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The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

The Unfinished Programme of Democracy
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Title: The Unfinished Programme of Democracy
Release Date: 2018-10-17
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE
UNFINISHED
PROGRAMME OF
DEMOCRACY


 

BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR

The Renascence of Faith

The Highroad to Christ

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The Church in the Commonwealth(New Commonwealth Books)

The Red Cap on the Cross


THE UNFINISHED PROGRAMME OF DEMOCRACY
BY
RICHARD ROBERTS
NEW YORK:
B. W. HUEBSCH
Mcmxx

To “Mine Own,”
N., P., D., and G.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER   PAGE
I. THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY 9
II. THE TESTS OF DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS 39
III. THE PECUNIARY STANDARD 64
IV. THE REDEMPTION OF WORK 93
V. THE ACHIEVEMENT OF LIBERTY 131
VI. THE PRACTICE OF FELLOWSHIP 160
VII. THE ORGANISATION OF GOVERNMENT 210
VIII. A DEMOCRATISED WORLD 251
IX. EDUCATION INTO DEMOCRACY 295

PREFACE

THESE pages embody the attempt of a plainman to thread a way through the social confusionof our time. The book sets out with aprofound faith in the validity of the democraticprinciple; and its object is to trace the path alongwhich the logic of this principle appears to lead.No claim is made to expert knowledge of economicsor political science; but the writer has endeavouredto acquaint himself with the recent literature ofthe subject and to understand the main currentsof prevailing opinion and feeling.

Events are moving so rapidly at thepresent time that certain passages becameimpertinent before the book was finished. It isprobable that before it finally leaves the writer’shands, other passages may suffer in the same way.But the main drift of the argument remainsunaffected.


No attempt has been made in the body of thebook to discuss the methods by which the socialand economic changes which are impending shouldbe carried through. It has been assumed that inthe English-speaking world, the traditional respectfor constitutional processes would avail to preventresort to what has come to be known as “directaction.” It is now clear that this assumption wasill-founded and that there is a considerablemovement of opinion toward industrial or “direct”action. The writer would venture to state hisconviction that recourse to this method would beunspeakably disastrous and would carry with itconsequences which its present advocates cannotforesee. It will be no easy task to restore the normalconstitutional and economic processes when oncethey have been scrapped in the pursuit of someimmediate object; and it is as sure as anythingcan very well be that the first step in direct actionwill have to be followed by others and must endin a confusion out of which the forty years it tookto deliver Israel out of Egypt would be all tooshort to extricate us.

At the same time it should in fairness be acknowledgedthat if organised labour decides to use thisdubious weapon, it will be under great provocation.The tardiness of governments to fulfil their promises,their too obvious tenderness toward the vestedinterests, the blind and obstinate bourbonism ofthe privileged classes over against the new proletarianawakening—all these things combine tocreate a situation which labour may feel intolerableand may resolve to end by a summary process. Itis indeed only the most resolute and speedymobilisation of all the resources of practical goodwilland reasonableness that can avert a greatcatastrophe. Organised labour has proved itselfto be neither vindictive nor unreasonable when ithas been met with fair and square dealing; andif we are plunged into the chaos of a general strikeor perhaps worse, the larger responsibility willrest with those who, possessed of power andprivilege, either could or would not see that theclock had moved onward a great space—and,during the years of war, with great rapidity—andso were unwilling or unready to adapt themselvesto the new circumstances.


One subject of fundamental importance istouched upon but incidentally in these pages—namely,the land. What is said herein concerningproperty in general applies with even more pointto land; and the plea which is made for thestandardisation of the price of staple commoditiesclearly leads to the public ownership of land,which is indeed on every ground the only reasonablesolution of the land question. But adequatediscussion of the matter would carry the argumentof the book too far afield. In these pages,attention is primarily directed to the situationwhich has been created by modern industrialism.


The obligations of the writer to friends andwriters are legion; it would be hopeless toenumerate them. Some items of this indebtednessmay be inferred from the footnotes. The writerin particular regrets that Mr. Laski’s Authorityin the Modern State did not fall into his handssooner; but he is glad to find himself in substantialagreement with the argument and conclusionsof that notable work.

Ty’n-y-coed,
Capel Curig,
North Wales.
July 15th, 1919.

