Among those who detest bureaucracy, there is a common criticism. Theodore Dalrymple indicts the British bureaucratic machine with these words:
“… Anthony Blair, with the cunning of the natural born swindler, seized his chance and created a loyal, corrupt, self-seeking nomenklatura class that remains extremely influential and easily able to outwit the blancmange-like David Cameron, who in any case so easily moulds himself to any shape going.”
The idea is simple enough. Bureaucracies represent the interests of the class from which they are drawn. Over time they ossify into a lobby for that class, at the expense of society at large. In Britain’s case, there’s a caste of people most attracted to Blairite ideology, who form the core of the public service. Their predominance explains why Britain is incapable of moving beyond a collection of stale centre-left notions, regardless of the stance of the government in power.
The analysis is a classic one. Aristotle (Politics, 4.1294a; 6.6.1320b18; 6.1.1316bb39-1317a10) and Polybius (Histories, 6.10.4-11; 6.12.4) both see the balancing of different social groups as vital for social justice. It’s not just that there are executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government. These must be staffed with the right combination of groups in order to properly represent the interests of society. If a single class monopolises an institution, the results are bad, regardless of other separations of powers.
But there’s a further perception which, I think, has escaped Dalrymple. Implicit in his criticism is the idea, conscious to him or not, that were British bureaucrats something other than a Blairite nomenklatura caste, that things would be better. That a bureaucracy can be balanced between social groups, just like a parliament, and all will be well.
The training of a bureaucrat necessarily excludes any political virtue. A bureaucrat is a cog in a political machine. His job is to maintain the state’s will despite any turmoil or emergency the country may face.
In this sense the bureaucrat isn’t dissimilar to a soldier. The conservative French philosopher Yves Simon analysed the nature of authority in 1962, sometimes using the army as a metaphor. Much of what he says can be translated over to bureaucracy. Any association of people has a common good and a common action which enables it. The common good of the army is defending the national interest against enemies, so its common action is armed campaign to defeat the enemy. To do this, it must have unanimity: every soldier must know what he’s supposed to do and how to do it.
Now, every soldier is a rational individual with his own opinions and ideas. In an ideal world, each soldier would immediately understand the why and wherefore of an order, and assent to it through reasoned argument. But the reality is that the circumstances of war are so confused, cloudy and ambiguous, that were the army to expect rational assent from every individual to every strategy, nothing would get done. There would always be a cause of doubt; always a valid motive for dissent from a plan. So, there must be a threshold where deliberation stops, and opinion becomes an order. At this point, the soldier substitutes the reasoning of a superior officer for his own. Not because he’s stupid or unable to reason, but because common action demands it.
In the military the stakes are very high: destruction, death, and annihilation. Therefore, the threshold where opinion becomes an order is low, in comparison to other organisations. In a government bureaucracy the stakes are high, if not quite so high: shortage of goods, mass hunger, economic paralysis. This is why, I contend, the bureaucrat isn’t that different from a soldier. The common action of bureaucracy is to keep the country running. Like with war, the task is loaded with ambiguity and unpredictability. So, the bureaucrat is required to frequently substitute the deliberations of superiors for his own.
But this means that an excess of bureaucracy in a country will have similar cultural effects to an excess of militarisation, but without any of the martial vigour. The training of a bureaucrat isn’t to think deeply; it’s to internalise the state’s ideology to keep the country running at all costs. A bureaucrat who thinks deeply is a liability because he’s someone who will constantly express doubts and interrupt the state’s ability to act or respond to problems. So, a society that’s dominated by bureaucrats at every level will be radically conformist, incapable of self-reflection, and unable to undertake serious reform.
The city of Sparta, because it was narrowly focused on warlike virtue, excluded all other virtues and went into decline (Aristotle, Politics, 2.1271b). Sparta made all citizens into soldiers, and so rendered them unable to act as independent rational agents in times of leisure. Once the battle was over, Spartans couldn’t think without orders to follow. Sparta stopped innovating and was outcompeted by her neighbours. Isn’t a bureaucratic state like Britain prey to a similar fate of death by ideological conformity? If the bureaucrat is the model citizen, and not the statesman, artist, philosopher, or craftsman, shall our society not also become a self-regulating idiocy?
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By themallard — 3 weeks ago
A few months ago, I came across a book titled “Free” in a book section of a renowned magazine. As a pathologic bibliophile, I was curious but I was also filled with pride to see the Author of “Free” has an Albanian sounding name, Lea Ypi. Indeed, Ypi is an Albanian that fled Albania during the ’90s and is now a Professor in Political Theory in the Government Department of the London School of Economics, not to mention the author is also a woman, adding even more appreciation on my part. The voice of Albanian women hasn’t always been heard in our society, so you can imagine the level of joy I felt. Just to be crystal clear, this feeling of pride is not a mere reflection of any kind of nationalism on my part. It only describes a feeling that many other of my compatriots share: the genuine joy of our country being mentioned abroad, without any relation to crime and poverty. To no surprise, I followed Ypi’s interviews with great anticipation, as she would promote her book and her upbringing in communist Albania.
However, anticipation was soon followed by great disappointment. I must confess, I held high expectations that Ypi would provide a strong and clear-cut condemnation of the communist regime. Reading her interview proved to be an emotional rollercoaster. In Ypi’s interview with what happened to be my professor Ferenc Laczó at Maastricht University, whilst Ypi condemns the communist regime, she somehow waters down its effects on the Albanian people. Every bland admission of a shortcoming on the part of communism is followed by a much fiercer criticism of liberalism. Misinforming the reader of Albanian history, leading them to believe that communism was evil, but a far lesser evil than what was about to follow. When I asked my professor, with disdain, how he agreed to allow someone to skew the truth or, at least, downplay it, his response was, “what do you want from me?.. This is her story, her perception, write your own book then.”
