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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



^









y



THE

UNFINISHED
PROGRAMME OF
DEMOCRACY



BOOKS BY THE SAME


AUTHOR


The Renascence of Faith


The Highroad to Christ


Christ and Ourselves


Personality and Nationality


The Church in the Common-


wealth (New Commonwealth


Books)


The Red Cap on the Cross



THE UNFINISHED PRO-
GRAMME OF DEMOCRACY



BY

RICHARD ROBERTS




NEW YORK:
B, W. HUEBSCH

Mcmxx



To "Mine Own,"

N., P,, D., AND G.



CONTENTS msj



CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY 9

II. THE TESTS OF DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS 39 {•

III. THE PECUNIARY STANDARD 64

IV. THE REDEMPTION OF WORK 93
V. THE ACHIEVEMENT OF LIBERTY - - I31

VI. THE PRACTICE OF FELLOWSHIP - - 160

VII. THE ORGANISATION OF GOVERNMENT - 210

VIII. A DEMOCRATISED WORLD - - 25 1

IX. EDUCATION INTO DEMOCRACY - -295



63



PREFACE

'HPHESE pages embody the attempt of a plain
man to thread a way through the social con-
fusion of our time. The book sets out with a
profound faith in the validity of the democratic
principle ; and its object is to trace the path along
which the logic of this principle appears to lead.
No claim is made to expert knowledge of economics
or political science ; but the writer has endeavoured
to acquaint himself with the recent literature of
the sub j eel and to understand the main currents
of prevailing opinion and feeling.

Events are moving so rapidly at the
present time that certain passages became
impertinent before the book was finished. It is
probable that before it finally leaves the writer's
hands, other passages may suffer in the same way.
But the main drift of the argument remains
unaffected.

No attempt has been made in the body of the
book to discuss the methods by which the social
and economic changes which are impending should
be carried through. It has been assumed that in
the English-speaking world, the traditional respect
for constitutional processes would avail to prevent
resort to what has come to be known as M direct
action." It is now clear that this assumption was
ill-founded and that there is a considerable



6. The Unfinished Programme of Democracy
movement of opinion toward industrial or " direct "
action. The writer would venture to Slate his
conviction that recourse to this method would be
unspeakably disastrous and would carry with it
consequences which its present advocates cannot
foresee. It will be no easy task to restore the normal
constitutional and economic processes when once
they have been scrapped in the pursuit of some
immediate object ; and it is as sure as anything
can very well be that the first step in direct action
will have to be followed by others and must end
in a confusion out of which the forty years it took
to deliver Israel out of Egypt would be all too
short to extricate us.

At the same time it should in fairness be acknow-
ledged that if organised labour decides to use this
dubious weapon, it will be under great provocation.
The tardiness of governments to fulfil their promises,
their too obvious tenderness toward the vested
interests, the blind and obstinate bourbonism of
the privileged classes over againSt the new prole-
tarian awakening — all these things combine to
create a situation which labour may feel intolerable
and may resolve to end by a summary process. It
is indeed only the most resolute and speedy
mobilisation of all the resources of practical good-
will and reasonableness that can avert a great
catastrophe. Organised labour has proved itself



Preface 7

to be neither vindictive nor unreasonable when it
has been met with fair and square dealing ; and
if we are plunged into the chaos of a general strike
or perhaps worse, the larger responsibility will
rest with those who, possessed of power and
privilege, either could or would not see that the
clock had moved onward a great space — and,
during the years of war, with great rapidity —
and so were unwilling or unready to adapt them-
selves to the new circumstances.

* * *

One subject of fundamental importance is
touched upon but incidentally in these pages —
namely, the land. What is said herein concerning
property in general applies with even more point
to land ; and the plea which is made for the
standardisation of the price of staple commodities
clearly leads to the public ownership of land,
which is indeed on every ground the only reasonable
solution of the land question. But adequate
discussion of the matter would carry the argument
of the book too far afield. In these pages,
attention is primarily directed to the situation

which has been created by modern industrialism.

