Copyright
Émile Faguet.

The cult of incompetence online

. (page 11 of 12)
Online LibraryÉmile FaguetThe cult of incompetence → online text (page 11 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


be chosen to do it. Hence, not only is everything mismanaged, but it
seems impossible by any device to handle the matter effectually. We see
no solution.

Nietzsche really has a horror of democracy; only like all energetic
pessimists, who are not mere triflers, he used to say from time to time:
"There are pessimists who are resigned and cowardly. We do not wish to
be like them." When he would not take this view he persuaded himself to
look at democracy through rose-coloured spectacles.

At times, looking at the matter from an æsthetic point of view, he used
to say: "Intercourse with the people is as indispensable and refreshing
as the contemplation of vigorous and healthy vegetation," and although
this is in flagrant contradiction to all he has elsewhere said of the
"bestial flock" and the "inhabitants of the swamp," the thought has a
certain amount of sense in it. It signifies that instinct is a force,
and that every force must be interesting to study; and further that, as
such, it contains an active virtue, a principle of life, a nucleus of
growth.

This, though vaguely expressed, is very possible. After all the crowd
is only powerful by reason of numbers, and because it has been decided
that numbers shall decide. It is an expedient; but an expedient cannot
impart force to a thing that had it not before. Motive power,
initiative, belongs to the man who has a plan, who makes his combination
to achieve it, who perseveres and is patient and does not relinquish
pursuit. If he is eliminated and reduced to impotence or to a minimum of
usefulness, one does not see how the crowd, without him, can obtain its
power of initiation. Further explanation is needed.

At another time, Nietzsche asks whether we ought not to respect the
right, which after all belongs to the multitude, to direct itself
according to an ideal - there are of course many ideals - and according to
the ideal which is its own. Ought we to refuse to the masses the right
to search out truth for themselves, the right to believe that they have
found it when they come upon a faith that seems to them vital, a faith
that is to them as their very life? The masses are the foundation on
which all humanity rests, the basis of all culture. Deprived of them,
what would become of the masters? It is to their interest that the
masses should be happy. Let us be patient; let us grant to our insurgent
slaves, our masters for the moment, the enjoyment of illusions which
seem favourable to them.

So Nietzsche argues, but more often, for he returns on various occasions
to this idea, led thereto by his customary aristocratic leanings, he
speaks of democracy as of a form of decadence, as a necessary prelude to
an aristocracy of the future. "A high civilisation can only be built
upon a wide expanse of territory, upon a healthy and firmly consolidated
mediocrity." [So he wrote in 1887. Ten years earlier he held that
slavery had been the necessary condition of the high civilisation of
Greece and Rome.] The only end, therefore, which at present,
provisionally of course but still for a long time to come, we have to
expect, must be the decadence of mankind - general decadence to a level
mediocrity, for it is necessary to have a wide foundation on which a
race of strong men can be reared. "The decadence of the European is the
great process which we cannot hinder, which we ought rather to
accelerate. It is the active cause at work which gives us hope of
seeing the rise of a stronger race, a race which will possess in
abundance those same qualities which are lacking to the degenerate
vanishing species, strength of will, responsibility, self-reliance, the
power of concentration...."

But how, out of this mediocrity of the crowd, a mediocrity which, as
Nietzsche says, is always increasing, by what process natural or
artificial can a new and superior race be created? Nietzsche seems to be
recalling the theory, very disrespectful and very devoid of filial
piety, by which Renan sought to explain his own genius. "A long line of
obscure ancestors," he says, "has economised for me a store of
intellectual energy," and he jots down in his note book certain
suggestions, a little immature but still emitting a ray of light. "It is
absurd," he says, "to imagine that this victory or survival of values
(that is low values, values, that is, that seem to be mediocrity) can be
antibiological: we must look for an explanation in the fact that they
are probably of some vital importance to the maintenance of the type
'man' in the event of its being threatened by a preponderance of the
feeble-minded and degenerate. Perhaps if things went otherwise, man
would now be an extinct animal. The elevation of type is dangerous for
the preservation of the species. Why? _Strong races are wasteful, we
find ourselves here confronted with a problem of economy._"

We perceive, in this train of reasoning, some inkling of what Nietzsche
is trying to formulate as his solution of the difficulty. What is needed
must be a natural process, a _vis medicatrix naturæ_. In the process of
declining and falling, races practise a sort of thrift; they save and
they economise. Then, if we may suppose that the quantity of energy of
intellectual and moral power, _i.e._, of "human values" at the disposal
of the race is constant, the races that so act are creating in
themselves a reserve which one day will irresistibly take shape in a
chosen class. They are creating in their own bosom an _élite_ which will
one day emerge, they have conceived all unconsciously an aristocracy
which will one day be born to be their ruler.

