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From the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew online

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is no longer the wary or daring leader of an army,
but a commonplace person who couldn't lead even
a brass band into action; that the average "Lord"
is not a man whose worth inspires his fellow-men
with respect, but that he is sometimes a paltry
blackguard, most often a painfully-ordinary person,
in almost all cases in no respect lordly; that the
frequent " Knight " is not, in any sense of the word,
knightly, and would inspire no dame in distress
with an atom of confidence (unless the sort of, dame
who wishes a kind gentleman to lend her 10, re-
payable in weekly instalments).

Titles were justifiable enough, perhaps indeed
necessaiy, in uncivilised times. The first savage,
who stuck a red feather in his hair as a sign by
which all might know that his club had proved
mighty in the fight, was fulfilling a great natural
law guarding the evolution of the species. For by
that assumption of a " title " he let it be known that
he was a man of prowess, and entitled to the best

46



ON TITLES.

cut off the mammoth, and thus saved the lives of
many who would otherwise have rashly disputed his
claim.

With the slow development of human thought
through the various stages of Feudalism, titles kept
some of their value. But they are now absurd ana-
chronisms. They mean nothing. They are bestowed
chiefly on the least worthy. They are despised by
the most worthy. It is true that an occasional
good man accepts, or even seeks, a title. When
that is so, it is merely a proof that he is less good
than he might be that there is a flaw in his char-
acter somewhere. He may be a distinguished
statesman, writer, lawyer, organiser of industry,
but if he seeks a title it is proof that he at least is
either inordinately vain or cowardly.

A strong and sensible man is content to let his
work speak for him. If his work is good, it will
give him a title to greatness. Sometimes, how-
ever, a man does good work, but is fearful that it
will not be appreciated, feels that there is a danger
of his not being accepted at his true worth, and so
such a one takes a certificate from an entirely in-
competent judge to tell the world that he really is
distinguished. Sometimes, again, with real great-
ness a man will mix some childish weakness, some
atavistic trait of the cave man (one of the most
famous living scientists amuses his leisure by
believing in spooks), and this will lead him to value

47



"FROM THE OLD DOG"



a title out of mere infantile delight in its sound and
the gaudy trappings which go with it. But these
instances are rare. Restricting the scope of inquiry
to the British race, it may be set down as the rule
that the really distinguished men do not accept
titles, that they are content to let their work speak
for them, and find that it does so speak. Titles,
then, resolve themselves into the means for distin-
guishing the men who are not great, but who wish
to appear so.

What an offence against common-sense and
human reason the whole title business represents
is shown by nothing more clearly than the attrac-
tion which a title, no matter how acquired, has for
the weakling*, the obviously contemptible people
of the earth. The small suburban mayor who revels
in being called " His Worship," and who looks for-
ward to no greater earthly reward than that some
royal personage shall come to his corporation hall
one day, for some purpose or other, and give him
a real permanent title; the American plantation nig-
ger who has his brat christened in baptism as
"Major" or "Lord" so that it can go through life
with a quite legitimate claim to a name pretending
to denote rank; the rabbit-brained clerk or
mechanic who forms a lodge of the Gladsome Elks
order, and makes it a rule that every member is to
be " Sir " So-and-So, and every member's wife
"Lady" Such-and-Such, and every member's kid

48



ON TITLES.



"The Honorable" This-or-That. Such are the
people to whom titles have been legitimately and
truly bequeathed by the advance of civilisation
the very inferior persons of the community, who can
get a feeling of escape from their ov/n sense of in-
feriority by raiding the alphabet and stealing for
themselves sonorous designations. They may be
left to play with their glass beads, deserving no
reproach, but pity. But it is truly wonderful that
some men of intelligence, men who, by their own
efforts, are capable of making a small mark on the
shores of time, should abase themselves to the level
of the suburban Bumble, the garish nigger, and the
mentally-weak cheesemonger.

No, my boy, if ever it comes to you to choose,
don't take a title. Also, don't refuse one. I mean
don't invite one to be offered so that you may refuse
it. That's caddish.

Your affectionate old uncle.



49



CONCERNING ECONOMY.