Chapter I.
THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY

“What is democracy? Sometimes, it is the name for a formof government by which the ultimate control of the machineryof government is committed to a numerical majority of thecommunity. Sometimes, and incorrectly, it is used to denotethe numerical majority itself, the poor or the multitude existingin a state. Sometimes, and still more loosely, it is the name fora policy, directed exclusively or mainly to the advantage ofthe labouring class. Finally, in its broadest and deepest, mostcomprehensive and most interesting sense, democracy is thename for a certain general condition of society, having historicorigins, springing from circumstances and the nature of things,not only involving the political doctrine of popular sovereigntybut representing a cognate group of corresponding tendenciesover the whole field of moral, social and even spiritual lifewithin the democratic community.”—Lord Morley.

“I speak the password primeval, I give the sign of Democracy,By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have theircounterpart of on the same terms.”—Walt Whitman.

“To be a democrat is not to decide on a certain form of humanassociation, it is to learn how to live with other men.”—Mary P.Follett.

THE inherent logic of the democratic ideacalls for a society which will provide forall its members those conditions of equalopportunity that are within human control. Itdenies all forms of special and exclusive privilege,and affirms the sovereignty of the common man.

In practice, however, democracy has gone nofurther than the achievement of a form of government;and in popular discussion the word hasusually a connotation exclusively political. It iseven yet but slowly becoming clear that a democraticform of government is no more than the bareframework of a democratic society; and democracyas we know it is justly open to the criticism thatit has not seriously taken in hand the task of clothingthe political skeleton with a body of living socialflesh.

Modern democracy is, of course, historicallyvery young; and it may be reasonably maintainedthat it is premature to speak of its failure to realiseits full promise. Nevertheless, it is of someconsequence that already that part of the democraticprogramme which has been achieved and put tothe proof is being exposed to heavy fire of destructivecriticism. During the past few years, wehave become familiar with the idea of a worldmade safe for democracy; and in the minds ofmany people democracy (which in this connectionmeans representative popular government) standsas a sort of ultimate good which it is impious tochallenge or to criticise. Yet this democracy,for which the world has been presumably madesafe at so great and sorrowful a price, is by someroundly declared to be radically unsafe for theworld and a hindrance to social progress. Thesyndicalists, for instance, believe the democraticstate to be no more than the citadel of bourgeoisand plutocratic privilege, and have decreed itsdestruction, proposing to substitute for it a modifiedanarchism. Others, like Paul Bourget andBrunetiere, so far from finding it the sanctuaryof the privileged, fear it as a source of anarchy andsocial confusion, and invite us to retrace our stepsto happier days when authority being less diffusedwas more speedily and effectually exercised.Neither the syndicalist nor the authoritariancriticism is wholly baseless; yet it is true that inneither case does it arise from an inherent defectin the democratic principle. The one arises fromthe circumstance that political democracy still lacksits logical economic corollary; the other from thefact that democracy is not sustained by its properethical coefficient.

These, however, are not the only grounds forthe increasing scepticism of the validity of democraticinstitutions. The democratic state, likeits predecessors, has proved itself to be voracious ofauthority; and in the exercise of its presumedomnicompetency it has increasingly occupied itselfwith matters, which—both in respect of extent andcontent—it is incapable of handling adequately.It has become palpably impossible to submit allthe concerns of government to parliamentarydiscussion; and in consequence there has been atendency on the one hand to invest administrativedepartments with virtual legislative power, and onthe other to convert representative assemblies intomere instruments for registering the decisions ofthe executive government. The recent proposalfor the establishment of a permanent statutoryNational Industrial Council in England has beenevoked by the palpable inability of Parliamentto deal effectually with the problems of industrialproduction. Even before the War, it was becomingplain that the congestion of parliamentary businessin England called for some drastic remedy ifparliament was to be saved from futility anddiscredit. But here again, the failure has beendue to no inherent defect in the democratic principlebut rather to the fact that the unitary andabsolutist doctrine and practice of the state hashindered the proper development of democracy.

In a word, the trouble with democracy is thatthere is not enough of it. The remedy for the illsof democracy is more democracy. Politically, it isstill incomplete; its economic applications have yetto be made; and while we do lip service to itsethical presuppositions, they are far from being arule of life. Yet lacking these things, democracy iscondemned to arrest, and through arrest to decay.

Meantime the dynastic principle has fallen—hasindeed fallen under circumstances whichmake its revival seem exceedingly remote. Nevertheless,if democracy suffers arrest at this pointin its history, if the peoples fail to work out itslogic, society may lapse into an anarchy out ofwhich dynasticism or something like it may oncemore emerge. It is no hyperbole to speak of thecrisis of democracy; and it is only to be saved asthe democratic peoples set themselves earnestlyto the business of strengthening its stakes andlengthening its cords.

I

Few British people of liberal mind are able tolook back upon that period of their history whichgathers around the Boer War without a certainhumiliation. Professor L. T. Hobhouse ascribesthe popular defection of the British people

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