We always find in Nietzsche the theory of Schopenhauer, the theory of
the great deceiver who leads the human race by the nose and who makes
it do and, as if it liked it, that which it would never do if it knew
where it was being led. It is very possible; still it remains that
economy carried to an extreme, though it can lead to a reserve of force,
may also lead, and perhaps much more surely, to a condition of anæmia;
the annihilation of one set of competent people in order to prepare the
way for races of competent people in the future, I do not know if this
is a game inspired by the great deceiver, but it is a game which to me
appears dangerous. We ought to be sure (and who is sure?) that the great
deceiver does not abandon those who abandon themselves.

I have often said, without thinking of any metaphysical mythology,
thinking indeed of the ambitious people whom we meet everywhere, and
thinking only of giving them some good advice: "The best way to get
there is to come down." Nothing could be more philosophical, Nietzsche
would reply; it is even more true of peoples than of individuals: the
best way for peoples to become one day great is to begin by growing
smaller. I rather doubt it. There is no really solid reason to support
the theory that feebleness cultivated with perseverance results in
strength. Neither Greece nor Rome supply examples, nor did the
democratic republic of Athens nor the democratic Cæsarism of Rome ever
succeed in giving birth to an aristocracy of competence by a prolonged
economy of values.


- They did not have the time. -

Ah yes, there is always that to be said.


It would perhaps be better to try to put the brake on democracy than to
encourage this process of degeneration on the chance of a favourable
resurrection. At least this is the course which presents itself most
naturally to our mind, and which seems most consonant with duty.

When I say put the brake on democracy, it must be understood that I mean
that it should put the brake on itself, for nothing else can stop it,
when once it has made up its mind. It must be persuaded or left alone,
and even persuasion is a rash experiment, for it dislikes being
persuaded of anything but of its own omnipotence. It must be persuaded
or left alone, for every other method would be still more useless.

It must be reminded that forms of government perish from the abandonment
and also from the exaggeration of the principle from which their merit
is derived, though this is a very superannuated maxim; that they perish
by an abandonment of their principle because that principle is the
historical reason of their coming into existence, and they perish by
carrying their principle to excess, because there is no such thing as a
principle that is absolutely good and sufficient in itself for
regulating the complexity of the social machine.

What do we understand by the principle of a government? It is not that
which makes it be such and such a thing, but that "which makes it act"
in a particular way, as Montesquieu has remarked; that is, "the human
passions which supply the motive forces of life." It is clear then that
the passion for sovereignty, for equality, for incompetence, is not
sufficient to give to a government a life which is at once complete and
strong.

It is necessary to give to competence its part, or rather it is
necessary to give competence one part, for I do not wish to argue that
there is any question of right involved, I only affirm that it is a
social necessity. It is necessary that competence, technical,
intellectual, moral competence should be assigned its part to play, even
though the sovereignty of the people should be limited and the principle
of equality be somewhat abridged thereby.

A democratic element is essentially necessary to a people, an
aristocratic element also is essentially necessary to a people.

A democratic element is essentially necessary to a people in order that
the people should not feel itself to be a mere onlooker, but should
realise that it is a part and an important part of the body social, and
that the words "You are the nation, defend it," have a meaning.
Otherwise the argument of the anti-patriot demagogues would be just.
"What is the good of fighting for one set of masters against another
set, since it will make no difference, only a change of masters?"

A democratic element is required in the government of a people, because
it is very dangerous that the people should be an enigma. It is
necessary to know what it thinks, what it feels, what it suffers, what
it desires, what it fears, and what it hopes, and as this can only be
learnt from the people itself, it is necessary that it should have a
voice which can make itself heard.