Since I am afraid my book would take too long to write, I feel the urge to clarify a few things for the readers. Indeed, my professor Ferenc Laczó was correct, what Ypi presents is not the truth but indeed her perception. Perhaps, the book “Free” is an account of how Ypi digested our history, and it is that exact digestion that pleases Western readers. Ypi goes as far as feeding the western readers the idea that we were obsessed with symbols such as Coca Cola cans, hence the cover of Ypi’s book. A mixture of pop and folkloristic representation of our grief. If you are seeking a true representation of the horror Albania endured during the communist regime, I regret to inform you that the right person is not someone that defines themselves as a “Kantian Marxist”, not someone with a fallacious view on freedom – thus definitely not Lea Ypi.
Ypi talks about the importance of free will and the ability to make choices by suggesting that, in communist Albania, “you could choose whether to spy on your neighbour. You could pretend you didn’t see something” she adds “there were some good officials who exercised a little discretion”. Ypi believes that “morality is not something created by institutions, there is a kernel of goodwill in everyone”, without mentioning that morality in Albania was often punished and that it becomes really difficult to keep your integrity when you are starving. Ypi goes on to claim that communism had important things to offer, such as solidarity, by saying that in our society nowadays solidarity takes the form of charity and that this distracts us from asking where that wealth comes from. But, I’d like to remind Ms Ypi that solidarity in Albania was achieved through the forced appropriation of private property. These are important details she surely forgets to mention. My father, a member of a family of Kulaks, at the time, was a warehouseman and decided to falsify the figures to give extra flour to a very poor family he knew in his village. This family was one of many around him struggling to survive. The poor family went on to report him to authorities and my father risked his job. A few years afterwards he decided to illegally migrate to Italy. If this is the freedom Ms Ypi talks about, it is a freedom I struggle to aspire to.
Two points are especially misleading about the recollection she gives about those times:
Education and competitiveness:
Ms Ypi argues that education was currency under communism and that in Albania people were extremely competitive on intellectual grounds. She adds that people could freely ask how much money others were making because the competition was not based on material things. This is a statement bordering on incredulity as many people, from persecuted families could not even go to school or pursue any higher education. And when they were allowed, it was the party who decided what subject they could study. My paternal family serves as an example: my father and some of his siblings were not given the concession to pursue higher education. For others, my grandfather had to pay someone a sum to convince them to give that permission. I wonder if we could call a schooling system “competitive” if many did not even have access to it. In fact, this created a division between first and second class citizens, the educated and the uneducated. A division that had repercussions even within an individual family.
She has gone on saying that the system “was unforgiving in terms of performing well, and reading all the books that could be read and knowing all the culture that could be known.” This sounds like a contradiction; how can a system be competitive if it puts a limit to the knowledge you can access? My mother recalls having to write a paper on “why is Albania the best country in the world” and being silenced when she asked the teacher how could she know if it was best when she had never seen any other country. Of course, very few people were allowed to leave the country and many were killed when they tried. Can a system that was based on Marxist propaganda and censorship be considered competitive?
Mass emigration and its causes:
Similarly, Ms Ypi seems to misplace correlations between events. She seems to suggest that what caused the mass emigration of Albanians all along with the 90s was the financial disaster that took place at that time. Indeed, two-thirds of the population was estimated to have invested in Ponzi schemes that mostly collapsed, leading to a lot of families losing all their savings. But can the exodus be blamed on this last misadventure or on the over 40 years of a command economy that left Albanians in financial illiteracy and unable to manage their own money for so long? The exodus was provoked by decades of lack of all basic freedom, among them the right to private property. It comes to no surprise that when freedom came, people of Albania acted like a dog trapped for so long, finally unleashed and without a master.
Albania is going through a dark phase, where freedom is in peril once again. More than ever in our republican history. When the parliamentary elections were held in April 2021, the government of Edi Rama won for the third term. One of the bastions of his party is the digitalization of public administration. However, it is a pity that this process has been used to monitor its own citizens. In fact, a scandal followed these elections, revealing that the government had access to a database containing names and last names, their phone numbers, their ID number, addresses, place of work and voting preferences of 910,000 citizens. Since then it has been revealed and confirmed that each person was assigned a “patron”, basically a canvasser who tracked their political preferences. Additional comments, recorded by the patrons, reportedly detail their interactions with citizens, with some instances amounting to possible voter intimidation.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that the system of patrons is in place but he has claimed that the collection of data happened through door-to-door meetings. Since then, no investigation has been performed. In the meantime, many journalists have identified that among the 9,000 “patrons” there are public sector employees, police officers and even army personnel. And, Albania’s Ombudsperson has already declared that the collection and processing of sensitive information seen in the database are unlawful, in the first place. This would not cause indignation if this monitoring had received any consent, which was clearly not the case. It is a chilling feeling that reminds me of the times when spying on your fellow citizens was encouraged. Moreover, as I write this article, other sensitive data was released on salaries and cars possessed by citizens. Why don’t you know about it? Because people are too tired to fight back.
It is also quite puzzling how Ypi decided to present her book in the villa that belonged to the dictator along with Prime Minister Edi Rama. She replied to accusations about this choice saying that for her it was a powerful message to send for someone with persecuted ancestors to present her book there. Instead, I believe, an even more meaningful signal would have been that of presenting that book in what was the house of Musine Kokalari or the dedicated museum? Musine, being the first published Albanian women author, and the founder of the Social-democratic party, died poor and neglected after decades of forced labour by the regime. A commemorative placard dedicated to her was vandalised last year. The question around the role that writers and artists, in general, have to play in our society is a timeless one, but since Lea Ypi has decided to write about our history she holds a duty to be truthful to facts. Especially when our country is experiencing increasing limitations of freedom, and appalling breaches of privacy.
