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3.51. The uses of government

So far in this survey of political goods the State and its government have not appeared advantageously. I have found that the State is not to be taken as itself a great good, that the good kind of equality is a personal rather than a political matter, and that freedom is to be obtained in spite of the government rather than through it.

Are there then no acceptable political goods that are secured primarily through the government? There must be; or else the right political philosophy is anarchism, the view that government is undesirable and should be abolished. This brings us to the questions: What are governments for? What is the use of them? Why have them at all, in view of their manifold disadvantages and unpleasantnesses? Why is anarchism wrong?

A great many ends have been put forward as being what States are for. I have said earlier in these lectures that one of the purposes of a State may be to preserve a culture. Here is a list taken from a sentence by Acton: liberty, happiness, prosperity, power, the preservation of an historic inheritance, the adaptation of national law to national character, the progress of enlightenment, the promotion of virtue (Fasnacht, Acton's Political Philosophy, p. 89). This covers most of the obvious candidates; but it omits the God-State, for the State has often been regarded as its own end. And here are a few answers that have been given to the question what governments are for. Locke wrote that 'the great and chief end of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property', and in property he included 'their lives, liberties, and estates' (Second Treatise of Civil Government, c. ix, §§ 123-4). Hume wrote that 'the principal object of government is to constrain men to observe the laws of nature' (Treatise, 3.2.8). Mill wrote that 'the most important point of excellence which any form of government can possess is to promote the virtue and intelligence of the people themselves' (Representative Government, c. ii). The constitution of Alabama states, or stated, that 'the sole and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the Government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression' (according to Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, i. 118). Lecky himself wrote that 'a Government can have no higher object than to raise the standard of national health' (i. 324). The word 'protection' covers two very different things; for the protection of a man against other men is very different from the protection of him against all the natural dangers to which he is subject. But even without this distinction there is plenty of variety in these statements.

This question what States and governments are for -- is it a question of fact or a question of choice? It is not merely a question of fact, to be discussed like what is at the bottom of the sea. For governments are to some extent under our control, for us to do with them what we want. Our choice enters in, as in all questions of purpose and practice and goodness. On the other hand, it is partly a question of fact; for we need to know what things government can do and what things it cannot do, and what are the side consequences of the things it can do, in order to choose wisely what we will make it do. So our question can be put more precisely thus: What things can the government do, and, among all the things it can do, which do we wish it to do?

There is more than one right answer to each part of the question. As to the question of fact, What can a government do?, the powers of government differ in different times and places. Where telephones exist, for example, the government can do more than where they do not exist. And as to the question of choice, there is no reason why every wise nation must always make the same choice of what its government is to do, on pain of ceasing to be wise and becoming foolish. Many different choices might be equally wise, just as there are many different ways of earning his living that a person may choose without being a fool. It follows that no doctrine is acceptable which declares that 'the purpose of government is so and so', assigning one and only one right purpose to all governments at all times.

Should the State promote virtue and intelligence? Certainly if it can. We cannot believe that the successful promotion of virtue and intelligence would be accompanied by side consequences that cancelled all the advantage. But can it? Not directly, because virtue and intelligence are essentially qualities of the independent man. The attempt to produce them directly produces instead at best a good breed of sheep; and this fact condemns much of the schoolmasterish politics of Plato and Aristotle. In the sentence I have quoted from Mill he writes of virtue and intelligence being promoted, not precisely by the State as such, but by the form of the State's constitution. He means that some constitutions by themselves have a much stronger tendency than others to promote these qualities in the citizens; and he is right. We have had recently, in Nazi and Communist governments, good opportunities to see how grossly those constitutions degrade the virtue of the citizens.

Besides the form of its constitution, the State has at least one other means of seeing to the virtue and intelligence of its citizens. That is to require all to be educated, and to provide education for those who cannot or will not buy it. I should say that the richer States have this means at their disposal; universal education is, however, so expensive that probably only industrial countries can afford it.

Attempts to increase the virtue and intelligence of the citizens by censorship, or by legal penalties for moral crimes as such, or by religious laws, have the opposite result. Religious faith being not a virtue but a vice, the State should not try to encourage it.

