Evaluate and Critically Discuss

“England was a much better place when ruled by a committee of aristocratic landlords. All experience of the past 127 years has shown that ordinary people are not to be trusted with public affairs. They have consistently failed to see through the rogues and charlatans who have progressively monopolised English politics since the Third Reform Act, and have been too numerous to feel or be exposed to any sense of personal shame at this failure. The only way that England can now be saved is by a Caesaristic dictatorship, after which a restored Constitution will restrict the vote and access to elected office to persons of good character.”

Evaluate and critically discuss this anonymous, though wholly sound, comment. Candidates are encouraged to make some reference to the failed reforms that Sulla made to the Roman Constitution, and to the more thoroughgoing reconstuction by Julius Caesar, and to the final settlement by Augustus. Additional marks will be given to those candidates who recognise Gladstone as the proto-Blairite wrecker that he was. Candidates who use American spellings, or make any reference to the politics or history of the United States, will be failed without right of appeal.

21 responses to “Evaluate and Critically Discuss

  1. Oh, sigh. The appeal of rule by some (imagined) superior caste never seems to die, however foolish it so obviously is.

    It’s also mystifying why so many people seem to think that Rome is of anything other than dilettante historical interest in this day and age. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got books on the Empire and everything. But if anything stands as an example of how to fuck your own society up, Rome is it. Julius Caesar was the first great step towards their own obliteration that the Romans took, and the reason they’re now just a bunch of remnants accidentally dug up by farmers. I mean, we really need to get over it. We aren’t Graeco-Romans. They aren’t our civilisational ancestors. Sulla, Caesars, Gracchi, Cicero, Tacitus, they’re all dead and gone, they’re really nothing to do with us. I blame the Renaissance, me.

    So no, anyway. DIctatorship isn’t the way forward. Really it isn’t. We tried that with that shit-for-brains Cromwell, and nobody liked it then, either.

  2. As no less a person than Steven Seagal put it:

    “Are we the fuckin’ Romans now?”

  3. This is the tragic attraction, for the British Educated Classes, (to which my old father born as a poor East End Boy in 1915 thought in his later days that he had come to belong to – and he was right) of what my father called “The Platonist Philospher-Kings”. He really, truly, madly, deeply thought that some people ought to be this thing, but also “knew” that he was “not fit to be among these people, for lack of a full education”. It followed of course naturally that I, as a self-described libertarian, his son, could not qualify. Being “self-centred” (as he decided that this meant that I was) was automatic disqualification for philosopher-kingship.

    I think that, if what comprises ordinary practical education is allowed to be discovered by a population not under threat of invasion or war or overtaxation (in any Northern-European-Post-Renaissance-Scenario) over a couple of generations or three or four, then what will arise is astonishingly like a liberal-capitalist-fre-market civilisation. The historiographic context in which a civilisation can arise is important too: why can’t I see any revolutionary-libertarian or even mildly socially-liberal Muslim civilisations for example? Name five.

  4. B+ for Ian B – marked down for flippancy. D for Mr Ecks – flippancy and an allusion to America.

    Speaking for myself, life in the olden days was obviously so much nicer. Give me decent teeth and a thousand a year, and I’d go back to 1880 any time.

  5. I think that the nicely studied flppancy of Ian B is often crucial to the stringency of his writings. I value it as an enlightner of these sad days. I therefore award him an alpha-minus for this one, downgraded a little because he was perhaps not cutting enough.

  6. Mr Ecks tries hard and should be encouraged. I think a “D” is “unhelpful”….lol

  7. Going back to 1880?–too late to kill Marx or Bismark who had done their worst already.

    You could make sure that George Bernard Shaw, the Webb’s etc never grew up or never were born
    at all.

    Hey!–wait a minute—think of it—Sean stalking thro’ the fog-filled benighted streets of 1880’s London, dressed in his Victorian finery, complete with half-cape, top hat, gold-handled swordstick and Gladstone bag filled with the Instruments of Death.

    “Scotland Yard have no answer to the Mysterious Assassin” the headlines scream.

    All that’s needed is Ian B to travel back and set himself up as a consulting detective—in between cases he could send original artwork to “The Pearl”.