VII.
CONCERNING ECONOMY.

SYDNEY, 1 11 -.

My Dear Jack : So many evils, direct and indirect,
arise from the prodigal expenditure of public money
that economical administration may be set up as
the cardinal virtue of government. But there are
two sorts of economy. Economy may be practised
in regard to sense as well as money. It is no
panacea for all evils; often it is a very distinct evil
in itself. If you employ in your household a ser-
vant, who wastes food and fuel, damages furniture
and ruins clothing, because that servant is a cheap
one, and an efficient substitute would demand higher
wages, that is the sort of economy which will lead
you to the Bankruptcy Court. Yet such is the
general poverty of the political intelligence in Aus-
tralia that species of " saving " is usually repre-
sented as the only possible alternative to reckless
prodigality. When there is not a party in power
which believes in "sploshing" the money about
recklessly, the reins are usually taken over by a
"reform and retrenchment" cabal, whose idea of
saving is to allow public works to be ruined by
neglect of necessary up-keep expenditure, and the
51



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

efficiency and morale of the public service to be
destroyed by savage sweating. There would be
some difficulty in deciding which is, on the whole,
the more disastrous policy, but there is no difficulty
at all in determining that an alternation of both is
responsible for altogether bad results.

Taking it on the average, Australian political his-
tory works out to this. An administration, or a
series of administrations, courts popularity by fling-
ing money about recklessly borrowed money as
far as possible, for there is the obvious difficulty
in the way of having a riotous champagne-and-
oysters time out of revenue, that the people have to
pay cash for the spree. But when the drinks, and
"the development of our magnificent natural re-
sources," can be put on the slate, things run merrily
for a while. In time funds run out. The slate is,
for the time being, full, and the spree must end,
because borrowing is restricted. Then comes the
turn of an "economy " party, and it usually shows
a greater capacity for economising sense than for
economising money. One method of "saving" is
to simply neglect services. It costs, say,
1, 000,000 a year to keep the roads and bridges
and railways in proper order; half of that is not
spent, and the works drift rapidly along the road
to ruin. To secure an efficient and enthusiastic-
for-its-work public service calls for an expenditure
ef 2,000,000. Of that 500,000 is "saved" by

52



CONCERNING ECONOMY.

salary reductions and wage robberies, and the Civil
Service is thus deprived of all its enthusiasm for
work, and honeycombed with dissatisfaction and a
rankling sense of wrong, and it loses its best and
most enterprising members. Inevitably this
" economy " does not mend matters. The mistaken
policy soon shows its results in a falling revenue,
in a loss of service efficiency, and in an increase of
peculation and carelessness. Then, as like as not,
the people swing back to the old order of things,
and, with a fresh slate, enter upon a fresh career
of extravagance, and waste.

Very rarely -is there in Australian public affairs
anything approaching to a genuine economical ad-
ministration to that sort of reform which a capable
business man would enforce if he came into posses-
sion of a vast estate, capable of almost indefinite
development. A man put in charge of a great and
undoubtedly rich gold-mine the profitable working
of which was being made impossible by wasteful
and unnecessary undertakings, by failure to exploit
profitable veins, by a foolish system of finance, and
by general leakages in all directions and who re-
formed matters by reducing wages 10 per cent, all
round, and inflicting a greater reduction on the
scientific staff; by abolishing the expenditure on
lubricants, and by buying cheaper, and therefore
inferior, chemicals, and putting a low-wage pick-
and-shovel man in charge of costly engines, would

53



"FROM THE OLD DOG."

be dismissed with contempt. The most foolish
member of that singularly foolish class which in-
vests its money in gold-mines would know that that
was not the way to dividends. Yet that is precisely
the usual method of " economy and reform " in Aus-
tralian politics.

True economy is,, in fact, a difficult thing for the
public to understand and appreciate. From its
very nature its benefits must come slowly. An
estate which has been shockingly mismanaged for
many years cannot be turned into a highly profit-
able enterprise in a month, or a year. Often the
preliminary steps to that good end give a false im-
pression of further loss. But a policy of wild
extravagance begins at once to flaunt its specious
advantages. The free circulation of borrowed
money causes a boom in wages and in business,
which is easily mistaken for prosperity.

