PAUL JOHNSON QUOTES - MODERN TIMES
THE WORLD FROM THE TWENTIES TO THE NINETIES
CONTENTSIn Other's Words
Ch01: A Relativistic World
Ch02: The First Despotic Utopias (Russia & Italy)
Ch03: Waiting for Hitler (Germany)
Ch04: Legitimacy in Decadence (Britain & France)
Ch05: An Infernal Theocracy, a Celestial Chaos (Japan & China)
Ch06: The Last Arcadia (America)
Ch07: Degringolade (The Great Depression)
Ch08: The Devils (Stalin & Hitler)
Ch09: The High Noon of Aggression (1930s)
Ch10: The End of Old Europe (1940)
Ch11: The Watershed Year (1941)
Ch12: Superpower and Genocide
Ch16: Experimenting with Half Mankind
Ch20: The Recovery of Freedom
Ch01: A Relativistic World
Ch02: The First Despotic Utopias (Russia & Italy)
Ch03: Waiting for Hitler (Germany)
Ch04: Legitimacy in Decadence (Britain & France)
Ch05: An Infernal Theocracy, a Celestial Chaos (Japan & China)
Ch06: The Last Arcadia (America)
Ch07: Degringolade (The Great Depression)
Ch08: The Devils (Stalin & Hitler)
Ch09: The High Noon of Aggression (1930s)
Ch10: The End of Old Europe (1940)
Ch11: The Watershed Year (1941)
Ch12: Superpower and Genocide
Ch16: Experimenting with Half Mankind
Ch20: The Recovery of Freedom
#1 A RELATIVISTIC WORLD
The modern world began on 29 May 1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse, taken on the island of Principe off West Africa and at Sobral in Brazil, confirmed the truth of a new theory of the universe. It had been apparent for half a century than the Newtonian cosmology, based upon the straight lines of Euclidean geometry and Galileo's notions of absolute time, was in need of serious modifications. It had stood for more than 200 years. It was the framework within which the European Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the vast expansion of human knowledge, freedom and prosperity which characterized the 19th century, had taken place. But increasingly powerful telescopes were revealing anomalies. Why?
In 1905, a 26-year-old German Jew, Albert Einstein, had published a paper which became known as the Special Theory of Relativity. Einstein's observations on the way in which, in certain circumstances, lengths appear to contract and clocks to slow down, are analagous to the effects of perspective in painting. In fact the discovery that space and time are relative rather than absolute terms of measurement is comparable, in its effect on our perception of the world, to the first use of perspective in art, which occured in Greece c.500 BC.
The originality of Einstein, amounting to a form of genius, and the curious elegance of his lines of argument, which colleagues compared to a kind of art, aroused growing, worldwide interest. In 1907 he published a demonstration that all mass has energy, encapsulated in the equation E=mc2, which a later age saw as the starting point in the race for the atomic bomb.
Einstein's theory, and Eddington's much publicized expediton to test it, aroused enormous interest throughout the world in 1919. No exercise in scientific verification, before or since, has ever attracted so many headlines or become a topic of universal conversation. The tension mounted steadily between June and the actual announcement at a packed meeting of the Royal Society in London in September that the theory had been confirmed. To A. N. Whitehead, who was present, it was like a Greek drama.
From that moment onward, Einstein was a global hero, in demand at every great university in the world, mobbed wherever he went, his wistful features familiar to hundreds of millions, the archetype of the absracted natural philosopher. The impact of his theory was immediate, and cumulatively immeasurable.
At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.
No one was more distressed than Einstein by this public misapprehension. He was bewildered by the relentless publicity and error which his work seemed to promote. He wrote to his colleague Max Born on 9 September 1920: 'Like the man in the fairy-tale who turned everything he touched into gold, so with me everything turns into a fuss in the newspapers.' Einstein was not a practicing Jew, but he acknowledged a God. He believed passionately in absolute standards of right and wrong.
He lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic, just as he lived to see his fatal equation bring into existence nuclear warfare. There were times, he said at the end of his life, when he wished he had been a simple watchmaker.
The public response to relativity was one of the principal formative influences on the course of twentieth-century history. It formed a knife, inadvertently wielded by its author, to help cut society adrift from its traditional moorings in the faith and morals of Judeo-Christian culture.
"All the horrors of the age were brought together, and not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them. The mighty educated States involved conceived - not without reason - that their very existence was at stake. Neither peoples nor rules drew the line at any deed which they thought could help them to win. Germany, having let Hell loose, kept well in the van in terror; but she was followed step by step by the desperate and ultimately avenging nations she has assailed. Every outrage against humanity or international law was repaid by reprisals - often of a greater scale and of longer duration... When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civlized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves; and they were of doubtful utility."
- Winston Churchill, on the horrors of WW1
As Churchill correctly noted, the horrors he listed were perpetrated by the 'mighty educated States'. Indeed, they were quite beyond the power of individuals, however evil. It is a commonplace that men are excessively ruthless and cruel not as a rule out of avowed malice but from outraged righteousness. How much more is this true of legally constitued states...It is a myth that European youth was ruthlessly sacrificed in 1914 by a selfish and cynical age, The speeches of pre-war politicians were crammed with appeals to youth... All over Europe, sociologists were assidiously studying youth to find out what it thought and wanted. And of course what youth wanted was war.
The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands too.
The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands too.
By 1919 virtually all European intellectuals of the younger generation, not to speak of their elders, subscribed to the proposition that the right to national self-determination was a fundamental moral principle. There were few exceptions, Karl Popper being one. These few argued that self-determination was a self-defeating principle since 'liberating' people and minorities simply created more minorities.
At a stroke, the dissolution of these dynastic and proprietary empires opened up packages of heterogenous peoples which had been lovingly assembled and carefully tied together over centuries. The monarchies were the only unifying principle of these multi-racial societies, the sole guarantee (albeit often only a slender one) that all would be equal before the law. Once that principle was removed, what could be substitued for it? The only one available was nationalism, and its fashionable by-product irredentism.
It must not be supposed that already, in 1919, the progressive disintegration of the British Empire was inevitable, indeed forseeable. The British Empire, to most people, appeared to be not only the most extensive but also the most solid on earth. Britain was a superpower by any standards. She had by far the largest navy. She also had the largest air force and, surprisingly in view of her history, the world's third largest army. In theory at least the British Empire had gained immeasurably by the war.
Britain's spoils, which carried the Empire to its greatest extent - more than a quarter of the surface of the earth - were also thought to consolidate it economically and strategically.
Nietzsche saw God not as an invention but as a casualty, and his demise was in some important sense an historical event, which would have dramatic consequences. He wrote in 1886: "The greatest event of recent times - that 'God is dead', that the belief in the Christian God is no longer tenable - is beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe." Among the advanced races, the decline and ultimately the collapse of the religious impulse would leave a huge vacuum. The history of modern times is in great part the history of how that vacuum has been filled.
Nietzsche rightly perceived that the most likely candidate would be what he called the 'Will to Power', which offered a far more comprehensive and in the end more plausible explanation of human behavior than either Marx or Freud. In place of religious belief, there would be secular ideology. Those who had once filled the ranks of the totalitarian clergy would become totalitarian politicians. And, above all, the Will to Power would produce a new kind of messiah, uninhibited by any religious sanctions whatever, and with an unappeasable appetite for controlling mankind. The end of the old order, with an unguided world adrift in a relativistic universe, was a summons to such gangster-statesmen to emerge. They were not slow to make their appearance.
CHAPTER 2 : THE FIRST DESPOTIC UTOPIAS
War breeds revolutions. Amd breeding revolutions is a very old form of warfare. The Germans called it 'Revolutionieurungspolitik'. If the Allies could incite the Poles, the Czechs, the Croats, the Arabs and the Jews to rise against the Central Powers and their partners, then the Germans, in turn, could and did incite the Irish and the Russians.
Once Lenin had abolished the idea of personal guilt, and had started to 'exterminate' (a word he frequently employed) whole classes, merely on account of occupation or parentage, there was no limit to which this deadly princple might be carried. Might not entire categories of people be classified as 'enemies' and condemned to imprisonment or slaughter merely on account of the colour of their skin, or their racial origins or, indeed, their nationality? There is no essential moral difference between class-warfare and race-warfare, between destroying a class and destroying a race. Thus the modern practice of genocide was born.
With one exception none of the Allied statesmen involved even began to grasp the enormous significance of the establishment of this new type of totalitarian dictatorship, or the long-term effect of its implantation in the heart of the greatest land power on earth. The exception was Winston Churchill. With his strong sense of history, he realized some kind of fatal watershed had been reached.
To Churchill it seemed that a new kind of barbarism had arisen, indifferent to any standards of law, custom, diplomacy or honour which had hitherto been observed by civilized states.
Lenin had systematically constructed, in all its essentials, the most carefully engineered apparatus of state tyranny the world had yet seen. In the old world, personal autocracies, except perhaps for brief periods, had been limited by other forces in society: a church, and aristocracy, an urban bourgeoise, ancient charters and courts and assemblies. And there was too, the notion of an external, restraining force, in the idea of a Deity, or Natural Law, or some absolute system of morality. Lenin's new despotic utopia had no such counterweights or inhibitions - all had been swept away. Everything that was left was owned or controlled by the state. All rights whatsoever were vested in the state.
The Great War saw the bifurcation of Leninism and Mussolini's proto-fascism. It was a question not merely of intellect and situation but of character. Mussolini had the humanity, including the vanity and the longing to be loved, which Lenin so conspicuously lacked. He was exceptionally sensitive and responsive to mass opinion. When the war came and the armies marched, he sniffed the nationalism in the air and drew down great lungfuls of it. It was intoxicating: and he moved sharply in a new direction. Lenin, on the other hand, was impervious to such aromas.
As Marxist heretics and violent revolutionary activists, Lenin and Mussolini had six salient features in common. Both were totally opposed to bourgeois parliaments and any type of 'reformism'. Both saw the party as a highly centralized, strictly hierarchical and ferociously disciplined agency for furthering socialist objectives. Both wanted a leadership of professional revolutionaries. Neither had any confidence in the capacity of the proletariat to organize itself. Both thought revolutionary consciousness could be brought to the masses from without by a revolutionary, self-appointed elite. Finally, both believed that, in the coming struggle between the classes, organized violence would be the final arbiter.
In a very characteristic mixture of arrogance and fatalistic despair, Mussolini announced the beginning of fascism in a notorious speech delivered on 3 January 1925. Opposition newspapers were banned. Opposition leaders were placed in confinment on an island. As Mussolini put it, opposition to the monolithic nation was superfluous - he could find any that was needed within himself and in the resistance of objective forces - a bit of verbal legerdemain that even Lenin might have envied. He produced a resounding totalitarian formula, much quoted, admired and excoriated then and since: 'Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.'
But there was always something nebulous about Italian fascism. Its institutions, like the Labour Charter, the National Council of Corporations and the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, never seemed to get much purchase on the real Italy. Mussolini boasted, 'We control the political forces, we control the moral forces, we control the economic forces. Thus we are in the midst of the corporative fascist state.' But it was a state built of words rather than deeds.
But if Mussolini did not practise fascism, and could not even define it with any precision, it was equally mystifying to its opponents, especially the Marxists. Sophisticated Anglo-Saxon liberals could dismiss it as a new kind of mountebank dictatorship, less bloodthirsty than Leninism and much less dangerous to property. But to the Marxists it was much more serious. By the mid-1920s there were fascist movements all over Europe. One thing they all had in common was anti-Communism of the most active kind. They fought revolution with revolutionary means and met the Communists on the streets with their own weapons.
It had to be squared with Marxist-Leninist historiography and therefore shown to be not a portent of the future but a vicious flare-up of the dying bourgeois era. It was unthinkable to recognize it for what it actually was - a Marxist heresy, indeed a modification of the Leninist heresy itself. Hence after much lucubration an official Soviet definition was produced in 1933: fascism was 'the unconcealed terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, chauvinistic and imperialistic elements of finance capital'. This manifest nonsense was made necessary by the failure of 'scientific' Marxism to predict what was the most striking political development of the inter-war years.
In the meantime, Mussolini's Italy was now an empirical fact, just like Lenin's Russia, inviting the world to study it, with a view to imitation, perhaps, or avoidance. The historian of modern times is made constantly aware of the increasingly rapid interaction of political events over wide distances. It was as though the development of radio, the international telephone system, mass-circulation newspapers and rapid forms of travel was producing a new conception of social and political holism corresponding to new scientific perceptions of the universe and matter.
According to Mach's Principle, formulated first at the turn of the century and then reformulated as part of Einstein's cosmology, not only does the universe as a whole influence local, terrestrial events but local events have an influence, however small, on the universe as a whole. Quantum mechanics, developed in the 1920s, indicated that the same principle applied at the level of micro-quantities. There were no independent units, flourishing apart from the rest of the universe. 'Splendid isolation' was no longer a practicable state policy, as even the United States had implicitly acimitted in 1917.
The influenza virus of 1918 had enveloped the world in weeks and penetrated almost everywhere. The virus of force, terror and totalitarianism might prove equally swift and ubiquitous. It had firmly implanted itself in Russia. It was now in Italy.
Mussolini could not or would not conjure a new fascist civilization out of his cloudy verbal formulae. But what he liked doing and felt able to do, and indeed was gifted at doing, was big construction projects. He tackled malaria, then the great, debilitating scourge of central and southern Italy.
In Sicily, the Mafia was not destroyed, but it was effectively driven underground. Above all, there was no more violence on the streets. Some of these accomplishments were meretricious, others harmful in the long run. But taken together they looked impressive, to foreigners, to tourists, to many Italians too. No Utopia was emerging in Italy, but the contrast with hungry, terrorized Russia was striking. To those north of the Alps, who rejected alike the Bolshevism of the East and the liberalism of the West, the Italian renaissance seemed offer a third way.
CHAPTER 3 : WAITING FOR HITLER
The object of the 1914 war was to create a new European order in which Germany would be dominant.
The shock of defeat to most Germans, especially the soldiers, was enormous. It was something no one in the West understood. The Germans knew they were retreating on the Western Front. But the withdrawal was orderly; the army was intact.
The truth was finally brought home to Germany only when the terms of the Versailles Treaty were published in May 1919.
Germany's defeat in 1918 was bound to unleash a quest for scapegoats, alien treachery in the midst of the Volk.
Christianity was content with a solitary hate-figure to explain evil: Satan. But modern secular faiths needed human devils, and whole categories of them. The enemy, to be plausible, had to be an entire class or race.
The Jews tried everything to combat the poison. Some brought up their children to be artisans or farmers. They enlisted in the army. They attempted ultra-assimilation.
But each policy raised more difficulties than it removed, for anti-Semitism was protean, hydra-headed and imprevious to logic or evidence.
The syphillis of anti-Semitism was not the only weakness of the German body politic. The German state was a huge creature with a small and limited brain. The state was nursemaid as well as sergeant-major. It was a towering shadow over the lives of ordinary people and their relationship towards it was one of dependence and docility. The philosophy was Platonic; the result corporatist.
Hitler's artistic approach was absolutely central to his success. Lenin's religious-type fanaticism would never have worked in Germany. The Germans were the best-educated nation in the world. To conquer their minds was very difficult. Their hearts, their sensibilities, were easier targets. Hitler's strength was that he shared with so many other Germans the devotion to national images new and old: misty forests breeding blond giants; smiling peasant villages under the shadow of ancestral castles; garden cities emerging from ghetto-like slums; riding Valkyries, burning Valhallas, new births and dawns in which shining, millennian structures would rise from the ashes of the past and stand for centuries. Hitler had in common with average German taste precisely those revered images which nearly a century of nationalist propaganda had implanted...
In a rare moment of frankness, Lenin once said that only a country like Russia could have captured so easily a country as he took it. Germany was a different proposition. It could not be raped. It had to be seduced.
In 1923 the German currency, long teetering on the brink of chaos, finally fell into it. The German financial authorities blamed the fall on the reparation clauses of the Versaillies Treaty. In fact reparations had nothing directly to do with it.
The crisis was due entirely to the reckless manner in which the Ministry of Finance, abetted by the Reichsbank, allowed credit and the money supply to expand.
CHAPTER 4 : LEGITIMACY IN DECADENCE
The notion that industrialization, as opposed to primary production, is the sole road to high living standards is belied by the experience of former colonies like Australia, New Zealand, much of Canada and the US Midwest, where exports of meat, wool, wheat , dairy products and minerals have produced the most prosperous countries in the world.
Colonialism was a highly visual phenomenon. It abounded in flags, exotic uniforms, splendid ceremonies, Durbars, sunset-guns, trade exhibitions, postage stamps, and above all, coloured maps. Seen from maps, colonialism appeared to have changed the world. Seen on the ground, it appeared a more metriculous phenomenon, which could and did change little. It came easily; it went easily. Few died either to make it or break it. It both accelerated and retarded, though marginally in both cases, the emergance of a world economic system.
History shows us the truly amazing extent to which intelligent, well-informed and resolute men, in the pursuit of economy or in an altruistic passion for disarmament, will delude themselves about realities.
America and Japan viewed each other with increasing hostility. As a result, America put the sharp question to Britain: whom do you want as your friends, us or the Japanese?
CHAPTER 5 : AN INFERNAL THEOCRACY, A CELESTIAL CHAOS
"Well-organized nations count votes out of ballot boxes. Badly organized nations count bodies, dead ones, on the battlefield." (Sun Yat-sen)
As long as Britain was Japan's ally, the latter had a prime interest in preserving her own internal respectability, constitutional propriety and the rule of law, all of which Britain had taught her.
That was why the destruction of the Anglo-Japanese alliance by the USA and Canada in 1922 was so fatal to peace in the Far East.
In two decades the pursuit of radical reform by force had led to the deaths of millions of innocents and reduced large parts of China to the misery and lawlessness that Germany had known in the Wars of Religion or Frances in the Hundred Years' War.
The tragedy of inter-war China illustrates the principle that when legitimacy yields to force, and moral absolutes to relativism, a great darkness descends and angels become indistinguishable from devils.
CHAPTER 6 : THE LAST ARCADIA
"Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." (President Calvin Coolidge)
Who was an American? What was America for? Many, perhaps most, Americans thought of their country, almost wistfully, as the last Arcadia, an innocent and quasi-Utopian refuge from the cumulative follies and wickedness of the corrupt world beyond her coean-girded shores. But how to preserve Arcadia?
America's proclaimed indifference to events in North China was a bluff, an elaborate self-deceit. A nation which numbered 106 'ethnic groups', which was already a substansial microcosm of world society, could not be genuinely blind to major events anywhere.