I have tried in these past months to understand what can push a person to minimise the evils of our regime. Nobody in their right mind would do that with Nazism and I have acquired the personal conviction that Lea has to still overcome a sense of inferiority towards the West and that she also holds personal interests in a future political career. What gives me this conviction? In her interview with the Guardian, she claims that “there is a special pleasure in observing the empty shelves and educational chaos of post-Brexit Britain because, after years of being lectured about the supposed failures of where she comes from, the tables are reversed for once”. My mother, who migrated to Italy, along with my father, and many other Albanian immigrants would have no problem admitting the failures of where they come from.
Those failures are not supposed, they were real. Admitting them is the first step to rebuilding our country better. Those failures need to be acknowledged in order to not be repeated. The reason why Ypi takes pleasure in seeing her host country, the United Kingdom, suffering while my mother would never do the same, struck me: my mother being 50 years old experienced both the regime and the chaos of the days where the country fell into anarchy, while Ypi was only 10 when the regime fell. Ypi only experienced a fraction of the strict communist regime. She herself admits that her parents had opted to keep their children safe by letting them believe everything they were taught at school during the regime. So, is she the right person to weigh in if it is liberalism that has failed the country or communism? In her interview, she also admits that one of her childhood dreams was that of being a president one day. Given the welcome she received from the ruling Socialist party, I would not entirely exclude it. The party needs repainting and new faces. What better than a young female professor in a prestigious university such as LSE, in times where symbols matter more than substance? After the criticism her interviews received, she claimed those are only defamatory voices. But, shouldn’t someone who knows her country well protect herself from any affiliation and appropriation of her work? Once again, this is either a sign of naivety or ignorance.
Although the interviews provoked a lot of sorrow and outrage in my own and other descendants of persecuted families, her words were also essential in providing yet further evidence about the fact that our country is in desperate need of a decommunization process. Thirty years on from the fall of communism, people know so little about the past, who were the perpetrators and how much they are still involved in our current institutions. I find it emblematic that another book was published almost at the same time by a Polish author, whose book I promptly bought. The book is titled “Mud sweeter than honey” by Margot Rejmer, whose homeland of Poland has done far more to address its communist past wounds. Perhaps, the book is less of an intellectual grabbing at straws or mental gymnastics but it also demonstrates that the minds behind our regime were able to produce atrocities that defy the imagination of the best science fiction writers.
Communist Albania was often compared to a European North Korea. Although it is true that freedom has not always represented peace for us, it was worth fighting for. It is better than a system that decided what we could study, what we could eat and how much of it and whom we could marry. The last step for freedom that we still have to take is owning our shaded areas. Many of us, second and third-generation Albanian migrants spread around the world, who often speak better foreign languages than our own mother tongue, had to grasp a past that our parents were too traumatised to tell. It was only when I turned 25 that my father finally let go and he told me about his past made of betrayal, deceit and lack of chances and freedom.
However, it is also in us, the children of these emotionally broken people, that rests the power of healing our country of origin. If our parents and grandparents are not strong enough to recount their past, we can be their megaphones. We cannot let people who have egos and inferiority complexes do it instead of us. Because all of that pain cannot be minimised; healing only rests in accepting you are sick first.
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By Otis Griffin — 2 weeks ago
In the same way my last article ended, this first paragraph is being written on a Saturday, a day on which I often go to my Anglican parish church for the 9:30am Eucharist. After a week of exams, even a modern Common Worship service can warm my traditional soul. After the service, I turned to our good Rector and talked about a few things, namely about Calvin Robinson’s lack of ordination – our Rector thankfully sees the value conservatives bring to the Church of England – and asked “Just what are these Christian values people talk about, Reverend?”. Being a strong believer in the personal relationship between believer and the Almighty, he said to follow the guidelines of faith, hope and charity, and see where God guides us from there. While that may be enough to satisfy many Christians in a church environment, how do political conservatives, many of whom are not Christian, translate that into ideas and policies when we often cite our appreciation for ‘Christian values’?
Needless to say, one does not have to believe in God or the divinity of Jesus Christ to realise He had a lot of good things to say on morality that are relevant to the reader as a person, and to British politics. Christianity and interpretations of the Bible are responsible for much of how Britain functions politically, and even progressive politics – and it goes without saying that Christianity influences conservative social values. The historians Robert Tombs and Nigel Scotland made good cases to say that the British Labour Party has deeper roots in Methodist Christianity than Marxism, especially historically speaking. Methodist Christianity is probably the best example of the political Gospel having profound influence that lasts to this day. Christianity in England generally contributed greatly to the establishment of the welfare state and educating the masses; likewise, the abolition of slavery in the British Empire was driven through by Evangelical Christian William Wilberforce. Even the renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama attributed much of the West’s development into liberal democracies as down to the influence of the Christian religion on politics and society in his books The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay, as well as Christianity being responsible for the Western notion of universal equality. Christianity has much symbolic influence on the development of nation-states as well: the name “England” was given to us by the Roman Catholic Church, believing the land that is England to have been primarily made up of Angles and not Saxons, and of course the British flag is an amalgamation of three crosses that represent Christian saints.
And even if you don’t believe in it, you probably like a lot of what Christianity gave you. Given all it has accomplished, it may even be worth looking to an interpretation of Christianity for a moral system.
With this, one returns to the subject at hand. Writing for UK-based Premier Christianity, Peter Lynas argues that Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine is “an attack on Christian values”. His general argument is that equality and human rights are products of Christianity, thus making Russia’s invasion and subsequent alleged human rights violations an attack on Christian values. On the other side, American congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called for a restoration of ‘Christian values’, stating that they built America. British conservatives, from David Cameron to Nigel Farage, spoke highly of Christian values. Cameron in particular accredited the Bible to being a great moral influence, while Farage had much more to say on specific policies, such as restricting abortion. Even recently, a conservative Member of Parliament – a 2019-intake one – praised Christian values. There is indeed a place for these ‘Christian values’ in British politics. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent argument as to what these values are from the conservative right. Few people are actually adequately describing, in sufficient detail for meaningful political goals, these Christian values.
