It’s often said that contemporary philosophy is stuck in an intellectual rut. While our forefathers pushed the boundaries of human knowledge, modern philosophers concern themselves with impenetrable esoterica, or gesture vaguely in the direction of social justice.
Yet venture to Whitehall, and you’ll find that once popular ideas have been refuted thoroughly by new schools of thought.
Take the Hegelian dialectic, once a staple of philosophical education. According to Hegel, the presentation of a new idea, a thesis, will generate a competing idea or counterargument, an antithesis. The thesis and the antithesis, opposed as they are, will inevitably come into conflict with one another.
However, this conflict is a productive one. With the merits of both the thesis and the antithesis considered, the reasoned philosopher will be able to produce an improved version of the thesis, a synthesis.
In very basic terms, this is the Hegelian dialectic, a means of philosophical reason which, if applied correctly, should result in a refinement and improvement of ideas over time. Compelling, at its face.
However, this idea is now an outmoded one. Civil servants and their allies in the media and the judiciary have, in their infinite wisdom, developed a better way.
Instead of bothering with the cumbersome work of developing a thesis or responding to it with an antithesis, why don’t we just skip to the synthesis? After all, we already know What Works through observation of Tony Blair’s sensible, moderate time in No 10 – why don’t we just do that? That way, we can avoid all of that nasty sparring and clock off early for drinks.
This is the grim reality of modern British politics. The cadre of institutional elites who came to dominate our political system at the turn of the millennium have decided that their brand of milquetoast liberalism is the be-all and end-all of political thought. The great gods of this new pantheon – Moderation, Compromise, International Standing, Rule of Law – should be consulted repeatedly until nascent ideas are sufficiently tempered.
The Hegelian dialectic has been replaced by the Sedwillian dialectic; synthesis begets synthesis begets synthesis.
In turn, politicians have become more restricted in their thinking, preferring to choose from a bureaucratically approved list of half-measures. Conservatives, with their aesthetic attachment to moderate, measured Edwardian sensibilities, are particularly susceptible to this school of thought. We no longer have the time or space for big ideas or sweeping reforms. Those who state their views with conviction are tarred as swivel-eyed extremists, regardless of the popularity of their views. Despite overwhelming public dissatisfaction with our porous borders, politicians who openly criticise legal immigration will quickly find calls to moderate. If you’re unhappy with the 1.5 million visas granted by the Home Office last year, perhaps you’d be happy with a mere million?
The result has been decades of grim decline. As our social fabric unravels and our economy stagnates, we are still told that compromise, moderation, and sound, sensible management are the solutions. This is no accident. Britain’s precipitous decline and its fraying social fabric has raised the stakes of open political conflict. Nakedly pitting ideas against each other risks exposing our society’s underlying decisions and shattering the myth of peaceful pluralism on which the Blairite consensus rests. After all, if we never have any conflict, it’s impossible for the Wrong Sorts to come out on top.
The handwringing and pearl-clutching about Brexit was, in part, a product of this conflict aversion. The political establishment was ill-equipped to deal with the bellicose and antagonistic Leave campaign, and the stubbornness of the Brexit Spartans. Eurosceptics recognised that their position was an absolute one – Britain must leave the European Union, and anything short of a full divorce would fall short of their vision.
It was not compromise that broke the Brexit gridlock, but conflict. The suspension of 21 rebel Conservative MPs was followed by December’s general election victory. From the beginning of Boris Johnson’s premiership to the end, he gave no quarter to the idea of finding a middle ground.
Those who are interested in ending our national decline must embrace a love of generative adversity. Competing views, often radical views, must be allowed to clash. We should revel in those clashes and celebrate the products as progress. Conservatives in particular must learn to use the tools of the state to advance their interests, knowing that their opponents would do the same if they took power.
There are risks, of course – open conflict often produces collateral damage – but it would be far riskier to continue on our current path of seemingly inexorable deterioration. We must not let the mediocre be the enemy of the good for any longer.
