Limit voting rights

The government’s report on limiting voting rights has now been published. Dr Richard O’Shea, the Chair of the commission which produced the report is confident that it provides ‘the widest democratic exercise, consistent with ensuring that a vigorous electorate’. He adds: “Voting is an important right, and with all rights come responsibilities. The right to vote will therefore belong to all those who are able to shoulder the responsibility.”

The report “Widening Democracy: Ensuring a Responsive Electorate Fit for the Twenty-First Century”, contains a summary of the recommendations:

The franchise shall be enjoyed by all British citizens and resident Empire and Irish citizens as at present unless specifically excluded.  Those excluded will include:

Those under the age of responsibility, namely 21 years

Psychological research has shown that the adolescent brain reaches maturity only around the age of 21 years old, and while the age varies from individual to individual, testing each potential voter would be impractical and so an age limit should be established on the scientific average age of maturity. In girls this may be 19 years old and in men about 39 years, but 21 is a compromise.

Habitual drunks

No one drunk should be permitted to enter a polling station to vote, which is widely accepted.  Those who habitually get drunk may permanently affect their brains and with it their powers of reasoning and therefore their choice at the vote.  For those not physically damaged, the inability to control themselves is itself evidence of incapacity to accept responsibility. We have not considered in depth the effect this will have on existing Members of Parliament, but we will certainly be urging the full adoption of this section if the behaviour exhibited to our researcher in the Strangers Bar is repeated.

Drug users

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Patients diagnosed with certain mental health conditions

A defect in the mind preventing a voter from exercising reason would make him or her a danger to the rest of the nation, and so those conditions will exclude a citizen from the franchise.

There is no suggestion that all mental health conditions should exclude a citizen from the right to vote or to engage in the political process: otherwise there would be no MPs.

Students

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Civil servants (Grades A to D) and quangocrats

As they already have a strong say in the government of the country through their positions, stronger than voters, so allowing a civil servant the franchise in his or her personal capacity would be to give two votes, which is inconsistent with the principle of equal voting rights.  In addition, civil servants are net consumers of tax money rather than contributors and so would have their participation in the franchise suspended as a cautionary provision in advance of the forthcoming study paper on the principle of “no representation without taxation”.

Dog owners (other than farmers)

This is not a criticism of people who own dogs, and members of all political parties have expressed support for dog-ownership. However those who own dogs do not receive election literature: studies have shown that political leaflets dropped through their doors are instantly devoured by their dogs. Therefore dog-owners, if they go to the polls, do so with no understanding of the issues. This cannot be right if democracy is to work. Therefore the presence of a dog in the household must suspend the right to vote, unless the householder can prove to the satisfaction of the local authority’s election officers that they have a cage or other protection for their post or their filthy mut is kept muzzled at all times even indoors.

People who have no obvious letterbox

For the same reason as dog-owners: they are incapable of receiving election literature. Those European-style bolt-on boxes on the wall with a faux Swiss post-horn motif are acceptable, if poor taste.

People whose letterbox is double-sprung or with a hard brush

This reform had cross-party support and was urged on the Commission by volunteer activists.  Such a letterbox ensures that all political leaflets arrive mangled and often illegible, which is a waste of all the effort put into presentation and frequently leaves the leaflet illegible.  Further, the installation of such a letterbox shows a callous disregard for the safety of volunteers posting leaflets and for postmen.

East Enders

Residents of the Borough of Tower Hamlets will see a severe restriction on their current position:  henceforth they will be limited to one vote each.

Environmental activists

Aren’t you meant to be out hugging a tree or something?  Leave voting to the grown-ups.

Socialists

Because you’ve just misunderstood something; in fact everything.

See also

Generation of a Common-wealth

The finall Cause, End, or Designe of men, (who naturally love Liberty, and Dominion over others,) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, (in which wee see them live in Common-wealths,) is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of Warre, which is necessarily consequent (as hath been shewn) to the naturall Passions of men, when there is no visible Power to keep them in awe, and tye them by feare of punishment to the performance of their Covenants, and observation of these Lawes of Nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth Chapters.

For the Lawes of Nature (as Justice, Equity, Modesty, Mercy, and (in summe) Doing To Others, As Wee Would Be Done To,) if themselves, without the terrour of some Power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our naturall Passions, that carry us to Partiality, Pride, Revenge, and the like. And Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all. Therefore notwithstanding the Lawes of Nature, (which every one hath then kept, when he has the will to keep them, when he can do it safely,) if there be no Power erected, or not great enough for our security; every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art, for caution against all other men.