It is sensible to make a distinction between ‘Christian values’ and following the Bible, not least because these values ought to be promotable to those of others faiths or no faith. Following the Bible and being a Christian is appropriate for the Church to promote as priests in the Church of Christ, as opposed to the job of ministers in the service of the state. Theocracy – rule by priests – is not an accountable form of government, and theonomy – rule by scripture – is simply impractical for the modern era; the Bible was made for regulating personal conduct and driving societal change, not to be a substitute for a good legal system. After all, Jesus himself told us to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”, meaning that there is some distinction – though not necessarily a separation – between the state and the Church. The Christian values I will attempt to identify will be principles and notions that are derived from the Bible and Christian thinking in broad terms that are specific enough to be applicable while not being vague enough to be detached from Christianity.
Christianity is about love; there is nothing more obvious than this. This type of Christian love brings us to the first value I can identify, and that is paternalism. The Bible portrays God’s love as not just passive and merely tolerant, but active and guiding. Like a father traditionally would, God the Father lays down rules to bring us closer to moral virtue and goodness, and God the Son, Jesus Christ, consistently showed his willingness to care for, support, and feed people. It is clear that moral and material paternalism is a Christian value, and that can be reflected in governance – material paternalism through welfare for the truly needy and moral paternalism through a state that legislates on moral issues. This acts as a good transition to the next identifiable value of a belief in a firm, universal system of morality. It may be stating the obvious to say Jesus Christ preached about morality, and that it is a virtue to follow God’s moral law. Likewise, both conservatives and liberals can see the importance in society of following common, universal morals that are not mere formalities, but a set of rules and customs that people subscribe to in order to become better people. Universal morality is key to a functioning society. Do we not already agree to a set of universal morals, such as the belief that murder is wrong? Does not the widespread belief that violence is wrong help keep individuals and society safe? Point being, take a moral stand on social issues. Having a legal system will always lead to morals being imposed on others, and it only makes sense to impose a good moral system than to be weak-willed and push for dangerous societal atomisation.
One problem within mainstream conservatism and Western society in general is the shift towards moral relativism. In my last article, I referenced Edmund Burke’s claim that social order rests on moral foundations. Putting this simply, society and your day-to-day interactions function and go well because we collectively agree to the ‘ground-rules’, otherwise known as morality. As silly as it may seem to mention, I wouldn’t punch someone in the nose in response to being greeted with “Hello”, because that would be rude. It is the distinction between what thing is ‘right’ to do, and what is ‘wrong’ to do. Scale up this very small rejection of morality to the widespread rejection of law, the rejection of dignity and self-restraint, the rejection of being orderly and rejecting responsibility and the place where you live becomes worse-off. Some of those things just mentioned are quite widespread, perhaps with some such as the rejection of law it isn’t quite as chaotic as widespread murder, but little respect for the law in regards to, say, drug dealing and drug usage – which anyone under 20 knows is common – is just the start of it. Why follow one law if you don’t follow another? Perhaps, moving forward with firm morality, and Christian values, is in your interests. Following Christian morality, according to some studies, indeed reduces criminal behaviour and encourages positive traits. The logical conclusion is that the Christian moral system should be the standard for behaviour in the future, and there is no better place to look to the future than the education of children, especially at home. Some teachers have expressed frustration at the lack of parents teaching their children to behave politely or morally, and the answer to this is the re-emergence of following Christian values being the norm.
A word I used in the previous paragraph was “dignity”, and inalienable human dignity is absolutely a Christian value. As it is Christian to hold up God highly, so too does it make sense to hold up other humans, who are made in the image of God, as having inherent dignity that should not be taken away, especially not because of race. The Golden Rule – do unto others what you would have them do to you – on how to treat others with dignity comes from Jesus’ teachings. In particular, the dignity of children is especially important, and this includes those who are yet to be born. Naturally, the Christian principle of human dignity extending to all humans leads to the controversial position that humans that have not been born yet have equal dignity too, and so ending life before birth is not a matter to take lightly. But human dignity is more than the love of unborn children. Human dignity extends to all people, both progressives and traditional conservatives. Many conservatives likely feel that many pro-censorship progressives could use a lesson in this, and that freedom of belief – an extension of dignity – extends to those who disagree.
Perhaps less popular among the conservative right, this human dignity extends to all people in prison and economic migrants. If we are to subscribe to the Christian principle of paternalism, the government has a duty to truly rehabilitate prisoners. Indeed, many cases of good Christians being made out of some of the most violent criminals exist, as anyone who has attended the Alpha Course can tell you. Likewise, while conservatives such as myself object to mass immigration and illegal migrants coming over the English Channel, policies to address these issues – especially the latter – must recognise their inalienable human dignity. How this is done is of course open to interpretation, and that is a good thing – these values must be broad enough to allow for healthy debate, but conservatives who wish to advocate for these principles must remember that the inalienable and universal qualities matter, especially in our image towards both opponents and potential voters. For the record and to reiterate, this doesn’t mean conservatives should not stop channel crossings or facilitate them; it means to stop it humanely.
