Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Monday, 31 March 2008

Type 7: "Constitutionalist"

The Constitutionalist is incorruptible. That is because unlike the other six governing mindset types, he operates within a tradition, and does not try to exalt himself above it. He declares his allegiance to custom, convention and continuity, and pays deference to our institutions. He recognises the need for restraints upon power and passion, and therefore supports the balanced Constitution and the rule of law. He understands that energetic governments are by their nature oppressive, and that any increase in the power of government comes at the expense of liberty. That we long ago descended into the polite totalitarianism of the 'Servile State', tells us that the strict Constitutionalist is no more.

CAGH-79Mindset: Read The Radical Tory Manifesto. "Government which governs least governs best. Because the state has a monopoly on power and violence, the law and constitution must limit the amount of coercive fear a government can hold over its constituents. People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people. When government fears the people we have civil democracy, when people fear the government we have statist tyranny. Good government demands no more than the defence of the Crown, Church, Constitution and Realm."

Resulting Government: Constitutional Monarchy/Republic

Manifestations: Westminsterism, traditionalism, patriotism, monarchism, loyalism, fushionism, (paleo)conservatism, classical federalism...

Intellectual: Polybius (The Histories), Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws), John Locke (Two Treatises on Government), Edmund Burke (Reflections on the French Revolution), Thomas Jefferson/James Madison/John Adams (U.S. Constitution), Walter Bagehot (The English Constitution), Samuel Griffith (Australian Constitution)...Eugene Forsey (The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament and How Canadians Govern Themselves)

Practitioners: Proud inheritors of the Magna Carta and 800 years of English/British common law; the Founding Fathers of the American, Canadian and Australian federations; constitutionalists in the Westminster responsible government tradition include Burke and Pitt, Mackenzie and Papineau, Disraeli and Gladstone, MacDonald and Cartier, Parkes and Deakin, Lord Salisbury...right up to the time of the Salisbury Group. Politicians who still maintain a traditional Westminster disposition in the spirit of a Salisbury or a Churchill are none to be found.

Contemporary: Her Majesty the Queen is the most obvious constitutionalist, since she actually believes in her Coronation Oath. Other than that, I really don't know of any remaining type 7. It is far more likely to come across the presidential premiership of a Tony Blair these days. The lone practitioner in the American tradition would appear to be presidential candidate Ron Paul who garnered no more than 5% of the Republican vote.

Summary: "We are flawed creatures, but we are not totally depraved. In our better moments we recognise our weakness and we create institutions in order to defend us from our worst failings. Institutions are above politics. You might say that we have institutions so that we don’t die of politics. But as we look around at our institutions today we see that like Sidonius’ Rome, they have all been undermined from the inside: the law, education, the established church, the monarchy. Our neglect, or worse our destruction, of our institutions reveals our self-contempt." - recent article in The Salisbury Review

Now that our little exercise has been completed, I'm obligated to reveal my source for this wonderful idea, and admit my outright theft of some choice passages from that rebellious traitor William Lyon Mackenzie whom nobody liked, but whom we can nevertheless thank for pushing the way towards responsible government in British North America during the late 1830s. It is furthermore interesting to point out that WLM was quite possibly the very first Anglospherist in advocating federal union between Britain, Canada, the United States, and Ireland in 1861 (see Wikipedia).


Neil Welton said...

Not too sure about the inclusion of The Radical Tory Manifesto - as it tries to define and limit "good Government".

Definitions of "good Government" is politics.

Once you try to define what "good Government" is, you enter politics. It is subjective, not objective. For one man's "good Government" is another man's "tyranny".

"Institutions are above politics" because "we create institutions in order to defend us from our worst failings" - including attempts at "good Government".

Constitutionalists merely defend "good institutions".

He would thus defend Parliament as an institution.

He would not defend politicians and their manifestos.

Palmerston said...

I believe that was Beaverbrook's point, that good government demands no more than the defence of our institutions. I would say he's defined good government without entering into the arena of politics, notwithstanding that most excellent Manifesto.

Neil Welton said...

Methinks you miss my point.

It is impossible to define what is "good Government" without entering into politics.

Whereas, it is quite possible to defend what are "good institutions" without the need for either good or bad Government - thank God. For institutions, like the Church and Crown, derive their power, authority and support from elsewhere. Someone higher than man.