No doubt a State should do something to preserve and promote a good culture among its citizens. But it is hard to feel confidence in saying what in particular it should do. Questions of more than one language among the citizens of a single State are usually very difficult. Canada allowed French as well as English, but the United States insisted on English. You will not care to say that one is definitely the better thing to do. Every disappearance of a language is at least a sentimental loss; but every barrier to communication is a very great utilitarian loss. We sometimes find that those who insist on the preservation of a language are not supported by the majority of those who speak it. In Ireland, for example, the English-speaking teachers and politicians of Dublin insist on the preservation of Erse, and this makes the Erse-speakers in the west complain that they are being deprived of the opportunity to learn the English which they need.

3.52. Socialism

If there are useful and desired enterprises which cannot be performed except by concerted action of the whole town or people, and can be carried through by concerted action without the benefits being obliterated by the drawbacks, government should undertake them. Government should undertake such large enterprises as most members want done but cannot do individually or in private groups. Nearly everybody agrees that there are such enterprises. The most obvious of them are defence against attacking States, and the provision of roads.

There are also enterprises which can be done either by the government or by private groups. Thus at the present time the telephone service is provided by private groups in the U.S. but by the government in the U.K. Which of these enterprises the government should take over is an endless question of detail. The form of the question is always the same, namely, which will run it more conveniently, the government or private enterprise; but there is certainly not the same right answer for all enterprises at all times and places. For different governments at different times the right answer must vary, according to the varying wishes of the people, state of engineering, state of foreign politics, and many other factors. The extreme negative view, that the government should attempt no common enterprise at all, is certainly wrong almost everywhere if not everywhere. It is possible to obtain very great material advantages by concerted action under the government, and that without serious risk of increasing the evil side of government. The extreme positive view, according to which nearly everything is better achieved by government and nothing should be left to private enterprise, is also certainly wrong. For example, the concentration of all literature and journalism in the hands of the State, as practised in Russia now, is very harmful to truth and freedom and beauty and political sagacity. Government planning is not the complete and only way to the good life; a certain kind of independence and self help in the citizens is always necessary. Indeed, as Dr. Popper has well put it, the attempt to produce heaven on earth by government action invariably produces hell.

In Britain in the mid twentieth century there is much harmful ignorance of the side consequences of socialism, to use the word 'socialism' as a name for the situation where an enterprise that could be managed privately is being managed by the State. A dangerously large proportion of the people are quite unaware how helpless the individual is when the State is the only purveyor of a commodity, and do not see that to give the State a new function is usually to give more power over yourself to civil servants and city councillors and tax-gatherers and town-planners and other suspect persons. Many a man's thought on the matter is limited to the reflection that he can probably get higher wages out of the State than out of a private employer. In the present situation we can say that there must be very good reasons indeed to allow government action in any sphere in which it is new. Government activity in Britain now should be reduced, not increased.

What about the view that it is a function of the State to preserve a man's property? We find today both the old Lockean view that this is, indeed, the main or even sole function of the State, and the opposite view that property is theft. Tawney's book, The Acquisitive Society, in its indignation against landlords and shareholders, tends to suggest that all ownership requires a special justification, that thrift is not respectable and theft not condemnable, that you ought to be forbidden to make provision for your own old age or your children's helpless youth, and that as soon as you cannot work you may not eat except by grace of the State. To own no property is to be completely dependent on the State or some employer for living another month. That is a very bad position to be in. It is highly desirable that we should all be owners, enjoying the responsibilities and satisfactions and independences that ownership gives. What most Englishmen need now is not more doles from the State, such as cheaper rents in council houses, but more encouragement to be thrifty and save instead of buying television. About a third of the employees of the John Lewis Partnership immediately spend any shares they receive in the company. I believe, with regret, that that is typical of us British today. It is certainly not to be changed by Tawney's description of interest on savings as 'income unaccompanied by personal service'. Such language discourages all persons who, starting with no property, work hard and think of saving some of their income as they get it.

The State should encourage the citizen to own property. This makes it desirable to put as few difficulties and restrictions on to the small owner as possible, and to encourage saving. The greatest present discouragements of saving and ownership are inflation and the threat of confiscation. The former takes savings away gradually; the latter threatens to take them in a moment. The State can do much to lessen inflation and remove the threat of confiscation. That means that each of us should be prepared to forgo some present enjoyments for those ends, and instruct our politicians accordingly.