Inalienable human dignity applies to all individuals, and this brings the reader to the principle of individual responsibility. This may be my Evangelical Protestant/Anglican bias showing, but recognising the uniqueness and individuality of each person is evident in the Bible. Each of us has a certain gift, and so each of us are responsible in different ways. From this, conservatives should draw on the idea of individual responsibility, tempered by some collective duty, which too is Biblical. In one sense, the principle of individual responsibility is tied in a complementary manner to valuing morality, as there is an emphasis on personal accountability as to how well you follow Christian morals. In other words, it’s holding yourself to certain standards. Practising self-restraint with behaviour, to act according to what is right and wrong, is an act of taking individual responsibility. This value in particular is hard to encourage politically because of how it is about influencing people’s mindset. People have to be convinced that the moral system they are holding themselves to account to is worth following, and this will bring about individual responsibility in regards to morality. This may come about naturally as a hypothetical government that has read this article and agreed wholeheartedly tries to implement these values, and people recognise the virtue in them. Individual responsibility is not very controversial among conservatives, so I’ll move on to the more controversial topic; collective responsibility to altruism and charity, and whether this means we ought to be socialists.
My initial plan was to list out every argument, every talking point and each verse for why Jesus would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn or endorsed Steve Baker as leader of the Conservative Party. Having read articles by Huffpost, various smaller magazines and academics, Forbes, the Christian Socialism Institute and a video from Novara Media I will attempt to summarise what each side said, in short, and what the truth likely is. The articles in favour of portraying Jesus as favouring left-leaning economics surprised me by quoting scripture far more often than those arguing the contrary. Their arguments rested on scripture criticising wealth, the pursuit of wealth and greed, praising giving up private property and of course, the comparison of a camel going through a haystack to a rich man entering the Kingdom of God.
From those against the idea Jesus was a socialist or economic progressive, almost every article started by saying socialism did not exist at the time of Jesus Christ, and most mentioned that Jesus was against coercive force. As taxes and government intervention is ultimately supported by coercive force, Jesus would have disapproved. Notably, it was said that helping the poor in a Biblical context has to be voluntary, and an act of charity, not an act of state-sponsored wealth redistribution. Talks of giving up private property were stated to be not an act of collectivisation, but strictly voluntary acts of altruism.
Forbes writer Bill Flax, his biases aside, reflect the view I concluded with very well by saying “I’m a capitalist and you might be socialists. Christians can be both, but Christ was neither. He was the Author and Finisher of faith”. As stated earlier on in this article, I am attempting to take religious texts and apply them to politics in the form of values/principles, so naturally there is friction between trying to translate commands over personal conduct into government policy. What leftists trying to say Jesus was a socialist get wrong is that Jesus did not call for mass wealth redistribution, but rather called for altruism and to reject the idea that wealth was important. He called for prioritising your spiritual self; to say He was calling for socialism would be to forget that Jesus is a religious figure with spiritual concerns. Likewise, what many capitalists get wrong is that Jesus had a strong concern for the poor, and strongly criticised the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake, and of course he encouraged giving to the poor. So, what Christian principle can one develop from this?
The final principle that one can infer from Biblical teaching is that the government must foster a community-orientated society that encourages individuals to believe strongly in charity and altruism, and care for their needy neighbours; the Christian principle of community-centred altruism. Government policy must not put GDP first. I am aware this talking point is almost painfully repeated among conservative internet personalities, but it is still an important truth. Economic growth is good when it leads to economic development; when economic growth leads to a higher quality of life. Further still, in balance, the government should respect private property as a means to generate wealth for society to benefit from, and so that private citizens can indeed be altruistic with their own wealth.
I often read calls for separation of church and state from people replying to GBNews tweets about how the Archbishop of Canterbury says this and that, and how religion should stay out of politics. I am reminded of how many Americans complain of inefficient government, and how their state should be reduced and further constrained, with powers further separated and devolved to make government less powerful. Except the reason why America’s political system is so inefficient is largely due to the separation of powers, the overbearing constraints on the executive and the culture that has come out of it. America needs a less restrained executive and civil service in order to produce better government. See Political Order and Political Decay for further details.
Similarly, conservatives in Britain should not call for the destruction of another ancient state institution, which would likely not return should we tear it off, such as the Church of England from its established role, on the grounds that it is too liberal. That would be exactly what progressive liberals want, as religion is often the best source of conservative, traditional morals and values. Rather, if the Archbishop of Canterbury focused more on the Gospel and Christianity, he would receive far much more praise from conservatives. Conservatives should seek to promote social conservatism within the Church of England, and make use of a fantastic vehicle for morality. It was only recently that the Prime Minister no longer had powers over appointing bishops in the Church of England, and the Prime Minister still has an influential say on who is picked to be Archbishop of Canterbury. If we in Britain are going to get our moral teachings from anywhere, would we want it from an institution that has existed in one form or another for over a thousand of years, or from the musings of self-appointed philosophers? Christianity guided Europe for over a millenia; rocking the foundations of our society, as we are right now, is not working out.
Numerous Members of Parliament have resigned from their seats or other parliamentary positions as of the date this article has been published, from Neil Parish to Christopher Pincher. One could argue that too many politicians no longer really believe in absolute morality, and certainly do not hold themselves responsible to a moral system. If politicians were more like Christ, espousing Christian values, surely this problem would be far less pronounced. We would have far less lies being told (lying is something that Jesus is not fond of) and greater dedication to serving the people; paternalistic love. Politicians holding themselves to account to a system of morality is something worth agitating for. If you are a member of a political party, you may want to only support candidates that discuss and hold themselves accountable to morality. Perhaps you can act as an example for others to follow, as Jesus Christ did, and follow Christian values. Maybe you could stand for elected office, or find work in government departments, and see the spread of Christian values in politics by your own work. The emphasis in all of this is that you should do something, big or small.
If we had the aforementioned Christian values put at the centre of public policy, with community, human dignity and paternalistic love in mind, Britain may well be better off, and the British people far more content with government. Such change will not happen without people being vocal or active about their concerns; A politician will not answer a question that he isn’t asked. People may sneer at you for defending Christian values publicly, but these people, and others, will sneer at you for almost anything. If there is no good answer to ‘Why not?’, then consider giving it a go.