The Utopianism inherent in Prohibition, though strongly rooted in American society, came up against the equally strong rooted and active American principle of unrestricted freedom of enterprise. America was one of the least totalitarian societies on earth; it possessed virtually none of the apparatus to keep market forces in check once an unfulfilled need appeared.
Prohibition was the 'take off point' for big crime in America.
The trouble with the Twenties expansion was not that it was philistine or socially immoral. The trouble was that it was transient. Had it endured, carrying with it in its train the less robust but still (at that time) striving economies of Europe, a global political transformation must have followed which would have rolled back the new forces of totalitarian compulsion, with their ruinous belief in social engineering.
CHAPTER 7 : DEGRINGOLADE
The 1929 crash exposed the naivety and ignorance of bankers, businessmen, Wall Street experts and academic economists high and low; it showed that they did not understand the system they had been to confidently manipulating. They had tried to substitute their own well-meaning policies for what Adam Smith called 'the invisble hand' of the market and they had wrought disaster. Far from demonstrating, as Keynes and his school later argued, the dangers of a self-regulating economy, the 'deringolade' indicated the opposite: the risks of ill-informed meddling.
If the recession had been allowed to adjust itself, as it would have done by the end of 1930 on any earlier analogy, confidence would have returned and the world slump need never have occured. Instead, the market went on down, slowly but inexorably, ceasing to reflect economic realities - its true function - and instead becoming an engine of doom, carrying to destruction the entire nation and, in its wake, the world.
The first fallacy to be dispelled is that America pursued an isolationist foreign policy in the 1920s... instead they sought to keep the world prosperous by deliberate inflation of the money supply.
This deliberate interference in the supply and cost of money was used in the 1920s not merely to promote its original aim, the expansion of US business, but to pursue a supposedly benevolent international policy.
Hoover's corporatism - the notion that the state, business, and other Big Brothers should work together in gentle, but persistent and continuous manipulation to make life better - was the received wisdom of the day, among enlightened capitalists, left-wing Republicans and non-socialist intellectuals. Yankee-style corporatism was the American response to the new forms in Europe, especially Mussolini's fascism.
In all essentials, Hoover's actions embodied what would later be called a 'Keynesian' policy. He cut taxes heavily and pushed up government spending, deliberately running up a huge government deficit of $2.2 billion in 1931.
By 1933 Hoover's interventionism had prolonged the Depression into its fourth year. The cumulative banking crisis had, in all probability, the deflationary effect which Hoover had struggled so hard and so foolishly to prevent, so that by the end of 1932 the very worst of the Depression was over. But the cataclysmic depth to which the economy had sunk in the meantime meant that recovery would be slow and feeble.
It was only in 1932 that the Republicans finally lost the progressive image they had enjoyed since Lincoln's day and saw it triumphantly seized by their enemies, with all that such a transfer involves in the support of the media, and approval of academia, the patronage of the intelligentsia and, not least, the manufacture of historical orthodoxy.
If the Interventionism of Roosevelt's New Deal worked, it took nine years and a world war to demonstrate the fact.
CHAPTER 8 : THE DEVILS
At the very moment the American intelligentsia turned to totalitarian Europe for spiritual sustenance and guidance in orderly planning, it was in fact embarking on two decades of unprecedented ferocity and desolation — moral relativism in monstrous incarnation... For Americans, then it was a case of moving from a stricken Arcadia to an active pandaemonium. The devils had taken over.
On 21 December 1929 Stalin had celebrated his 50th birthday, as absolute master of an autocracy for which, in concentrated savagery, no parallel in history could be found. A few weeks earlier, while the New York Stock Exchange was collapsing, he had given orders for the forced collectivization of the Russian peasants, an operation involving far greater material loss than anything within the scope of Wall Street, and a human slaughter on a scale no earlier tyranny had possessed the physical means, let alone the wish, to bring about... 5 million peasants were dead; twice as many in forced labour camps... the devils had taken over.
The result was what the great Marxist scholar Leszek Kolakowski has called 'probably the most massive warlike operation ever conducted by a state against its own citizens'.
Under Stalin the system of political slaves expanded, first slowly, then with terrifying speed. Once forced collectivization got under way, in 1930-33, the concentration camp population rose to 10 million.
In the outside world, the magnitude of the Stalin tyranny - or indeed its very existence - was scarcely grasped at all.
Totalitarianism of the Left bred totalitarianism of the Right; Communism and fascism were the hammer and the anvil on which liberalism was broken to pieces. The emergence of Stalin's autocracy changed the dynamic of corruption not in kind but in degree. For Stalin "was but old Lenin writ large." The change is degree nonetheless was important because of its sheer scale. The arrests, the prisons, the camps, the scope, the brutality and violence of the social engineering - nothing like it had ever been seen or even imagined before. So the counter-model became more monstrously ambitious; and the fear which energized its construction more intense. If Leninism begot the fascism of Mussolini, it was Stalinism which made possible the Nazi Leviathan.
It had taken Hitler less than 5 months to destroy German democracy completely.
Hitler's state was not corporatist because corporatism implies a distribution of power between different bodies, and Hitler would share power with no one... he had no economic policy. But he had a very specific national policy. He wanted to rearm as fast as possible consistent with avoiding an Allied pre-emptive strike. He simply gave German industry his orders, and let its managers get on with it.
By the mid-1930s Hitler was running a brutal, secure, conscienceless, successful and, for most Germans, popular regime. The German workers, on the whole, preferred secure jobs to civil rights which had meant little to them.
By early 1933, therefore, the two largest and strongest states of Europe were firmly in the grip of totalitarian regimes which preached and practiced, and indeed embodied, moral relativism, with all its horrifying potentialities. Each system acted as a spur to the most reprehensible characteristics of the other... they were animated by a Gresham's law of political morality: frightfulness drove out humanitarian instincts and each corrupted the other into ever-deeper profundities of evil.
In social engineering, mass murder on an industrial scale is always the ultimate weapon: Hitler's 'final solution' for the Jews had its origins not only in his own fevered mind but in the collectivization of the Soviet peasantry.
If the decline of Christianity created the modern political zealot - and his crimes - so the evaporation of religious faith among the educated left a vacuum in the minds of Western intellectuals easily filled by secular superstition.
The attempt by Western intellectuals to defend Stalinism involved them in a process of self-corruption which transferred to them, and so to their countries, which their writings helped to shape, some of the moral decay inherent in totalitarianism itself, especially its denial of individual responsibility for good or ill.
The advent of Stalin and Hitler to absolute dealt a decisive blow to a world structure which was already unstable and fragile... hence the arrival of these two men on the scene introduced what may be termed the high noon of aggression.
CHAPTER 9 : THE HIGH NOON OF AGGRESSION
During the 1920s, the civilized Western democracies had maintained some kind of shaky world order, through the League of Nations on the one hand, and through Anglo-American financial diplomacy on the other. At the beginning of the 1930s, the system - if it could be called that - broke down completely, opening an era of international banditry in which the totalitarian states behaved simply in accordance with their military means. The law-abiding powers were economically ruined and unilaterally disarmed. France retreated into isolation and began to build her Maginot Line, itself a symbol of defeatism. The Americans and British were obsessed by economy. In the early 1930s, the American army was only the 16th largest in world, behind Romania. The Americans persuaded the semi-pacifist Labour government to sign the London Naval Treaty, which reduced the Royal Navy to a state of impotence it had not known since the 17th century.
In the 1920s the world had been run by the power of money. In the 1930s it was subject to the arbitration of the sword. A careful study of the chronology of the period reveals the extent to which the totalitarian powers, though acting independently and sometimes in avowed hostility towards each other, took advantage of their numbers and their growing strength to challenge and outface the pitifully stretched resources of dmeocratic order. Italy, Japan, Russia and Germany played a geopolitical game together, whose whole object was to replace international law and treaties by a new Realpolitik in which, each believed, its own millennarian vision was destined to be realized.
The process by whereby one totalitarian state corrupted another internally now spread to foreign dealings, so that a Gresham's Law operated here, too, driving out diplomacy and replacing it by force.
Even with their existing forces, Britain and America could have deterred and contained Japan... a strong line with Japan would then (1932) have been feasible. But such joint planning was ruled out by America's growing isolationism - a feature of the 1930s much more than the 1920s. America was moving towards the 1935 Neutrality Act.
The 1932 murders of the Japanese prime minister, finance minister and leading industrialists marked the end of government by parliamentary means.
Here again we see the process of mutual corruption at work. Mussolini's putsch had been inspired by Lenin's. From his earliest days as a political activist, Hitler had cited Mussolini as a precedent.
The handling of the Abyssinian crisis, in which Britain was effectively in charge, is a striking example of how to get the worst of all possible worlds. Abyssinia was a primitive African monarchy which practiced slavery; not a modern state at all. It should not have been in the League. The notion that the League had to guarantee its frontiers was an excellent illustration of the absurdity of the covenant which led Senator Lodge and his friends to reject it. The League should have been scrapped after the 1931 Manchurian fiasco. However, if it was felt worth preserving, and if the integrity of Abyssinia was a make-or-break issue, then Britain and France should have been prepared to go to war; in which case Italy would have backed down. The two Western powers would have lost her friendship, aroused her enmity indeed; but the League would have shown it had teeth, and could use them; and the effects might have been felt elsewhere, in central Europe particularly. But to impose sanctions was folly. Sanctions rarely work: they damage, infuriate and embitter but they do not deter or frustrate an act of aggression. In this case they made no sense because France would not agree to oil sanctions (the only type likely to have any impact on events) and America, the world's greatest oil producer, would not impose sanctions at all. Britain would not agree to close the Suez Canal or impose a naval quarantine: the First Sea Lord, Chatfield, reported only seven capital-ships were available. While the cabinet argued about whether or not to try and impose oil! sanctions, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland on 7 March, making nonsense of both Versailles and the Locarno pact. On this date Britain had only three battleships in home waters, scarcely sufficient to neutralize Germany's 'pocket battleships'. Mussolini took Addis Ababa on 5 May and annexed the country four days later. On 10 June the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville ChamberIain, described the sanctions policy as 'the very midsummer of madness', and a week later the cabinet scrapped them.
The only effect of the sanctions policy was to turn Mussolini into an enemy. From mid-1936 the Germans began to court him. There were visits to Rome by Frank, Goering, HimmIer and Baldar von Shirach. On 1 November Mussolini spoke of the Rome-Berlin Axis'. By 22 February 1937, a review by the British Chiefs of Staff noted, 'The days are past when we could count automatically on a friendly and submissive Italy.' That meant existing plans to reinforce the Far East fleet in the event of a crisis with Japan by sending ships through the Mediterranean and Suez were impractical. Britain now had three major potential naval enemies: in home waters, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific-Indian Ocean theatre. There was also the possibility that they might operate in concert. Three weeks after Mussolini spoke of the Axis, Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, aimed at Russia but signaling the possibility of groups of totalitarian powers acting in predatory wolf-packs. On 27 September 1937, Mussolini was in Berlin. He found Hitler's admiration irresistible... and the process of corruption culminated the next month (22 May) when he signed the 'Pact of Steel' with the man he had considered a potential 'enemy of civilization' only five years before.
By this time Mussolini and Hitler had collaborated together in the first of the ideological proxy-wars. Their 'opponent' in this cynical ritual was Stalin. The theatre selected for their devastating performance was Spain, which had been virtually outside the European power-system since the early nineteenth century and which now became its agonized focus. This was itself extraordinary: Spain was aloof, self-contained, xenophobic, the European country most resistant to the holistic principle, the least vulnerable to the foreign viruses of totalitarianism, of Left or Right, social engineering, relative morality. That is what makes the Spanish Civil War so peculiarly tragic. The infection entered through the Socialist Party (PSOE) and then spread.
Franco's philosophy is worth examining briefly because it was so remote from all the prevailing currents of the age, both liberal and totalitarian. His own motivation he invariably described as 'duty, love of country'. For Franco, the army was the only truly national institution, ancient, classless, non-regional, apolitical, incorrupt, disinterested.
He was in no sense a clericalist and never took the slightest notice of ecclesiastical advice on nonspiritual matters. He hated politics in any shape. The Conservatives were reactionary and selfish landowners. The Liberals were corrupt and selfish businessmen. The Socialists were deluded, or worse. He exploited the two insurrectionary movements, the Falange and the Carlists, amalgamating them under his leadership, but their role was subservient, indeed servile. Franco was never a fascist or had the smallest belief in any kind of Utopia or system.
Franco said: 'Spaniards are tired of politics and of politicians.' Again: 'Only those who live off politics should fear our movement.' He spent his entire political career seeking to exterminate politics.
Franco determined to end the destructive process of corruption by amputating the agonized limb of Spanish collectivism. His feelings towards the Left anticipated those of the wartime Allies towards Nazism: he got unconditional surrender first, then de-Communized, but in a manner closer to the drumhead purges of liberated France than the systematic trials in Germany. It was not a Lenin-style totalitarian massacre by classes: the Law of Political Responsibilities of 9 February 1939 dealt with responsibility for crimes on an individual basis (the only exception was Freemasons of the eighteenth degree or higher).
Thus ancient and traditional Spain, led by a man who regretted every second that had passed since the old world ended in 1914, sought to immunize herself from the present. The attempt did not succeed in the long run; but it gave Spain some protection from the pandemic which now overwhelmed Europe.
CHAPTER 10 : THE END OF OLD EUROPE
"We have succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Germany’s real goals, just as before 1932 our domestic foes never saw where we were going or that our oath of legality was just a trick. We wanted to come to power legally, but we did not want to use power legally. They could have suppressed us. They could have arrested a couple of us in 1925 and that would have been that, the end. No, they let us through the danger zone. That’s exactly how it was in foreign policy, too…
In 1933 a French premier ought to have said (and if I had been the French premier I would have said it): 'The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!' But they didn’t do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone. … And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!"
- Joseph Goebbels (1940)
The age of aggression was bound to end in a world war. Nevertheless, it is vital to understand precisely how and why this climax came about, for what happened in the 1930s determined the contours of our age in the 1980s.
Hitler was always pragmatic. Like Lenin he was a superb opportunist, always ready to seize openings and modify his theory accordingly. This has led some historians to conclude he had no master-programme. In fact, while always adjusting the tactics to suit the moment, he pursued his long-term strategy with a brutal determination which has seldom been equalled in the history of human ambition.
It is the essence of geopolitics to be able to distinguish between different degrees of evil. This was a gift Anthony Eden, now foreign secretary, did not possess. He could not differentiate between Mussolini, who was corruptible but open to civilized influences too, and Hitler, a man who had already murdered hundreds and placed scores of thousands in concentration camps.
Would the Allies have been better advised to fight in autumn 1938 over Czechoslovakia, than in autumn 1939 over Poland? This too is in dispute, but the answer is surely 'Yes'. It is true that the pace of Allied rearmament, especially of British air-power, was overtaking Germany's. But in this sense alone was the strategic equation better in 1939 than in 1938.
In the closing weeks of 1938 Hitler, without firing a shot, appeared to have restored all the splendour of Wilhelmine Germany. Was he not the most successful German statesman since Bismarck? So it appeared.
During the winter of 1938-39, the mood in Britain changed to accept war as inevitable... fear gave place to a resigned despair, and the sort of craven, if misjudged, calculation which led to Munich yielded to a reckless and irrational determination to resist Hitler at the next opportunity, irrespective of its merits.
Perhaps Hitler's biggest single misjudgment was his failure to appreciate the depth of hostility he had aroused in Britain.
The adoption of terror-bombing was also a measure of Britain's desperation... the policy, initiated by Churchill, approved in cabinet, endored in parliament and, so far as can be judged, enthusiastically backed by the bulk of the British people - thus fulfilling all the conditions of the process of consent in a democracy under law - marked a critical stage in the moral declension of humanity in our times.
Lend-Lease was important to Churchill simply because he believed it might tempt Hitler into conflict with the United States. Indeed, by the beginning of 1941, he recognized that the old European system of legitimacy had disappeared and that the only hope of restoring some system of law lay in Hitler's own miscalculations. Churchill was not to be disappointed.
CHAPTER 11 : THE WATERSHED YEAR
"Russia is never as strong as she looks. Russia is never as weak as she looks."
- Old diplomatic proverb
Surveying this watershed year of 1941, from which makind has descended into its present predicament, the historian cannot but be astounded by the decisive role of individual will. Hitler and Stalin played chess with humanity.
It was Hitler, no one else, who determined on a war of annihilation with Russia, cancelled then postponed it, and resinstated it as the centrepiece of his strategy, as, how, and when he chose. Neither man represented irresistible or even potent historical forces.
We have here the very opposite of historical determinism - the apotheosis of the single autocrat. Thus it is, when the moral restraints of religion and tradition, hierarchy and precedent are removed, the power to suspend or unleash catastrophic events does not devolve on the impersonal benevolence of the masses but falls into the hands of men who are isolated by the very totality of their evil natures.
Western assistence to the USSR... included 200 modern fighter aircraft, intended originally for Britain's highly vulnerable base in Singapore, which had virtually no modern fighters at all. The diversion of these aircraft (plus tanks) to Russia sealed the fate of Singapore. Thus, by one of the great ironies of history, Churchill, the last major British imperialist, may have sacrificed a liberal empire in order to preserve a totalitarian one.
(On Pearl Harbor) All this was a meagre military return for the political risk of treacherously attacking a huge, intensely moralistic nation like the United States before a formal declaration of war.
In 1945 General Jodl claimed that, 'from the start of 1942 on', Hitler knew 'victory was no longer attainable'. What he did not then grasp, but what 1942 made painfully clear, was that the huge coalition he had ranged against himself and his two allies had a decisive superiority not merely in men and material but in technology. The real significance of the Battle of Midway was that it was won primarily by the Allied success in code-breaking. In launching war, the Germans and Japanese had pushed the world over the watershed into a new age, outside their or anyone's control, full of marvels and unspeakable horrors.
CHAPTER 12 : SUPERPOWER AND GENEOCIDE
The skill with which Britain and America used advanced technology to illuminate global war was one of the principal reasons why the Germans and Japanese, with all their courage and energy, were fightin an unsynchronized struggle from 1942 on. Like Bronze Age warriors facing an Iron Age power, they appeared increasingly to be survivors from a slightly earlier epoch.
The British had been leading code-breakers for half a century... the breaking of the German 'Triton' code by Bletchley park in March 1943 clinched the Battle of the Atlantic... as a result victory in the Atlantic came quite quickly in 1943 and this was important, for the U-boat was perhaps Hitler's most dangerous weapon.
From early 1942, the marriage of British and American technology and intelligence led to the early breakthrough in the Pacific war. Midwat in June 1942 was an intelligence success. Thereafter, the Allies knew the positions of all Japanese capital ships nearly all the time.
The real engine of Allied victory was the American economy... the essential dynamism and flexibility of the American system, wedded to a national purpose which served the same galvanizing role as the optimism of the Twenties.