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By Xander West — 1 year ago
This current period of postmodernity lacks a certain idea of permanence which our forebears once possessed. So much of what this civilisation produces, if one could still deem it such in its hyper-atomisation, is ethereal and consumable in a way that amounts to a sort of permanent revolution. Even those who still build tangible things in this society risk having no legacy. One only needs to think about all the mid-twentieth century modernist and brutalist architecture we destroy, to replace with not too dissimilar glass boxes, when considering the lifespan of today’s skylines or infrastructure.
If civilisation is to thrive once again, we could do worse than looking to a great visionary in our past as inspiration for a better future. I therefore propose Sir Edward Watkin (1819-1901) as an ideal role model for both his repeated proposals of grand projects and the almost surprising feasibility of all of them. I think it is worth first to give a historical account of him, then suggest a grand project based on his ideas.
In short, Watkin was the quintessential Victorian railway baron, yet so much more. The energy he possessed during his life was nothing short of astounding and went far beyond the railways for which he is mainly remembered today, but those achievements remain a good place to start.
From his first position in the industry as Secretary of the Trent Valley Railway in 1845 until the completion of the Great Central Main Line in 1899, Watkin’s presence was felt just about everywhere. ‘The Railway Doctor’ rescued the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway in British North America and transformed it into the then longest railway in the world. His chairmanship of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway forged a vast network of lines across the industrial North West and North Midlands. He drove the Metropolitan Railway deep into the Middlesex countryside and beyond, ultimately creating swathes of London suburbia and a bevy of other towns. He steered the South Eastern Railway through the Panic of 1866 and further expanded it through that part of England. He became director of the Great Eastern Railway in 1868 and drove it out of bankruptcy, employing the help of fellow MP Viscount Cranbourne, later the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and Prime Minister. He advised on railways in four continents and built the last main line in Great Britain until High Speed One over a century later. I might add that this list, however impressive it might be, is not exhaustive.
The ever-restless Watkin was not content with merely the above. Whilst saving the Grand Trunk Railway, he was enlisted by the Cabinet to take part in talks to create the Dominion of Canada. This resulted in a buyout of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which he personally negotiated after the British and colonial governments refused to do so. Elsewhere, he pioneered the first public parks in Salford and Manchester, as well as the first footpath in Britain dedicated for public use going up Mount Snowdon. Watkin developed Grimsby into the largest fishing port in the world and neighbouring Cleethorpes into a major Victorian resort. In 1894, he opened a large pleasure garden with a football pitch in a rural parish where the sheep outnumbered the people called Wembley. Readers might have heard of it. Again, this list of achievements is not exhaustive, and I am omitting most of Watkin’s political work in this article for the sake of brevity.
However, Watkin’s life and works were not without their faults, of which he is best known for two. The first was the Channel Tunnel, the only link in his envisioned railway from Manchester to Paris which was not built during his lifetime. He and his French counterpart successfully tunnelled 3.6 miles out of 22 under the English Channel before the British government forbade further work in 1882. This was the point when his contemporary critics pointed and said ‘now he really has gone mad’, but Watkin proved it was entirely possible over a century before the modern tunnel commenced digging. The site under Shakespeare Cliff and his twin tunnel design were both adopted in the 1980s. When the machine drilling the current tunnel broke into Watkin’s forcibly abandoned project, the engineers found it was dry after over a century of sitting abandoned.
The second mark against his reputation was the Metropolitan Tower, intended as London’s answer to the Eiffel Tower and the centrepiece of the aforementioned Wembley Park. The winning design from Watkin’s competition was to be 1,200 feet tall, 150 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower at the time, and the tallest structure in the world until the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931. If it had been completed, it would still be the tallest building in the United Kingdom today. Unfortunately, this would-be monument to heroic materialism was scuppered by a lack of willingness from investors to fund such an extravagant speculation. The first stage was finished in 1895 at a height of 154 feet, but a redesign several years prior to cut costs had already sealed its fate. Only four of the planned eight legs of the tower were built, putting too much pressure on the ground and leading to subsidence. Watkin’s Folly, as it had become known, met its fate via dynamite in 1907. Wembley Stadium now stands on the site, with its arch rising to 436 feet to serve as the constant advertisement Watkin had once hoped for his tower.