  8. David, I don’t think Samizdata ever quite “got” my “studied flippancy” ;-)

  9. “England was a much better place” in every generation since King Alfred. Life is like a continual game of musical chairs. The music stops every generation and a new group manages to grab a place at the expense of another.The best society keeps the game going so we all get a chance. No doubt when their turn comes to get knocked out they will always look back with misty eyes because we tend to think that being good people, whatever is or was good for me must be good for every one else. I’ll bet Sean would look dapper in his top hat and wot not.But the 1880’s might not have been his turn and he could have been born in the workhouse. For myself I missed mine. I know I should have been Bathsheba Everdene; inherited wealth and land and all that pulling power to boot!

    On a more serious note, it doesn’t much matter who is in charge as long as they don’t try to micro-manage us. That way we can be free to create our own ‘better England’

  10. Daisy wins the thread!

  11. The comment appears elsewhere on the Web.

    There was no “Golden Age.”


  12. I’d rather say that simply making the right to vote transferable (ex. by issuing each voter a numbered card which gives the holder the right to one vote) would go a long way to making government less of a mobocracy and more of a Venetian aristocratic republic. Once votes are transferable (purchasable) a sort of Pareto distribution would kick in: 20% of the voters would cast 80% of the vote. It’s an easy reform to bring about and no one in his right mind can accuse it of being non-democratic.

  13. This might have been a good idea in the olden days, when the rich were mostly persons of quality. The problem now is that the rich are generally corporatic trash of the sort raised up by the failure of mass democracy.

    The vote should be confined to people who are:

    a) Over the age of 40;
    b) Married with children;
    c) Freeholders;
    d) Self-employed;
    e) Born in England with at least one English parent;
    f: Able to teach Latin grammar or the Periodic Table.

    That should reduce the electorate to a few hundred thousand of the right people. If not, we could throw in the further requirement of being able to name and date all the monarchs of England since 1066.

  14. I must add that any restriction of the electorate would mean a violent revolution sooner or later. That may have been the reason why mass democracy was instituted (or why the countries that instituted it for other reason managed well for a time), to avoid 1848 reruns. I advocate transferable votes because that would in no way touch the electorate, would still for the make peaceful alignment of power to the general will, though throwing in much more flexibility. And again, I’d take the modern corporate guys over the pensioner or the civil servant as a voter any day: corporatism is better than socialism.

  15. If only the Duke of Wellington and the Tory ultras had simply stood firm in the face of Whig sedition, filth and constitutional vandalism in the 1830s: we would not be dealing with this rubbish right now!

  16. The major problem with all this silliness about restricting the franchise to the Great and Good, as defined however, is that that class is the root of our problems. They are the class who latch onto every stupid idea and impose it on everyone else. Do the untermensch care about Global Warming? No, it’s the upper classes. Did Radical Feminism erupt out of the ghettoes and slums? No, it was developed by women of privilege to maintain and extend their privilege. Were the Fabians lower order rabble rousers? No, they were upper class. And so on.

    The reality is that if “the masses” had a genuine say; hypothetically, a veto by direct referendum for instance (imagine for a moment that every law through Parliament had to pass a referendum with a pass mark of half the electorate (rather than half those who bother to vote)) then the majority of the GramscoFabiaNazi-Puritan State would have been strangled in the cradle.

    Sean has written enough about justifying narratives and their utility to ruling classes to be able to avoid falling into this swamp of nonsense.

  17. Yes, but I can’t always restrain myself to the stony path of rectitude.

  18. Gladstone Bag! Gladstone Bag!

  19. By the way, just as a another plug for my personal crankery, Gladstone was of evangelical Scots roots who, as he grew older, grew ever more fervent.

  20. Agreed. WEG may not have started the rot in our Matchless Constitution. But he was certainly part of the rot.

  21. Gladstone’s government nationalised the telegraph system…

    …though it must be added that ithere is no doubt that had the Tories happened to be in power, they would have done it also. It’s amazing to look at from an historical perspective; once the religious new wave sweeps into the ruling classes, the State just bloats like magic.