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By Jake Scott — 2 weeks ago
In 1957, Ernst Kantorowicz published The King’s Two Bodies (KTB), a deep and penetrating analysis of the relationship between monarchy and the public realm. In this magisterial work, Kantorowicz explained with unmatched clarity the language of the medieval theologians and jurists, from dignitas to fisc to corpus mysticum, all of which have passed out of the bounds of our quite technocratic political language, but have, in many ways, shaped and laid the foundations for its articulation. The corpus mysticum, for instance, made the very notion of ‘popular sovereignty’ even thinkable, not merely conceivable. This article is an attempt to distill my research into Kantorowicz’s theory of the ‘King’s Two Bodies’, of the corporeal function that kingship played, in both the continuity of a people and in the question of the acting body, to show what the nature of monarchy actually is, beyond a simple constitutional component.
In Kantorowicz’s analysis, there are three consistent themes: first, the synecdochical relationship assumed between the physical body of the king and the unphysical ‘body’ of the people over whom he ruled; second, the important function of continuity that the office performed; and third, the normative relationship between ruler and ruled. However, before turning to these three themes, it is important to note that Kantorowicz’s analysis revolves around two significant observations: first, that there was an awareness of the difference between ‘the King’, meaning of the office of monarch, and ‘the king’, meaning the actual person who occupied that office. This is the origin of Kantorowicz’s chosen title: ‘that by the Common Law no Act which the King does as King, shall be defeated by his Nonage. For the King has in him two bodies, viz., a Body natural, and a Body politic’, a juridical fiction which, logically, ‘conveys “immortality” to the individual king as King, that is, with regard to his superbody’ in such a way that, in one court case, loyalty to King Henry VIII could be demanded as if he were ‘still “alive” though Henry Tudor had been dead for ten years’ (KTB:: 7, 13-14).
The second significant observation is that of the role played by Christian theology in the creation of a language of organic unity between ruler and ruled. It was St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12, verses 12 and 27) that affirmed the image of the Church as a single body, with Christ as the head, with whom the laity enjoyed unity, but the systematic expression of such a unity was St. Augustine’s to make. He referred only ever to the Church as the ‘Body of Christ’, or in his native Latin, Corpus Christi – though interestingly, the phrase the ‘mystical body of Christ’ was not St. Augustine’s but was coined much later. Regardless, Corpus Christi refers to the idea that Christ ‘is to be taken no longer as an individual, but in His fullness, that is, with the whole Church, with all of the members, of whom He is the Head, as constituting one unit, one whole, one person’ (Grabowski, 1946: 73-75). It is important, however, to bear in mind how one individual person might join the body of the Church: through confirmation, and communion; in other words, through express desire, and continual affirmation of membership. Such an act ‘constitutes a spiritual entity which is [Christ’s] Body here on earth’ that results in ‘the incorporation into the Body of Christ’ (Grabowski, 1946: 84-85). As Kantorowicz shows, such doctrine was used as the basis for the relationship between people and k/King. Though Pope Boniface VIII intended to reassert the Papacy above secular powers, and remind them of their ‘purely functional character within the world community of the corpus mysticum Christi’ [the spiritual body of Christ], it was the implication of ‘the Lord’s two bodies’ that would inform the emergent doctrine of the k/King’s two bodies, to such an extent that Kantorowicz considered it to mold ‘most significantly and decisively the political thinking in the high and late Middle Ages’ (KTB, 194-206):
To summarize, the notion of corpus mysticum, designating originally the Sacrament of the Altar, served after the twelfth century to describe the body politic, or corpus iuridicum, of the Church, which does not exclude the lingering on of some of the earlier connotations. Moreover, the classical christological distinction of the Two Natures in Christ… has been replaced by the corporational, non-christological concept of the Two Bodies of Christ.
It was in the wake of this theoretical shift that the secular powers, competing with the Church for supremacy, were able to adopt the language of the state as a body, with such phrases as corpus Reipublicae mysticum, which allowed the jurists to arrive ‘like the theologians, at a distinction between corpus verum – the tangible body of an individual person – and corpus fictum, the corporate collective which was intangible and existed only as a fiction of jurisprudence (KTB: 207-209). It is important to note here that the unique transformation brought about by the turn to the Christological terminology is specifically the idea of the body politic as a mystical body, not merely a body coterminous with the physical individuals that composed a political community. With this theoretical and theological background informing both the emergence of the doctrine of the k/King’s two bodies, and the internal relationship between them, this creates much of the intellectual condition for the emergence of ‘the people’ as a mystical body abstracted from its component parts.
Focusing, however, on the k/King’s two bodies, the synecdochical relationship between the King and the people was a fiction well-theorised in medieval theology. In the mid-fifteenth century, it was generally acknowledged that ‘an attack against the king’s natural [physical] person was, at the same time, an attack against the body corporate of the realm’, with a qualifying difference of ‘“one [body] descending from nature, the other from the polity”’ (KTB: 15, 46). Drawing on Anthony Black’s comments that legality relied on a certain conception of a people as both a trans-temporal entity that those laws applied to, as well as the source of the authority of laws, the relevance of a people’s corporality makes sense when we observe that ‘“Laws, and not the person, make the king”… a statement well known to Canonists; and according to the lex Digna itself the emperors confess: “On authority of the Law our authority depends”’ (KTB: 150).