America won the war essentaially by harnessing capitalist methods of production to the unlimited production of firepower and mechanical manpower.
Bombing used up 7% of Britain's total military manpower and as much as 25% of Britain's war production. The entire strategy may have been, even in military terms, mistaken. Bombing, which killed 600,000 Germans altogether, reduced but could not prevent the expansion in German war-production up to the second half of 1944...
True, from the end of 1944 bombing effectively destroyed the German war-economy. Even before that, the need to defend German cities by night and day had prevented the Luftwaffe from keeping its air superiority on the Russian front.
There were no means whereby public opinion could bring pressure on an inaccessible, isolated and paranoid Hitler to negotiate surrender.
Hitler's only prospect of achieving stalemate by a decisive technical advance lay in marrying the A10 rocket to a nuclear payload. There was never much prospect of him achieving this within the timescale of the war. Yet there was continuing fear on the Allied side that Hitler would come into possession of atomic bombs.
The concept of the bomb was born among the mainly Jewish refugee scientific community, who were terrified that Hitler might get it first. Fear was the primary motive.
Hence the real father of the atomic bomb was Hitler and the spectres his horrifying will conjured up.
The Americans wre compressing perhaps three decades of scientific engineering progress into four years. There was no other way of being sure to get the bomb. There was no other country or system which could have produced this certainty.
There was a huge overlap between the slave system and German industry. It might be recalled that the Germans had used slave-labour and working-to-exhaustion in 1916-18; it was a national response to war, a salient part of the 'war socialism' Lenin so much admired. Race paranoia was deeply rooted in German culture and had been fostered by generations of intellectuals. It antedated Hitler; dwarfed him. Forty years later it is difficult to conceive of the power and ubiquity of inter-white racism, especially anti-Semitism (and not in Germany alone). In a sense, then, it was the German people ho willed the end; Hitler who willed the means.
The Japanese fought desperately throughout, but technology and productivity allowed the Americans to establish and maintain a colonial-era casualty rate. The pattern was set in the 'hinge' battle of Guadalcanal, November 1942, when the Japanese lost 25,000 against only 1,592 American casualties... on Leyte, the Japanese lost all but 5,000 of their 70,000 men; the Americans only 3,500.
Most Japanese were killed by sea or air bombardment, or cut off and starved. They never set eyes of an American foot-soldier or got within bayonet-range of him.
The Allied commanders assumed that their own forces must expect up to a million casualties if an invasion of Japan became necessary. How many Japanese lives would be lost? Assuming comparable ratios to those already experienced, it would be in the range of 10-20 million.
The Allied aim was to break Japanese resistance before an invasion became unavoidable.
The evidence does not suggest that the surrender could have been obtained without the A-bombs being used. The use of nuclear weapons thus saved Japanese, as well as Allied, lives. Those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the victims not so much of Anglo-American technology as of a paralyzed (Japanese) system of government made possible by an evil ideology which had expelled not only absolute moral values but reason itself.
The true nature of Japan's form of totalitarianism only became apparent when the POW camps were opened up... they were run on the same economic principles as Nazi and Soviet slave-camps... the Japanese killed more British troops in prison camps than on the battlefield. Of the 132,000 POWs in Japanese custody 27% died.
CHAPTER 13 : PEACE BY TERROR
The Cold War may be said to date from the immediate aftermath of the Yalta Conference, to be precise from March 1945. Of course in a sense Soviet Russia had waged Cold War since October 1917: it was inherent in the historical determinism of Leninism. The pragmatic alliance from June 1941 onwards was a mere interruption. It was inevitable that Stalin would resume his hostile predation sooner or later.
CHAPTER 16 : EXPERIMENTING WITH HALF MANKIND
Gandhi was not a liberator but a political exotic, who could have flourished only in the protected environment provided by British liberalism... All Gandhi's career demonstrated was the unrepressive nature of British rule and its willingness to abdicate. (p470-2)
Up to the mid-1950s, however, he [Nehru] was the cynosure of a new entity which progressive French journalists were already terming le tiers monde. The concept was based upon verbal prestidigitation, the supposition that by inventing new words and phrases one could change (and improve) unwelcome and intractable facts. There was the first world of the West, with its rapacious capitalism; the second world of totalitarian socialism, with its slave-camps; both with their hideous arsenals of mass-destruction. Why should there not come into existence a third world, arising like a phoenix from the ashes of empire, free, pacific, non-aligned, industrious, purged of capitalist and Stalinist vice, radiant with public virtue, today saving itself by its exertions, tomorrow the world by its example? Just as, in the nineteenth century, idealists had seen the oppressed proletariat as the repository of moral excellence--and a prospective proletarian state as Utopia--so now the very fact of a colonial past, and a non-white skin, were seen as title-deeds to international esteem. An ex-colonial state was righteous by definition. A gathering of such states would be a senate of wisdom. (476-477)
In the late 1940s, the Asian half of the human race had been told that there was direct, immediate and essentially political solution to their plight. Experience exposed this belief as a fallacy. There were strong grounds for concluding, indeed, that politics, and especially ideological politics, was a primary contributor to human misery... Calcutta became the realized anti-Utopia of modern times, the city of shattered illusions, the dark not the light of Asia. It constituted an impressive warning that attempts to experiment on half the human race were more likely to produce Frankenstein monsters than social miracles. (p573-4)
The scheme (by the Communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia) was an attempt to telescope, in one terrifying coup, the social changes brought about over twenty-five years in Mao’s China. There was to be a "total social revolution." Everything about the past was "anathema and must be destroyed." It was necessary to "psychologically reconstruct individual members of society." It entailed "stripping away, through terror and other means, the traditional bases, structures and forces which have shaped and guided an individual’s life" and then "rebuilding him according to party doctrines by substituting a series of new values." (p654)
In due course the term "Third World" began to seem a little threadbare from overuse. The Paris intellectual fashion-factory promptly supplied a new one: "North-South." ... The idea was to link guilt to "the North" and innocence to "the South." This involved a good deal of violence to simple geography, as well as to economic facts... In short the concept was meaningless, except for purposes of political abuse. But for this it served very well. (p692)
The notion that Israel was created by imperialism is not only wrong but the reverse of the truth. Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists.
The argument that the West was somehow to blame for world poverty was itself a Western invention. Like decolonization, it was a product of guilt, the prime dissolvent of order and justice.
CHAPTER 20: THE RECOVERY OF FREEDOM
Reality cannot for long be banished from history. Facts have a way of making their presence felt.
From the initial tragedy of the First World War, 1914-18, the 20th century had appeared to many a relentless succession of moral and physical disasters. These had occured despite the rapid increase in wealth, notably in the advanced countries, and the steady forward march of scientific discovery.
Yet with the 1980s, there came a great wind of change in the affairs of mankind which, gathering momentum throughout the decade and beyond into the 1990s, swept all before it and left the global landscape transformed beyond recognition. The 1980s formed one of the watersheds of modern history. The spirit of democracy recovered its self-confidence and spread. The rule of law was re-established in large parts of the globe and international predation was checked and punished. Capitalist economies flourished mightily and, almost everywhere, there was growing recognition that the market system was not merely the surest but the only way to increase wealth and raise living standards.
What is important in history is not only the events that occur but the events that obstinately do not occur.
The success of the free enterprise economies of the Pacific undoubtedly helped to rekindle belief in the market system both in North America and Europe... towards the end of the 1970s, as high-quality, low-priced Japanese (and South Korean and Taiwanese) goods began increasingly to penetrate Western markets, there was a growing demand for changes which would bring about Japanese-style efficiency.
The watershed year was 1979, and the battlefield was Britain.
The Falklands action served to reinvigorate the Western sense of the proprieties of international behaviour and to remind the United States of her responsibilities as the leading democracy and defender of the rule of law.
It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who had first announced that human beings could be transformed for the better by the political process, and that the agency of change, the creator of what he termed the 'new man', would be the state... in the 20th century his theory was finally put to the test, on a colossal scale, and tested to destruction.
By the 1990s state action had been responsible for the violent or unnatural deaths of some 125 million people during the century.
By the last decade of the century, some lessons had plainly been learned. But it was not yet clear whether the underlying evils which had made possible its catastrophic failures and tragedies - the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects - were in the process of being eradicated. On that would depend the chances of the 21st century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind.
# IN OTHERS' WORDS
I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.
- Viktor Frankl, "The Doctor and the Soul"
The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike.- CS Lewis, "The Poison of Subjectivism"
PAUL JOHNSON - QUOTESThe study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
When Jesus Christ preached in Palestine two millennia ago, the distinctions between rich and poor were painfully visible. The rich were plump and well-clad, warm and clean, scented and groomed. The poor were thin, in rags, filthy and stinking.
Now all that has changed. The "poverty line" has to be revised upward every year. The officially "poor" now have cars, often own homes, take holiday trips and possess all the appliances judged indispensable. For the first time in history, plumpness and obesity are signs of poverty. The rich are lean, dieting on salads and often refusing to eat meat. They may still spend a fortune on clothing, but the results are not obvious. Clever mass production and marketing mean that a smart girl with taste, though she only works in a drugstore, can dress as elegantly as a Rockefeller or a Rothschild. In advanced countries (and in a growing proportion of the Third World) central heating, hot running water, fresh milk and fruit are now taken for granted. It takes less than a decade for today's luxury to become a universal necessity.
- from Forbes magazine
The study of history suggests that the sum total of intolerance in society does not vary much. What changes is the object against which it is directed. Those who shape the conventional wisdom at the top are always anxious to censor unorthodoxy, thus demonstrating their power and consolidating their grip.
- article in "The Spectator" (1987)
The urge to distribute wealth equally, and still more the belief that it can be brought about by political action, is the most dangerous of all popular emotions. It is the legitimation of envy, of all the deadly sins the one which a stable society based on consensus should fear the most. The monster state is a source of many evils; but it is, above all, an engine of envy.
- from ???
We have to face the ugly fact: Internationalism - the principle of collective security and the attempt to regulate the world through representative bodies - has been dealt a vicious blow by Mr. Chirac's bid to present himself as a world statesman, whatever the cost to the world. France is a second-rate power militarily. But because of its geographic position at the center of Western Europe and its nominal possession of nuclear weapons, which ensures its permanent place on the U.N. Security Council, it wields considerable negative and destructive power. On this occasion, it has exercised such power to the full, and the consequences are likely to be permanent.
- article in "The Wall Street Journal" during the Iraq crisis
It is a curious fact about human nature that many people actually seem to want to believe in an approaching catastrophe. In the Dark and Middle Ages - indeed right up to the seventeenth century - religious seers would always collect a substantial following if they predicted the end of the world, especially if they gave a specific date for it. When the date came and went, and nothing happened, human credulity did not disappear. It re-emerged promptly when the next persuasive prophet mounted his soapbox. The ecological panic of our times is driven by exactly the same emotional needs. Indeed it is yet another example of how, during the twentieth century, the declining religious impulse has been replaced by ... secular substitutes, which are often far more irrational and destructive.The religious impulse - with all the excesses of zealotry and intolerance it can produce - remains powerful, but expresses itself in secular substitutes.
- "The Perils of Risk Avoidance", National Review (1984)
Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than the feeling that they represent 'the people'. Nothing, as a rule, is further from the truth.
- from "Birth of the Modern"
We have lived through a terrible century of war and destruction precisely because powerful men did usurp God's prerogatives. I call the 20th century the Century of Physics, inaugurated by Einstein's special and general theories. During this period, physics became the dominant science, producing nuclear energy and space travel.
The century also brought forth social engineering, the practice of shoving large numbers of human beings around as though they were earth or concrete. Social engineering was a key feature in the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, where it combined with moral relativism - the belief that right and wrong can be changed for the convenience of human societies - and the denial of God's rights.
To Hitler the higher law of the party took precedence over the Ten Commandments. Lenin praised the Revolutionary conscience as a surer guide for mankind than the conscience implanted by religion
- Reader's Digest, "The Real Message of the Millennium," Dec 99.
The demographic projections for Europe tell a dismal tale. I remember telling an international conference on European culture, held in Vienna 40 years ago, that Continentals should stop boasting about it and put their pricks where their mouths are by raising the birthrates. I used colourful language to stress the point and provoked fury. Alas, nearly a generation later my warnings are proving only too accurate. Even if the EU expands to include Russia, the USA is on course to overtake it in population, let alone GNP. By 2050 the ratio of pensioners to active workers will more than double, jumping from 24 to 50 per cent. Europe is falling behind in advanced sectors. 74 per cent of the 300 leading information firms are now American, one reason why America wins so many Nobel prizes and continental Europe so few.
- from a Spectator column in November 2004
Let me assure readers I am totally without prejudice. I do not prejudge. I have formed my dislikes on the basis of long experience. I tried explaining this once to James Baldwin, who complained to me that it was sheer race prejudice and homophobia which made people dislike him: "No, James, it is not prejudice, it is actual experience of how awful you are." He said, "What experience have you had of prejudice?" I replied, "Listen, old sod, if, like me, you were born in England red-haired, left-handed and a Roman Catholic, there’s nothing you don’t know about prejudice." At this point he stumped off in a rage.
- from a Spectator column in December 2004
It is worth remembering that Hitler was voted into office, quite lawfully and constitutionally, by what was then the best-educated people in the world, and that he and his Nazis always scored higher ratings among the educated young, and among university students and graduates — and professors — than among the population as a whole. As Hitler is still demonised rather than allowed to emerge as a historical character to be studied, we hear little of his gifts... (yet) it was precisely Hitler’s gifts which made him so dangerous and so uniquely evil.
- from a Spectator column in January 2005
"Most people are resistant to ideas, especially new ones. But they are fascinated by character. Extravagance of personality is one way in which the pill can be sugared and the public induced to look at works dealing with ideas."
"The cruelty of ideas lies in the assumption that human beings can be bent to fit them."
- from "The Intellectuals"
The truth is, language is the most democratic of all institutions. People determine how they speak themselves, and they are driven by simple self-interest.
- from "The Spectator"
My grandfather used to say, "Learn to like art, music and literature deeply and passionately. They will be your friends when things are bad". It is true: at this time of year, when days are short and dark, and one hardly dares to open the newspapers, I turn, not vainly either, to the great creators of the past for distraction, solace and help.
- from a Spectator column in January 2005
I gave up writing novels in my mid-twenties, when I was halfway through my third, convinced I had not enough talent for fiction. Sometimes I wish I had persisted. There is one particular reason... I have published, I calculate, about 800 essays without using one for exorcism. It works in poetry, especially to expunge the pangs of loss — witness Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ and Shelley’s ‘Adonais’, and most of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ — indeed nearly all Housman’s verse was exorcism. It can be made to work, I suppose, in non-fiction. I suspect there is exorcism in some of Ruskin’s prose, and Carlyle’s. But fiction is the ideal medium for killing painful memories. The most excruciating emotional torture in Thackeray’s life — prolonged, too — was his hopeless passion for Mrs Brookfield, ending in heartbreak, bitterness and bad temper on the part of her unpleasant husband. But he cured himself by putting it all into Henry Esmond. Gustave Flaubert wanted to forget about his ten-year on-off affair with Louise Collet. So he wrote Madame Bovary, which did the trick and also proved to be by far his best novel because, unlike Salambo and Bouvet et Pécuchet, he had lived it. I think Anthony Trollope tried to deal with his illicit and unspoken love for the American girl Kate, not once but several times — she flickered in and out of at least three novels — but the fact that he had to repeat the dose shows it didn’t work... Dickens was the great exorciser of emotional ghosts. One reason why David Copperfield was his favourite book was that it was a vast exercise in slaughtering his most painful memories of childhood. By recreating his father as an unforgettable comic hero in the shape of Micawber, Dickens triumphantly blotted out of his consciousness the fact that John Dickens was a hopeless and embarrassing failure.
- writing in The Spectator (Feb'08)
# THE ENEMIES OF SOCIETY
No consideration should ever deflect us from the pursuit and recognition of truth, for that essentially is what constitutes civilization itself. Truth is much more than a means to expose the malevolent. It is the great creative force of civilization. For truth is knowledge; and a civilized man is one who, in Thomas Hobbes' words, has a 'perseverance of delight in the continual and indefatigable generation of knowledge.' And so it is; for the pursuit of truth is our civilization's glory, and the joy we obtain from it is the nearest we shall approach to happiness, at least on this side of the grave. If we are steadfast in this aim, we need not fear the enemies of society.
The events of this century should remind us that the hopes of mankind almost always prove illusory, and that we have only a limited ability to devise permanent and equitable solutions to problems which spring from human nature. Violence, shortage amid plenty, tyranny and the cruelty it breeds, the gross stupidities of the powerful, the indifference of the well-to-do, the divisions of the intelligent and well-meaning, the apathy of the wretched multitude - these things will be with us to the end of the race.
Hence civilization will always be at risk, and every age is prudent to regard the threats to it with unique seriousness. All good societies breed enemies whose combined hostility can prove fatal.
The virtue we should cherish most is the courage to resist violence, especially if this involves flying in the face of public opinion which, in its fear, and in its anxiety for peace, is willing to appease the violators. Above all, violence should never be allowed to pay, or be seen to pay.
Democracy is the least evil, and on the whole the most effective, from of government. Democracy is an important factor in the material success of a society, and especially in its living-standards. But of course the essence of democracy is not one-man-one-vote, which does not necessarily have anything to do with individual freedom, or democratic control. The exaltation of 'majority rule' on the basis of universal suffrage is the most strident political fallacy of the twentieth century. True democracy means the ability to remove a government without violence, to punish political failure or misjudgment by votes alone. A democracy is a utilitarian instrument of social control; it is valuable in so far as it works. Its object is to promote human content; but perhaps this is more likely to be secured if the aim is rephrased. As Karl Popper says, the art of politics is the minimization of unhappiness, or avoidable suffering. The process of avoiding suffering is greatly assisted by the existence of free institutions. The greater their number, variety and intrinsic strength, and the greater their independence, the more effective the democracy which harbours them will be. All such institutions should be treated like fortresses: that is, soundly constructed and continually manned.
Free institutions will only survive where there is the rule of law. This is an absolute on which there can be no compromise: the subjection of everyone and everything to the final arbitration of the law is more fundamental to human freedom and happiness than democracy itself. Most of the post-war democratic institutions have foundered because the rule of law was broken and governments placed themselves about the courts. Once the law is humbled, all else that is valuable to a civilized society will vanish, usually with terrifying speed. But the rule of law is essential, not merely to preserve liberty, but to increase wealth. A law which is supreme, impartial and accessible to all is the only guarantee that property, corporate or personal, will be safe; and therefore a necessary incentive to saving and investment.