The other, and usually alternating, policy of false
economy has also its false glitter. It is ushered
in when, through the falling-off of supplies of loans,
times are lean and citizens are angry and resentful.
They find a sort of pleasure in hearing of the
Government's "drastic wage reductions," and of
the "firm cutting down of salaries." In the fact
that a million is to be "saved" by- letting the rail-
roads and the bridges and the public buildings
fall into disrepair, and the educational system to
1 " behind the requirements of the population, they

54



CONCERNING ECONOMY

see a real economy, not the actual ultimate loss of
several millions.

The most disastrous of all sorts of economy is
that which invests in cheap brains. There is a
common notion among politicians of a certain type
the type that worships at the shrine of a hob-
nailed caricature of democracy that anybody
who draws a salary higher than the politician is a
parasite on the people, and a grossly over-paid per-
sonage. You meet the notion in all grades. There
is the mere member, or the man who hopes to be a
member, who thinks that 300 a year should be
the maximum reward for intelligence, because he
is willing to work for that. There is the Cabinet
Minister who draws 1200 a year or so, and,
assured that he represents the highest intellectual
development possible, looks with sour envy on any-
one presuming to earn more from the public purse.

No more utterly mischievous or ridiculous idea
could find harbor in the brain of a man entrusted
with a share of the government of the country.
Sympathy with it is responsible for the fact that in
most instances the high administrative positions of
State are fitted to poor salaries, and therefore
attract second-grade men, whose partial incom-
petence is responsible every month for more waste
than their salaries for years could replace. When
the interests of a big State department come into
conflict with the interests of a big private institu-

55



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

tion in Australia, the latter generally scores in the
rivalry, because it has superior administrative
ability; and it has superior administrative ability
because it pays for it. Brains of the higher type
of intelligence are not too plentiful; the demand for
them exceeds the supply; and they naturally go to
the highest reward offering.

This economy cry reaches its highest folly in the
demand for cheap judges. Judges at the present
time are not paid so highly as to attract first-rank
barristers by the salaries offered. Indeed, the
positions are often accepted at a very heavy finan-
cial loss, the dignity of the office compensating
therefor. Occasionally, in spite of the dignity bait,
there has been a serious difficulty in securing the fit
man for a vacancy. The additional circumstance
has, too, to be taken into consideration that a
judge is expected to be not only skilful and learned,
but extra-honest and extra-prudent. There are
many things which he may not do without impro-
priety, but which other men may do without caus-
ing a whisper of adverse comment. Under such
conditions, to expect good judges at a cheaper rate
than that ruling now shows an optimism only pos-
sible to inexperience and indiscretion.

In regard to the whole question cheap judges,
cheap railway commissioners, cheap adminis-
trators you can cheapen an office, but you
can't cheapen capable ,men. They are not

56



CONCERNING ECONOMY

common, and so can command their price.
When the problem of truly economical con-
trol of the vast interests in the charge of our
various Australian Governments is solved if ever
it is the solution will not be found in lowering, but
in increasing, the prizes offered to administrative
intelligence.

I can flatter myself that I never bowed to this
cry of cheap brains. Do you remember the outcry
when I appointed at 6,000 a year to re-
organise the Department? And the further

outcry when, a little later, he sacked a hundred or
so useless hands, and saved more than half his
salary in one act? I never bowed to it. But, my
dear boy, this is vanity. And I am not going to
inflict reminiscences on you. Send along your next
problem. But are you not nearly getting to the end
of them?

Your affectionate uncle.



57



ON THE
FOUNDATIONS OF DEMOCRACY.



VIII.

ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF DEMOCRACY.

SYDNEY, 5 2/-.