* * *

The obligations of the writer to friends and
writers are legion ; it would be hopeless to
enumerate them. Some items of this indebtedness



8 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

may be inferred from the footnotes. The writer
in particular regrets that Mr. Laski's Authority
in the Modern State did not fall into his hands
sooner ; but he is glad to find himself in sub-
stantial agreement with the argument and con-
clusions of that notable work.

Ty'n-y-coed,

Capel Curig,

North Wales,
July 15th, 1919.



Chapter I
THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY

" What is democracy ? Sometimes, it is the name for a form
of government by which the ultimate control of the machinery
of government is committed to a numerical majority of the
community. Sometimes, and incorrectly, it is used to denote
the numerical majority itself, the poor or the multitude existing
in a state. Sometimes, and still more loosely, it is the name for
a policy, directed exclusively or mainly to the advantage of
the labouring class. Finally, in its broadest and deepest, most
comprehensive and most interesting sense, democracy is the
name for a certain general condition of society, having historic
origins, springing from circumstances and the nature of things,
not only involving the political doctrine of popular sovereignty
but representing a cognate group of corresponding tendencies
over the whole field of moral, social and even spiritual life
within the democratic community." — Lord Morley.

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

" To be a democrat is not to decide on a certain form of human
association, it is to learn how to live with other men." — Mary P.

FOLLETT.

THE inherent logic of the democratic idea
calls for a society which will provide for
all its members those conditions of equal
opportunity that are within human control. It
denies all forms of special and exclusive privilege,
and affirms the sovereignty of the common man.
In practice, however, democracy has gone no
further than the achievement of a form of govern-
ment ; and in popular discussion the word has
usually a connotation exclusively political. It is
even yet but slowly becoming clear that a demo-
cratic form of government is no more than the bare
framework of a democratic society ; and democracy



io The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

as we know it is justly open to the criticism that
it has not seriously taken in hand the task of clothing
the political skeleton with a body of living social
flesh.

Modern democracy is, of course, historically
very young ; and it may be reasonably maintained
that it is premature to speak of its failure to realise
its full promise. Nevertheless, it is of some
consequence that already that part of the democratic
programme which has been achieved and put to
the proof is being exposed to heavy fire of des-
tructive criticism. During the past few years, we
have become familiar with the idea of a world
made safe for democracy ; and in the minds of
many people democracy (which in this connection
means representative popular government) stands
as a sort of ultimate good which it is impious to
challenge or to criticise. Yet this democracy,
for which the world has been presumably made
safe at so great and sorrowful a price, is by some
roundly declared to be radically unsafe for the
world and a hindrance to social progress. The
syndicalists, for instance, believe the democratic
state to be no more than the citadel of bourgeois
and plutocratic privilege, and have decreed its
destruction, proposing to substitute for it a modified
anarchism. Others, like Paul Bourget and
Brunetiere, so far from finding it the sanctuary
of the privileged, fear it as a source of anarchy and
social confusion, and invite us to retrace our steps
to happier days when authority being less diffused



The Crisis of Democracy n

was more speedily and effectually exercised.
Neither the syndicalist nor the authoritarian
criticism is wholly baseless ; yet it is true that in.
neither case does it arise from an inherent defect
in the democratic principle. The one arises from
the circumstance that political democracy still lacks
its logical economic corollary ; the other from the
fact that democracy is not sustained by its proper
ethical coefficient.