Always, and in all situations, stress the importance of the individual. Where individual and corporate rights conflict, the political balance should usually be weighted in favor of the individual; for civilizations are created, and maintained, not by corporations, however benign, but my multitudes and multitudes of individuals, operating independently.
Beware of those who seek to win an argument at the expense of the language. For the fact that they do is proof positive that their argument is false, and proof presumptive that they know it is. A man who deliberately inflicts violence on the language will almost certainly inflict violence on human beings if he acquires the power. Those who treasure the meaning of words will treasure truth, and those who bend words to their purposes are very likely in pursuit of anti-social ones. The correct and honourable use of words is the first and natural credential of civilized status.
Trust science. By this we mean a true science, based on objectively established criteria and agreed foundations, with a rational methodology and mature criteria of proof - not the multitude of pseudo-sciences which, as we have seen, have marked characteristics which can easily be detected and exposed. Science, properly defined, is an essential part of civilization. To be anti-science is not the mark of a civilized human being, or of a friend of humanity. Given the right safeguards and standards, the progress of science constitutes our best hope for the future, and anyone who denies this proposition is an enemy of science.
- from "Ten Pillars of Society"
Throughout history, the attachment of even the humblest people to their freedom, above all their freedom to earn their livings how and where they please, has come as an unpleasant shock to condescending ideologues. We need not suppose that the exercise of freedom is bought at the expense of any deserving class or interest — only of those with the itch to tyrannize.
# AMERICA & THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures.
There were many great men in Lincoln's day ...yet Lincoln seems to have been of a different order of moral stature, and of intellectual heroism. He was a strong man... without vanity or self-consciousness - and also tender... he invariably did the right thing, however easily it might be avoided. Of how many other great men can that be said?
"It is more important that we should show ourselves honest, brave, truthful, and intelligent than that we should own all the railways and grain elevators in the world. We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received and each of us must do his part if we wish to show that this nation is worthy of its good fortune." (Theodore Roosevelt)
There can be no doubt that Roosevelt believed every word of these sentiments and did his best to live up to them.
Though a time of great plenty, it was not an era of greed. When Andrew Carnegie wrote, "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced," he was not engaged in empty sloganeering. The Scottish immigrant spent more than $350 million on charitable causes, including millions for the construction of more than 2,800 public libraries. Nor was Carnegie alone among "robber barons" in using private fortune for public good. It was Colonel Jim Fisk who came to the rescue of Chicago after its great fire of 1871. Likewise, railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman heaped generosity upon San Francisco following the infamous earthquake of 1906. Leland Stanford, Daniel Drew, and Cornelius Vanderbilt - derisively labeled "robber barons" by the denizens of academia today - all gave more than their surnames to establish famous centers of learning.
The administration of Woodrow Wilson was one of the great watersheds in American history. It was Wilson who first introduced Americans to big, benevolent government.
One of the deepest illusions of the Sixties was that many forms of traditional authority could be diluted without fear of any consequences.
The declining dynamism of the US economy observable in the 1960s and 1970s was very much a regional phenomenon largely confined to the Northeast, the old manufacturing core, the ‘smokestack industries.’ Beginning in the 1920s, encouraged by the New Deal’s state capitalism, and hugely accelerated by World War Two, was the rise of America’s 'Pacific Economy'... The shift of America’s centre of gravity, both demographic and economic, from the Northeast to the Southwest, was one of the most important changes of modern times.
Ronald Reagan’s essential achievement was to restore the will and self-confidence of the American people, while at the same time breaking the will and undermining the self-confidence of the small group of men who ran what he insisted on calling the 'Evil Empire' of Communism.
It could be argued that the growing reluctance of gifted men and women to become candidates for national office explained the presidency of Bill Clinton.
America is still the first, best hope for the human race. Looking back on its past, and forward to its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint an expectant humanity.
- All from "A History of the American People"
Alexander Hamilton was a genius - the only one of the Founding Fathers fully entitled to that accolade, and he had the elusive, indefinable characteristics of genius. He put American public finances on a sound basis, which they certainly were not until he came to the Treasury. And that was very important, because it was always on the cards that the United States of America might go the same way as the Latin American republics, into a morass of inflation, deficit financing, state bankruptcy and all the consequences which inevitably follow from those evils. America didn't do that.
Alexander Hamilton realized that an infant state has to be nice to the rich, because if it is nice to the rich, then the rich are nice to it. And he was prepared to reimburse in full - and this was people who held United States currency bonds; and this was grumbled at by other people in Congress and so forth - but he got the people with the money, including the people with the money power in London, which was very important, to back the infant American state. And that's one of the reasons it succeeded. And if you look around the world today, you find of the hundred new nations which have come into existence since the end of the Second World War, probably 75 percent of them have gone down the drain financially because they weren't nice to the rich. It's a horrible thing to have to say, but it is the essential wisdom of a young nation. And Alexander Hamilton had that wisdom.
- Booknotes Interview on "A History of the American People"
"The U.S. is the nearest thing to a microcosm of world society, with every people represented in its vast democracy. This is why I regard anti-Americanism as racism; it, in effect, amounts to a hatred of humanity itself.""Nobody who has five times been elected governor of a state like Arkansas can possibly be an honest man."
- Forbes magazine, "The U.S., Not the UN, Speaks for Humanity"
- Forbes magazine, "The U.S., Not the UN, Speaks for Humanity"
- commenting on Bill Clinton
"Whatever else the re-election of Bush signifies, it was a smack in the face for the intelligentsia. In America they were all at it, from old Chomsky to that movie-maker who looks like a mushy jumbo cheeseburger. Today, I suspect, the intellectuals are impotent because so many of them are no good. In America it is a sign of the times that their leader is the mobile cheeseburger."
- writing for "The Spectator" (Nov'04)
The United States, in a lawless and dangerous world where the U.N. cannot impose order — in fact sometimes makes disorder worse — has become a reluctant authority figure, a stepfather or foster parent to a dysfunctional and violent family. As such, it is resented and abused, all the more so since it wears the uniform of its role, the ability to project military power in overwhelming strength almost everywhere in the world. The fact that, in logic, America's critics may be grateful to a nation which, in the past as in the present, has been essential to their liberty and well-being by resisting and overcoming totalitarianism, or suppressing threats to civil society by terrorism, makes no difference to the resentment; may even intensify it. The people among whom anti-Americanism is most rife, who articulate it and set the tone of the venom, are the intellectuals. They ought logically to hold America in the highest regard, for none depend more completely on the freedom of speech and writing which America upholds, or would suffer more grievously if the enemies against whom America struggles were to triumph and rule or misrule the world. Indeed, many of the most violently anti-American intellectuals benefit directly and personally from America's existence, since their books, plays, music, and other creations enjoy favor on the huge American market, and dollar royalties form a large part of their income. You might think that some of these intellectuals — British, French, German for instance — who have been particularly abusive of the U.S. would renounce their American royalties. But not one has done so.
- from "Hating America, Hating Humanity", in "National Review" (Aug'05)
# ISRAEL & THE JEWISH PEOPLE
In the last half-century, over 100 completely new independent states have come into existence. Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle. It could even be argued that Israel is the most characteristic single product, and its creation the quintessential event, of this century.
Certainly, you cannot study Israel without traveling the historical highroads and many of the byroads of the times, beginning with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. That great watershed between an age of peace and moderation and one of violence and extremism set the pattern for all that followed, and marked a turning point as well in the fortunes of Zionism.
The violence bred by the searing years 1914-18 also decisively changed the moral climate of Europe, again with fateful results for the future Jewish state. In the wake of the war, extremist regimes seized power and ruled by force and terror - first in Russia, then in Italy, and finally in Germany. The transformation of Germany from the best-educated society in Europe into a totalitarian race-state was, of course, determinative. Although the anti-Semites of Central Europe had always treated Jews with varying degrees of cruelty and injustice, up to and including murderous pogroms and expulsion, it was only with Hitler that actual extermination became a possible program. The outbreak of World War II provided the covering darkness to make it not just possible but practical.
In 1948, the Haganah, Israel's defense force, had 21,000 men, as against a professional Arab invading army of 10,000 Egyptians, 4,500 in Jordan's Arab Legion, 7,000 Syrians, 3,000 Iraqis, and 3,000 Lebanese - plus the "Arab Liberation Army" of Palestinians. In equipment, including armor and air power, the odds were similarly heavy against Israel. Revisionist historians (including Israeli ones) now portray the War of Independence as a deliberate Zionist land grab, involving the use of terrorism to panic Arabs into quitting their farms and homes. They ignore the central fact that the Zionist leaders did not want war but rather feared it as a risk to be taken only if there was absolutely no alternative. That is why in 1947 the Zionist leadership had accepted the United Nations partition scheme, which would have given the nascent state only 5,500 square miles, chiefly in the Negev desert, and would have created an impossible entity of 538,000 Jews and 397,000 Arabs. Arab rejection of this scheme was an act of supreme folly.
Of course the Jews fought heroically, and performed prodigies of improvisation: they had to - it was either that or extermination. No doubt they fought savagely, too, on occasion, and committed acts that might appear to lend some coloring to the revisionist case. But as a whole that case is historically false. It was the Arab leadership, by its obduracy and its ready resort to force, that was responsible for the somewhat enlarged Israel that emerged after the 1949 armistice, and the same mind-set would create the more greatly enlarged Israel that emerged after the Six-Day War of 1967. In another of the paradoxes of history, the frontiers of the state, as they exist today, were as much the doing of the Arabs as of the Jews. If it had been left to the UN, tiny Zion probably could not have survived.
- The Miracle, Commentary Magazine, May 98.Britain is European only geographically, for emotionally and politically the English Channel is wider than the Atlantic. The British do not regard Americans as foreigners but as family (irritatingly so at times).
- from The Wall Street Journal
Scanning the newspapers and absorbing with a mixture of incredulity and indignation the enormities they report, I conclude that what England lacks today is, quite simply, sense.
- from The Spectator
In the Sixties everyone hailed the abolition of the Lord Chamberlain’s office and the result of the Lady Chatterley case as the final end of official censorship. In fact there is now more censorship in Britain than at any time since the early 19th century, if not before, and it is increasing rapidly. The old law on blasphemy is now discredited and is obviously not being enforced... But the new law replacing it will be much more severe on every aspect of religious comment and many other matters.
- from 2005 Spectator article "The Inexorable March of Censorship in New Labour Britain"
A systematic onslaught on everything decent and sensible in modern life... obsessed with the sadism of the schoolboy bully, the mechanical, two-dimensional longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude snob cravings of the suburban adult.
- from an entry in LM Starkeys's "James Bond: His World and Values" (1966)
Margaret Thatcher famously asked "Who governs Britain?" as unions struggled for power. By 1980, everyone knew the answer: Thatcher governs. Once the union citadel had been stormed, Thatcher quickly discovered that every area of the economy was open to judicious reform. Even as the rest of Europe toyed with socialism and state ownership, she set about privatizing the nationalized industries, which had been hitherto sacrosanct, no matter how inefficient. It worked. British Airways, an embarrassingly slovenly national carrier that very seldom showed a profit, was privatized and transformed into one of the world's best and most profitable airlines. British Steel, which lost more than a billion pounds in its final years as a state concern, became the largest steel company in Europe.
By the mid-1980s, privatization was a new term in world government, and by the end of the decade more than 50 countries, on almost every continent, had set in motion privatization programs, floating loss-making public companies on the stock markets and in most cases transforming them into successful private-enterprise firms. Even left-oriented countries, which scorned the notion of privatization, began to reduce their public sector on the sly. Governments sent administrative and legal teams to Britain to study how it was done. It was perhaps Britain's biggest contribution to practical economics in the world since J.M. Keynes invented 'Keynesianism', or even Adam Smith published 'The Wealth of Nations'.
- Time Magazine : People of the 20th Century
"I am by nature a conservative with a strong radical bent. I don't know whether that makes any sense to you. My instincts tend to be conservative. I may say that as a young man, I was almost a socialist. But my instincts tend to be conservative, but I often go for radical solutions. That's one reason, for instance, why I like Margaret Thatcher so much."
- from a Booknotes interview
Labour today is so deeply anti-creative, so organically and instinctually lacking in any positive impulses, that it actually likes banning things or people, for its own sake. It's motto is: accentuate the negative. To ban, to boycott, to embargo, to exclude, blacklist, close down, shut up, silence, censure - these are the things which now come naturally to it, perhaps the only things it really knows how to do.
- from a 1986 article in "The Spectator"
Ireland is sure to do the opposite of anything Britain does.
- Paul Johnson, discussing EU policy, in "Forbes Magazine"
# THE OFFSHORE ISLANDERS
"Lords and Commons of England — Consider what nation it is whereof you are and of which you are governors: a nation not slow and dull but of quick, ingenuious and piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point that human capacity can soar to."
- John Milton, "Areopagitica"
The English are a huge force for good and evil: producing, with relentless energy and fertility, new ideas and men of dauntless courage to thrust them on society; rich, also, in instincts of decency, imperious in asserting the moral law, remorseless enemies of injustice, avid for philanthropy, profoundly anxious to refashion the globe on lines of purity and reason; but also, simultaneously, blind and prejudiced, clinging desperately and often violently to the past, worshipping unreason in a thousand ways, uniquely vulnerable to the corruptions of class and snobbery and xenophobia, cruel by indifference and conservative by tradition.
The story of the English is an instructive one, for others as well as themselves... a backward island gently washed by the tides of Continental cultures; its separate development rudely forced out by the tides of colonisation; independence seized, repeatedly lost, at last firmly established within a complex racial mould; the intellectual divorce from the Continent; the expansion overseas; the cystallisation, within the island, of an entirely new material culture, which spreads over the Earth; the moment of power and arrogance, dissolving into ruinous wars; the survival and the quest for new roles... there is nothing in it which in inevitable; but nothing purely accidental either.
The literature of English history is enormous and constantly increasing... How can any one person hope to familiarise himself with such an enormous output, let alone master it? Yet it would be a tragedy if writers of history were to allow themselves to become, like the physical scientists, the inhibited prisoners of available knowledge, and accept ant-like roles in a huge, impersonal industry, which no one mind felt capable of surveying as a whole. As one brilliant young historian has wisely observed, "History does belong to everyman: that is a strength, not a weakness." The people have a right to be taught their history in a form they can grasp. If this is acknowledged to be impossible, then the labours of professional historians seem to me to be largely futile, self-indulgent and self-propagating exercises in mere antiquarianism. A certain ruthlessness is required, a willingness to accept the responsibility of making choices and forming judgements, a readiness to select, discount and discard... To write general history it is necessary to make choices, almost on every page. This I have done, without bravado but also without fear and if I am often wrong, I have the comforting words of a distinguished Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, who has observed that there are times "when a new error is more life-giving than an old truth, a fertile error than a sterile accuracy."
Much historical research tends to obscure, rather than reveal, the truth; or, most depressing of all, to suggest that truth cannot be finally established, often on matters of outstanding importance. Just as astronomers seem unable to agree on the salient point of whether the universe is expanding, contracting, or standing still, so historians constantly reveal new areas of doubt, or violent disagreement, on points which had once seemed clear. Thus: the Roman city was a failure in Britain; it was a substansial success. The English population rose in the early 14th century; it fell dramatically... Similar black and white constrasting verions, held with angry tenacity and backed by massive documentation, envelop the nature of the Tudor monarchy, the origins of the Civil War, the loss of American colonies, the politics of George III's in England, and the origins and chronology of the industrial revolution, to menion only a few vital aspects of English history. Sometimes historians meet in seminar to debate their disagreements, not, as a rule, to much purpose. The layman can only survey the battlefield and make up his own mind about the honours of victory.
Every age rewrites the history of the past in its own terms. We each have only one pair of eyes to see, and they are modern ones... The writing of history, as Professor E.H. Carr puts it, is a "dialogue between the present and the past."
I object strongly to the drift away from English history, which is part of a wider movement away from European and North Atlantic history. Virtually all the ideas, knowledge, techniques and institutions around which the world reolves comes from the European theatre and its ocean offshoots; many of them came quite explicitly from England, which way the principal matrix of modern society. Moreover, the West is still the chief repository of free institutions; and these alone, in the long run, guarantee further progress in ideas and inventions. Powerful societies are rising elsewhere not by virtue of their rejection of western word habits but by their success in imitating them... What ideas has Soviet Russia produced? Or Communist China? Or post-war Japan? Or liberated Africa? Or, for that matter, from Latin America, independent now for more than 150 years? It is a thin harvest indeed, distinguished chiefly by infinite variations on the ancient themes of violence, cruelty, suppression of freedom and the destruction of the individual spirit. The sober and unpopular truth is that whatever hope there is for mankind - at least for the forseeable future - lies in the ingenuity and the civilized standards of the West, above all in those western elements permated by English ideas and humbug. To deny this is to surrender to fashionable cant and humbug. When we are taught by the Russians and the Chinese how to improve the human condition, when the Japanese give us science, and the Africans a great literature, when the Arabs show us the road to prosperity and the Latin Americans to freedom, then will be the time to change the axis of our history.
In the year AD 410 Britain ceased to be a Roman colony and became an independent state. The inhabitants of the offshore island - or rather the settled lowlands of it which we now call England - shook off the shackles of a vast European system, which tied it politically, economically and militarily to the Continental land-mass, and took charge of their own destinies.
During the period of Caesar's conquest of Gaul, the British kings and their advisers watched with growing anxiety the rapid approach of a great Continental military power. For the first time a political society existed in Britain capable of opposing a cross-channel invasion, and therefore able to formulate a conscious policy towards the Continent. But it was also aware of the definite material advantages of Roman civilization, and realised that its growing prosperity depended in great part of cross-channel trade and contacts. How could it get the best of both worlds - that is, exploit the opportunities offered by an expanding European culture and market, without risking incorporation, and thus exploitation, in the political and military system of the land-mass? That is the fatal question which has always confronted the inhabitants of lowland Britain. It has never received a final answer, and perhaps no final answer is possible.
Arthur's [circa 475-537] real achievement was that he delayed, indeed for a time reversed, the progress of Germanic settlement. This had important consequences, for it prevented the British from being exterminated in, or wholly expelled from, the lowland area. It is true that British culture disappeared almost completely.
When William dismissed his mercenaries in 1070, nearly all returned to France… The probability is that the Continental settlement did not involve more than 10,000 people - and perhaps as few as 5,000 out of a population of well over a million. England simply acquired a new ruling class.
From the middle of the 12th century until the middle of the 19th, the external history of England is very largely the history of Anglo-French enmity. Sometimes the hostility is expressed in open war; sometimes in diplomacy or commerce; sometimes in all three simultaneously.