My Dear Jack: It will be a very dull letter if I
try to give you what you ask for " the foundations
of democracy." But, as best I can

Democracy as yet lacks its Gibbon, who will trace
its history from the beginning of records to the day
when Herbert Spencer attempted the mighty task
of putting its principles on the same scientific basis
as biology. When that historian takes up his task,
probably one of the first main principles to be estab-
lished will be that democracy is a purely Caucasian
product; that other branches of the human race
have at times developed theocracies, socialisms,
and communisms among their despotisms, but
never a democracy. The idea of human liberty
seems not only indigenous but peculiar to the Cau-
casian peoples. Among them, and them alone, is
to be found the root-principle of human equality
and of human right, existing independent of priest
or king. The Peruvians evolved a perfect system
of state socialism. The Asiatic, in relation to some
of his many religions, has at different times set up,
or attempted to set up, communisms. But the



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

principle of political liberty, of human independ-
ence and freedom of thought and speech, was
absent from all these, however complete the bene-
volence with which they maintained the right of all
to a share in the fruits of the earth. The idea of
aspiring for something higher than mere bodily
contentment, of getting Liberty before luxury,
seems to be exclusively Caucasian.

The establishment of this principle as the scien-
tific conclusion of a minute research instead of
(as I tentatively state it) as the result of a generali-
sation from broad and fairly familiar facts will, per-
haps, in the fulness of time, do something to
explain that deep instinctive dislike which the Cau-
casian has to the "coloured man" as a fellow-citizen,
and which finds its most familiar expression in the
agitation for a "White Australia." Democracy,
without understanding quite why, is impelled by
its instinct of self-preservation to antagonism
towards peoples which have, as far as the memory
of man stretches back, been ever servile in spirit.

If you want to go into the science of the matter,
examine the beginnings of Greek democracy, as
painted by Homer, and of the Gothic democracy, as
painted by Tacitus. Just as modern architecture
draws its best inspiration from ancient models, so
the builder of a modern scientific State polity, by
a study of these early manifestations of Liberalism,
can gain most valuable suggestions.

60



THE FOUNDATIONS



There is apparent from the first a strong line of
demarcation between the two great schools of
democracy, the Greek and the Gothic; the former
inclines to paternalism, the latter to individualism.
This distinction survives to this day, popular
government in the Latin races (borrowing their
thought from the Greeks) generally favouring So-
cialism; in the Germanic (or Gothic) races, Indivi-
dualism. The two ideas of freedom differing in
that the one held that the power of the State
should be great, the other that the power of the
State should be as slight as possible, but agreeing
in believing that the power, whatever its extent,
should be absolutely in the hands of the people
seems to have sprung into being quite independently,
an inspiration coming to, and being absorbed in,
two different national temperaments, losing nothing
of its essential truth in either, but being tinged by
each differently.

Perhaps the ideal democracy of the future will be
eclectic, combining Paternalism and Individualism
not an impossible thing at all, as might seem at
first thought. There is good in both in the com-
passion of Paternalism as in the rugged independ-
ence of Individualism. Certainly the Australian
democrat should know something of both. Com-
pare the main features of the Homeric democracy-
germ with the Gothic:

61



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

Homeric: (Date, as fixed by Herodotus, about
1 200 years before Christ). The dignity of labor
was recognised. Kings worked and princesses
helped to wash the linen. Chiefs were such, not
only because of supposed divine birth, but ot
prowess in battle or skill in speech. The King's
title was "shepherd of the people." He was as-
sisted in the task of government by a Council of
the people. This Parliament was often appealed
to for a decision between opposing chiefs. Thus
Telemachus calls the Parliament of Ithaca together
to decide between him and the Suitors. In these



Parliaments there was almost absolute freedom of
speech. Thus Thersites addresses the Chief of the
Kings before Troy:

"Atrides, what now are you after? Your tents
are full of spoil and of dainty women whom the
Achaeans gave to you whenever they sacked a city.
. . . It is but little seemly for you, being the
King, to bring, in your greed, woes on the Achaean
men nay, knavish, worthless Achaean women, not
men, to suffer you. Truly we are brought here
to Troy to collect spoil for this fellow . . . who
even now has despitefully treated Achilles, a much
better man than himself."

That is language which no subject would dare
use towards an absolute King. The same freedom
of debate is noticeable elsewhere, and you'll always
observe that the assembly of the people is consu'ted

62



THE FOUNDATIONS



before any important action is taken. So impor-
tant is the result of the deliberations of this assem-
bly that to be a fine speaker is almost as good as
to be a fine soldier. Next to warlike prowess, the
gift of logical eloquence is the greatest.