This should be done in one way or another, either by a Chamber of its
own which should be endowed with great authority, or by the presence in
a single chamber of a considerable number of representatives of the
people, or by plebiscites constitutionally instituted as necessary for
the revision of the constitution and for laws of universal interest, or
by the liberty of the press and the liberty of association and public
meeting. This would not perhaps be enough, but it would be almost
enough. It is necessary that the people should be able to make known its
wants, and to influence the decisions of the Government, in a word its
voice should be heard and considered.

An aristocratic element is also necessary in a nation and in the
government of a nation so that all that admits of precision shall not be
smothered by that which is confused; so that what is exact shall not be
obscured by what is vague, and so that its firm resolves shall not be
shaken by vacillating and incoherent caprice.

Sometimes history itself makes an aristocracy - a fortunate circumstance
for a nation! This forms a caste more or less exclusive, it has
traditions, traditions more conservative of the laws than the laws
themselves, and it embodies in itself all that there is of life, and
energy and growth in the soul of a people. Sometimes history has failed
to give us an aristocracy or that which history has made has
disappeared. It is then that the people ought to draw one out of itself,
it is then its duty to appropriate and preserve the high qualities to be
found in men who have rendered service to the State or whose ancestors
have rendered service to the State, who have special qualifications for
each particular office and a moral efficiency for every form of public
service.

These qualities constitute the acquired aptitude of an aristocracy for
taking a part in the government; these qualities constitute its
adaptation to its social environment, and to its special function in our
social machinery and organisation. One might say that it is by these
qualities that _it enters into and becomes part of the organism of which
it is the material_. As John Stuart Mill has justly remarked, there
cannot be an expert, well-managed democracy if democracy will not allow
the expert to do the work which he alone can do.

What is wanted then and will always be wanted, even under socialism
where, as I pointed out, there will still be an aristocracy though a
more numerous one, is a blending of democracy and aristocracy; and here,
though he wrote a long time ago, we shall find Aristotle is always right
for he studied in a scientific spirit some hundred and fifty different
constitutions.

He is an aristocrat, without concealment, as we have seen, but his final
conclusions, whether he is speaking of Lacedæmon, which he did not like,
or of Carthage, or in general terms, have always been in favour of mixed
constitutions as ever the best. "There is," he says, "a manner of
combining democracy and aristocracy - which consists in so arranging
matters that both the distinguished citizens and the masses have what
they want. The right of every man to aspire to magisterial appointments
is a democratic principle, but the admission of distinguished citizens
only is an aristocratic principle."

This blending of democracy and aristocracy makes a good constitution,
but the union must not be one of mere juxtaposition which would serve
only to put hostile elements within striking distance. I said a
"blending" but the blending must be a real fusion. Our need is that in
the management of public business aristocracy and democracy should be
combined.

How? Well for many years I have been saying it and I hope I may live for
many years longer to say it again. A healthy nation is one in which the
aristocracy is "_demophil_," that is a lover of the people, and where
the people is aristocratic in its leanings. Every people where the
aristocracy is aristocratic and where the democracy is democratic is a
people destined to perish promptly, because it does not understand what
a people is, it has not got beyond the stage of knowing what is a class
and perhaps not even as far as that.

Montesquieu praises highly the Athenians and the Romans for the
following reason. "At Rome, although the people had the right of
elevating plebeians to office, it could never bring itself to elect
them; and although at Athens, it could by the law of Aristides, choose
magistrates from all classes, it never happened according to Xenophon,
that the lower people demanded the election of rulers who could injure
its safety and its glory. The two instances are identical; only, as far
as Athens is concerned, it signifies nothing, for at Athens everything
was decided by plebiscite and in consequence the real rulers of Athens
were the orators, in whom the people trusted, who enforced their
decisions and really governed the city. At Rome the fact is of great
importance for it was the elected magistrates who governed."

Republican Rome was indeed a country aristocratically governed which
had, however, a democratic element in its constitution, and this
democratic element, up to the time of the civil wars, was itself
profoundly aristocratic, just as the aristocracy which was always open
to an accession of members from the plebs was profoundly "demophil."

The institution of patron and client, even in the state of degeneracy
which overtook it, is a phenomenon which I believe is well-nigh unique.
It shows to what extent two classes felt the social necessity, the
patriotic necessity of mutual support and of a recognition of an
identity of interest.