One might say that much of the history of England has been a conflict between xenophobia and avarice, with the latter, in the end, getting the upper hand. The irresistible force of the English desire for war meets the immovable object of the refusal to pay for it. The English love to inflict violence on foreigners; happily they love money more. (p116)
King Henry II (r. 1154-89) was motivated (in his punishing schedule of administrative and judicial undertakings) only in a superficial degree by personal ambition. What made him a great and characteristic English statesman was a passionate regard for public order; and it was to this that the English people responded. No race on earth has such a consistent and rooted hatred of unauthorised violence. Extremely violent by nature and instinct, their political capacity for self-knowledge has always placed the highest premium on the control and subjugation of these terrible forces within them.
From Anglo-Saxon times to the present, English history is the long record of the struggle for self-mastery, the remorseless, often unsuccessful, attempt to release themselves from the drug of violence. It has been, on the whole, a remarkably successful struggle; but for this drug there is no such thing as a wholly successful cure, and constant vigilance will be needed so long as the English race lasts. At any rate, Henry II was unusually well attuned to this English preoccupation. He had violent instincts himself; equally, he was a passionate self-disciplinarian.
[From The English Reformation pp145-167]
The one clear result of the Peasants' Revolt was to delay the Reformation in England by 150 years. The kings, Lancastrian, Yorkist, even Tudor, took on a new role as the custodians of religious orthodoxy. Fear of economic and political subversion sent the ruling class back to the old, discredited altars... The English eventually approached the business of changing their religion, if that is a correct description of what happened in the middle decades of the 16th century, in a characteristically haphazard and confused manner, and were later to congratulate themselves on the constitutional propriety with which it was done, and the admirable compromise which they eventually evolved. Yet the breach with Rome, and indeed the three centuries of growing hostility to the papacy which preceded it, had comparitively little to do with religion as such; its principal dynamic was anti-clericalism, which was itself a form of English xenophobia... The Becket affair made it clear that henceforth two powers, one national, the other international, would be in a permanent state of tension and often of conflict, with public opinion inevitably moving in support of the national position.
In view of the claims of clergymen to a separate caste status, their enjoyment of between a quarter and a fifth of the wealth of the country, and their lack of a recognisable role in society: they were parasites and were seen to be parasites, and public opinion at all levels of society could be easily marshalled against them... The Church was in part the architect of its own destruction. Powerful prelates had never hesitated to misuse Church property, and even to grab it, with the barest show of legality, for their own purposes. Cardinal Wolsey was merely the last of a long line of ecclesiastical confiscators when he suppressed a number of small religious houses to found his Cardinal College (now Christ Church) at Oxford. There was nothing new about the dissolution of the monasteries: it was the culmination of a long English tradition, inaugurated with the approval of the Pope... The case against the regular clergy was not so much that they were corrupt (though some were) as that they were idle: about 8000 men and women sitting on one-eighth of the country's wealth.
The English were perfectly capable of combining doctrinal orthodoxy with rabid anti-clericalism, though they were equally capable of favoring heresy if they thought it would suit their purposes... Most of the English, in so far as they took any interest in religion, were Anligcans, as they always had been. They wanted an English Church, run by Englishmen. They did not object to a link with Rome provided the Pope did not interfere, especially in appointments and finance. They thought there were too many idle, dissolute and criminal clergymen, and objected strongly to the fact that some of them were foreigners. The public took a prejudiced view of clerical behaviour... London juries hated clergymen even more than Welshmen.
...On the other hand, there was, and had been for nearly two centuries, an important and active minority working for radical reforms of doctrine and organisation in the Church. They represented a streak of heterodoxy (Pelagianism to Lollardy) in England which went right back to the earliest days of Christianity in England... Thus, when the breach with Rome came, a very ancient English tradition, maintained admittedly only by a minority, was available to supply doctrinal nourishment.
...One of the reasons why the Reformation was successful in England was that there was absolutely nothing new about it. All its elements — anti-clericalism, anti-papalism, the exaltation of the Crown in spiritual matters, the envy of clerical property, even the yearning for doctrinal reform — were deeply rooted in the English past. The breach with Rome, like the 1914 War, could have come at almost any time. The elements had been there for decades; only a spark was needed.
Oddly ebough the divorce was the one issue on which Henry did not have public opinion behind him. It is a curious fact that English kings who quarrel with their wives always forfeit the general sympathy... Yet Henry was undoubtedly right to seek a divorce. As he saw it, in the light of recent English history, the provision of a male heir who would have communal backing for his title to the throne was essential to stable government, and was thus a necessity of State. It was intolerable that this vital national interest should be jeopardised by the actions of a foreign power, motivated not primarily by spiritual considerations, but by the needs of its own foreign policy. Any self-confident English king would have taken the same line. Moreover Henry believed, and may have been right to believe, that his marriage to Catherine was genuinely invalid... In 1527, Catherine, seeking to defend her marriage to Henry declared that she had never slept with Henry's elder brother Arthur. But she should have said so in 1503, and the original bull (of papal dispensation) would have been issued on a different basis. Hence the "technical impediment of public honesty", as Wolsey pointed out. Henry's argument from affinity was never strong; and it was weakened still further by the fact that he proposed to marry the sister, Anne Boleyn, of a women with whom, on his own admission, he had sexual relations: this also constituted a barrier on grounds of affinity: if his marriage to Catherine was invalid then so, for the same reason, would be his marriage to Anne. Whether he would have won his case if he had followed Wolsey's line of attack is, however, doubtful, Pope Clement could not afford to grant the divorce because he could not risk offending Catherine's nephew, the Emperor Charles V.
...Henry was saved by the frivolity and decietfulness of the Pope... Clement was dishonest in his actual handling of the case; it was this aspect which swung the English ruling class, not initially in favour of the royal divorce, behind Henry. A significant episode took place in London, when Cardinal Campeggio, the legate, acting on secret instructions from Clement, adjourned the ecclesiastical court set up to settle Catherine's divorce. The evidence of Clement's duplicity then became manifest even to the far-from-active brain of the Duke of Suffolk. He crashed his first on the table and said: "...There was never a legate nor cardinal that did good in England."
Most Englishmen understood the international implications of the Reformation no more clearly than the Duke of Suffolk. though, like him, they sensed them instinctively. But the two cleverest men in England, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, for the point. They saw it as a historic choice in foreign policy, no less than in religion... More was a European, Cromwell an English nationalist... To More, England was not an island but part of a great Continental community; it could not cut itself adrift by a unilateral act; it was bound to European Christendom by an indissoluble spiritual treaty... It was nothing to him that a majority of the English people accepted separation; this was something no one nation could determine for itself. The supranational authority of the community overrode national self-interest. More, in fact, explicitly denied English sovereignty: "This realm, being but one member and small part of the Church, might not make a particular law dischargeable with the general law of Christ's holy Catholic Church, no more than the City of London, being but one poor member in respect of the whole realm, might make a law against an act of parliament."
More can thus be presented as adumbrating modern internationalist doctrine, in which nations voluntarily relinquish portions of their sovereignty to provide a common fund of authority for such organs as the United Nations or European Economic Community. But equally he can be seen as upholding an ancient and ramshackle structure, whose reality had never corresponded to its ideals, and which was now breaking up under ths stress of nationalism... The current of the times was against More. His European Christendom was a mirage. Continental Catholicism was not an international community, operating by a consensus or majority vote, but the helpless prize in a power-struggle between emergent nations. In 1534 orthodox Christendom was coterminous with the interests of the House of Habsburg, whose head was identified with Spanish imperialism.
...Cromwell saw this well enough. He lacked More's academic background, but he knew far more about what was going on in Europe... He had negotiated with courts and popes. He knew Europe from the inside, and he knew it to be the world not of Christian unity, but of Machiavelli... Cromwell never wavered in this view: England must come first. Her Church must reflect her needs... The King in Parliament was supreme, the ultimate arbiter of the national destinies... As he put it in the statutes he drafted: "This realm is an empire" — that is, it acknowledged no superior but God... Cromwell, as well as More, stood in a great English tradition; and his was the majority one. But most Englishmen lacked his clarity. They simply felt in their bones, like the Duke of Suffolk, that foreign prelates had no business interfering in English affairs. The crash of the Duke's fist was thus the real beginning of the English Reformation.
The Reformation was a typical piece of English conservatism, conducted with the familiar mix of muddle, deviousness, hypocrisy, and ex post facto rationalisation. Henry was never quite clear in his own mind whether he wanted an actual change in religion, though there is evidence that in his last years he was moving in that direction... He had no plan of action, moving from one expedient to another... On the other hand... it may be that Cromwell, one of the ablest men who ever served the Crown, was far more deliberate and systematic in his methods than his master, Henry, or than appears at first sight. Cromwell was a parliamentary manager; it was on his advice that the Refomation was carried through by Parliament, in the most punctilious and thorough constitutional manner, providing the Crown with a massive overkill of statutory weapons for present and future use against Romanism... Cromwell's explanation was no doubt that Parliament, itself the national repository of anti-clericalism, was the best guarantor of the permanency of the breach with Rome. And so it proved. After the Reformation Parliament, it became impossible for the Monarch (irrespective of personal religious views) to decide such matters in a parliamentary context. It was very significant that Queen Mary had to go to Parliament to get Henry's laws reversed: and on certain matters it declined to do so. Mary could not really put the clock back without destroying Parliament and operating a personal tyranny... Parliament's sovereignty in spiritual matters had thus been formally acknowledged even by a fanatically Catholic queen. After that the Elizabethan settlement was simple and obvious.
...This political underpinning of the Reformation was reinforced by the creation of a huge vested interest in its permanency. But the end of Henry's reign, the bulk of the monastic lands had passed into the hands of private individuals... giving the propertied classes a direct, financial interest in the dissolution. After 1545, there were very few wealthy or influential Englishmen who did not have a personal stake in the Refomation.
It was Queen Mary's own actions which killed Roman Catholicism as the majority English religion... The English were not fanatical about religion, and regarded execution as a fair professional hazard for those who were. But what struck contemporaries was the sheer scale of Marian persecution. There had been nothing like it seen in England before. It had the flavour of Continental excess. Over three years, Mary burnt just under 300 people, including 60 women. Moreover, these public killings were concentrated heavily in the opinion-forming areas: London and the Home Counties... Mary must take prime responsibility for the burnings. Her husband, Phillip II, was against the policy; so was his ambassador in London, Simon Reynard, who said that at least the executions should be carried out secretly. But the English, including Mary, felt that to hold executions in public was a guarantee of liberty. As late as the 1860s, public executions were defended (e.g. by Palmerston) on the grounds that to give the executive the right to put people to death in secret would open the door to tyranny... The killing sickened even some of Mary's strongest clerical supporters, and long before her death it was evident to all that her policy not only had failed but had inflicted grievous damage on her cause. The hatred her persecutions aroused became an important fact of English history for a very long time. They cofirmed to most English people that their anti-foreign, anti-papal views were not just prejudices but rooted in a sound instinct for self-preservation... Until Mary's reign there was a real prospect of a multi-religious community emerging in England. By her death this was no longer possible.
The problem which faced Elizabth on her accession was how to bring to an end the violent oscillations in the State religion, to de-escalate the rising frenzy of doctrinal killings, and, if possible, to take religion out of politics. By temperament she was agnostic. To her, religious belief must be subordinate to the needs of public order and social decorum... She agreed with the Duke of Norfolk when he told her: "England can bear no more changes in religion. It hath been bowed so often that if it should bend again it will break." ...She took the view, shared by the overwhelming majority of her subjects, that doctrine was not a thing that any sensible person would kill or be killed for. She hated capital punishment by instinct and reason. It seemed to her monstrous to kill a man for his beliefs alone; only four people were executed for heresy in her reign, none of them Catholics... As for private views: "I seek not to carve windows into men's souls." What she was looking for was a lowest common denominator of agreement on religious matters, underwritten by statute, upheld by the State, and accepted by the public as reasonable. What she would not tolerate was anyone who strove to upset such a settlement by force; that was treason, because it was aimed at the tranquility of the realm, and was certain to lead to bloodshed. Thus Elizabeth was forced, with the greatest reluctance, to turn first against the Catholics and then against the Puritans. She did not want to persecute anyone; but both groups, in the end, left her with no alternative... There is no evidence that the English Catholics, as a group, wanted to expel their Queen. Most of them did not care a damn for the Pope; they never had done. What did they care for was the mass, and certain other spiritual comforts of the old religion. They were, like the genuine Protestants, a minority group, and Elizabeth would have been prepared to give them minority rights. But the papacy, by excommunicating Elizabeth, and by instructing English Catholics to depose her, branded them with treason... The Catholics could not logically plead that they still served the Queen without renouncing the Pope; they were either bad Catholics, by papal definition, or bad Englishmen... The English are not particularly logical, but they saw the logic of this problem clearly... The Elizabethan persecution of Catholics was thus justified by the needs of State and public security... Elizabeth preferred fines and imprisonment to execution; she killed on average no more than 8 a year... But she could not save the English Catholic community; at her death only about 10,000 were still prepared to publicly declare themselves Romanists.
...The threat to Elizabeth from the Puritans was far greater, and she was in the end obliged to take it seriously. English Puritanism was born among the Marian exiles of the 1550s; it was thus an alien import... The Puritans, like the Roman Catholic extremists, believed that religion was the only important thing in life, whereas most Englishmen thought it was something you did on Sundays. They were influential out of all proportion to their numbers because, like the Communists in our own age, they were highly organised, disciplined, and adept at getting each other into positions of power. They were strong in the universities... They oozed hypocrisy... They did not believe in free speech. They believed in a doctrinaire religion, imposed by force and maintained by persecution... They were the mirror-image of the Counter-Reformation... They privileges the Puritans claimed for themselves they would certainly have denied to others... Puritanism was the dynamic behind the increase in witch-hunting.
It is against this background of murderous zeal that we must place the achievement of Elizabeth in stabilising the religious system of England on a basis of moderation, common sense and tolerance... It was an enduring achievement, too, for the Elizabethan religious settlement survived all the shocks of the next century, and emerged into modern times roughly the same article... Elizabeth felt that religion was too dangerous an element in the body politic to be safely left to clergymen. It should be the servant of the public, not its master. It should provide comfort in an harsh and painful world, not add to the troubles of society by provoking controversy and division... This was a thoroughly English approach. A man's religion was a matter between himself and God; its outward and organisation were a matter for the due constitutional process of law... The English have never made the mistake of saddling themselves with a written constitution. In the mid-16th century the pressure of the times left them no alternative but to adopt a religious constitution.
The truth is that the English are not, and have never been, a religious people. That it why toleration first took root in our country. There were, to be sure, plenty of religious zealots in England... but all together they never made up more than a minority. It is a matter for argument whether England has ever been a Christian country. The English like to be baptised, to get married in church, to be buried in consecrated ground; they pray in times of peril, they take a mild interest in religious controversy, and like to clothe the State in religious forms. But they are not truly interested in the spiritual life. We must not think of the Middle Ages in England as a religious era. It was a time when the priestly caste occupred a major role in society and in the economy... The Church was a profession... Protestantism was a more meaningful faith than Catholicism for the English, but only for a minority... On the whole it is doubtful whether, at any time in history, more than 50% of the English people have attended Sunday services regularly or paid more than lip-service to their church. This is not true of many other countries. In the United States, even today, well over 50% regularly go to services on sabbatical days. In Scotland, Ireland and Wales it is likely that, until recent decades, observance was the custom of the great majority, and religion played a meaningful role in their lives.
We owe a great deal to this remarkable women. To be sure, Elizabeth presided over a dazzling galaxy of talent, political, commercial, military, naval and artistic. But she herself took all the really important decisions — and non-decisions — of her reign, often against the advice of her ablest counsellors... She was a political genius of a very rare kind, for his inspiration was a sense of tolerance, springing from a warm heart and a cool intellect... She loathed killing and cruelty... As a young woman she had been in that horrible place, the Tower of London, in fear for her life. As a result, she determined to make England a country in which moderate, reasonable people could feel safe — even engage in controversy, provided their only weapons were words. For two centuries the public life of England had been engulfed by a rising ride of political and murder... If the fabric of English society was to survive, the process had to be stopped; and Elizabeth stopped it. What had become a bloody English tradition was firmly extinguished; and it was never really resurrected... Tolerance and a hatred of violence were modern virtues in Elizabeth's age; if they have become English characteristics, some of the credit must go to her. She was a kind person. Though she never slept with a man, there was plenty of love in her heart... Though a lot of the romantic mystique of her court was deliberately contrived to suit her public purposes, there can be no doubt that the warmth which existed between her and her greatest servants was absolsutely genuine... When she said she loved the people of England — and they are not a people whom anyone can easily love — she meant it. The real measure of her achievement is that she was able to express this love in concrete terms, and impart to her people a taste for the new and unfashionable virtues she possessed. So long as the English exist, she will not be "out of remembrance". (p167)
It is a curious fact that the most important debate in English political history took place not in the House of Commons but in the 15th century parish church of St Mary in Putney. There, on 28 October 1647, and for the next two weeks, a group of about 40 men met in informal conclave, and proceeded to invent modern politics - to invent, in fact, the public framework of the world in which nearly 3,000 million people now live.
The meeting was officially styled the General Council of the New Model Army, the force which has recently annihilated the armies of King Charles and was now the effective master of the country. (p171)
The ideas flung across that communion table have travelled round the world, hurled down thrones and subverted empires, and have become the common everyday currency of political exchange. They are still with us. Every major political concept known to us today, all the assumptions which underlie the thoughts of men in the White House, or the Kremlin, or Downing Street, or in presidential mansions or senates or parliaments through five continents, were expressed or adumbrated in the little church of St Mary.