And in all places, where men have lived by small Families, to robbe and spoyle one another, has been a Trade, and so farre from being reputed against the Law of Nature, that the greater spoyles they gained, the greater was their honour; and men observed no other Lawes therein, but the Lawes of Honour; that is, to abstain from cruelty, leaving to men their lives, and instruments of husbandry.And as small Familyes did then; so now do Cities and Kingdomes which are but greater Families (for their own security) enlarge their Dominions, upon all pretences of danger, and fear of Invasion, or assistance that may be given to Invaders, endeavour as much as they can, to subdue, or weaken their neighbours, by open force, and secret arts, for want of other Caution, justly; and are rememdbred for it in after ages with honour.

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Books

Counsellours

Another Businesse of the Soveraign, is to choose good Counsellours; I mean such, whose advice he is to take in the Government of the Common-wealth. For this word Counsell, Consilium, corrupted from Considium, is a large signification, and comprehendeth all Assemblies of men that sit together, not onely to deliberate what is to be done hereafter, but also to judge of Facts past, and of Law for the present. I take it here in the first sense onely: And in this sense, there is no choyce of Counsell, neither in a Democracy, nor Aristocracy; because the persons Counselling are members of the person Counselled.

The choyce of Counsellours therefore is to Monarchy; In which, the Soveraign that endeavoureth not to make choyce of those, that in every kind are the most able, dischargeth not his Office as he ought to do.

The most able Counsellours, are they that have least hope of benefit by giving evill Counsell, and most knowledge of those things that conduce to the Peace, and Defence of the Common-wealth. It is a hard matter to know who expecteth benefit from publique troubles; but the signes that guide to a just suspicion, is the soothing of the people in their unreasonable, or irremediable grievances, by men whose estates are not sufficient to discharge their accustomed expences, and may easily be observed by any one whom it concerns to know it.

But to know, who has most knowledge of the Publique affaires, is yet harder; and they that know them, need them a great deale the lesse. For to know, who knowes the Rules almost of any Art, is a great degree of the knowledge of the same Art; because no man can be assured of the truth of anothers Rules, but he that is first taught to understand them. But the best signes of Knowledge of any Art, are, much conversing in it, and constant good effects of it. Good Counsell comes not by Lot, nor by Inheritance; and therefore there is no more reason to expect good Advice from the rich, or noble, in matter of State, than in delineating the dimensions of a fortresse; unlesse we shall think there needs no method in the study of the Politiques, (as there does in the study of Geometry,) but onely to be lookers on; which is not so. For the Politiques is the harder study of the two. Whereas in these parts of Europe, it hath been taken for a Right of certain persons, to have place in the highest Councell of State by Inheritance; it is derived from the Conquests of the antient Germans; wherein many absolute Lords joyning together to conquer other Nations, would not enter in to the Confederacy, without such Priviledges, as might be marks of difference in time following, between their Posterity, and the posterity of their Subjects; which Priviledges being inconsistent with the Soveraign Power, by the favour of the Soveraign, they may seem to keep; but contending for them as their Right, they must needs by degrees let them go, and have at last no further honour, than adhaereth naturally to their abilities.

And how able soever be the Counsellours in any affaire, the benefit of their Counsell is greater, when they give every one his Advice, and reasons of it apart, than when they do it in an Assembly, by way of Orations; and when they have praemeditated, than when they speak on the sudden; both because they have more time, to survey the consequences of action; and are lesse subject to be carried away to contradiction, through Envy, Emulation, or other Passions arising from the difference of opinion.

The best Counsell, in those things that concern not other Nations, but onely the ease, and benefit the Subjects may enjoy, by Lawes that look onely inward, is to be taken from the generall informations, and complaints of the people of each Province, who are best acquainted with their own wants, and ought therefore, when they demand nothing in derogation of the essentiall Rights of Soveraignty, to be diligently taken notice of.

For without those Essentiall Rights, (as I have often before said,) the Common-wealth cannot at all subsist.

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Books

Wolven hearts

Much quoted recently is Desmond Tutu’s exhortation that ‘love is stronger than hate’ – but it is not. Hatred is far stronger than love. The world would be happier if it were not so, but hatred is the strongest motivator of mankind.

I wonder that our demagogic politicians see no irony in examining and condemning the sewer of social media for spreading hatred when their own trade depends on it. Perhaps it is only unapproved hatred which is to be condemned, and indeed hated. Even in the Church of England, the one established body which is meant to be lapped in love, the faction making the most progress in its agenda is that of the ‘progressives’, succeeding by spitting untamed hatred at all opposition.