It is safe to say that if Watkin were on the parts of Twitter frequented by many readers of this publication today, he would be regarded as a radical Anglofuturist. His manifold ambitions demonstrate an absolute faith in the United Kingdom and its future at the forefront of global civilisation. With knowledge of some of his ideas, energy and determination, one can now imagine a grandiose yet entirely feasible project to strike a course away from national stagnation and decline.
We shall call it the Great Central Railway Company, a fitting revival of a name for what one can foresee as the backbone of a coherent and comprehensive railway system for modern Britain. This cannot be a state venture as most modern railway projects have become, subject as they are to hordes of overpaid bureaucrats and special interests. The GCRC would be a private company naturally responsible for every part of its operations and with the logical aim of out-competing Grant Shapps’s reheated British Rail in every way.
It would first be useful to lay out the technical and aesthetic quirks of this company’s core railways. China has been extremely industrious in its construction of very high-speed lines over the past decade or so, thus Britain can and should do the same. Our trains would be the old British-made InterCity stock on steroids, which one shall call the InterCity 325, with a top speed of 325kmh. It might be pandering, but perhaps we should also incorporate some ideas from the Mallard steam locomotive in these trains; it relates nicely that the refurbishment program for the InterCity 225 carriages was called Project Mallard. Aside from being a rather nice shade of blue, its curved front still maintains a surprisingly modern appearance despite it being over 80 years old.
Infrastructurally, this company would not mess around with glass boxes or minor ventures. GCRC main lines would have four tracks as a minimum to separate the local and freight trains from express services. Stations would be of a two-platform island design, plus as many more platforms as needed for express and branch line services. Smaller stations would be built with a dignified but cosy atmosphere in mind, whilst the larger stations would be designed akin to a palace for the people as the Great Central Railway’s Nottingham Victoria once was. I am quite sure this would actually turn out to be cheaper and more visually appealing than doing something artsy with glass and/or steel for the millionth time.
Now for some actual railway lines, of which I shall discuss two focussed around tunnels once thought of by Watkin. We shall start with what could be called the New Eastern Main Line at Dungeness, which Watkin once wanted to turn into a resort town like Cleethorpes, and strike northwest by ‘borrowing’ a rather straight freight line across the Romney Marsh. We shall carry on until Tenterden, whence it would curve slightly to brush by the east of Headcorn and then go on to Maidstone. There would have to be some urban negotiation by viaduct, as there would be in the Medway conurbation, before emerging into the open countryside of northern Kent around Wainscott. It would then move north, go under the Thames to Canvey Island, and begin its whistlestop tour of eastern English towns. It would travel past Benfleet, Hadleigh and Rayleigh (with interchange for London), then Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford and Great Dunmow before reaching Stansted Airport to its east. Onwards it would go to Royston, Godmanchester and Huntingdon, then Peterborough (with a complete rebuild of its station) before reaching Spalding. In Lincolnshire, it would follow several mostly abandoned lines to Boston, Louth and Grimsby before ‘borrowing’ a couple more lines to reach a tunnel under the Humber at New Holland. We shall stop discussing this line in detail with Hull, with it having achieved Watkin’s plan of connecting Hull with the south, but from there it could easily go deeper into Yorkshire and beyond.
The other line I shall discuss will be the Great Central Main Line, but with a route beyond Watkin’s achievements which shifts this project from being defined by a semi-romanticised past for the sake of the present to defining the very future of this Kingdom. I think a new terminus next door to the original Marylebone but larger is fitting, then ‘borrowing’ the London to Aylesbury line from its current custodians. It would then follow the old railway up through Rugby, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Sheffield and finally Manchester via the Woodhead Tunnels, but from there we must go further north. It would make its way through Salford and Bolton before reaching Blackburn and Preston. Then it would go in a straight a line as practical near the M6 to Lancaster, Kendal, Penrith and Carlisle before reaching the Scottish border at Gretna. The next leg of this line would see a rather straightforward journey through southwest Scotland, the only towns of note on the way being Dumfries and Newton Stewart. However, at Stranraer we must irrevocably change the political and economic trajectory of the British Isles with a tunnel under the Irish Sea to Larne and ultimately Belfast. There may be a large munitions dump in Beaufort’s Dyke which would merit some praying during construction, but the benefits of joining the two main islands of the United Kingdom, even those which are merely symbolic, cannot be understated.