The debates... could only have taken place in England... certain peculiar developments in English history - developments rooted many centuries back, and ultimately resting on the geography of England, and the composition of its people - allowed the thing to happen; and so the world is as it is. (p172)
The ancient Greeks had begun to explore certain entirely new political and scientific concepts when their cities and culture were absorbed in the imperialism of Rome. (p172)
The Reformation in England made explicit a declaration of independence from the Continent which was rooted in a thousand years of political and intellectual development. (p173)
In the century following the 1560s England had advanced from scientific backwardness through a technological revolution - based chiefly on instruments of measurement - and at the outset of the Civil War was technically the most advanced country in the world. (p194)
The closed circle of lawyer and gentry MPs who directed the first phase of the Civil War... found themselves obliged, in extremis, to summon the assistance of a submerged section of the people, and bring them into the political nation in the form of constitutional warriors. Parliament won the war, in the end without difficulty, because in the New Model Army it had enfranchised the people... bringing into play a new class of humble folk who, for the first time in English history - for the first time in world history - were called upon by the State to serve not just with their bodies, but with their mental and spiritual energies, not as cannon-fodder, but as sentient and thinking individuals... it was a giant step forward in the liberation of mankind from darkness. (p198-99)
The physical power of Cromwellian England was based essentially on the new learning. This was a time for talent to manifest itself. To Milton, London was 'a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty', where men were 'reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement'; or as John Hall put it in 1649, England was imbued with 'the highest spirit, pregnant with great matters... attempting the discovery of a new world of knowledge'. Sir Arthur Haselrig, MP, summed up the whole experiment in a phrase: the country was 'living long in a little time'. (p206)
If Cromwell had entered Europe, there can be little doubt that the Continental monarchies would have collapsed like a pack of cards, and that the Catholicism of southern and central Europe would have been torn from its secular foundations... instead. the English concentrated on achieving a cultural, scientific and technological supremacy. (p209)
In 1688 when news of the English revolution reached America, the New Englanders arrested their royal governors, claiming the right of constitutional resistance to an illegal regime, and petitioned Parliament to legalise their acts ex post facto. In a curious way, their behaviour mirrored almost exactly what the Britons had done in 410, and was ominous for the future of what men were already beginning to call the British Empire. (p225)
It is a sad comment on human societies that they can usually be persuaded to accept bribery as a system of government, provided the circle of corruption is wide enough. This became possible in early 18th century Britain with the expansion of the State. But if the circle was large, it still had very definite limits, and excluded whole categories of people: one might argue that it broke down at the end of the 18th century because, with the growth of population, the area of exclusion became intolerably large. But it also excluded whole nations. Thanks to the Act of Union, Walpole found it desirable to bring Scotland into the system, for the votes it exercised in both Houses of Parliament were valuable and worth buying. But Ireland was rigorously excluded, its own parliament was emasculated and, of course, it had no votes to offer at Westminster. Rich and poor, Catholic or Protestant, the Irish resented the unfairness of it all... but Ireland lay under the shadows of English guns. With America it was a different matter. America, too, had no votes to deliver at Westminster; she, too, was largely excluded from the spoils systems, but America was 3000 miles, and six weeks, away from the sources of English authority. This made a crucial difference, especially when, for a brief moment, England lost absolute control of the sea. (p226)
When Americans argued that it was intolerable that flourishing cities like Boston or Philadelphia should have no voce in Westminster, the English establishment retorted that neither did Manchester, Birmingham or Sheffield. But this cut absolutely no ice in America. The truth is, the Americans could not be accorded constitutional rights without granting them to the vast, unrepresented multitudes in England itself; this would make the spoils system, and so the 'balanced constitution', unworkable, and bring about a return to anarchy. The English ruling class had to choose between stability and empire; and much as they valued both, they chose stability, as they were again to do in the mid-20th century. (p228)
The United States was thus the posthumous child of the Long Parliament. (p228)
By the 1780s, the English had acquired, through the accident of geography and the merit of their own efforts, a unqiue conjunction of advantages: a free, though oligarchic, political constitution, and all the elements of an economic revolution. Only two other countries, the United States and the Netherlands, had a non-authoritarian system of politics; and no State whatever, except England, had the physical means to produce an unaided and self-sustaining acceleration of economic growth. England was the one dynamic element in a static universe. (p240)
For half a century, foreign observers had been conscious of the connection between political freedom and economic prosperity in English life. In the 1720s Voltaire had noted in 'Letters from England': "Commerce, which has enriched the citizens of England, has helped to make them free, and that liberty, in turn, has expanded commerce. This is the foundation of the greatness of the State." England was an open society. There were no barriers between the classes, at least in legal terms; Englishmen enjoyed absolute equality before the law. In 1679, the English had acquired the right of Habeas Corpus; in 1701 life security for judges. Juries were not accountable to the State for their verdicts, and accused men were innocent until their guilt was established to the satisfaction of courts beyond the reach of the executive. Freedom of speech, subject to closely defined laws of treason, was absolute; and freedom of publication, except in the theatre, was qualified only by the risk of subsequent prosecution, the equivalent of the presumption of innocence in legal terms. There was no professional police force, and only a tiny army subject to annual parliamentary vote. The civil service, even including the highly-efficient postal, customs and excise system, was minute, and most of those who composed it were immune to dismissal. England was the minimal State: no such has ever existed, before or since. (p240-1)
In the 19th century we witness a great intestinal struggle among the English between the native forces of reform and reaction, light and darkness, a struggle which was ultimately inconclusive, because if reform eventually triumphed, it did so only after the expenditure of irreplaceable energy, and after delays which were to prove disastrous. (p240)
The English industrial revolution of 1780-1820 is the great watershed in the history of mankind. It liberated the body, as the Reformation had liberated the mind. (p268)
(Below quotes taken from external article: "America to follow in Britain's footsteps?")
In 1870 England was universally regarded as the strongest and richest nation on earth, indeed in human history.
The English aroused little affection. In general, they were cordially disliked... it was only to be expected that a wealthy, fortunate and successful country like England should arouse envy and criticism; so long as such feelings were confined to words, and tempered by respect, or if necessary fear, there was no cause for concern.
England operated from motives of self-interest, which happened to coincide (by the disposition of a benign providence) with the long term interests of the civilised world, in fact of the entire human community. England was moving in the direction of progress and pulling the world along in her wake...
Exactly 100 years later ... the English are still criticised ... but the tone is no longer envious or indignant, but rather impatient and admonitory... The arrogance of the English has gone, and with it their self-confidence... Such historical transformations have occurred before, but never with such speed and decision... What went wrong? How did it happen? Who is to blame? When did progress cease to move at an English rhythm? The answer is really very simple. It is the old story of hubris and nemesis. (p317)
Until the 1830s, England was the only industrialised country... Britain was then in a position to apply the new industrial processes to military technology in a manner denied to the world beyond, and to achieve an overwhelming supremacy in the use of firepower over nay nation or groups of nations... It never seems to have occurred to the English even to consider the possibility of exploiting the new industrial power they had created to achieve and maintain a world hegemony of advanced weapons. (p280)
In the middle decades of the 19th century, England became the workshop of the world; and in the process, helped to create rival workshops throughout it. In the 1850s Britain produced two-thirds of the world’s coal, half its iron, more than half its steel, half its cotton cloth, 49 per cent of its hardware, virtually all of its machine tools. (p281).
The industrialisation of half a dozen major economies took place by courtesy of British tools, patents, industrial know-how and skilled personnel; and it was largely financed by British capital. By 1840 Britain had £160 million invested abroad; by 1873 nearly £1,000 million. During this period international trade multiplied five times over, and passed the £2,000 million mark. The railway-steamship age created the modern world-market economy; the English device of the gold standard was generally adopted, and centred on London as the financial pivot of the liberal international trading system. For the English, it was the highwater mark of their fortunes relative to the rest of the world. English ideas, institutions, attitudes, tastes, pastimes, morals, clothes, laws, customs, their language and literature, units of measurements, systems of accountancy, company law, banking, insurance, credit and exchange, even - God help us! - their patterns of education and religion became identified with progress across the planet. For the first time, the infinite diversities of a hundred different races, of tens of thousands of regional societies, began to merge into standard forms: and the matrix was English. (p281)
The decade 1870-80 was a key one in the history of the world, and from it tragic events flowed momentous consequences, not least for the English... the world was going England’s way: hence the almost crazy optimism of the 1850s and 1860s. (p327)
By 1889, free trade as a world system was dead. The Continental industrialists, alarmed by the end of cheap food for their workers, and seeing governments bend to the pressure of the farming interests, sent up their own yelps of fear; and they, in turn, got tariffs on imported manufactures. This of course, angered the American: they had never really abandoned tariffs, and their system of government was peculiarly susceptible to protectionist demands from powerful lobbies. In 1890 they erected the McKinley tariff structure, and this provoked further Continental retaliation.
The retreat from free trade left Britain isolated... It had taken more than a century for Adam Smith’s doctrines to win acceptance and implementation. By 1875, however, they were the supreme orthodoxy. Free trade was traditional... It was what England was all about. Abandon free trade, merely because some frightened foreign governments had lost faith in it?.. No leading politician of either party was prepared even to contemplate such a proposal. The depression of the 1870s exposed the English public mind at its worst: drugged by a dogma which had once enshrined empirical truth. (p330)
In a practical sense, the English imperialist spasm [c.1875-1914] was an attempt to escape from Britain’s economic difficulties, an easy alternative to tariffs, and still more, to the distasteful business of becoming an efficient manufacturing nation.
Gladstone had the rare capacity to admit error without losing faith in his judgment. (p313)
(Appendix II: Cromwell and Ireland)
Ireland had been the grave of English military reputations. It did not destory Cromwell's: his operations there were masterly and highly successful. But it has proved the grave of his moral reputation. There is no doubt that he took the view (shared by Spenser, Bacon and Milton) that the Irish were culturally inferior and their subjection necessary. In 1649 he believed the Irish would be used to overthrow the Revolution... Yet at one point there was a distinct possibility that the native Irish might cooperate with parliamentary forces in opposing the Irish Protestant royalists... But under pressure from the Catholic clergy, acting on papal instructions, the Irish turned against the New Model... It is a curious fact that in 1651, when General Monck sacked Dundee, he killed as many people as Cromwell in Drogheda, and with far less military justification; yet the episode is rarely mentioned.
# IRELAND: A CONCISE HISTORY
The English presence in Ireland arose from the failure of Irish society to develop the institution of monarchy. The Irish, of course, had kingship; too much of it indeed. In Ireland the high king reigned but did not rule.
The effect of the penal legislation and the manner in which it was enforced was to create the modern Irish problem, as it existed until the 20th century: a landless Catholic peasantry governed by a legally exclusive Protestant ruling class, with a small predominantly Protestant middle class sandwiched in between, and a multi-class Protestant enclave in Ulster. The separate communities were divided not only by religion but by race and, not least, by culture: they learned different poetry, sang different songs, celebrated different victories and mourned different calamities.
By the time Arthur Young made his tour of Ireland in the 1770s, many Englishmen, if they thought about Ireland at all, saw government policy there as indefensible. It is significant that Dr Samuel Johnson, though a vigorous defender of English rights in America, could not bring himself to defend them in Ireland.
By accepting the union (with Great Britain in 1800) the Protestant Ascendancy necessarily relinquished the leadership of the nationalist movement to the Catholics and in a few years they found themselves transformed into a colonial ruling class. Thereafter, it was the Catholics who stood for an independent parliament, and the Protestants for union... effectively forfeiting its right to lead the Irish nation. By reneging on its bargain, and be delaying Catholic emancipation for nearly 30 years, the British government turned Catholics away from union and made the Catholic Church the central depository of Irish nationalism. These were irremediable errors, which set in motion the tragic but logical process of modern Irish history.
Irish freedom, said Daniel O'Connell, was not worth the shedding of a single drop of English blood.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Ireland, by comparison with her past, was becoming a relatively prosperous country, thanks to the 'killing Home Rule with kindness' policy... for the first time Ireland became a net beneficiary of the union... all of the ancient non-political grievances of Ireland had been remedied.
As the First World War proceeded and changed its object, and became (in Allied propaganda) a crusade for the self-determination of peoples, Alsacians, Lorrainers, Poles, Czechs, Finns, Yugoslavs - even Arabs - the notion that the Irish could conceivable denied their liberty began to seem increasingly absurd, and the rising, therefore, as part of the spirit of the times, noble even.
Terence O'Neill, like the IRA, underestimated the power of sectarian feeling on either side of the religious dividing line. He believed in sweet reason; indeed, he once described himself to me as 'an 18th century politician trying to govern a 17th century country.'
If there is one lesson the history of Ireland teaches, it is that military victory is not enough.
The fundamental misconception to which even the more enlightened British statesmen and pundits have clung: that if only Britain gave Ireland justice, prosperity and wise government, the British connection would be accepted by her people. Alas, it is of the essence of wise government to know when to absent itself. Britain has learned by bitter experience in Ireland that there is no substitute for independence.
British-Irish relations are not so much a matter of human choice as of geographical determinism. 'God hath so placed us together unavoidably', to use a phrase of Milton's... there will never be a time when British will be able to remain indifferent to events in Ireland. To that extent, Britain will always have an 'Irish problen'; and, a fortiori, Ireland will always have an 'English problem'.
Despite all the clashes between the English and the Irish, which necessarily form the substance of such a book as this, we must remember that there is also a great unwritten and largely unrecorded story of Anglo-Irish relations: a story of countless friendships and innumerable intermarriages, of shared enthusiasms and dangers, mutual interests and common objectives. We have the same language and literature, the same legal tradition and parliamentary matrix. Whatever happens in the future, we can be sure that Irish and English will always have more to unite them than divide them.
# THE RENAISSANCE
The past is infinitely complicated, composed as it is of events big and small, beyond computation. To make sense of it, the historian must select and simplify and shape. One way he shapes the past is to divide it into periods. Each period is made more memorable and easy to grasp if it can be labelled by a word that epitomizes its spirit. That is how such terms as 'the Renaissance' came into being. Needless to say, it is not those who actually lived through the period who coin the term, but later, often much later writers. The periodization and labelling of history is largely the work of the 19th century. Although the Italian elites of the time never used the word 'Renaissance', they were conscious that a cultural rebirth of a kind was taking place, and that some of the literary, philosophical and artistic grandeur of ancient Greece and Rome was being recreated... If the term has any useful meaning at all, it signifies the rediscovery and utilization of ancient virtuesl, skills, knowledge and culture, which had been lost in the barbarous centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, usually dated from the fifth century AD.
Cultural rebirths, major and minor, are a common occurence in history. Most generations, of all human societies, have a propensity to look back on golden ages and seek to restore them. When Alexander the Great created a world empire in the fourth century BC, his court artists sought to recapture the splendour of fifth-century Athenian civilization. So Hellenistic Greece, as we call, witnessed a renaissance of classic values... The Roman empire was never quite so self-confident as the Republic, subject as it was to the whims of a fallible autocrat, rather than the collective wisdom of the Senate, and it was always looking over its shoulder at a past that was more worthy of admiration, and seeking to resurrect its qualities. The idea of a Republican renaissance was never far from the minds of Rome's imperial elites.
The Greeks were inventive, and produced some scientists and engineers of genius, and the Romans were able to build on their work to carry out projects on a scale that is often impressive even by today's standards and appeared superhuman to medieval man. But there was something suspect about Roman monumentality. It was built on muscle-power rather than brain-power. The forts, the roads, the bridges, the enormous aqueducts, the splendid buildings, were put up thanks to a conscript or servile multitude. Considering the wealth of the Roman Republic in its prime, its technology was minimal, barely in advance of Athenian Greece, and confined largely to the military sphere. Even in the navy, the Romans made pitifully little use of sail-power, preferring oars rowed by galley slaves. Technology stagnated.
Medieval Europe had no such luxury in the use of manpower. The Black Death, in the mid-14th century, by reducing the population of western Europe by 25 to 30% made labour scarcer still. There were strong incentives to improve labour-saving machinery and develop alternative sources of power to human muscles. Some of the medieval inventions were very simple, though important, like the wheelbarrow.
The background to what we call the Renaissance was a cumulative growth and spread of wealth never before experienced in world history, and the rise of a society in which intermediate technology was becoming the norm, producing in due course a startling revolution in the way words were published and distributed. But this does not mean the Renaissance was an economic, let alone a technological event. Without economic and technological developments it could not have taken the form it did. But it must be grasped that the Renaissance was primarily a human event, propelled forward by a number of individuals of outstanding talent, which in some cases amount to genius.
We can give all kinds of satisfying explanations of why and when the Renaissance occurred and how its transmitted itself. But there is no explaining Dante, no explaining Chaucer. Genius suddenly comes to life, and speaks out of vacuum. Then it is silent, equally mysteriously. The trends continue and intensify, but genius is lacking. Chaucer had no successor of anything approaching similar stature. There is no major poet in 15th-century English literature.
The Renaissance was the work of individuals, and in a sense it was about individualism. And the first and greatest of those individuals was Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Dante was a Florentine, appropriately because Florence played a more important role in the Renaissance than any other city. He also embodies the central paradox of the Renaissance: while it was about the recovery and understanding of ancient Greek and Latin texts, and the writing of elegant Latin, it was also about the maturing, ordering and use of vernacular languages, especially Italian.
Before Dante, Tuscan was one of many Italian dialects and there was no Italianate written language that was accepted throughout the peninsula. After Dante, however, written Italian (in the Tuscan mode) was a fact. Indeed, Italians of the 21st century, and foreigners who have some grasp of Italian, can read most of the "Divine Comedy" without difficulty. No other writer has ever had such a decisive impact on a modern language.
It was the very competitivesness of the independent Italian cities, and the regimes and rulers who strove to bolster their power with the embellishments of scholarship and art, that gave the Renaissance its thrust. It was one of the few times in human history when success in the world's game — the struggle for military supremacy and political dominion — was judged at least in part on cultural performance. Often cultural patronage was the homage that vice paid to virtue.
One can probably learn more about Renaissance art from a detailed study of the industrious Verrocchio's shops that from any other single institution. The sop and its back-studios and outhouses were full of equipment of every kind, including plaster models of actual heads, arms, hands, feet and knees, which Verrocchio had made by a secret process of his own. These were used by himself and his assistants for sculpture and painting alike. Knowledge of the Verrocchio studio takes us behind the scenes of Renaissance art and shows how its high standards were based on intense discipline, careful preparation and a ruthless use of every mechanical aid that human ingenuity could devise. Behind this, in turn, was a passionate desire to make money aswell as to produce the highest art.
To the ordinary citizens of Florence, or any other town in Italy, architecture was visually far more important than any other art, let alone writing. They might not penetrate to the treasures housed in the palaces, but they could see them from the outside, and they were familiar with the churches and the cathedrals... Building, even more than public sculpture, was a matter of civic pride.
The Greeks learned not only to portray the human body as it is seen, but to present it in realistic action, and in the context of its surroundings. By foreshortening and other illisionistic devices, they contrived to conquer pictorial space. The Romans inherited their knowledhe and skills and in their friezes were see examples of the effective use of linear and aerial perspective, foreshortenings and other tricks. In what we call the Dark Ages, this form of sophisticated illusionary art disappeared, and its techniques were lost. Artists reverted to the primitive visual technology of aspective art. However, enough survived of illusionism, in the Byzantine world and in Italy, for artists to note it and in due course to imitate it.