3.53. The prime ends of government

We cannot truly mention any end as being the one right purpose of government, but we can mention an end which is the primary and fundamental purpose of governments, both in fact and in right, namely peace. That peace is and ought to be the fundamental purpose of all governments is often forgotten, but never, I think, denied or disbelieved. It is often forgotten, nowadays, because it is nearly always achieved. There is an enormous preponderance of peace within the area controlled by each contemporary occidental government. Laws regulating and controlling the intercourse and transactions of all persons within the territory are made and known and nearly universally obeyed. Stealing and killing and private wars are reduced to very small proportions. So great is the measure of success achieved that many people do not realize that there was anything to achieve. They never contrast our peace and order and security with the conditions of disorder and banditry and feudalism and perpetual private war that still exist in some parts of the world, that have existed here at some former times, and that may exist here again if enough of us fail to realize what keeps them away. So little are the goodness and the precariousness of peace realized today that most people when they hear the word think not of peace in the primary sense, peace within the territory controlled by the State, 'the Queen's Peace', but of peace between one State and another, of the international area in which peace properly speaking has never yet existed, because there has never yet been an authority successfully enforcing a law. Yet all men are agreed, if they think of it, that the primary purpose of the State is the Queen's Peace, that is, that men do not assault or kill or force or bully each other, that it is possible to save and own goods without having them stolen. The primary purpose of the State's government over men is peace between men; and the primary purpose of a world-State over States, if there were one, would be peace between States. States secure peace by promulgating detailed laws (for example, what precisely constitutes assault), by providing officers for catching and trying apparent offenders against these laws, and by providing officers to punish convicted offenders; in other words, by providing legislators, policemen, judges, and jailers.

It is quite superfluous to give arguments that peace is a great good. But it is not quite superfluous today to remind ourselves that a State is doing a great deal if it only secures peace, and that it is easy for internal peace to disappear from an area, and that a revolution usually involves the disappearance of peace from the country for a time, giving freedom to most impulses towards theft or cruelty or murder or rape, as well as often causing famine by breaking down the means of production or distribution.

If there is an end of the State that comes directly after peace, and takes the second place, I think it is justice. But I am not confident what justice is, or how it is related to peace, to law, to rights, and to equality. I think that probably the word is used in several senses, closely related but different, and that most of these senses are closely connected with the notions of law or of rights or both.

I think that 'justice' means sometimes the maintenance of the Queen's peace, the going concern of judges examining accusations and the rest of it, the machinery, or the personnel, by which the peace is preserved; and that this is why certain judges are called 'justices of the peace'. Or else it means this machinery in so far as it works correctly, that is, punishes the true offenders and does not punish any innocents. And in this sense justice is obviously good. It is true that we often find the whole judicial system condemned. We find it said that the judges are the only criminals, that truth does not look like truth in a court of law, and so on. But such statements can be accepted only as complaints against the actual administration of justice. We cannot believe that all possible judicial systems are worse than having no machinery at all to enforce peace. Jesus was wrong if by his 'Judge not!' he meant 'Have no courts of law!'

There is probably a second sense, in which we detach the notion of justice from that of peace in particular and attach it to the rule of law in general. Justice is that there should be law, and that it should be impartially and universally applied to all who fall under it; or it is the business of so applying the law which in fact rules. In this sense also justice is a great good. The rule of law is far better than the rule of a man or the absence of all rule.

Yet we can say that the law is unjust. That is because beyond the legal law there is the moral law or the natural law, and we sometimes appeal against the former to the latter. Justice now becomes the rule of the ideal law instead of the actual law. In demanding justice in this sense we are demanding morality and the right in politics and social relations, the opposite of Machiavellism. To demand justice in politics, in this sense, is to demand that men shall not forget their moral principles when they go into politics, that politicians and governments and States shall act within the moral law, that men shall not say that morality is for private matters only and has no application to affairs of State, just as they are not to say that in business we may break rules that we should keep among our friends. It is to demand that everyone's natural rights shall be recognized and preserved.

