Archive for April, 2015

Does anybody out there still remember what’s meant by a free country or just how free do you think you are in today’s United Kingdom?

Newshawk asked 37 politicians from national and local government chosen at random (i.e. those who bothered to answer the phone) for a definition of democracy. They were then asked to define a democrat. Both definitions were considered by the Newshawk political team to be important, basing this on Plato’s argument that the people are members of what rules them: “Seek not to rule a people without god!” Thus if you want to operate a democracy you must first find the democrats as we pointed out in the first of this series.

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However, not one member of our political class questioned could come up with anything close to the classical definition of a democracy. Some specimen responses were: “Democracy is when not all of the people can be fooled all of the time; something like that? No, it’s when they can’t fool all of them all the time!”

A local politician described democracy thus: “It being able to vote in a polling station wit proper curtains so his vote cannot be seen so he can be kept private …” Another when asked what would comprise a good democrat voter answered: “A good Democrat is an American who votes for the Democrats!”

A democracy according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “Government by the people; that form of government  in which the sovereign power resides in the people and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them.” The OED also admits a modern usage by which all have equal rights.

 

And the common sense answer to what makes a good democrat is exactly what makes a good citizen or even a good person. Thanks to Plato we can safely suggest that this is a man who can rule his own body.

When the great Hilaire Belloc during a Baliol dinner expressed his preference for republican over monarchial rule the senior master replied: “But where, Mr. Belloc, are we to find republicans?” It’s the same conundrum but one which this little foray into political matters will not seek to evade.

img-thingWe are not told what constraints if any are placed upon a people’s governing representatives or what is actually meant by the rights that all are owed equally. We have already touched upon the view of the Ms. Nichola Sturgeon, leaderette of the Scots separatists which is that she can do whatever she pleases simply because she has been elected and her party holds by the dogma that theirs is a “parliamentary democracy”. Obviously not the other kind of democracy we cannot but conclude. To go back to the OED it seems obvious that those members of the public elected to office are representing the sovereign power of the rest of the public and therefore obliged (by definition) to act according to the will of that portion of the population which empowered them. This at least clarifies that if the people are not in control of themselves they will scarcely provide a sovereign will worth representing.

So the question remains a valid one; who knows what Democracy really means today? Who remembers why Democracy was ever considered absolutely essential to a free society? And how quickly we have forgotten that as World War I erupted the World’s intelligentsia were already sneering at democracy as a “political anachronism” and, more critically, they were dismissing it as a “failing system” which placed intolerable constraints on “progress”, both economically and culturally.

What was then considered democracy’s preferred replacement? The answer believe it or not was Fascism. Let’s repeat that, the world consensus by a mile was for fascism to succeed limping, untidy democracy.

O.K. This was well before the three mightiest currents of fascism coalesced into the obvious abominations led by Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. George Bernard Shaw died convinced that Stalin was a superman. Mussolini got the trains running on time. Hitler’s social model was the envy of the Western ascendancy classes, the adulation of political academics. Yes, your grand dads and great grandmothers! Then the war came, and another war and all that embarrassment.

Democracy is splendid so long as there are democrats and they know what democracy means

DEMOCRACY needs democrats. But if you don’t know what democracy is how can you call yourself a democrat? So, do you know? Test yourself!

What is democracy? Describe a working democracy? But here’s the hard one … What exactly is a democrat?

If that’s too easy we can move up to A-level type questions. Is a Democracy a system of governance sufficient in itself or does the source of its energies, laws, and norms reside above or beyond it? Can democracy exist without ethics? For example can a democracy exist independently of a supportive*, sympathetic religion; certainly a system of ethics with enough moral authority to discourage naked ambition in leaders and at the same time influence each and every member of the population, not only to live by the law, but to accept responsibility for personal behaviour according to the dictates of, say, natural law? N.B. The Ten Commandments are described as a privileged expression of the natural law.

*Any alternative ethical dynamic may be substituted here so long as it can supply the optimum freedom for every citizen with a minimum sacrifice of personal freedom for the needs of society at large. Such an ethical system must also be constant, equitable, and available to the widest possible consensus. In short, the morality must fit the man and fit his fellows.

Confucius the ancient Chinese philosopher taught that while it was possible to make the population behave (by the rigorous enforcement of a myriad rules) they could still defy the rules but nobody would feel shame in doing so.

G. K. Chesterton wrote: “You can free yourself from the big law (Decalogue) but you won’t be free. You will find yourself bound up in a million little rules”. Sounds so like political correctness!

Before you attempt an answer to the above, consider some alternatives of which we have hard historical experience.