The first question in respect to any political institutions is, how far they tend to foster in the members of the community the various desirable qualities, moral and intellectual; or rather following Bentham's more complete classification moral, intellectual, and active. Representative Governmentis shown to be more coherent and systematic than has generally been assumed. The former proposition — that each is the only safe guardian of his own rights and interests — is one of those elementary maxims of prudence, which every person, capable of conducting his own affairs, implicitly acts upon, wherever he himself is interested. Any government fit for a high state of civilisation would have as one of its fundamental elements a small body, not exceeding in number the members of a Cabinet, who should act as a Commission of legislation, having for its appointed office to make the laws. His biographer, Alan Ryan, conjectures that Mill did not think of contract and as being part of freedom.
And it cannot be maintained that any form of government would be rational which required as a condition that these exalted principles of action should be the guiding and master motives in the conduct of average human beings. This habitual reverence for the constitutional rights of others, and this habitual moderation in Parliamentary battle and victory, have mainly arisen from the breeding of the men who have formed the great majority of the Lower House. It would then be possible to construct a theorem of the circumstances in which that form of government may wisely be introduced; and also to judge, in cases in which it had better not be introduced, what inferior forms of polity will best carry those communities through the intermediate stages which they must traverse before they can become fit for the best form of government. The difference between these two functions of a government is not, like that between Order and Progress, a difference merely in degree, but in kind. The representation becomes, what under no other system it can be, really equal. But Mill also suggests that it is a central feature of the good life that it be a life chosen for oneself. What should we then have? I look upon this as a radical and most pernicious misconception of what good government is; which, until it can be got rid of, will fatally vitiate all our speculations on government.
Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government: to throw the light of publicity on its acts: to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfil it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors. Lorimer deems their autocracy to be unjust in itself, as well as destructive in its consequences. Some nations could not, except by foreign conquest, be made to endure a monarchy; others are equally averse to a republic. In the profession of government, as in other professions, the sole idea of the majority is to do what they have been taught; and it requires a popular government to enable the conceptions of the man of original genius among them to prevail over the obstructive spirit of trained mediocrity. Yet the important historical caveat to keep in mind at these junctures is the Mill appears to be inventing or honing at any rate the architectonics and analytic methods that would develop into contemporary political science in the West. He is, no doubt, one step in advance of a savage. It follows, and the friends of the ballot have always said, that secrecy is desirable, in cases in which the motives acting on the voter through the will of others are likely to mislead him, while, if left to his own preferences, he would vote as he ought.
ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. Yet this is no less necessary for Permanence; since, in the inevitable changes of human affairs, new inconveniences and dangers continually grow up, which must be encountered by new resources and contrivances, in order to keep things going on even only as well as they did before. Another principle, only second to this in value, which might also on the present occasion be admitted into the Constitution, is the representation of minorities. If a people thus prostrated by character and circumstances could obtain representative institutions, they would inevitably choose their tyrants as their representatives, and the yoke would be made heavier on them by the contrivance which prima facie might be expected to lighten it. But all the difference between a good and a bad system of judicature lies in the contrivances adopted for bringing whatever moral and intellectual worth exists in the community to bear upon the administration of justice, and making it duly operative on the result.
Truths can be better or worse established—central or peripheral to our understanding of the world—and we can therefore be more or less willing to abandon them. A good despotism means a government in which, so far as depends on the despot, there is no positive oppression by officers of state, but in which all the collective interests of the people are managed for them, all the thinking that has relation to collective interests done for them, and in which their minds are formed by, and consenting to, this abdication of their own energies. We are free to remonstrate with an individual, to avoid him, and to encourage others to avoid him—that is our right. That they should be willing and able to do what is necessary for its preservation. Besides these moral hindrances, mechanical difficulties are often an insuperable impediment to forms of government. This is a sufficient reason, were there no other, why they can never be well made but by a committee of very few persons. They who can succeed in creating a general persuasion that a certain form of government, or social fact of any kind, deserves to be preferred, have made nearly the most important step which can possibly be taken towards ranging the powers of society on its side.
There is novelty, however, in the fact of bringing them together, and exhibiting them in their connexion; and also, I believe, in much that is brought forward in their support. Contentment is always counted among the moral virtues. The remark of a distinguished Hebrew, M. He thinks that the constitution of the Legislature should be an exact mirror of the existing constitution of society. A government to which they would be wholly unsuitable must be one so bad in itself, or so opposed to public feeling, as to be unable to maintain itself in existence by honest means.
Processes of association, that is to say, renders our observations deeply theory laden. What they seek for is a man with money, and willing to spend it—if of any social rank, so much the better—and who will make professions on some subjects, and be silent on others, according to what they tell him is required by the local opinion. But, considered practically, these alleged requisites of political institutions are merely so many facilities for realizing the three conditions. For Progress includes Order, but Order does not include Progress. According to the existing practice of the British Constitution, these things seem to be on as good a footing as they can be.
Men did not wake on a summer morning and find them sprung up. For though the goodness of a government is necessarily circumscribed within that sphere, its badness unhappily is not. Mill, that is to say, attempts to account for the genuine informativeness of mathematical and geometric reasoning by denying that they are in any real sense a priori. Lorimer would give a voice to every one, but a more potential voice, by means of plurality of voting, to those classes who, either because they are presumably more enlightened than the majority, or merely because their biasses are different, form the natural counterpoise. To think that because those who wield the power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. Politics, as conceived by the ancients, consisted wholly in this.
Of these inquiries, the last does not concern us here; but the first is an essential part of our subject: for we may, without rashness, at once enunciate a proposition, the proofs and illustrations of which will present themselves in the ensuing pages; that this ideally best form of government will be found in some one or other variety of the Representative System. Nothing but foreign force would induce a tribe of North American Indians to submit to the restraints of a regular and civilized government. Nothing but the restriction of the function of representative bodies within these rational limits will enable the benefits of popular control to be enjoyed in conjunction with the no less important requisites growing ever more important as human affairs increase in scale and in complexity of skilled legislation and administration. Yet even these yield in importance to the qualities of the human agents employed. It appears to me that the means might be devised of enriching the Constitution with this great improvement through the machinery of the House of Lords. Things left to take care of themselves inevitably decay. It is this, mainly, which retains in a savage or semi-savage state the great majority of the human race.
A government is said to preserve order if it succeeds in getting itself obeyed. It seems to me, however, from various indications, and from none more than the recent debates on Reform of Parliament, that both Conservatives and Liberals if I may continue to call them what they still call themselves have lost confidence in the political creeds which they nominally profess, while neither side appears to have made any progress in providing itself with a better. True beliefs are in general suppressed because, though they are true, they are thought to be false. Last, Mill examines production from land and recognizes that such production is markedly different from the one achieved through labor and capital, since production from land is limited and not likely to greatly increase. It is just possible, though scarcely probable, that bribery might have been diminished; but the local influences would have gained whatever the direct money-power lost, and the members for the districts would have been merely an inferior sort of county members. And, secondly, the character of a government or set of political institutions cannot be sufficiently estimated while we confine our attention to the legitimate sphere of governmental functions. Whatever qualities, therefore, in a government, tend to encourage activity, energy, courage, originality, are requisites of Permanence as well as of Progress; only a somewhat less degree of them will on the average suffice for the former purpose than for the latter.