The wolf seeks meat; it is relentless and merciless; while single wolf may be cautious or even playful, a pack of wolves is unbridled, bloodthirsty, exulting in the kill and the tearing apart of the victim. It is raw nature. Likewise is mankind, and perhaps our concept of ‘hate’ is no more nor less than the wolf’s instinct.

Democratic politics necessarily involves the stirring up of hatred. An absolutist system may avoid it, but only if long established and unchallenged:  the tyrannies of the Twentieth Century are a lesson in the extremes of murderous hatred as a political method, both as to the way they took power and how they held it. Even in our more sophisticated climate the most effective political campaigns involve fomenting hatred by class, status, political tribe, race or other irrelevancies. Read any political headline for your evidence.

Hobbes observed in De Cive a speech in Rome’s troubles ages:

Pontius Telesinus; who flying about with open mouth through all the Companies of his Army, (in that famous encounter which he had with Sylla) cryed out, That Rome her selfe, as well as Sylla, was to be raz’d; for that there would alwayes be Wolves and Depraedatours of their Liberty, unlesse the Forrest that lodg’d them were grubb’d up by the roots. To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe.

In this Telesinus, interpreted by Hobbes, puts his finger on it: overthrowing a tyrant is moment’s victory, but the place from which they arose will breed ever more wolves, for the real enemy to liberty and love is mankind.

What to do then, if this is the case?  Start by recognising it, accept that we are not perfectible and every one of us contains the same flaws, and mankind will be the same until the very end of the age. Then we will have an understanding of the clay from which society and the demos and built, and build our commonwealth accordingly. Perhaps also those of goodwill and good sense should be in a better position to check our own wolfish instincts.

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Books

Renewal to destruction

Renewal and reform, in the promise of a new year when all things seem possible. If they were, then wonders could be performed, but the Conservative knows that some things are impossible, most things maybe, and whatever  revolutionary change may be achieved to the good, it is achieved by private entrepreneurs serving their customers’ needs, not by lumpen-footed government.

Enthusiasm for overturning the whole structure of the state has always had keen hearers, and when achieved, it has led to a trail of widows and orphans and starving families. The overthrow of tyrannical governments East of Suez was met with hope, and found the same reality, as destruction did not automatically mean the acceptance by all of a new ruler and a new social contract.

Thomas Hobbes wrote of what the ruler of any Commonwealth should teach his subjects to ensure stability, and the first was against revolutionary change.

And (to descend to particulars) the People are to be taught, First, that they ought not to be in love with any forme of Government they see in their neighbour Nations, more than with their own, nor (whatsoever present prosperity they behold in Nations that are otherwise governed than they,) to desire change. For the prosperity of a People ruled by an Aristocraticall, or Democraticall assembly, commeth not from Aristocracy, nor from Democracy, but from the Obedience, and Concord of the Subjects; nor do the people flourish in a Monarchy, because one man has the right to rule them, but because they obey him. Take away in any kind of State, the Obedience, (and consequently the Concord of the People,) and they shall not onely not flourish, but in short time be dissolved.

And they that go about by disobedience, to doe no more than reforme the Common-wealth, shall find they do thereby destroy it; like the foolish daughters of Peleus (in the fable;) which desiring to renew the youth of their decrepit Father, did by the Counsell of Medea, cut him in pieces, and boyle him, together with strange herbs, but made not of him a new man. This desire of change, is like the breach of the first of Gods Commandements: For there God says, Non Habebis Deos Alienos; Thou shalt not have the Gods of other Nations; and in another place concerning Kings, that they are Gods.

This is not to say that all change is shunned:  the state repeatedly becomes corrupted and needs to be cleaned out. It was needed in Hobbes’s day, it was needed in ancien régime France  and it is needed in Whitehall now.

In the days of King Charles I, tax money was paying endless retainers, favourites receiving unearned pensions, monopolies were granted for favours and bribes, officials were shunning their duties by farming their work out underlings as deputies, who in turn appointed their own deputies; lavish gifts were made to individuals, and government contracts too; power and position were openly bought and sold. Taxes were too high to be borne and the state sunk in impossible debt, just to pay for this corruption. All this needed to be swept away, and perhaps if the King had read the Grand Remonstrance in humility and accepted its judgments then much blood would have been saved.

Westminster today looks prim and proper and rule-bound, but all of the corruptions of King Charles’s day are there; heavier now than then and all the worse for being approved by self-serving laws.

Reform is necessary. The danger comes with assuming things are so bad that the whole system needs overturning.  That just invites to the throne a chancer, one who can flatter the vanities of the rebel long enough to gather all power into his hands. That sounds like the normal operation of democracy, which is why it can never be taken for granted.

See also

Books