If the King is a part committed to the whole of ‘the people’ as a single entity, then it must be remembered the authority of the King is derived from – whilst also being somewhat concurrent with – that entity’s will. After all, as one French jurist claimed, ‘the French king, like the Roman emperor, “had all the rights, especially the right pertaining to his kingdom, shut in his breast”’ (KTB: 153). Of course, this manifested differently across peoples: famously, in England, ‘the people’ was present in specifically in the King in Parliament; just as ‘the comitatus or county took visible form in the comitatus or county court, so the realm took visible form in a parliament’ (Maitland, 1901: 133). This held, however, for the English jurist Henry de Bracton (1210-1268) a paradox: ‘either the king is sovereign or no; if he be sovereign then he is not legally below the law, his obligation to obey the law is at most a moral obligation; on the other hand if he is below the law, then he is not sovereign, he is below some man or some body of men’ (cited in Maitland, 2015: 101). Although this was mostly resolved by the juridical separation between king-as-person and King-as-office, as noted above, it did eventually lead to the question of where sovereignty lay.
Of course, all of this relies on the recognition that there is an entity of ‘the people’ that is physically separate from the king, but ‘the king’s body politic could be the realm as a body politic – with the king as the head and the subjects as the members – or it could be the office of kingship – the dignity’ (Fortin, 2021: 5), . Joseph Canning has also noted the rise in medieval political thought of the distinction between the king and the people over whom he ruled: ‘notions according the kingdom an existence distinct from that of its king, organological views of society organised into a corporate body, and views of rulership as public office’ created the capacity to think that ‘the concept of a royal office, whose purpose was to serve the common good, involved the notion that the regnum or populus had a separate existence from that of its monarch’ (Canning, 2009: 64-65). This especially became emphasised in the later Middle Ages when (KTB: 193):
the centre of gravity shifted, as it were, from the ruling personages to the ruled collectivities, the new national monarchies, and the other political aggregates of human society. In other words, the exchanges between Church and State continued; but in the field of mutual influence, expanding from individual dignitaries to compact communities, henceforth was determined by legal and constitutional problems concerning the structure and interpretation of the bodies politic.
This is a significant development, as it coincided ‘with that moment in the history of Western thought when the doctrines of corporational and organic structure of society began to pervade anew the political theories of the West and to mold most significantly and decisively the political thinking in the high and late Middle Ages’, a change capitalised on by Baldus de Ubaldis in his definition of a ‘populus, the people, as a mystical body. He held that a populus was not simply the sum of individuals of a community, but “men assembled into one mystical body” … a body or corporation to be grasped only intellectually, since it was not a real or material body’ (KTB: 199-210). Despite the emergence, however, of the body politic as an ‘intellectual body’, the k/King remained the physical representation of that body politic in the world, as ‘the polity itself, or the mystical body of the realm, could not exist without its head’ (KTB: 227); hence, whilst the trend developing was to admit that ‘a people’ was a real entity separate from the physical body of the king, it was not thought to be capable of existing or, importantly, acting without something or someone through which it can be embodied.
Interestingly, Marie-France Fortin has recently shown that Kantorowicz’s analysis reveals that, whilst the power of dignity, dignitas, conferred upon the prince by an ‘immortal polity’ (KTB: 397), was concurrent with the office of kingship, it was ‘the Crown, on the other hand, [that] connoted a more general, public and communal sphere’ and was ‘incomplete without the other members of society’ (Fortin, 2021: 2). We can turn here to the second theme of Kantorowicz’s analysis, that of continuity and the problem that the physicality of ‘the king’s two bodies’ created; as Kantorowicz noted, ‘the concept of the “king’s two bodies” camouflaged a problem of continuity’ and it would be a ‘mistake to assume that the new philosophic tenet produced, caused or created a new belief in the perpetual continuity of political bodies’ (KTB: 273) – this was a perennial issue in political thought, and the continuity of the king’s two bodies is more of a product, than a cause, of such an issue.
Indeed, ‘the practical needs of kingdoms and communities led to the fiction of a quasi-infinite continuity of public institutions’ and that ‘practical needs produced institutional changes presupposing, as it were, the fiction of an endless continuity of the bodies politic’ (KTB: 284, 291). This is not to say the k/King was the only source of continuity: as with above, the law was seen a particularly reliable mechanism by which ‘every plurality of men collected in one body’ could be treated as a ‘juristic person, of distinguishing that juristic person clearly from every natural person endowed with body and soul, and yet of treating a plurality of individuals juristically as one person’ (KTB: 306).
On the topic of the relationship between law and custom as methods of continuity for a body politic, St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings are particularly revealing. He claims, for instance, that ‘when a thing is done again and again, it seems to proceed from a deliberate judgement of reason. Accordingly, custom has the force of law, abolishes the law, and is the interpreter of law’ (1988: 80). As conservatives, I think we ought to be particularly sensitive to St. Thomas’ writings on this topic, especially as our modern world often forces us to see the law and tradition in conflict. Nonetheless, in the medieval era, the law increasingly became the source of legitimacy for public actions, be they of the King or any other public office.
However, the law could not resolve the issue of action and decision in and of itself, especially as there were increasing attempts to incorporate the ‘ruler’s will’ in the legal system, to the extent that the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries tussled with this will when compared to the ‘rights of the community’, with the kingship as an office ‘established with the specific purpose of securing the preservation and well-being of the communities which the ruler served’ (Canning, 2009: 162-166). Whilst I turn to the normative relationship between ruler and ruled shortly, here we can focus on Kantorowicz’s important observation that, as a product of the belief in the continuity of the people ‘as an universitas “which never dies”’ (KTB: 314), there arose the significant question of whether the corporate realm existed between the death of one king and the coronation of another. Whilst the earlier Middle Ages imagined that, due to the intertwining between Church and State, ‘the continuity of a realm during an interregnum had been sometimes preserved by a fiction: Christ stepped into the gap as interrex and secured, through his own eternity, the continuity of kingship’, the increasing tendency of Popes to claim authority as interrex made the fiction politically dangerous. Instead, the fiction arose of the sempiternity of the Crown (KTB: 334-335, 341-342):
In the phrase “head and Crown” the word Crown served to add something to the purely physical body of the king and to emphasise that more than the king’s “body natural” was meant; and in the phrase “realm and Crown” the word Crown served to eliminate the purely geographic-territorial aspect of regnum and to emphasise unambiguously the political character of regnum… briefly, as opposed to pure physis of the king and the pure physis of the territory, the word “Crown,” when added, indicated the political metaphysis in which both rex and regnum shared, or the body politic (to which both belonged) in its sovereign rights.