These, however, are not the only grounds for
the increasing scepticism of the validity of demo-
cratic institutions. The democratic state, like
its predecessors, has proved itself to be voracious of
authority ; and in the exercise of its presumed
omnicompetency it has increasingly occupied itself
with matters, which — both in respect of extent and
content — it is incapable of handling adequately.
It has become palpably impossible to submit all
the concerns of government to parliamentary
discussion ; and in consequence there has been a
tendency on the one hand to invest administrative
departments with virtual legislative power, and on
the other to convert representative assemblies into
mere instruments for registering the decisions of
the executive government. The recent proposal
for the establishment of a permanent statutory
National Industrial Council in England has been
evoked by the palpable inability of Parliament
to deal effectually with the problems of industrial
production. Even before the War, it was becoming
plain that the congestion of parliamentary business



12 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

in England called for some drastic remedy if
parliament was to be saved from futility and
discredit. But here again, the failure has been
due to no inherent defect in the democratic principle
but rather to the fact that the unitary and
absolutist doctrine and practice of the state has
hindered the proper development of democracy.

In a word, the trouble with democracy is that
there is not enough of it. The remedy for the ills
of democracy is more democracy. Politically, it is
still incomplete ; its economic applications have yet
to be made ; and while we do lip service to its
ethical presuppositions, they are far from being a
rule of life. Yet lacking these things, democracy is
condemned to arrest, and through arrest to decay.

Meantime the dynastic principle has fallen —
has indeed fallen under circumstances which
make its revival seem exceedingly remote. Never-
theless, if democracy suffers arrest at this point
in its history, if the peoples fail to work out its
logic, society may lapse into an anarchy out of
which dynasticism or something like it may once
more emerge. It is no hyperbole to speak of the
crisis of democracy ; and it is only to be saved as
the democratic peoples set themselves earnestly
to the business of strengthening its stakes and
lengthening its cords.



Few British people of liberal mind are able to
look back upon that period of their history which



The Crisis of Democracy 13

gathers around the Boer War without a certain
humiliation* Professor L. T. Hobhouse ascribes
the popular defection of the British people from
the democratic principle and temper during that
time to four causes : (a) the decay of profound and
vivid religious belief ; (6) the diffusion of a stream
of German idealism " which has swelled the
current of retrogression from the plain rational-
istic way of looking at life and its problems/' and
which has Simulated the growth of the doctrine of
the absolute state and its imperialistic corollaries ;
(c) the career of Prince Bismarck, and (d) M by
far the most potent intellectual support of the
reaction . ♦ . the belief that physical science
has given its verdict (for it came to this) in favour of
violence against social justice. " This provides us
with an instance (so plain that another were super-
fluous) of the inability of an unfulfilled democratic
order to resist alien and hostile influences that may
be " in the air/' and of its consequent perversion
to ends which belie its own first principles. It is
the permanent danger of democracy when it is
not sustained and inspired by a generous moral
impulse to be proiftituted to undemocratic ends.
" It is at best " (to quote Mr. Hobhouse again)
"an instrument with which men who hold by
the ideal of social justice and human progress
can work ; but when these ideals grow cold, it
may, like other instruments, be turned to base
uses." Lord Morley, with a similar sensitiveness
to the perils of democracy asks whether we mean



14 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

by it " a doctrine or a force ; constitutional parch-
ment or a glorious evangel ; perfected machinery
for the wire-puller, the party-tactician, the spoils-
man and the boss, or the high and stern ideals
of a Mazzini or a Tolstoi." It may, indeed, be
reasonably held that worse has befallen it than
Lord Morley's fears. We have evidence how
frequently democracy has in practice become the
tool of strong and unscrupulous men and gangs of
such men seeking selfish and corrupt ends ; and
how, for Lincoln's famous formula, we have had
government of the people by a well-to-do oligarchy
in the interest of the privileged classes.

Nor have we any guarantee against this kind of
degradation and degeneracy except in the per-
petual reaffirmation and revitalising of the spiritual
and moral grounds of democracy. It may indeed
be possible to create political safeguards against
the exploitation of the people and their govern-
ment in the interest of individuals and classes ;
but there is no such safeguard against democracy,
as it were, exploiting itself for undemocratic ends
or sinking into undemocratic practices except in
its continued education in the purposes for which
it exists, in its extension into every region of life,
and in its repeated solemn submission of itself
to its principles and ideals. Until democracy
becomes and is felt to be a personal and collective
vocation, it is forever liable to corruption and
apostacy. Democracy can only live and thrive
while men remain sincerely and consciously



The Crisis of Democracy 15

democratic. Liberty and Equality are doubtful
and precarious boons, and may — as they often
have — become positive dangers without Fraternity.
Democracy without its appropriate moral coefficient
must be a vain and short-lived thing. So long as,
while professing to give a fair field to every man,
it does no more than provide an open field for the
strong man, it will inevitably lead to the exploita-
tion of the multitude and to the creation of new
forms of privilege ; and that in the main has been
its recent history.