A nation whose people is aristocratic and whose aristocracy is
"demophil" is a healthy nation. Rome succeeded in the world because for
five hundred years she enjoyed this social health.

An aristocratic people and a people-loving aristocracy. I had long
believed the formula was of my own invention. I have just discovered,
and I am in no way surprised, that Aristotle was before me. He quotes
the oath which oligarchs take in certain cities. "I swear to be always
the enemy of the people and never to counsel any thing that I do not
know to be injurious to them." "This," he continues, "is the very
opposite of what they ought to do or to pretend to do ... It is a
political fault which is often committed in oligarchies as well as in
democracies, and where the multitude has control of the laws, the
demagogues make this mistake. In their combat against the rich, they
always divide the State into two opposing parties. _In a democracy, on
the contrary, the Government should profess to speak for the rich, and
in oligarchies it should profess to speak in favour of the people._"

It is a Machiavelian counsel. Aristotle seems convinced that democrats
can only _profess_ to speak for the rich and that all we can expect from
oligarchs is an appearance of speaking in favour of the people.
Nevertheless he recognises clearly that for the peace and well-being of
the commonwealth such should be their attitude.

There is something more profound than this. Aristocrats ought not only
to appear but to be verily favourable to the demos, if they understand
the interests of aristocracy itself, for aristocracy requires a base.
Democrats also ought not only to appear but to be aristocratic if they
understand the interests of democracy which requires a guide.

This reciprocity of good offices, this reciprocity of devotion, and this
combination of effort are as necessary in modern as they were in ancient
republics. It is, and we must coin a word to express it, a social
"synergy" that is wanted. A union of all the vitalizing elements is as
necessary in society as in the family. Every family that is divided must
perish, every kingdom that is divided must perish.

I have said little of royalty which only indirectly concerns my subject.
If we have seen instances of the institution of royalty firmly
established, it is where the sentiment of royalty, appealing at once
both to the aristocracy and to the people, has realised that "synergy"
of the whole community of which we speak; it is where both, being united
in devotion to one object, are led to be devoted to each other by reason
of this convergence of their wills. _Eadem velle, eadem nolle amicitia
est._

There is no need of royalty for this. Royalty is our country itself
personified in one man. In the identification of country and kingdom, we
can and must arrive at this same union of the separate vitalities of the
nation, at this same community and convergence of will. The humble must
love their country in loving the great and the great must love their
country in loving the humble; and so all classes must be at one in their
hopes and in their fears. _Amicitia sit!_




INDEX.


Abbeville, 115

Abolition of Inheritance, 200, 203

Academies, 27

America, 170

Amoeba, 15 _et seq._

Antisthenes, 132

Aristides, law of, 232

Aristocracy, 36, 90, 137, 159
- - aptitude for government, 230
- - constitution which obeys laws, 88
- - demophil, 2, 232, 233
- - education under, 190
- - and examination system, 176
- - fusion with democracy, 231-233
- - impossible without merit, 31
- - old men under, 147
- - of Parliament, 172
- - permanent senators form, 58
- - and religion, 205, 207
- - result of indirect election, 19
- - - and special jurisdictions, 98

Aristophanes, 126, 150

Aristotle, 14, 16, 31, 70, 78, 85, 88, 129, 131, 134-136, 153, 208, 215,
231, 234, 235

_Arrondissement_, 44
- - _scrutin d'_, 83

Atheism, 207, 208

Athens, 17, 31, 37, 83, 113, 149, 163, 226, 232

Augier, 213

Austria, 49


Barthélemy, Abbé, 157

Barthou, M., 9, 118

Belgium, 170

Bismarck, 209

Bonald, 201

Brunetière, 188

Busiris, 115


Calas, 115

Carnot, 93

Carthage, 16, 231

Caucus, 6

Chamber of Deputies, 44, 118, 172-174

Charlemagne, 149

Charondas, 87

Church, the, 98, 206

Cicero, 70
- - _de Senectute_, 149

Civility, 156 _et seq._

Civil Service, the, appointments to, 45-51
- - examinations for, 176 _et seq._

Clergy, the, 169

Code, the, 75, 76, 163

Colbert, 43

Collectivism, 200-203

Communism, 200

_Compétence par collation_, 19, 22

Competitive examination, 175 _et seq._

Conciliation Boards, 97

_Concordat_, 206

Constitution of 1873, 57
- - mixed, 231

Co-optation, 176

_Cour de Cassation_, 57, 101, 108, 176

Court of Appeal, 57, 107

Courts, ecclesiastical, 98
- - martial, 98

Criminal procedure, 83
- - jurisdiction, 99


Dandin, 184

_Dandino-mania_, 184

Decadence, 222, 223

Decrees, 84, 91, 208, 209

Demagogues, 85, 191, 213

Democracy, Aristotle on, 129-136
- - Athenian, 17
- - children under, 142-146
- - and direct government, 37 _et seq._