As Fortin observes, the melding of the two symbols of King and Crown allowed elements of that perpetual community that the King ought to have embodied – the people – to pass into the Crown, such as the eternity of the office, and the corporate realm of the body politic (2021: 8). As a result, ‘in the later Middle Ages the idea was current that in the Crown the whole body politic was present… in this respect indeed the Crown and the “mystical body of the realm” were comparable entities. Neither one nor the other existed all by itself “in the abstract” and separate from the constituents’ (KTB: 363). We see here, then, a similarity to the Aristotelian notion of the polis as an embodied corporeal people, as well as a comparison to John Ma’s analogy of the polis as ‘social memory’; a reliance on a physical presence, be it king, king-in-parliament, or so on, meant the continuity of a people’s acting body had to be reflected in an equally continuous physical presence. In this respect, this was part of the conflation of Crown and King that Fortin analyses, in that each symbol acted complementary to the other: whilst the Crown was the eternal symbol, the King could be embodied in the king. This theoretical move was reflected most clearly in the emergence of the phrase ‘The king is dead! Long live the king!’ which, whilst deceptively simple, ‘powerfully demonstrated the perpetuity of kingship’ by suggesting an unbroken embodiment of the King that did not ‘end’ with one king’s death (or, ‘demise’) and another king’s accession (KTB: 412). Regardless, ‘the Crown… could hardly be severed from the king as King…. It remained possible, for example, to personify the Crown which, representing something that touched all, stood in many respects for the whole body politic’ (KTB: 372, 383).
This brings us to the third theme of Kantorowicz’s work, that of the normative relationship between ruler and ruled. We can see clearly the synecdochical relationship that arose out of the organological, ‘corporate realm’ thought, as well as the use of the office of kingship to reflect a theorisation of the ruled people as a continuous entity, but this has not really answered the question of why an embodiment of that people is necessary. Whereas Aristotle’s theory of the polis as necessary for the bios and therefore the highest expression of the common good, the concomitant principle to the theorisation of a continuous people was one in which ‘the idea of a state existing only for its own sake was foreign… the very belief in a divine Law of Nature as opposed to Positive Law, a belief then shared by every thinker, almost necessitated the ruler’s position both above and below the Law’ (Kantorowicz, 2016: 144). Though the concept of popular sovereignty was historically distant, the awareness of the separability between the ruler and the ruled, at least on a practical level, had to be balanced with the necessity of the people’s capability to act as a political body. The Divine Right of Kings was certainly one answer, as ‘the king acts for the people which has been committed to his care by God and which cannot act for itself’ (Canning, 2009: 21). Just as the idea of Christ as the interrex declined, so too did the religious foundation for kingship, but the organological concept still posited that the King was the head of the body of the people. To justify the capacity for the King to act, not on behalf of the people, but as the people, there arose a particular conception of the universitas, the body corporate, as a legal minor. Largely a product of rediscovered Roman law, the conflation of ‘madmen, children and cities’ under an edict meant that (KTB: 374):
when, in the course of the thirteenth century, the corporational doctrines were developed, the notion of “city”, civitas, was logically transferred to any universitas or any body corporate, and it became a stock-in-trade expression to say that the universitas was ever an infant and under age because it needed a curator.
Importantly, as this idea matured, it was transferred to the symbolic entity of the Crown, to the effect that ‘as a perpetual minor, the Crown itself had corporational character – with the king as its guardian, though again not with the king alone, but with that composite body of king and magnates’ (KTB: 381).
What matters here is the relationship given between ruler and ruled that allows for the concentration of political action in the king; the corporeal embodiment of a people in the political world in a single person in such a way that allowed the people to act was due to that people’s inability to act for itself, owing to its legal immaturity as a single corporate body, and not merely because of its physical disaggregation as a multitude of individuals. As a result, ‘the king appeared as the animate instrument of a fictitious, and therefore immortal, person called Dignity’, meaning ‘the dogma of a political Incarnation, a noetic incarnation of the Dignitas or of the Body politic’ (KTB: 445). To compare this to the polis, then, whereas the people could act as a political community through a deliberation with consideration for the common good, under kingship the people were incapable of doing so, under the prevailing legal fiction, resulting in a concentration of decisionist power in the office of King. This was developed into the sleeping sovereign thesis by early theorists of popular sovereignty, but prior to the emergence of popular sovereignty as a concept, the necessity of an acting person required the existence of the office of King and the concept of Crown.
The King, as the office, was the embodiment of the entire body politic; embodied, of course, in the physcal body of the king himself (or queen herself). This is why the political community of the people lived and died with the monarchy – not the specific monarch, because to do so would risk admitting that the people could die. This was the inspiration behind Thomas Hobbes’ famous Leviathan frontispiece, in which an enormous person was composed of the very individuals over whom he governed; Hobbes was not writing and imagining the grand body of the body politic in a vacuum, and did not create the idea from the abstract, but was speaking to a long and fruitful tradition of treating the people as a single entity with a will that would allow that people to actualise its desires.
This tradition is, as I hope to have shown, the legal fiction that the body of the king, as a temporary and temporally-bound entity, is merely the physical embodiment of the King, which is the eternal and spiritual office of the entire body politic over which a monarch reigns. Our modern ideas of popular sovereignty would never have arisen without this fiction, of the original meaning of the phrase, Rex Est Populus: The King is the People.
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