One could envision the natural evolution of dozens of branch lines serving further towns and cities from just these two lines alone. Indeed, the entire national infrastructure network could reorient itself with just a handful of main lines inspired by Watkin’s vision, prompting a new era of construction which merges the functionality of technology with our primordial desire towards the beautiful. These railway lines would also give many counties much-needed economic relevance through the secondary emphasis on freight, a far more prevalent aim of the railways from Victorian times until Beeching, giving eastern counties in particular the opportunity to have purposes other than being London’s barracks or middle-of-nowheres.
All that is needed is the money and willpower to see this project through. With a new Watkin in our midst, I am sure that we can once again find the willpower, wherefrom the money would follow, to reassert our faith in this country by building something remarkable. I hope readers agree.
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By Alfie Riden — 1 year ago
The modern English are a deracinated people. They know nothing of their great artists, poets and writers but most importantly, they’ve been uprooted from their history. History is a socially adhesive force, binding the dead to the living and those yet unborn with the unending assault on our culture and customs over the last 60-70 years having its intended outcome – a docile mass of atomised consumers.
The modern English care nothing for Elgar’s marches or the works of Shakespeare. Instead, they prefer instantaneous access to subscription-based services like Netflix and Spotify, where they can fry what remains of their brain circuitry watching Lizzo twerking her fat arse. Ask an English teenager “Who was Admiral Nelson?” and more likely than not they’d reply with something about a Multi-Car insurance policy rather than the Battle of Trafalgar. Joking aside, our material opulence and abject lack of transcendental belief has exacerbated this totalising apathy and ignorance. Moderns only care for the evisceration of their attention spans by short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops and satiating their basest desires. The average Zoomer can’t watch a video about the war in Ukraine without a pretty Tiktok girl dancing along to it – it would demand too much of their concentration capacity. This stark reality begs the question: can Zoomers and their coming generational successors focus long enough to read about their history? The answer of course is no – so it matters what they’re taught.
Upon leaving my secondary school after my A-Levels, I had the pleasure of being in a class with a militant communist who draped our Sixth Form building with a flag of the USSR on leaving day. This same individual was successful in petitioning our school to include a module on the history of migration throughout British history a few years after leaving. This module, ‘Migrants in Britain, c800-present’, is run by the Edexcel exam board for GCSE students and it is as insidious and subversive as it sounds. The goal of the course is to present a narrative that England and Britain have always been cornucopias of ethnic diversity, that ‘migration’ has been an ever-present facet of English society, and that, just like the United States, we really are a ‘nation of immigrants’.
A brief specification outline for this module is as follows:
• c800–c1500: Migration in medieval England
o The experience and impact of migrants
o Case study: the city of York under the Vikings
• c1500–c1700: Migration in early modern England
o Case study: Sandwich and Canterbury in the 16th century, and Huguenots in 17th-century England
• c1700–c1900: Migration in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain
o Case study: Liverpool in the 19th century, and the experience of Jewish migrants in the East End of London in the late nineteenth century
• c1900–present: Migration in modern Britain
o Political changes: the creation of the BUF and the BNP; laws to restrict immigration; laws to establish equality for migrants.
o Case study: Bristol in the mid-twentieth century, and the experience of Asian migrants in Leicester from 1945
o Social attitudes: the hostility of far-right groups; Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech; attacks on Jews, e.g. Battle of Cable Street, 1936, race riots in 1981 and Burnley, 2001.