Democracy, encouragement of incompetence under, 30, 92, 126
- - English, 170
- - evolution of a modern, 18 _et seq._
- - fusion with aristocracy, 231-235
- - governed by decrees, 34, 91
- - and imperative mandate, 32
- - lack of respect under, 158-161
- - legislation under, 66, 79-81
- - magistrature, 110-122
- - Montesquieu on, 137-139
- - morality under, 139
- - Nietzsche on, 220-226
- - old men under, 146-153
- - Plato on, 127-129
- - and politicians, 34, 36
- - position of women under, 140-142
- - principle of, 14, 15
- - and private enterprise, 59-61
- - and reform, 216-219
- - Rousseau on, 136, 137
- - and schoolmasters, 191-215
- - and socialism, 61-65
- - and special jurisdictions, 98, 99

Demos, 56, 86

Demosthenes, 82

Deputy, 55, 174
- - mayors, 119

Despotism, principle of, 12
- - tendency of democracy towards, 62, 65, 96

D'Etalonde, 115

Diderot, 207

Division of labour, 15
- - - - in domestic life, 141

Divorce, 125


Germans, 67

Gerontocracy, 146, 153

Gladstone, Mr., 3, 5

Goncourt, 201

Greece, 222, 226

Greeks, 71, 73, 87

Greek philosophers, 126


Holbach, 207

Homer, 56

Horace, 152

Hugo, Victor, 209


Ideal legislator, the, 79

Imperative mandate, 32, 33

Indirect election, 19

Inequalities, artificial and natural, 30

Interpellation, 83

Italy, 170


Japy, Mme., 114

Jesuits in Paraguay, 62

Joannès, Baron, 68

Judges, appointment of, 46, 100-112
- - interpretation of the law, 163

_Juge de paix_, 111, 116 _et seq._

Jurisdiction, criminal, 99
- - ecclesiastical, 97
- - military, 97
- - seignorial, 97

Jury, the 112-115, 168, 169


Kant, 153


La Barre, 115

Lacedæmon, 150, 231

Law, abolishing primogeniture, 124
- - abuse of, 110
- - of competence, 97
- - and decrees, 84-91
- - degree in, 116
- - doctors of, 108
- - ecclesiastical, 125
- - emergency, 82-89
- - fundamental, 89
- - governs men, 121
- - of July 12th, 1905, 117
- - made by the ideal legislator, 67-74
- - made by the people, 17, 18, 25, 40, 194-196, 234
- - must be ancient and unchanged, 77-79
- - not the same for rich and poor, 199
- - permitting divorce, 125
- - of proportion, 14
- - questions of, 113, 162
- - of Sunday observance, 75, 76
- - and tradition, 230

Legal profession, the, 60

Legislation, ancient, 87
- - English, 2, 4
- - party, 81-82
- - philanthropic, 6
- - predatory, 8
- - requires special knowledge, 18, 67

Legislator, essential qualifications for, 66-81
- - Greek, 73

Lestranger, M. Marcel, 164, 166

Liberty of association, 194, 196

Louis XIV, 21, 22, 150, 195, 204, 209
- - XV, 150
- - XVI, 133

Louvois, 43

Lycurgus, 2, 73, 87

Lynching, 168, 169


Machiavel, 71

Machiavelian counsel, 234

Magistracy, hereditary system advocated for, 105, 163, 168

Magistrates, election of, 48, 100-112
- - incompetence of, 164-168
- - subservience to government, 163

Mayors, 117

Medical examinations, 180
- - profession, 60

Mill, John Stuart, 230

Minister of Agriculture, 94


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11

Online LibraryÉmile FaguetThe cult of incompetence → online text (page 11 of 12)