In addition to the forces of technological change in the world of painting, there was a further fact, more properly belonging to the history of ideas, that was of immense importance in giving the Renaissance its peculiar dynamism. This was the notion of progress. It is of the nature of humankind to wish to improve things and to better out condition, and all societies have possessed this wish to some extent. But some societies make it a cardinal principle of existence, while other put different considerations first. The ancient Egyptians did not seem to be interested in progress. By contrast, the Greeks sought self-improvement and set targets to be attained. They infected the Romans, certainly under the Republic. But under the empire, the authorities became more concerned with order and stability than with advantageous changes. That had a deadening effect on their economy and it also in time affacted the arts... From the 14th century onwards, and especially in Italy, the notion grew that modern men should not only learn all that the ancients had to teach in the days of Rome's glory, but should build on that knowledge to reach even higher standards of knowledge and writing, of architecture, sculpture and art.
As the cult of the individual artist spread, emerging from medieval anonymity to a blaze of personal fame, so the competition sharpened. It was a race within generations and between them.
Art was branching out in different, sometimes rival and even contradictory directions. The new freedom conveyed by knowledge, to place realistic figures in convincing space, allowed individual artists to developed their own personalities with an energy and imagination that had been impossible before 1420.
The "Camera degli Sposi" is an authentic presentation of 15th-century court life, as the painter Mantegna actually witnessed it. There are no tricks about the figures. We see actual faces of real people — 15th century Italians of the urban, courtly breed, whispering and hiding their thoughts, making honeyed speeches, dissimulating and orating, boasting and cutting a 'bella figura', strutting for effect and feigning every kind of emotion. As in all Mantegna's work, one learns a great deal because, though a master of illusionistic devices, he always tells the truth.
Although Leonardo's interest in the human body was paramount, as befitted a Renaissance humanist-artist, his huge range of other preoccupations — with weather and waves, animals and vegetation, machines of all kinds but especially weapons of war and fortifications, all of them expressed in elaborate drawings as well as expounded in his "Notebooks" — meant that his time and energy were thinly spread. His priorities were unclear. No one can say for sure whether he regarded painting an easel portrait like the "Mona Lisa", or the "Last Supper" wall-painting in Milan, or designing an impregnable fortress, as the things he most wanted to do, or was most worth doing.
The general effect of the "Last Judgment" is to make most people think seriously about what is likely to happen to them when they die, and though they may not accept Michelangelo's version of the likely events, they are wiser for having studied it. That is exactly the effect he sought to achieve.
We see in Albrecht Durer a man who had acquired the true Renaissance perspective: the rejection of medieval art as false; the need to examine the work of antiquity both in practice, but studying its survivals, and in theory, by reading the texts; the concentration on the human form, and its exact representation by scientific study; and the mastering of perspective.
By the end of the 1520s Renaissance ideas and forms of art were being recreated or adapted in most parts of Europe and even in the New World. By 1500 literary humanism was a pan-European movement, and where humanist books penetrated, Renaissance art was sure to follow soon. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Italy had not exactly been tranquil — there had been periodic and often highly destructive fighting between the leading cities for local and regional hegemony — but there had been comparitively little interference from abroad. It was during this period of Italian independence that urban life flourished and prospered and the Renaissance took hold. However, in September 1494, Charles VIII of France, at the invitation of the Duke of Milan, entered Italy with an army to conquer the Kingdom of Naples, and brought Italy's political isolation to an end. Thereafter, Italy was rent by two ravenous foreign dogs, Valois France and Habsburg Germany, until 1558... From the perspective of history, we can now see that the Florentine Renaissance came to a climax in the quarter-century before the French invasion, when it was truly a city made for artists. The loss of Italian self-respect that the constant foreign invasions produced, and the periodic impoverishment of large parts of the countryside, had their inevitable consequences.
By mid-century, the absolute predominance that Italy had once exercised in the arts was passing, as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and even England began to acquired cultural self-confidence. Thus at the time when the ideas of the Italian Renaissance were spreading with increasing speed all over Europe, the source itself was burning low.
In many ways the ideals of Renaissance times are part of our permanent cultural heritage, as are the matchless works of art and the enduring monuments those rich and fruitful times produced.
# QUOTES ABOUT PAUL JOHNSON
"Undaunted by big subjects, undeterred by tough questions, unmuddled by vast quantities of material... he can make a coherent story out of the most sprawling subject. He writes of a past which is always relevant. His work is peopled with lively portraits and peppered with enlivening lives."
- Felipe Fernanzez Armesto, "The Times"
PARTY POLITICS"Every age refights the Civil War in its own way and ours is no exception. Roundhead and Cavalier, Whig and Tory, Gladstone and Disraeli, Labour and Conservative, each conflict is an echo of the original.
Every age has its own Cromwell, the man repainted, regilded, forged, twisted to suit some current purpose. The historian Isaac Foot, father of Michael, said that he judged a man by one thing, 'On which side would he have fought at Marston Moor', the King’s or Parliament’s.
The pendulum of politics long ago stopped swinging from Left to Right, now being stuck on Right. But it always swings from Roundhead to Cavalier. It swings from the authority of democratic institutions, defended ceaselessly and sometimes bloodily, to the corruption of over-centralised power."
- Simon Jenkins, "The London Times"
"Politics? Boring? Politics is history on the wing! What other sphere of human activity calls forth all that is most noble in men's souls, and all that is most base? Or has such excitement? Or more vividly exposes our strengths and weaknesses?"
- Cicero, in "Imperium" by Robert Harris
People once blamed or thanked God for everything that happened beyond their control. Now we blame or thank Government instead.
- Peter Hitchens, "The Express"
There has seldom been a time when responsible, intelligent people were less interested in serious politics.
- Peter Hitchens, "The Spectator"
Is Osama bin Laden left-wing or right-wing? How about Robert Mugabe? Who has a more left-wing approach to women’s sexuality: Pope John Paul or Hustler magazine? Consider Fidel Castro. He persecutes homosexuals, crushes trade unions, forbids democratic elections, executes opponents and criminals, is a billionaire in a country of very poor people and has decreed that a member of his family shall succeed him in power. Is Castro left-wing or right-wing? Explain your answer.
- Andrew Kenny, "The End of Right and Left", "The Spectator"
It is easy to say "the parties are no different" or "things couldn't get any worse." People have
said that before — and have been proved wrong before. Before the election of 1860, abolitionists
said it would make no difference whether Lincoln or a Democrat was elected. But millions of
people were freed because that prediction was wrong. In Germany, the Weimar Republic was nobody's
idea of an ideal government and, in the desperate days of the Great Depression, no doubt many
German voters thought that nothing could be worse. But they discovered during the dozen years of
Nazi rule just how much worse things could be.
- Thomas Sowell
LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES
Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.
- Sir Winston Churchill (attributed)
What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?
- Abraham Lincoln
The Conservatives should never disregard political and social reform, but if there is any lesson to be learnt from history, I believe it is that the party cannot expect to win success by outbidding the radicals. This merely muddles the Conservative Party's traditional supporters and it does not actually capture the radical vote.
- Lord Robert Blake
Many revolutions are begun by conservatives because these are people who tried to make the existing system work and they know why it does not.
- John Maynard Keynes, "Essays in Persuasion"
Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
I feel an insuperable reluctance in giving my hand to destroy any established institution of government, upon a theory, however plausible it may be.
- Edmund Burke
There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Conservative"
"Conservatives measure the effectiveness of government programs by results; liberals measure the effectiveness of government programs by inputs."
- Karl Rove
If you want government to intervene domestically, you're a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you're a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you're a moderate. If you don't want government to intervene anywhere, you're an extremist.
- Joseph Sobran (1995)
"I dream of the day when conservatives learn the difference between a sin and a crime and liberals learn the difference between a virtue and a requirement."
- William A. Niskanen
"The central psychological proposition of liberalism is that for every problem there is a solution... it faltered when it turned out it could not cope with truth... became a political culture that rewarded the articulation of moral purpose more than the achievement of practical good... having the ability to immediately dissolve every statement of fact into a question of motive."
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, selected quotes
This nonsense is typical of a certain breed of liberals who refuse to debate facts when they can demean motives.
- Jonah Goldberg, "The National Review"
"There's nothing liberal about the Left except on two issues: personal sex activity and personal drug use. On everything else they are totalitarians."
- David Horowitz
A liberal is one who says that it's all right for an eighteen year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as she gets paid the minimum wage.
- Irving Kristol, "Two Cheers for Capitalism"
Not being a liberal, I have very little grasp of things that I know nothing about.
- PJ O'Rourke
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western civilization as it commits suicide.
- James Burnham
The great advantage that conservatives have over liberals is that we are bilingual. We can speak our language and we also know theirs. They however even now still don’t know ours and cannot be bothered to learn.
- John Podhoretz
"The facts of life are conservative."
- Margaret Thatcher
The word "conservative" is used by the BBC as a portmanteau word of abuse for anyone whose views differ from the insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naive, guilt-ridden, wet, pink orthodoxy of that sunset home of the third-rate minds of that third-rate decade, the nineteen-sixties.
- Norman Tebbit, former Conservative Minister
Politics does terrible things to words. Once flung into the public arena, they are bruised, battered and twisted until they end up meaning the opposite of what they started out meaning, if they still mean anything at all. Something even ghastlier can happen when one innocent word is yoked to another - "national" to "socialism" or "democracy" when it has "people’s" jammed in front of it. "Neoconservatism" is this season’s noun in the mangle.
- Ferdinand Mount reviews Irwin Stelzer's "Neoconservatism" for "The Times"
I long for a political leader who can rescue the word 'liberal'... It should not mean spending lots of public money, or being soft on crime, or denigrating marriage. It means believing in freedom — a free economy, a free (independent) country, trial by jury, a smaller state, choice in health and schools, no ID cards, a bicameral legislature with real powers. Freedom is not the only thing a nation needs, but it is the necessary start.
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. It is liberals who advocate "forgiveness" of loans to third-world countries, a "living wage" for the poor and a "safety net" for all. But these are all government policies — not individual acts of compassion — and the actual empirical consequences of such policies are of remarkably little interest to those who advocate them. What are the facts? People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes. It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families.
- Thomas Sowell
"Liberals are builders and conservatives are defenders. Liberals want to build a good and just society. Conservatives defend what is already built and established. This is what the left and the right are for. What draws a person to one or the other is more a matter of personality than anything else...
Defenders, unlike builders, are on the lookout for threats. This is what conservatism is for. In the absence of civil war or revolution, threats exist abroad. Canada isn’t a problem, and Mexico isn’t really either. The biggest threats are on the other side of the world. Conservatives don’t write about China and Iran because they’re into Taoism or because they swooned at the Persian film festival. The interest is there because these countries are dangerous...
Liberals are more likely than conservatives to study the negative consequences of American foreign policy. But that’s about it. If you want to find a person who knows the history of pre-war Nazi Germany, the Middle East during the Cold War, or the partition of India and Pakistan, you’re better off looking to the right than to the left. Conservatives are more likely to study pre-war Nazi Germany because they’re watching out for a repeat."
- Michael J Totten, "Builders and Defenders"
Patriotism is merely the devotion to a set of ideals, rooted in history, and attached to a specific place. To a certain extent patriotism is conservatism, in the same way that being a Christian involves some level of conservatism. It is a devotion to a set of principles set forth in the past and carried forward to today and, hopefully, tomorrow. Christianity, as I understand it, holds that the perfect world is the next one, not this one. We can do what we can where we can here, but we’re never going to change the fact that we’re fallen, imperfect creatures. And while Christianity may be a complete philosophy of life, it is only at best a partial philosophy of government. Any ideology or outlook that tries to explain what government should do at all times and in all circumstances is un-conservative. Any ideology that sees itself as the answer to any question is un-conservative. Any ideology that promises that if it were fully realized there would be no more problems, no more trade-offs, no more elites, and no more inequality of one kind or another is un-conservative.
The simple fact is that conservatives don’t have a settled dogma. How could they when each faction has a different partial philosophy of life? The beauty of the conservative movement is that we all get along with each other pretty well. The chief reason for this is that we all understand and accept the permanence of contradiction and conflict in life.
- Jonah Goldberg, "What is a Conservative", "National Review"
Jonathan Chait begins by restating his argument that "conservatives believe that smaller government is an end in itself, because it promotes freedom. Liberals, on the other hand, do not see bigger government as an end in itself. Therefore, on economic policy, liberals are much more interested in what works than are conservatives." I will concede that most liberals don't see the hammer (bigger government) as an end, but they do have a well-deserved reputation for bringing a hammer to every problem and saying "Hey, will this work?" Jonathan sees a man willing to pound a broken vase with a mallet and says, "Aha! A pragmatist!"
- Jonah Goldberg, in an 'opinion duel' with Jonathan chait, "National Review"
"Conservatism is the negation of ideology."
- H. Stuart Hughes
Those Conservative values, which we abandon at our peril, are a belief in the maximum freedom for individuals, a recognition that wickedness should be countered by discipline, not therapy, and an acceptance that the price of progress is a patchwork world. A belief in freedom is the beginning of my politics. Buried in my soul, at a level too deep to surrender, is my passionate dislike of coercion, conformity and collectivism. I think the inherent dignity of humans depends on the free exercise of their will, and efforts to curtail, corral or conscript for the sake of a greater good not only stifle the human spirit, but also generally fail to achieve the good proclaimed. To my mind there is a beauty in the quirky, the eccentric, the divergent, which one never sees in uniformity. And underpinning my conviction is the knowledge that progress, from Socrates through Galileo to Václav Havel, has depended on the defiance of consensus, on those who dare to be Daniels.
- Michael Gove, Conservative MP, in "The Spectator"
"My theme is not a creed or a doctrine, but a disposition. To be conservative is to be disposed to think and behave in certain manners; it is to prefer certain kinds of conduct and certain conditions of human circumstances to others; it is to be disposed to make certain kinds of choices... The general characterisitics of this disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They centre upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be. Reflection may bring to light an appropriate gratefulness for what is available, and consequently the acknowledgment of a gift or an inheritance from the past; but there is no mere idolizing of what is past and gone.
...To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances."
- Michael Oakeshott, "On Being Conservative"
REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship.
- Alexander Tyler, "The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic"
The Democratic Party is the party of this form of popular corruption...
(but) Alexander Tyler was overly cynical and unduly pessimistic. Over the last several decades, a party has arisen in American politics that is anti-big government and that, despite tacks and retreats, is committed to an agenda of reducing government's ability to reach into the peoples' pockets in pursuit of its insatiable greed. The modern Republican Party is the creation of Ronald Reagan, who dramatically reduced marginal tax rates in 1982, and Newt Gingrich, whose 1994 "Contract with America" imposed balanced budgets over determined Democratic resistance.
(but) Alexander Tyler was overly cynical and unduly pessimistic. Over the last several decades, a party has arisen in American politics that is anti-big government and that, despite tacks and retreats, is committed to an agenda of reducing government's ability to reach into the peoples' pockets in pursuit of its insatiable greed. The modern Republican Party is the creation of Ronald Reagan, who dramatically reduced marginal tax rates in 1982, and Newt Gingrich, whose 1994 "Contract with America" imposed balanced budgets over determined Democratic resistance.
- David Horowitz
"I like open minds, but I think in Washington right now, we might as well start painting those people red and blue.""Didn't you wonder why you were getting checks for doing absolutely nothing?"
- Dennis Miller
- Dennis Miller
"I figured because the Democrats were in power again."
- The Simpsons
We always hire Democratic Congressmen who promise to give us from the government all the things we want. And we always hire Republican Presidents to make sure we don't have to pay for it.
- TJ Rodgers, Reason.Com
Sometimes I feel like we're living in a Wizard of Oz democracy - if the Republicans only had a heart, the Democrats only had a brain, and an Independent only had some courage.
- Patrick Freeman
Republicans want a big army, so they never have to use it. Democrats want a small army, but want to send it everywhere.- Anon
Republicans are politicians and politicians promise to do things but conservatives are people who — ultimately — explain why many things shouldn’t be done. As Hayek noted, 'conservatives' in America are defenders of liberty because we wish to conserve those institutions that keep us free.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
"You need me Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside, you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals and rule you like a king!"
- Sideshow Bob, "The Simpsons"
Republicans are the sort of peole who wouldn't stop to help you fix a flat tire, for fear of being late to "ugly pants night" at their Country Club. Democrats are the sort of people who would stop and help you fix the tire, but end up blowing up your car.
- Dave Barry
A big political stink erupts over adding drug benefits to Medicare, with Republicans and Democrats battling fiercely to see who can pander the hardest to the crucial senior-citizen voting bloc without letting the other voting blocs figure out how much they will have to pay.
- Dave Barry reviews 2003
"You have the support of all right-thinking Americans."
"That’s not enough, I need a majority."
- Adlai Stevenson, Democratic Presidential candidate, and a supporter, 1952
"If you give me a week, I might think of one."
- President Dwight D Eisenhower, asked about VP Richard Nixon's useful contributions
The only thing the Democrats have to offer is fear itself.
- Dick Armey
Nixon has a fascinating reputation as one of the most right-wing presidents of the 20th century. This impression is largely a product of the fact that few presidents have been more hated by the Left. But simply because the left despises you doesn't mean you're particularly right-wing. If LBJ were alive, you could ask him about this. Or just take a look at poor Joe Lieberman. The truth is, Nixon was the last of the New Deal-era liberal presidents.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
I have only one firm firm political belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat. ...God is an elderly stern fellow. ...God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God's heavenly country club. Santa Claus is another matter. He's always cheerful, and he loves animals. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.
- PJ O'Rourke, "Parliament of Whores"
My Grandmother wouldn't even speak the word Democrat if there were children in the rooom, she'd say Bastards instead.
- PJ O'Rourke, "Republican Party Reptile"
Why are you a Democrat? Are you a Democrat because you're a union member? Then why, after eight years of Bill Clinton, does some Chinese guy in Guangdong province have your job? Are you a Democrat because you're a woman? Then how come you're married to a Republican? Most women are. Face it, you were afraid that a two-Democrat family might cause the kids to grow up to be liberals. Are you a Democrat because you're gay? Come on, do you really think Republicans hate gays? You've been to Republican houses. Do they look like they were decorated by Pat Robertson?
Are you a Democrat because you're part of a minority group? Forget about it. Mexicans, Blacks, Jews, Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans - you guys hate each other. Become Republican and at least you'll be allowed to admit it - after three drinks.
- PJ O'Rourke, "An Open Letter to the Other Party"
Why should it be that two parties with few if any essential differences are ready to speak of each other as if a cultural or even a civil war were only a few speeches away? Obviously, much of this fatuous rhetoric arises from the need to disagree more and more about less and less, to maintain the mills of fundraising in a churning condition, and to keep the dwindling groups of genuine loyalists and activists in a state of excited pseudo-commitment.
- Christopher Hitchens, "Thinking Like an Apparatchik", from "The Atlantic"
"I'll be back. You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever. And when they get in, I'm back on the street! With all of my criminal buddies!"
- Sideshow Bob, "The Simpsons"
"If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican! If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican! If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican!"
- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, speech at 2004 Republican National Convention
According to the Pew Center, the less you like to fly the American flag, the more likely it is you are Democrat. The more you think hard work and personal initiative aren’t the ticket to the good life, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. The more you believe the United Nations is a better steward of international relations, while America is a negative actor on the world stage, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. The more you believe that the government is there to help, the more likely it is you are Democrat. The less seriously you take religion, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. Flip all of these values around and the more likely it is you are a Republican — or that you vote that way. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study is what it says about class and ideology in America. And what it says is that they don’t have that much to do with each other, which runs contrary to generations of leftish stereotypes. Poor Americans who believe in the American ideal of by-your-bootstraps success are likely to vote Republican. And rich Americans who cringe at the idea of hanging a flag from their porch vote Democrat.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
BRITAIN AND IRELAND
We only have to be lucky once. You have to be lucky every time.
- IRA Threat to Margaret Thatcher, after a failed assassination attempt
"I am not a consensus politician — I'm a conviction politician."
- Margaret Thatcher
"You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning."
- Margaret Thatcher
If you are guided by opinion polls, you are not practicing leadership, you are practicing followership.
- Margaret Thatcher
Where there is discord may we bring harmony, where there is error may we bring truth, where there is doubt may we bring faith, and where there is despair may we bring hope.
- Margaret Thatcer quotes St Francis of Assisi on becoming Prime Minister, 1979.
The Labour Party believes in turning workers against owners; we believe in turning workers into owners.
- Margaret Thatcher, 1987.
We should back the workers, not the shirkers.
- Margaret Thatcher
Greens are like tomatoes. They start off Green, but always turn out Red.
- Margaret Thatcher
Unless we change our ways and our direction, our glories as a nation will soon be a footnote in history books, a distant memory of an offshore island, lost in the mists of time, like Camelot, remembered kindly for its noble past.
- Margaret Thatcher, speaking in 1979
We Conservatives changed Britain for the better. And we helped change the world, bringing liberty to millions who’d never known it. Moreover, let’s admit it, we changed our opponents, at least on the surface, and so made them electable. But we didn’t, and we couldn’t, make them believers in liberty and champions of enterprise.
- Margaret Thatcher, Plymouth Speech, 2001
Thatcherism was a bit like an operation for varicose veins: we’re probably better off for having had it, but it wasn’t pleasant, fun or an experience you want to repeat.
- AA Gill, "The Times"
In trying to arrest Britain’s long-term decline, Thatcherism may well have sometimes pushed the political pendulum too far in the opposite direction to its post-war swing. But self-interest is different from selfishness, which is itself different from greed. No politics can succeed if it is not based on self-interest, that most basic of human desires. How self-interest can be directed to promote the public good lies at the very heart of policy.
- Frank Field, "The Spectator"
The Thatcherite argues that being one’s own master — in the sense of owning one’s own home or disposing of one’s own property — provides an incentive to think differently about the world. The Thatcherite, whilst not believing that patterns of ownership absolutely determine people’s moral attitudes, nevertheless stresses that the two are connected, and sees in wider individual ownership a means of promoting moral attitudes Thatcherism seeks to cultivate.
- Shirley Robin Letwin, "The Anatomy of Thatcherism" on 'ownership society'
Margaret Thatcher is the great unsung hero of British feminism, who just by being there, by doing it, showed women what was possible. Her mistake, if you can call it that, was to deny lesser women the chance of making easy excuses for their own shortcomings.
- Eilis O'Hanlon, explaining 'feminist' hostility to Thatcher, "The Irish Independent"
There can be no compromise on fundamental principle.
- Jack Lynch, holding the line during the Arms Trial
If I happened to be dead, it would have been very difficult for anyone else to deal with the allegations against me.
- Dessie O'Malley, on his defence of his conduct in the Arms Trial
I stand by the Republic, and I will not oppose this bill.
- Dessie O'Malley, last speech before expulsion from FF party for 'conduct unbecoming'
Some people take a negative view of my career, that I was always opposed to things. But I am not ashamed of that, there are things that it is necessary and worthy to oppose. Some people's greatest achievements are not the things they did, but the things they stopped from happening.
- Dessie O'Malley
The main victims of socialists are the very people that socialists claim to represent.
- Michael McDowell
You promise you will spend a pound; then, you tell them you are spending it; finally, you tell them you did spend it. That way, you get to spend every pound three times.
- Donogh O'Malley, former Fianna Fail Minister
I am now slowly coming to terms with the fact that what I regard and realistic and radical the left calls right-wing. Being labelled right-wing is a damn sight better than being lumped in the bankrupt alliance of convenience that is the left. I'm proud of it because the right is the new left. It is where the radicals, the defenders of freedom, stand these days. It is where freedom of speech thrives, where debate happens, where progress happens and where truths, however uncomfortable, get an airing. Most importantly, right now, radical realism is against tyranny.
- Brendan O'Connor, "The Irish Independent"
As it happens, I wasn't being particularly right-wing that day.
- Brendan O'Connor, "The Irish Independent"
The people have wearied of mainstream politics, period. They have wearied of the suffocating, stultifying battle to command the favour of a minuscule tranche of the electorate and the concomitant absence of ideology (a dread word, I know) or principle. They have wearied of spin and counterspin replacing, as instruments of political persuasion, conviction and belief. If you doubt this, take a look at the last council and Euro elections or, indeed, the elections in May 2003. The turnout was at its highest where the BNP or UKIP stood a chance of electoral glory. In other words, people flocked to the polling stations in order to vote for, or against, political parties that offered a genuine choice, unpalatable though their platforms may have been. People became, I suppose you could say, energised by the prospect of real debate, a debate shorn of an obsession not to offend or disquiet the 800,000 or so lower-middle-class voters who the pollsters assure us will determine the outcome of the next election.
- Rod Liddle, "Forty Per Cent of Nothing", "The Spectator"
'Apathy' is the word always applied to modern voters, but it seems a bit unfair. It is rather a rational sense that the difference between the likely winners is not overwhelming, and that what you, as an individual, can do about the result is limited.
- Charles Moore, in "The Spectator"
In 1979 the public agreed with the Tories that Labour wasn’t working. The problem, for both Labour and the Conservatives, in 2004, is that the public believe that politics isn’t working. The sense of disconnection that many people feel towards the political establishment is a direct consequence of the lack of control voters now have over the areas for which politicians are supposed to be responsible. In those spheres of life in which politicians have got out of the way, from budget flights to commercial television, control lies in our hands, with a simple click giving instant effect to our various wishes. But in those huge areas in which governments take responsibility on themselves, and increasing sums out of our pockets, such as policing, schools and hospitals, our wishes are treated as just one factor among many which may, just may, be given due consideration. And the closer one gets to the political ground, the more profound is the sense of powerlessness.
- Michael Gove, "The Times"
THE LIBERAL WAY
Wealth is, for most people, the only honest and likely path to liberty. With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religions practiced, educations pursued. But liberals aren't very interested in such real and material freedoms.
They have a more innocent, not to say toddlerlike, idea of freedom. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words and to expose their private parts in art museums. At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child - miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic, and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.
- PJ O'Rourke, "Give War a Chance"
The original intent of the Founding Fathers was to annoy today's liberals.- Seth Lipsky
A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
- G. Gordon Liddy
A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.
There aren't any liberals left in New York. They've all been mugged by now.
- James Q. Wilson (Attributed)
A liberal is one who says that it's all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as she gets paid the minimum wage.
Somehow Liberals have been unable to acquire from birth what Conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth: namely, a healthy skepticism of the powers of government to do good.
- New York Post, 1969.
Tolerance turns into ferocious hatred of those who have stated clearly and most forcefully that there are unchangeable standards founded in the nature of man and the nature of things.
- Leo Strauss
"How can the modern relativist exercise tolerance if he doesn't believe in anything to begin with? It is not hard to exhibit toleration toward a point of view if you have no point of view of your own with which that point of view conflicts."
- William F Buckley, "Up From Liberalism"
New Age Liberalism was in essence nothing more complicated or noble than a running argument with life as it was led by normal Americans.
- R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr, "The Liberal Crackup"
Tyrrellism : the technique of blackening an opponent's reputation by quoting him. Viewed as vulgar.
- R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr, "The Liberal Crackup"
THE LIBERTARIAN WAYLiberals want the government to be your Mommy. Conservatives want government to be your Daddy. Libertarians want it to treat you like an adult.
- Andre Marrou
There may be two libertarians somewhere who agree with each other on everything, but I am not one of them.
- David Friedman, "The Machinery of Freedom"
The difference between libertarianism and socialism is that libertarians will tolerate the existence of a socialist community, but socialists can't tolerate a libertarian community.
- David D. Boaz
Law is extremely important in a libertarian society. You don't have many laws in a libertarian society, but those laws that you do have, you take very seriously.
- Charles Murray
This country is a one-party country. Half of it is called Republican and half is called Democrat. It doesn't make any difference. All the really good ideas belong to the Libertarians.
- Hugh Downs, 1997.
POLITICKING"All political careers end in failure."
- Enoch Powell
"The people have spoken, the bastards."
- Concession speech by California State Senate candidate Dick Tuck
Great armies, faced with the confusion of battle, were told to "march to the sound of guns." In contrast, today's political armies often "steer to the sound of applause. That is, when confronted with Matthew Arnold's "darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night," they turn to polls for guidance.
- Michael Gove, "The London Times"
"I must follow them for I am their leader."
- Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, allegedly spoken whilst observing a passing mob in 1848
It's in the nature of all politicians to want to be liked by as many people as possible. What distinguishes a statesman from the common run, however, is what he is willing to be disliked for.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
"A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation."
- James Freeman Clarke
"Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship."
- James Russell Lowell
I heard one poll statistic cited in so many news stories that I started to wonder if the number of journalists quoting the poll was beginning to exceed the number of people actually surveyed.
- Alan Rivlin, Peter D. Hart Research Associates.
If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, the price of participatory democracy is constant tedium.
- Minette Marrin, "The London Times"
"The average citizen expends less disciplined effort on mastering a political problem than he expends on a game of bridge."
- Joseph Schumpeter writing in 1950
A citizen who cannot be bothered to find out the facts about the issues, not just media spin or party propaganda, is doing a disservice to this country by voting — especially when electing leaders making life-and-death decisions whose consequences will affect this generation and generations to come.
- Thomas Sowell
When television first came on in the early ’50s during the Eisenhower campaign, I said, "Now we can look the creature in the face while he’s lying to us, and we’re going to be able to tell." And I was wrong as I could be. The man is packaged on television for you to look at, and you can be fooled very badly. The result is, in an election, I no longer vote for the man, I vote the party.
- Shelby Foote
"The aim of oratory is not truth but persuasion."
- Thomas B. Macauley
"The most obvious strategy for an Opposition is to tell the public that it would do things differently. Sometimes, that suffices to get the party elected. Once it is in government, it has to consider not only whether the policies on which it has won office are practical, but even whether the party itself really believes in them."
- Michael Portillo, former Conservative Minister, "The London Times".
"The key feature of this election campaign has been a clever use of what professionals call 'dog whistle politics'. A dog whistle is pitched so high that dogs hear it but humans do not. Dog whistle politics involves pitching a message to a particular group of voters that other voters do not hear. John Howard wanted One Nation voters back. He also saw a chance to attract some traditional 'blue-collar' Labor voters with similar concerns. The Tampa episode provided him with the dog whistle he needed."
- Laurie Oakes, commentating on the 2001 Australian election in "The Bulletin"
"I don’t ask what people’s politics are. I ask what their principles are."
- Chistopher Hitchens
"One mark of a self-confident political mind is its willingness to take opposing arguments seriously."
- Andrew Sullivan
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.
- John F. Kennedy
Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power is derived by a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!
- Monty Python point out the flaws of King Arthur
The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.
- Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Do not fear your enemies. The worst they can do is kill you. Do not fear friends. At worst, they may betray you. Fear those who do not care; they neither kill nor betray, but betrayal and murder exists because of their silent consent.
- Bruno Jasienski
The politician's prayer is: 'May my words be ever soft and low, for I may have to eat them'.- Lord Norman Lamont, former Conservative Chancellor
Any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.
- Dwight Morrow
For forms of government let fools contest; Whate'er is best administer'd is best. For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
- Alexander Pope, "Essay On Man"
Dogma has a terrible reputation these days, but it is actually vital to a free society because dogma establishes the boundaries of legitimate debate and action. Most people can't offer a rigorous defense of free speech or private property; they just know these are important things for a free society. Well, that's dogma. Indeed, dogma means "seems good."Those who say they dislike dogma, or 'certainty', tend to be liars, hypocrites, or simply wrong. What they really dislike is the dogma of those they disagree with. A society that was certain, certain beyond all certainty, that putting its citizens in death camps was wrong, would never put people in death camps. Such things are only possible when you're open to new ideas.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
- Jonah Goldberg, "An open mind is a dangerous thing"
At the end of the day, arguments must stand on their own merits, regardless of who delivers them. There are war heroes who oppose the Iraq war, and there are war heroes who supported it. John Keegan is the greatest living military historian, and he never saw a day of battle. George McGovern flew 35 combat missions in World War II. I'll take Keegan's guidance on military matters over McGovern's any day.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
William Jennings Bryan was a champion of free silver, he unapologetically admitted that he didn’t know much about economics. “The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver,” he proclaimed. “I will look up the arguments later". The American constitutional order, on the other hand, recognizes democracy as a qualified good, necessarily tempered by republican and constitutional safeguards. As the heirs to classical liberalism, American conservatives in particular have long emphasized the importance of individual rights even when they come at the expense of what “the people” want. Most populist movements have contempt for mechanisms which dilute or delay people power.
- Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"
If I told you that Ned Kelly died because a platform gave way beneath him, it would be factually true, but you would wrongly conclude that it was an accident. If I added that he had a rope around his neck at the time, you would correctly conclude that he had been hanged. Facts can be fitted to almost any agenda. For anything near the truth we not only need all the facts, but we need the facts fitted into their proper place. And that means a narrator without an agenda. No such neutered political animal exists.
- Eoghan Harris, in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"
It is only about things that do not interest one that one can give a really unbiased opinion; and this is no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is always valueless.
- Oscar Wilde
Any partial step towards the goal is inherently morally imperfect, and yet morality cannot be approximated without it.
- Henry Kissinger
In the end, every political dream must collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.
- Matthew d'Ancona, "The Telegraph"
I used to look down on the world for being corrupt, but now I adore it for the utter magnificence of that corruption.
- Richard J. Needham
The ways of God and government and girls are all mysterious, and it is not given to mortal man to understand them.
- Robert A. Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love"
So what difference is there between our voters and wielders of franchise in the past? Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage.
- Robert A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers"
Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
- Frank Herbert, "Children Of Dune"
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
About forty percent of the people vote Democrat. About forty percent vote Republican. Of those eighty percent, most wouldn't change their votes if Adolf Hitler was running against Abe Lincoln—or against FDR...That leaves twenty percent of the people who swing back one way or another...the true independents...That twenty percent controls the destiny of the country.
In political discussion heat is in inverse proportion to knowledge.x
"What do you want to be a sailor for? There are greater storms in politics than you will ever find at sea. Piracy, broadsides, blood on the decks. You will find them all in politics."- David Lloyd George
To be a Nazi is not a political standpoint, and thus tolerable. It is a moral one, and insupportable.
- David Bennun
It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own.
- Harry S. Truman
Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
- John Kenneth Galbraith
The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters.
- Jean-Paul Kauffmann
All government, indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.
- Edmund Burke
Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but unlike charity, it should end there.
- Clare Boothe Luce
A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
- Dwight D.Eisenhower
Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
- Garak, "Second Skin", Star Trek DS9
This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.
- Winston Churchill
The central problem of politics: Do you paint simplistic pictures that make people act (and leave them with too simplistic a view of the world) or do you paint baffingly shaded and contingent scenes that leave people paralysed by indecision?
- Brian Eno
"There are only two kinds of politician in modern fiction. The out-and-out rogue, à la Francis Urquhart, or the politician as fathead, as in Yes, Minister. If only there were a Trollope or a CP Snow to catch us as we actually are, in all our imperfections.""Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation."
- Andy McSmith, "Innocent In The House"
- Andy McSmith, "Innocent In The House"
- Henry Kissinger
Nowadays there is a school of cartoons that depicts ordinary politicians who have come to power in an open, democratic tradition as weird, putrefying monsters. They look as though they have fallen out of ridiculous horror films. All blood-flecked, claws and fangs. It is a topsy-turvy world in which the freer the society, the more grotesquely its politicians are caricatured.
- Nicholas Garland, "Great Political Cartoons", "The Telegraph"
"Politicians aren't normal people and they've never lived normal lives - but the media expect them to exemplify normality defined as heterosexual monogamy."
- John Dugdale, "The Times", reviewing Edwina Curries' "This Honourable House"
"Iain Duncan Smith is right. There is a plot against the Tory leader. But that’s about as far as Duncan Smith’s credibility in the matter goes, for there is always a plot against the Tory leader. It’s the natural state of affairs. The only surprising thing is that he should have found this to be anything out of the ordinary."
- Michael Dobbs
"When you are in opposition, if you're trying to dislodge a government that has presided in a time of economic boom, it's not enough to just be there. You have to have something to say. Even if it's empty rhetoric. The traditional thing to do when in opposition is to make a feint to the left, to throw some radical shapes. It always works. However, that's out of fashion today. Any party trying a left-wing pose would be stomped on by the media gurus who know everything; the new liberalism that cannot tolerate disagreement with its own ideology."
- Gene Kerrigan, "The Irish Independent"
Somehow, the New York Times and the Washington Post find the “right-wing” to be far more interesting and noteworthy than “left-wing.” Since 1996, the Washington Post has used this loaded term more than twice as frequently as “left-wing.” References to “right-wing” increased in even-numbered election years when the political stakes were higher – 73.2% of the “-wing” references compared to 67.5% in non-election years. This disparity was even more palpable at the New York Times, where 80.2% of the left-right mentions on the national news pages since 1996 have spotlighted the right. The research also found that the more loaded and derogatory the phrase, the more likely it was to be associated with the political right. The term “conservative” outpolled “liberal” by 66-34% in New York Times news page mentions, while the aforementioned “right-wing” clocked in at 80% in a similar measure. However, the term “right-wing extremist” was used at least six times as frequently than “left-wing extremist” (at 87.4% since ’96 in the Times).
- Patrick Ruffini, "Liberal Bias In The Media"
Being so much a selection of facts from an infinitely complex reality, [news] can never achieve objectivity or impartiality, and hence any accusation of bias can only be one partisanship attacking another.
- Kenneth Minogue, "The Silencing of Society"
You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to.
- Humbert Wolfe, "The British Journalist"