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Democracy and delegation

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2015-10-09 15:07.

Just reading the headlines during the political party conference season in Britain made me feel queasy. Here's why:

Your British subject, the Greek might say, as soon as he has elected his Member of Parliament, has abdicated. He has no more to say in international questions; even in his own city, he does not count, when once he has elected a Town Council. As a result, the Greek would go on to say, he loses interest in half the things that really make a man; he leaves it to Parliament to frame the laws; to the King or the prime minister to decide on war and peace; to the judges to decide cases in the law courts; to old aldermen to arrange market dues and street cleaning and the height of buildings. What has the Englishman left for him to do?

The Englishman's life, according to the Greek, is the merest broken arc of the full circle of man's life, and the Englishmen ends by being a mere decimal of a man, a vulgar fraction, a negation of nature. Yes, there is something unnatural, the Greek would say, about this whole scheme of delegating powers; you English are barbarians; you are really not free, but subjects; hence your undeveloped, yes! your atrophied minds.

T.R. Glover, The Ancient World (1935), Pelican 1961, p. 113.