At the assemblies there is a "public opinion"; on
which point let Gladstone speak as to the functions
of Tis ("tis," though personified by Gladstone,
really a Greek personal pronoun, indefinite, equal
in English to "they," "someone," or "most people"):

"Tis is a character of great importance in the
poems. He is the impersonal representation of a
dispassionate and free public opinion, collecting
and expressing the sum of the case. And the
existence of such a form of speech testifies to the
habitual formation and expression of such opinion,
and shows that even in the atmosphere of the camp
there was a breath and flavour of liberty."

The Homeric democracy had thus got this far:
Work was counted honourable; the king consulted
his nation before taking any important step; the
Assembly of the nation could go against his wishes;
full freedom of discussion was allowed to the
Assembly; and there was a force called Public
Opinion. It is important to note, however, the
"paternal" idea of government as shown in the
constant reference to the king as "the shepherd of
his people."

63



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

In the year 100 A.D. the Gothic people were
"governed" by kings chosen from a kingly family,
not by a direct succession of the eldest sons, but
by an election of the best scion of the house.
Generals shared the authority of the king, and kept
their power rather by their courage than by any
authority. A citizen could not be flogged, or chained,
or punished by the king or general; the power of
punishment was left to the priests as representa-
tives of the gods. Women took an almost equal
share with men in the functions of government
All small matters the chiefs decided; all impor-
tant subjects were decided by a free Par-
liament of the citizens. The lead in these assem-
blies was taken by the king, or a chief famous
either for lineage, for valour, or for eloquence. If
his views were not agreeable his voice was drowned
with clamour. There was no regular and certain
way of convening this Parliament; the people would
only come when it suited them. Parliament tried
offenders against the laws, punishing by death or
fine. Arms were carried by all. Courage and skill
in battle were the paths to nobility. The people
did not build cities, living in small, scattered
villages; each one surrounded his house with a great
space of ground. The women were chaste, and any
violation of the marriage contract was punished by
death. Slavery was almost confined to those taken
in war, and its bond was not irksome; the slave

64



THE FOUNDATIONS



had his own house and his own family life, only
paying tribute to his master. Usury was unknown.
The land was tilled communally. Such was the
Gothic democracy severe, simple, sternly indiv-
idualistic, giving the least possible power to king or
chief, preserving to the individual almost complete
independence.

The vital differences between the two great
springs from which arises modern democracy are
easily noticeable. The Homeric Parliament could
be quickly and regularly summoned; it followed its
king unless there was grave reason to the con-
trary; its decisions were binding and far-reaching;
its members were accustomed to that abandon-
ment of individual liberty which is involved in build-
ing and inhabiting cities. The Gothic Parliament
was tumultuous, irregular. It only came together
when the whole people were deeply moved by some
cause. Its decisions would have no effect except
in regard to truly national matters. The Gothic
peoples were so intolerant of authority that they
would not even collect together in towns. Their
system was, in short, an anarchy tempered by a
criminal court and a war office.

The Homeric polity shows the germ of a modern
highly-organised, liberty-loving, but collectivist
state; the Germanic polity the germ of such a state
as Herbert Spencer once dreamed of a state hold-
ing the land in common, preserving with fierce

65 F



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

vigour the utmost degree of individual liberty, and
holding obedience, even to a popularly-constituted
authority, as something irksome, when not actu-
ally disgraceful.

Each system had its good and its bad features
the one naturally tending to degenerate into an
oligarchy, the other into an anarchy.

For me, I am an eclectic an opportunist, if you
will, electing to take the best from Socialism and
individualism.

You will notice in both the great root democra-
cies of ancient days, the importance of the public
meeting. And in modern times the right of public
meeting, and the power of public meeting to either
directly legislate or to force its wishes on the legis-
lative body, has always been a distinctive feature
of democracy. In 1294 the public meeting as a
legislative power is met with in Switzerland; in
1314 there is another record of law by "folk-mote"
in the same country; and there is thenceforth a
steadily-increasing stream of precedents, until, in


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Online LibraryFrank FoxFrom the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew → online text (page 3 of 8)