This use of the word 'justice' indicates the moralist's attitude towards politics. People apply it to political matters if they are moralists in politics. Godwin's Enquiry concerning Political Justice is so called because he believes in 'the propriety of applying moral justice as a criterion in the investigation of political truth' (II ii). Plato makes justice the greatest virtue of the city for the same reason; and in so doing he is demanding the disappearance of the brutal, non-moral sort of political activity described by Thucydides.

It is evident that justice is a great good in this sense too. That there is sometimes a moral right and a wrong in politics, as well as in personal matters, is a statement that very few of us doubt; and nearly all of us demand that this right shall be pursued and this wrong avoided; and the few who deny this are definitely our enemies and to be overcome by force if necessary. We shall often leave the Machiavellian alone, because we decide that he is not very harmful or he is only play-acting; but we shall always consider that we have the right to use force against him.

On the other hand, it is also evident, unfortunately, that we are by no means clear or agreed as to which things are right and wrong in politics. Plato thought aristocracy to be just and democracy unjust; others think the reverse. Some think it just that business enterprises should pay interest to shareholders, and others think it unjust. Some think that when food is scarce it should be equally distributed among the population; but others think that a larger share should be given to the old, or to the young, or to the soldiers, or to the miners. And throughout a thousand spheres such disagreements constantly arise. We are nearly all agreed that justice should be done; but usually we are seriously divided as to what is just in the particular case. 'Wages in any occupation are fair when...' Any descriptive completion of this phrase will arouse objection from some quarter. (I have taken the phrase from Pigou's Economics of Welfare, 2nd ed., p. 520, where you can find a completion of it.)

For this reason justice, or morality in politics, which at first seems a grand thing, is liable later to appear empty and useless. In demanding justice we seem only to be demanding that political arrangements shall be what they should be, and that people shall get what they should get. The conception of justice seems even more unfinished than most ideals. Apart from keeping the peace, it seems hardly more than that each person should have his rights, whatever they are. And this reflection is liable to lead us to the cynical view that people are merely calling 'fair' or 'just' whatever they happen to want. Or, if we do not go so far as that, we may still come to think that justice is something inherently impossible, the mirage of a perfect distribution which should give everybody everything he wants and hurt nobody. The French may seem wise not to have included it in their famous triad.

The conception of justice is fragmentary and for ever unfinishable; and yet it is of very great value and importance. Disputes about whether so and so is fair or unfair are going to exist as long as man exists; but this is far better than that there should be no question of fair play in politics at all, and Machiavellism should be accepted. The idea of moral politics is part of our hope of dragging ourselves out of our predicament of conflicting interests; and, though we can never realize it perfectly, we can always be getting nearer to it.

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3.61 The word 'democracy'

The word 'democracy' is often used or defined in thoroughly muddling and harmful ways, even by persons of great education and responsibility and importance. For example, the word 'democracy' is definitely not the proper name for freedom of speech, and yet it was so defined by no less a person than Sir Stafford Cripps, when, in his book called Democracy Up-to-Date, he wrote: 'By democracy we mean a system of government in which every adult citizen is equally free to express his views and desires upon all subjects in whatever way he wishes and to influence the majority of his fellow citizens to decide according to those views and to implement those desires. To this there is a necessary corollary, that he must not use his own freedom of thought, speech or action so as to deprive others of a like freedom.' It is a great pity that a man of influence and good will should so muddle and confuse the public. The proper name for freedom of speech is 'freedom of speech', and 'democracy' is definitely not a proper name for it. Freedom of speech can exist in a non-democracy as well as in a democracy, while, on the other hand, it often fails to exist in a democracy.

Nor is the word 'democracy' a proper name for general good will, or benevolence, or the desire to lessen men's miseries, or the desire that men shall be able to realize themselves more than they now can. It was improper of Mr. R. H. S. Crossman to write, in his book called Plato Today (U.S. ed., 1939, p. 303), that 'the democratic faith is not tied to any political or social system. It regards all systems (including "democracy") as instruments for the self-realization of human nature; and if representative institutions are shown to be no longer useful for that purpose, then the democrat must look elsewhere for other instruments and better institutions.'

