calling the majority to the nation's council board, Democracy must in the end mean death, cannot be valid.
Thus, under universal suffrage, Parliamentary candidates know they have to face only untutored and undiscriminating supporters, and naturally assess their own qualifications for a political career according to proportionately lowered standards. As we have seen, provided they have a "sense of humour", it will carry them almost the whole way; and Dr. Collingwood's remark that "the minimum of qualifications for fitness to be a member of the ruling class is a very low one", is seen to be entirely just. [(106) p. 187.]
3. The keen rivalry between Parliamentary candidates, recently much sharpened by the emoluments of M.P.s, which have made a political career a means of livelihood, has inevitably resulted in an intensified form of that bribery of the electorate consisting of promises of discriminatory legislation. In this way, the will of the least thoughtful and most venal among the People tends to prevail, with obviously damaging consequences to the nation at large.
4. Finally, the Tonal influence of the People tends to be much more powerful in a Democracy than in any other régime. In the absence of competent Tone-setters (valuers), the taste and predilections of the masses dominate in all spheres with the result that all standards decline. Trevelyan and Mannheim both agree here. [See (59) Chap. XVIII, and (104) II, viii, where the latter says: "It is the lower middle class" that has "been taking political as well as cultural leadership into their own hands of late." T. S. Eliot also takes very much the same view. (110) Chap. I.]
Thus, although in its effect on particular issues, the will of the People may occasionally be thwarted, the truth is not far from this that under popular governments their cumulative influence has, in the long run, a deteriorating effect on all standards, whilst the democratic machinery, with its elusive sources of control, allows of opportunities for swaying the ill-informed and emotional populace in any direction that may seem expedient to powerful minorities.
In this respect a democratic régime is fundamentally unfair. It is unfair to invite unqualified people to form decisions on complex issues, concerning which they never command the relevant information; and then to blame them when their decisions create havoc.
To watch the average elector, rich or poor, repair to the polling booth and to appreciate the extreme improbability of his competence to register an adequate judgment of the issues placed before him even supposing the issues to be reasonable is one of the most pathetic of latter-day spectacles.
No better conclusion to these fourteen Sections could be found than the words with which Lord Bryce closes Chapter IV of (95). For in view of his prepossessions in favour of Democracy, their significance is paramount and justifies anyone who, like the present writer, ventures to present the case for an alternative régime.
"Although," he says, "democracy has spread, and although no country that has tried it shows any sign of forsaking it [this is no longer as true as it was in 1920], we are not yet entitled to hold with the men of 1789 that it is the rational and therefore in the long run the inevitable form of government. Much has happened since the rising sun of liberty dazzled the eyes of the States General at Versailles. Popular Government has not yet been proved to guarantee, always and everywhere, good government. If it be improbable, yet it is not unthinkable that as in many countries impatience with tangible evils substituted democracy for monarchy or oligarchy, a like impatience might not some day reverse the process."