To be succinct, I shall tackle two of these subsections: ‘c800–c1500: Migration in medieval England’ and ‘c1900–present: Migration in modern Britain’.
Migration in Medieval England
It’s 867AD, and Viking ‘migrants’ are peacefully integrating into the city of York; they’re skipping down the streets with Anglo-Saxon children and making daisy chains to express their gratitude at how hospitable the locals have been. Just like the immigrants of today, they undoubtedly want the best for the country they’re ‘migrating’ to and yearn for nothing more than seamless assimilation, equality and GDP growth. I am of course painting a caricature of what this module is implying, though the fact remains that the Vikings were not ‘migrants’ at all – they were invaders.
The Kingdom of Northumbria was already deeply embroiled in a civil war between two rival Kings, Ælla and Osberht when the Vikings began a raid of the city. Norse tradition holds that upon defeat the two Kings were blood-eagled and the Vikings ultimately triumphed in a battle of excessive violence. The Vikings proceeded to seize control and established the Kingdom of Jórvík centred around York. I could spend an age deliberating on the minutia of these events but the pressing issue at hand is the insidious language being woven into the modern teaching of history.
Something the right is truly awful at is effectively resisting the linguistic warfare being callously waged upon us. The merciless brutality of the Battle of York highlights the underhanded substitution of the term ‘invader’ for ‘migrant’; this surreptitious move undoubtedly has the politically motivated goal of the student not distinguishing between modern mass immigration and medieval Viking invasion. They’re dying to hear their indoctrinated students say “Immigration has always been a staple of our culture”, and hoping they question no further.
The usage of the word continues to be applied liberally throughout the module – the specification defines a migrant as “encompassing those affected by both voluntary and forced migration, temporary migrants, migrants from abroad and internal migrants within Britain”. This definition would have you believe that Alan from Gloucester, who is moving to Chippenham for a consulting job, is exactly the same as Ali, a Pakistani immigrant, travelling halfway across the world from a culturally alien society to start a grooming gang in Rotherham. I think you’d agree that the term possesses little currency if the scope of its meaning is so vast and clouded.
If one wishes to engage in semantics, the Vikings were technically ‘migrants’, but to give an inch to subversives and indeed to even entertain their lexical framing is to lose the battle entirely. The writers of this module wish to create the impression that England and Britain were always multi-ethnic societies. To be clear, England was never a multi-ethnic society – not in its conception, nor reality – it was a monoethnic society of Anglo-Saxons established by King Æthelstan in 927AD. Celtic peoples resided in northern parts of the Kingdom as well as Cornwall if you wish to be pedantic, but the meta-narrative of the nation was inextricably bounded to King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxon ethnicity.
Migration in Modern Britain
One positive of this module section is the use of the word ‘migration’ in the title – it is more congruent with the socially understood meaning of the term. The substantially larger downside is that it is packed with unabashed lies, outright deception and vindictive demonisation of the native population.
Mass migration into Britain began in June 1948 with the arrival of the HMS Windrush at Tilbury Dock and, unsurprisingly, the module writers immediately begin to deceive their confiding students. Reading this module or watching any modern documentary on the subject, you’d be presented with an allegory of noble West Indians altruistically surrendering their way of life to help unwelcoming Londoners rebuild their city after the war. This narrative is xenophilic, self-hating garbage.
The Windrush was operated by the New Zealand Shipping Company on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and it was half empty when docked in Kingston, Jamaica in April 1945. The company had the brilliant idea of selling Jamaicans cheap tickets to England to pocket a little extra cash, all the while giving the English no prior warning. The politicians at the time were taken aback by the arrival of the ship and even had to make emergency provisions for them. Accounts of the passengers on the Windrush make no mention of ever being invited to work in England. Don’t believe me? Have a read of some personal accounts from the BBC website yourself. They, like most people who emigrate, did so for what they deemed a better lifestyle and as a calculation of economic self-interest.
