A blupete Essay

Notes, to blupete's Essay
"Politics and The Lie of Legitimacy"

1 The topics of democracy and government are subjects, I take up elsewhere.

2 The Public Philosophy (Boston: Little, Brown; 1955), p. 26-7. Lippmann, in a footnote to this passage, quoted James Trunslow Adams, as follows: "As we look over the list of the early leaders of the republic, Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, and others, we discern that they were all men who insisted upon being themselves and who refused to truckle to the people. With each succeeding generation, the growing demand of the people that its elective officials shall not lead but merely register the popular will has steadily undermined the independence of those who derive their power from popular election. The persistent refusal of the Adamses to sacrifice the integrity of their own intellectual and moral standards and values for the sake of winning public office or popular favour is another of the measuring rods by which we may measure the divergence of American life from its starting point."

3 A leader is one who is possessed of the supreme gift of gathering up and expressing the ideas which thousands of others feel but cannot express. There is no message so effective as to tell people what they know already, to hold a mirror to their face and a sound board to their voice.

4 The greatest compensation to one who has achieved an elected office is the value to him as the incumbent to be able to use his office so to get himself elected once again. A strong "elected" leader will ride herd over his staff; it is through staff that he exercises power and often, at least he believes, that is through staff he can maintain power straight on through to the next election. Any vast and highly organized social institution, - whether it is an army, or a union, or a large commercial company, or a government - becomes taken over by the "wire-pullers" the "bosses" and the "permanent officials."

5 The leaders are not the choice of the people as much as they are the choice of the political wirepullers. In the United States (forgetting for the moment how they got on the ballet), the leadership candidates are at least on the ballet. Not so in Canada, the Canadian people have no direct say as to who the leader is to be, and, seem to give the matter not an once of concern.

6 "To procure unanimity, to get men to act in corps, we must appeal for the most part to gross and obvious motives, to authority and passion, to their vices, not their virtues: we must discard plain truth and abstract justice as doubtful and efficient pleas, retaining only the names and the pretext as a convenient salvo for hypocrisy." (William Hazlitt, as found in his Preface to Political Essays.) "[Politicians] hold their offices for a short time, and to do this they must maneuver and manipulate combinations ... stuff of daily life in a democracy ... in the daily routine of democratic politics, elected executives can never for long take their eyes from the mirror of the constituencies. They must not look too much out of the window at the realities beyond." (Lippmann, The Public Philosophy, op. cit., p. 49.)

7 "Out of a population of 8,000,000 of English people [circa 1760], only 160,000 were electors at all." (See Green, vol. X, p. 21.)

8 The Theory of Legislation.

9 "The competitive odds are heavily against the candidate who, like Burke with the electors of Bristol, promises to be true to his own best reason and judgment. The odds are all in favor of the candidate who offers himself as the agent, the delegate, the spokesman, the errand boy, of blocs of voters." (Lippmann, The Public Philosophy, op. cit., p. 48.)

10 "Demetrius," 1798.

11 Assuming that the typical voter has the intellect and can take the time away from making a living so to study any particular issue and come to a stand on it, the exercise is a crapshoot, anyway, at least that is what Thoreau thought: "All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men." (Civil Disobedience.)

12 For example, is it to be supposed that the average voter understands the fundamental principles of economics? That he does not is excusable. Is it to be supposed that the average politician understands the fundamental principles of economics? That he does not is inexcusable. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen: "... there are and always will be in the world an enormous mass of bad or indifferent people -- people who deliberately do all sorts of things which they ought not to do, and leave undone all sorts of things which they ought to do. Estimate the proportion of men and women who are selfish, frivolous, idle, absolutely commonplace and wrapped up in the smallest of petty routines, and consider how far the freest of free discussion is likely to improve them. The only way by which it is practically possible to act upon them at all is by compulsion or restraint." [Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 72.]

13 Freedom and the Law (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 3rd Ed., 1991), p. 23.

14 Bruno Leoni, Freedom and the Law, op. cit. at p. 146.

15 In corporate law there is the notion of a "special resolution" where important decisions can only be taken where 75% vote in its favour.

16 P. 237.

17 "Thoughts on Present Discontents."

18 "The temper of George the First was that of a gentleman usher; and his one care was to get money for his favorites and himself. The temper of George the Second was that of a drill-sergeant, who believed himself master of his realm." (Green, vol. IX, p. 157.) As parliament by this age was all powerful, it could nonetheless be bought by "places, pensions, and other bribes" -- sound familiar?

19 England Under Queen Anne (London: Longmans, Green; 1948), vol. 3, pp. 316-7.

20 An Autobiography & Other Essays (London: Longmans, Green; July, 1949), at p. 188.

21 In Canada as between the liberal party and the conservative party, as is the case in the United States between the democrats and the republicans, as both push to the centre so to get into office, there is as about as much difference as between tweedledee and tweedledum.

22 Balfour's introduction to Bagehot's The English Constitution (Oxford University Press, 1928).

23 Ibid..

24 Paul Johnson attributes this quote to Brougham in The Birth of the Modern (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 413.

25 The English Constitution, op. cit., p. 129.

26 Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873), op. cit., at p. 133.

27 The Federalist Papers, 1787, no. 10.

28 Biographical Studies (London: Longmans, Green; 1889) p. 316.

29 Capitalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 120-1.

30 "... much argument is not required to guide the public, still less a formal exposition of that argument. What is mostly needed is the manly utterance of clear conclusions; if a statesman gives these in a felicitous way (and if with a few light and humorous illustrations, so much the better), he has done his part." (Bagehot, The English Constitution, op. cit., p. 270-1.

31 Von Ruville's biography on Pitt (London: Heinemann, 1907) vol. 1, pp. 85-6.

32 "On the Difference Between Writing and Speaking."

33 The Poverty of Historicism (Routledge, 1969).

34 Op. cit., p. 89.

35 "Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud, and vain ...:
By this the fool commands the wise,
The noble with the base complies,
The sot assumes the rule of wit,
And cowards make the brave submit."
-- Hudibras, Butler, 1680.

36 The Spirit of the Age, "Mr. Wilberforce."

37 Ibid., "Mr. Horne Tooke."


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