Wednesday, November 22, 2006

If It's PBF Day...

...It must mean I'm too busy to post my own thoughts.

Given Britain's recent policy debates, I thought I might introduce you to my favourite polemicist. I imagine some of you may have made his acquaintance already...

On Democracy...

"I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself - its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is mentioned.

All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity. Nor is this process confined to times of alarm and terror: it is going on day in and day out. Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves. All its axioms resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms."

HLM, 1926

On Elected Leadership...

"If he (a political candidate) is a smart and enterprising fellow, which he usually is, he quickly discovers there that hooey pleases the boobs a great deal more than sense. Indeed, he finds that sense really disquiets and alarms them - that it makes them, at best, intolerably uncomfortable, just as a tight collar makes them uncomfortable, or a speck of dust in the eye, or the thought of Hell.

The truth, to the overwhelming majority of mankind, is indistinguishable from a headache. After trying a few shots of it on his customers, the larval statesman concludes sadly that it must hurt them, and after that he taps a more humane keg, and in a little while the whole audience is singing "Glory, glory hallelujah," and when the returns come in the candidate is on his way to the White House."

HLM, 1926

On Theories of Government...

"In every age the advocates of the dominant political theory seek to give it dignity by identifying it with whatever contemporaneous desire of man happens to be most powerful. In the days of monarchy, monarchy was depicted as the defender of the faith. In our present era of democracy, democracy is depicted as the only safe guardian of liberty. And the communism or super-communism of tomorrow, I suppose, will be sold to the boob-oisie as the only true palladium of peace, justice and plenty.

All of these attempts to hook up cause and effect are nonsensical. Monarchy was fundamentally not a defender of the faith at all, but a rival and enemy to the faith. Democracy does not promote liberty; it diminishes and destroys liberty. And communism, as the example of Russia already shows, is not a fountain that gushes peace, justice and plenty, but a sewer in which they are drowned."

HLM, 1922

If anyone's still reading and enjoyed those snippets, you'll find more here.

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