Thus, if you agree with me that to have "good Government" you must have "good institutions".

You must also agree that you do not need a "good Government" to defend strong and "good institutions".

In reality, institutions do not need "good Government".

Whereas the Government needs "good institutions".

Kipling said...


I'm here to quibble again.

"...William Lyon Mackenzie whom nobody liked..."

For the record, I liked him. Traitors like WLM every kingdom needs. As for men like his grandson.... "The subject who is truly loyal will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures" a wise man once wrote, and another wise man put on the banner of his newspaper. Speaking of which...

Under practioners you mention Macdonald and Cartier. No George Brown? I know I'm a bore about this but somebody must be.


The vicars we read about in novels are nowhere near as feisty as you. Perhaps Jane Austen never went to Wales, her loss clearly.

I'm afraid we need to limit government for it to be good, that is what good institutions do, they limit check and define. I do not think we pass into politics, or partisan politics at the least, by by insisting there are things which civilized governments don't do. Things like shooting innocent people, or confiscating property without compensation. I think this is what Beaverbrook is after. I don't think he is trying to smuggle in some kind of free market radicalism on us - not that I would mind of course.

Beaverbrook said...

I like the firebrand reformer too, Kipling, he was a friend of history who rebelled against the corrupt Family Compact in the name of constitutionalism. My point is he never got on with his peers, including many Reformers, and was expelled from parliament because of it. Thanks for mentioning George Brown, and yes, you will note Junius' quote farther down in our sidebar.

In any event, I hope this has been illuminating. I know you have confided that you are a classical liberal (enlightened type 6), but perhaps that is not enough, perhaps you would agree that you are more a fushionist of the best elements of both liberal and conservative thought, and that individualism is best served by protecting the traditions and cultural framework within which it must exercise itself.

Neil Welton said...

Be grateful Kippers I'm not a vicar - yet!

You do enter the politics when you say "I'm afraid we need to limit Government for it to be good" and add "there are things which civilized Governments don't do". These are subjective personal viewpoints. They are political statements of intent. In the same way any manifesto is a political statement of intent.

When have "civilized Governments" not confiscated property without compensation and not shot innocent people - "civilized Government" is full of surprises.

Good institutions do not limit, check and define. Bad Government requires that good institutions limit, check and define. Good institutions exist to enable, not limit.

To have "good Government" you must have "good institutions". However, you do not require "good Government" to defend those "good institutions". For individualism is best served by protecting the traditions and cultural framework within which it must exercise itself - but so-called "good Government" has been proven time and again as not the means to do that. This is especially true for the very weakest in society.

Anyway, nothing wrong with free markets. Just as long as they stay in the market and out of society and our "good institutions" - like The Head of State. I'll never forget the free market campaigner who once suggested to me that Monarchy should be abolished because it was a drain on the taxpayer and the spirit of freedom!

Now, talking of vicars and considering the priesthood.

Beavers, where is Lord Of The Dance?


J.K. Baltzersen said...

The late Bertrand de Jouvenel told us:

[O]nce Power is based on the sovereignty of all, the distrust [of Power] comes to seem unreasonable and vigilance pointless; and the limits set on authority no longer get defended.

I believe this explains a major part of why the American experiment of constitutionally limited government has largely failed – and of why government has grown significantly elsewhere.

I do not subscribe to that restraining government, save through the self-restraint of the popular majority and/or its representatives, is politics, and thus should not be pursued by monarchists as monarchists. It may be politics, but not necessarily party politics. It does not, however, follow from that that non-restraint, save said self-restraint, is somehow politically neutral.

Mencken told us:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

It has been said that in a democracy the people get what they deserve. It would be more precise to say that the people get what the majority deserves.

I say that democracy needs to be restrained, and severely so, be that politics or no politics.

Neil Welton said...

Excellent quotes Baltzers.

"Once Power is based on the sovereignty of all, the distrust (of Power) comes to seem unreasonable and vigilance pointless; and the limits set on authority no longer get defended."

I agree.

"It does not, however, follow from that that non-restraint, save said self-restraint, is somehow politically neutral."

I agree.

"It has been said that in a democracy the people get what they deserve. It would be more precise to say that the people get what the majority deserves."

I agree.