The weaving of this myth deliberately portrays Londoners as ungrateful and cruel as well as falsifying and obfuscating key details of the event; fanning the flames of anti-white hatred. Unfortunately, when these distortions and fabrications enter public consciousness, the symbolistic power they are imbued with can prove difficult to dispel.
The module goes on to demonise Mr Enoch Powell, possibly the most erudite politician of the 20th century. Powell lived an amazing life and achieved many outstanding feats. Powell was the youngest brigadier in the British army, became a professor of Greek at the age of 25, and spoke nine languages to name just a few of his achievements. However, the most notable characteristic about Powell didn’t end up being his encyclopaedic knowledge but his intellectual fearlessness.
On April 20th 1968, Powell gave his famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and the module would have you believe that Powell was motivated by unbridled hatred of immigrants rather than a love of hearth and homeland. When Powell took pleasure in speaking Urdu in Indian restaurants, when he became an expert in the country and town planning, and even when he placed value in the continuity and traditions of Britain, he was always undoubtedly guided by hatred. Contrary to mainstream perception, Powell was actually very liberal on various issues from divorce law reform to opposing capital punishment to name but two (a far cry from the crypto-fascist authoritarian picture being painted).
The simple fact is that Powell was an ethnocentric man like most other people on the planet and sought to protect his nation from what he saw as catastrophic demographic collapse. Powell’s dynamism and oratory prowess struck an emphatic chord with the people and the prescience of his observations is undeniable to anyone today.
Our ‘Educators’ and Rectifying the Problem
Gaetano Mosca, the progenitor of what came to be the school of Italian Elite Theory, came up with the idea of the ‘Political Formula’ i.e. the philosophy that justifies the rule of an elite. Our current elite’s political formula is something along the lines of: ‘diversity, tolerance and inclusion’ and holds that individual self-expression is the ultimate good, from this it would follow that collective identities are the ultimate evil due to their exclusivity. Nationalism is a form of collective identity, and collective identities exclude and alienate people by their very nature; what value does an identity hold if everyone can possess it? Not much. Nationalism and group identity are therefore a spit in the face of our elite’s political formula, specifically directed towards their sacrosanct value of inclusion.
Coupled with this political formula, our elite possesses a managerial and technocratic ethos, pursuing economic growth above anything transcendent; the notion of ‘Homo Economicus’ is ever-present. This hyper-individualistic and material mindset has a direct impact on how our elites view their own history – it tolerates no deviation, and trickles down to our teachers.
Rectifying this problem begins with assailing the current political formula and the Boomer Truth Regime we live under. The political formula of the Right should be one of hierarchy, dynamism and vitality. Life-affirming masculine narratives of our greatness should be taught to our students – national heroes like Drake, Nelson and Wellington would be mandatory course material. The endless self-flagellation we’ve been subjected to is not in the character of our people and should be thrown onto the dumpster fire as duplicitous crap. Harping on about our supposed moral shortcomings and historical wrongs is not in the best interests of our people – they need something different.
The insidious aims of these module planners are all unspoken of and intentionally so; incrementalism is a powerful tool – slowly boiling the frog has too often proved effective, but leftist chicanery need only be unearthed by a man willing to do the digging. Clandestine word games and their political goals become painstakingly clear when intellectually challenged and vast portions of our people yearn for well-grounded positions against them. This fact only further necessitates that the linguistic framework we find ourselves in requires a radical counteroffensive – this is of paramount importance.
People are not governed by rationality, their opinions are governed by belief, superstition, feelings and base instincts. Following this logic, a nationalistic outlook is branded into the minds of most healthy people, all that is required is a little cudgelling to get them in line with our vision. I believe the average Englishman is instinctually aware of the intellectual deconstruction of his culture but articulating it coherently is another matter.
Modern sensibilities demand that not only we English, but all European nations simply give up the exclusive nature of their identities, sacrificing them on the altar of inclusivity when no other peoples are expected to do so. Only we bear the moral responsibility of safeguarding our identity from these malicious attacks – permissiveness from others and within ourselves must not be tolerated.
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By Philip Diaz-Lewis — 1 year ago
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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