Nor is the word 'democracy' a proper name for good will on the part of rulers towards their subjects. A benevolent despotism is still a despotism, not a democracy. Communists are using the word in this way when they say that Russia is a democracy, and when they give the name 'people's democracies' to the nations which Russia is now oppressing.

The cause of most of these aberrations and muddles is that people know the word 'democracy' only as a term of strong political approval. It is a fact that nowadays the word suggests approval to most of those who know it, though there have been times when it usually suggested disapproval. The constitution which the word was invented to refer to has come to be widely approved of. Consequently, the word itself has come to suggest approval of that constitution as well as to refer to it. In many people's minds a further shift has occurred; the word to them now does nothing but suggest political approval, and no longer refers to anything specific. This is a very easy shift because, when we hear others using a strange word, we pick up their emotional intention much easier than their reference. These people, therefore, regarding the word as a mere instrument of political approval apply it to anything whatever that they do approve of in me political or social sphere. In this way they come to talk about democratic handshakes and to call a club democratic not on account of its government but because it is a club for both sexes, and other absurdities. I have even heard the ideal autocracy in Plato's Republic described as 'more democratic than anything we know'.

That is a plain degradation of language. It is unmitigated loss to take a word that once referred to a specific political constitution and make it a mere expression of political approval. To talk properly, and to keep in touch with the tradition of reason and classification which our intellectual ancestors have built up for us, we must use the word 'democracy' to refer to something. To what?

In the first place, the word should certainly be used to refer to a constitution, or at least to some specific constitutional arrangement. For it is clear that that is what it was invented to do, and what it is needed to do, and what it always has done except when it has been a mere expression of approval.

Secondly, the formation and history of the word both suggest that the constitution it shall refer to shall be that which consists in the people or demos being the government.

But here at least two difficulties arise. First it seems that the government cannot be the people, and hence we have made the word 'democracy' a name for something that cannot happen, hence a name useless in practical politics. The government and the people physically cannot be identical unless the people are few enough to meet in one place where they can all hear each other. If they are too many to meet and hear each other, there inevitably arises a distinction between the people as a whole and one small part of it which for the time being is the government. Thus 'government by the people' strictly speaking never happens; and none of the States of the world can possibly be a democracy in this sense.

The nearest possible approach to strict government by the people is the referendum. A referendum occurs when the parliament or government, instead of itself deciding whether a Bill shall become law, refers the Bill to a vote of the whole people. Such a procedure makes a kind of momentary identity between the government and the whole people. For that moment, and on that one question, the people literally is the government.

A referendum is, however, an inefficient and usually harmful step, in my opinion; and in any case it can only be applied to a small part of the business of government. For practical purposes, therefore, it is necessary to alter our definition of 'democracy' a little. The phrase 'government by the people' can remain only as a very rough approximation to the meaning of the word. And we must find a definition which will stay close to our original intention but yet refer to something that can actually happen all the time.

The definition must continue to mention both the people and the government; but it must indicate some relation between them other than identity. John Stuart Mill chose the relation of representation. He wrote that 'it is essential to representative government that the practical supremacy in the State should reside in the representatives of the people' (Representative Government, p. 229, Everyman); and he generally made no difference between 'representative government', 'representative democracy', and 'democracy'.

I suggest that representation is not the essence, but only an inevitable means to the essence, of what we wish to indicate by the word 'democracy'; and that what we wish to indicate is the constitution in which the people can at regular intervals constitutionally dismiss the governors if they so choose. This is the sense in which I use the word; and I offer the following three considerations in favour of it. First, it is evidently close to, if not identical with, the sense in which the word has been employed by most good writers. Second, it refers to a very important question. When we examine the constitution of a State, we can hardly think of a more important question to ask about it than this: Can the governors be peaceably dismissed by the people, without revolution, or not? And this question becomes, on my definition, the question: Is it a democracy? Thirdly, this definition divides existing States into two groups. There are today States in which the people do in fact regularly choose between two or more possible governments, and the one which they choose becomes in fact the government, and, if they reject the one that was governing before, it in fact ceases to be the government. Thus the United Kingdom is today a democracy in this sense, because every five years or oftener the people have a choice between at least two possible governments, and, if the people reject the men who have been governing, these men do in fact leave the government offices and hand over the power to the new men. They do not stay in 10 Downing Street and order the police to arrest the leaders of the party that has received the popular vote; and if they did the police would disobey them. There are other States in which this does not occur, though in some of them it is pretended to occur. Russia, for example, is and always has been a non-democracy in this sense, because the people are never offered a choice of rulers, and no Russian government ever withdraws because the people have voted another government into power. In the last four decades a pretence of democracy in this sense has been made in Russia; but it has been only a pretence, because the people have had only one party to vote for.