Not less than by the loss or the absence of moral
impulse, is democracy endangered by ignorance or
forgetfulness of what it exists for. Two words are
usually taken to describe the characteristics of
democracy, liberty and equality ; and the atmos-
phere of a particular democracy depends upon
whether it lays the larger emphasis on one or on
the other of these. In England, for instance, the
type is libertarian. The Briton has cared less for
political equality than for what he calls freedom,
the right of self-determination, the opportunity to
live out his own life in his own way. He has been
less doctrinaire than his French neighbours and
has not been much troubled by the logical anomaly
of an aristocracy so long as the aristocracy left him
reasonable elbow-room. When the aristocracy
was found to be obstructive, its pretensions were
suitably abridged. In general, the idea of formal
equality has played a less important part in England
than it has in France or the United States.



1 6 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

Democracy in the two latter countries is more
specifically egalitarian. This difference is, how-
ever, mainly a difference of stress upon two
aspects of the same thing, the egalitarian emphasis
having to do with the formal status of the citizen,
the libertarian with the personal independence
which should belong to the status.

Yet the inadequate co-ordination of the two
ideas may, and indeed does, lead to certain unhappy
consequences. In Great Britain, an insufficient
attention to equality has led to a too prolonged
survival of the idea of a " governing class " ; and
social prestige still possesses an inordinate influence
upon the distribution of political power. In
France, on the other hand, an insufficient stress
on liberty has tended to make Frenchmen etatisles.
According to Emile Faguet, they are accustomed
to submit to despotism and are eager in turn to
practise it. They are liberals only when they are
in a minority. In the United States, egalitarianism
produces a kind of compulsory uniformitarianism.
It is significant that, while in a state of war all
nations are intolerant of dissent and free discussion,
in the United States where the doctrine of political
equality has reached its completest expression,
dissent from the common view has been much
more harshly treated than in any other belligerent
country. The cardinal sin appears to be that of
breaking the ranks. Liberty, according to Lord
Acton, is " the assurance that every man shall be
protected in doing what he believes to be his duty



The Crisis of Democracy 17

against the influence of authority and majorities,
custom, and opinion ; " and if that be true, it
does not necessarily follow that democracy is
the home of liberty. An egalitarian democracy
may indeed become the tomb of liberty. " Democ-
racy," says the same learned authority, " no less
than monarchy or aristocracy sacrifices everything
to maintain itself, and strives with an energy and a
plausibility that kings and nobles cannot attain
to override representation, to annul all the forces
of resistance and deviation, and to secure by
plebiscite, referendum, or caucus, free play for
the will of the majority. The true democratic
principle that none shall have power over the people
is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain
or to evade its power ; the true democratic
principle that the people shall not be made to do
what it does not like, is taken to mean that it shall
not be required to tolerate what it does not like.
The true democratic principle that every man's
free-will shall be as unfettered as possible is taken
to mean that the free will of the sovereign people
shall be fettered in nothing. . . Democracy
claims to be not only supreme, without authority
above, but absolute, without independence below,
to be its own master and not a trustee. The old
sovereigns of the world are exchanged for a new
one, who may be flattered and deceived but whom
it is impossible to corrupt or to resist ; and to
whom must be rendered the things that are
Caesar's, and also the things that are God's."



1 8 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy

Democracy appeared in order to deliver the indi-
vidual from a dehumanising subjection ; but
it may become a dehumanising tyranny itself. A
sovereign people may become as harsh and merci-
less as a sovereign lord.

The democratic idea is the corollary of the
doctrine of the equal intrinsic worth of every
individual soul. The modern democratic move-
ment has started from a recognition of this
principle ; and the principle is meaningless unless
it implies the prescriptive right of the individual
to self-determination. Lord Acton's definition
of liberty is inadequate because he approaches it
from the standpoint of one who was in a permanent
religious minority in his own country, and in a
permanent intellectual minority in his church.
Liberty is surely the assurance that a man may have
full opportunity to live out his own life and to
grow to the full stature of his manhood, to be true
to himself through everything. This requires the
recognition of real personal independence and a
definite minimum of obligatory uniformity. In
another connection, Acton insists that " liberty is
not a means to a higher political end ; it is itself
the highest political end. It is not for the sake
of a good public administration that it is required,
but for security in the pursuit of the highest
objects of civil society and of private life." It is
so frequently assumed that the function of govern-
ment is the establishment and preservation of
order that it is well to remember that it is a



The Crisis of Democracy 19

comparatively easy thing to secure some kind of
order. The real difficulty is to establish and to
secure liberty. We are far too ready to assume that
liberty is capable of looking after itself and that
the fragile plant which needs our solicitude is
social order. But liberty stands in jeopardy every
hour, not less in a democracy than in an autocracy.
And in so far as a democracy, which was born of
the craving for liberty fails to preserve and to
extend liberty, it proves itself bankrupt.

And just as democracy is only made safe from
corruption and subordination to undemocratic ends
by repeated solemn affirmation of its moral and
spiritual foundations, so it is only made safe from
declining into absolutism and tyranny by constant
return upon its metaphysical centre — the sanctity
of the individual. In the modern world, the
multitude is not in danger ; our chief pre-
occupation must be to save the individual from
being swamped by the multitude. We are apt
not to see the trees for the wood ; we must be for
ever reminding ourselves that the wood is made
up of the trees. Democracy that tends to authority
and uniformity is foreordained to decay ; the
democracy of life is one of freedom and infinite
variety. Democracy has yet to solve the problem
of setting the individual free without opening
the door to individualism and anarchy.



20 The Unfinished Programme of Democracy
II

It may be with some reason pleaded that the
defects of modern democracy spring from the
conditions under which it emerged as a historical
fact. It has appeared with an aspect altogether
too negative, as though the abolition of monarchy
or aristocracy or any form of privilege were
sufficient to bring it to birth. The democratic
principle has implications which are not exhausted
with the destruction of autocracy or aristocracy or
even with the formal affirmation of popular
sovereignty and the institution of a universal and
equal franchise. Historically, democracy is the
product, direct or indirect, of popular risings
against political privilege whether vested in a person
or in a class. Probably we should have to seek a
still anterior cause in the power of economic
exploitation which political power confers upon
him who holds it. The mainspring of revolution
is the sense of disinheritance rendered intolerable
by injustice and exploitation and the consequent
demand of the disinherited class for its appointed
share in the common human inheritance of light
and life. But the tragedy of revolution (despite
the conventional historical judgment) is that it
has never gone far enough. The records of
revolution are filled chiefly with its negative and
destructive performances because its impulse, not
having been sustained by an adequate social vision,
ran out before it completed its work or before it



The Crisis of Democracy 21

could swing on to the business of construction. It
was too readily assumed that the one thing needful
was to break down the one palpable disabling
barrier of privilege. That done, the rest would
follow ; the golden age would at once materialise.
But it has never done so. It was not perceived
that the logic of revolution required and
pointed to a sequel of positive and creative social
action.

This was essentially Lamennais' plea in 1831.
A revolution, he told his fellow countrymen,
is only the beginning of things. You have
cleared the ground ; upon that cleared ground,
you have to raise the fabric of a living society.
France did, indeed, already provide the instance
of the danger of an uncompleted revolution. The


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