The word 'people' gives rise to further difficulties in the definition of 'democracy'. Who are the people? What is the demos?

When Aristotle undertakes to distinguish the kinds of constitution, he writes: 'The sovereign must be either one or few or the many' (Politics iii. 7. 1279a27). He does not write: 'The sovereign must be either one or few or all.' By his phrase 'the many, hoi polloi' does he mean all the citizens or not? If the many are not all the citizens, how are they distinguished from all the citizens? Are they the poor, or the largest social class?

When we raise these questions, our first thought may be that by 'the many' he must have intended all the citizens, because otherwise he would have had to add all the citizens as a fourth kind of sovereignty. Since he did not write 'the sovereign must be either one or few or many or all', he surely meant all the citizens by his phrase 'the many'. But no. He goes on explicitly to define 'democracy' as the sovereignty of the poor (1279b19, 40). Thus we are confronted with the unpleasant idea that Aristotle defined 'democracy' in a Communist rather than a Liberal sense, as being the dictatorship of the proletariat rather than the sovereignty of all the citizens. And this is largely true, including the notion that the proletariat rules exclusively for its own benefit and is merciless towards the smaller classes; for, if the many rule with an eye to the common advantage, Aristotle calls the constitution by another name, to wit 'polity'. 'Democracy' is an essentially bad constitution in Aristotle's language, because its sovereign power is essentially selfish.

The only mitigations of this disappointing discovery are, first, that Aristotle in his great political charity is willing to make the best of all constitutions including democracy, and, second, that he is not as clear as he should be about the distinction between the rule of the largest class and the rule of all, so that some of his remarks may, in spite of his definition, be about the rule of all.

You may think that this distinction has no importance, on the ground that, if the constitution gives the power to all the citizens, then in practice the largest class will be the ruler. But the largest class may be divided against itself on some questions, leaving the matter to be determined by the votes of a smaller class. Or the constitution may provide proportional representation in order to give more influence to the smaller classes. And however much the largest class may have the power in fact I cannot recommend that it should have all the power in theory. In my view the distinction between the rule of all the citizens, and the rule of the largest class of them, is vital to good politics; and democratic theory has suffered much from its being overlooked. I therefore choose the definition that makes it easiest to express this value-judgement, and mean by 'the people' not the largest class but all of the citizens.

There is still one awkward question of definition left: Who are the citizens? Who is to have the vote? No State has ever yet given a vote to every human being on the ground. So far they have all excluded minors and foreigners. Many have excluded the whole female population and still been called democracies. How large a proportion of the population must, in our opinion, have the vote, for us to call it a democracy?

On this question our definition had better be framed so as to allow the suffrage law to vary greatly within the democratic constitution. It would not be expedient to say, for example, that no State is a democracy if its women have no vote. I think the idea of democracy is that the suffrage belongs at any time to everyone who at that time is generally recognized as being a fully responsible person. So long as it is the general opinion, shared by women as well as men, that women are not fully responsible, a State can be a democracy without giving votes to women. But it must give them votes, or cease to be classified as a democracy, as soon as its subjects mostly believe that women are as responsible as men. The United Kingdom now is a democracy although we do not give the vote to schoolboys, because we genuinely believe that schoolboys are not fully responsible. If we came to believe that schoolboys are just as responsible as men of fifty, we should have to give them the vote or cease to call ourselves a democracy. Thus it is essential to democracy, I suggest, that the State contains no member who is considered to be fully rational, and reasonably educated, and yet is forbidden to vote.

The inconvenience of this definition is that it makes it possible for a State to change from democracy to non-democracy in virtue of nothing but a shift in the citizens' opinions about the responsibility of schoolboys. Yet this seems better than including some specific franchise law in the definition of 'democracy'.

There is no word that is clearly recognized as meaning the precise contradictory of democracy. The words 'absolutism', 'dictatorship', 'authoritarianism', 'totalitarianism', 'tyranny', 'despotism', 'monarchy', and 'oligarchy', all refer to some species of the contradictory of democracy rather than to the contradictory itself. We might coin the words 'demoduly' or 'ademocracy' or 'non-democracy', of which the first two are more purely constructed but the last is more generally understandable.

I see no use for the phrase 'democratic principles'. There is only one democratic principle, and that is that the State should be a democracy, that is, that by the constitution there shall be, every few years, a vote of all responsible members to determine whether the present governors are to continue or be replaced. To talk of further democratic principles is to import too much into the meaning of the word 'democracy', to begin the mistake of using the word 'democracy' as a portmanteau for everything you approve of in politics.

People are particularly fond of introducing freedom and equality into the definition or the principles of democracy. But it is better to call each of those by its own name, because then you can see more clearly what in fact are the relations between freedom and equality and democracy in the proper sense. Democracy entails that every responsible citizen is equal with every other in that each has at least one vote. It does not entail any other equality. Whether democratic States have a tendency to produce or aim at other equalities among their members is a question for empirical investigation, not a part of the definition of the word. Democracy also entails that every responsible citizen is free to cast a vote for or against the governors every few years. It does not entail any further freedom; and whether actual democracies have in fact displayed, on the average, more tendencies to produce further freedoms than have non-democracies is a question for empirical investigation, not part of the definition of the word.

Still less does democracy entail anything about socialism or capitalism. A democracy may or may not have the great enterprises in public hands; and a State where they are all publicly owned may perfectly well be a despotism.

The phrase 'economic democracy' is employed mostly by people who are confusing two different things. For an economic enterprise, such as a factory, to be in itself a democracy, would mean that the managers or governors of the factory were dismissed and rechosen at short intervals by the whole body of persons engaged in the factory in any capacity; and for this to be a reality and not a sham there would have to be an alternative body of managers, an opposition party, willing to take over the management of the factory. That is one of the two things people are confusing when they talk of 'economic democracy'. The other is legislation by the State to control the management and activities of the factory for the benefit of the workers in the factory, or perhaps for the benefit of the whole country. The two things are quite distinct and do not necessarily go together. On the contrary, State control of the factory must necessarily limit and interfere with the democratic control of the factory by its own members. The factory cannot at one and the same time be completely controlled both by its own members and by the State. A part of the bewilderment and disappointment of the Labour Party in Britain in the 1950's was that their own nationalization laws in the previous decade had caused them to realize this distinction for the first time. They were bewildered and upset to discover that governmental control of an industry is not the same thing as the control of an industry by the whole body of its workers.

Another muddle about the word 'democracy' was introduced by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. In 1902 the Webbs published a book called Industrial Democracy, which was read for decades thereafter. They did not define the title; but the book is about trade unions, and until the last chapter the impression given is that the British trade unions are democracies and this is the fact referred to by the title. In the last chapter, however, they often use the phrase 'in the democratic State will be ', thus giving the impression that they think that no democratic State as yet exists, and therefore that the United Kingdom is not a democracy. Thus the trade unions are democracies in the body of the book; but in the last chapter the United Kingdom is not a democracy. This is not because they saw a significant difference between the constitution of the United Kingdom and the constitutions of the British trade unions. It is because they use a new meaning of the word 'democracy' in the last chapter. Without saying so, they now use the phrase 'democratic State' to mean a State where not merely the State itself but also every body within the State is democratically constituted. At least this is the tendency of their language, though no doubt they would have been disconcerted if asked whether the army should be democratically organized. They imply that it is desirable that no organization whatever should be non-democratically constituted, and the absurdity escapes them because they have their eyes on industry only.

To define 'democracy' as the constitution in which both the State itself, and also every body within the State, is democratically organized, is to make the logical mistake of defining a word through itself. Apart from that, and even if we understand what is meant because we use our knowledge of the ordinary meaning in order to construct this new meaning, the definition is useless and impractical, because it gives us a concept that will never apply to anything actual, and deprives us of a concept we need.

So much on the definition of the word.