My objection is to this idea that it is the role of "good Government" to somehow defend us (or properly serve us) by just defending our "good institutions". I simply believe "good institutions" should help defend us (only when they need to) and that any notions of "good Government" should be left to the politicians. If this means defending us from those who passionately believe in "good Government", so be it. It is always better to be free from "good Government", than to be a victim to dogmas it cares to follow - whether they be perceived as "good" or "bad" by their mere supporters.

Thus, it is not the role of "good Government" to do any defending, limiting or defining. It may like to, or want to, but it is not necessary for good Government. The Government of God. Constitutionalists merely defend "good institutions". Only politicians should waste their time defining "good Government" for its victims.

For there are great dangers and many complications in saying "democracy needs to be restrained" and that "good Government" needs to limit democracy and all its influences. I think you'll find Hitler believed that too.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

According to "Deogolwulf," Friedrich Hölderlin said:

What has always made the State a hell is that one wanted to make it a heaven.

If that essentially expresses the problems the good gentleman from the Principality of Wales has with the term "good government," I think we basically agree when it comes to "good government."

When it comes to the reference to Hitler, I must say that I believe that one of the major intellectual impacts of WWII on our civilization is the fright we have of talking negatively of democracy. In this sense, WWII haunts us till this day.

Democracy is simply rule of the majority with politically equal citizens. However, all sorts of other "definitions" have come about over the years. There are almost more "definitions" of "democracy" than there are people using the word. It's arguably the most misused word in our political vocabulary.

I'm not saying there wasn't misuse of the word before WWII, but I believe WWII has major influence on the matter.

Political thinkers through the ages have talked wisely of the vices of democracy. Nowadays, one cannot speak negatively of democracy without considerable risk of being branded as "Hitler." Instead people choose to fill the word "democracy" with all sorts of things.

We should be concerned about that, because, as Kong Fuzi told us:

When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.

Neil Welton said...

"There are almost more "definitions" of "democracy" than there are people using the word." (I agree - including those definitions like "good Government".)

"When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty." (Meaningless words like "good Government".)

"What has always made the State a hell is that one wanted to make it a heaven." (The trouble people are having here defending the inclusion of The Radical Tory Manifesto, is that they keep mixing up the idea of "good Government" with the idea of the nation, the State and "good institutions". I've always separated "good Government" from the nation, the State and "good institutions" because "good Government" is too subjective. It can be heaven or hell depending on your own personal, private point of view. That is my point. However, it is a matter for voters in a democracy to decide at an election whether to sample your heaven or taste your hell. Remember you get a vote too.

I have always had high and noble ambitions for my nation, State and its beautiful institutions. You should always aim to do your best, not do your worst. You should lend a hand, not snigger and walk on by. A nation is more than "good Government". It stands alone. It stands above mere men. Your other points...

"The fright we have of talking negatively of democracy." (There is nothing frightening about talking about democracy, only the suggestion that someone should limit it - without a "good" reason because they selfishly want their "good Government".)

"Instead people choose to fill the word "democracy" with all sorts of things." (Yes, all sorts of mythical and subjective ideas like your own "good Government".)

"Nowadays, one cannot speak negatively of democracy without considerable risk of being branded as Hitler." (Quite, it's important to learn from history.)

Anyway, I realise I go on a bit.

Yet, this is a key point that needs to be raised.

For it is all about where you place your focus or your emphasis - "good Government" or "good institutions".

J.K. Baltzersen said...

However, it is a matter for voters in a democracy to decide at an election whether to sample your heaven or taste your hell. Remember you get a vote too.

Which opens for tyranny of the majority.

"Nowadays, one cannot speak negatively of democracy without considerable risk of being branded as Hitler." (Quite, it's important to learn from history.)

Perhaps it's about learning from history. However, I think it has more to do with simple-mindedness, which I will explain.

The simple-mindedness goes roughly like this: We fought WWII for democracy. If you're against democracy, you must be for those on the other side in that conflict. So you must be "Hitler."

In fact, it was democracy that enabled Hitler to rise to power.

Neil Welton said...

Quite - because the people wanted "good Government" to make Germany great.

Hitler then declared that in order to have "good Government" you must stop all future elections as it impeded what was right for Germany. In order to have an efficient Germany again you must introduce genetic selection. In order to make Germany and the world great again you must have some gas chambers.

Due to a lack of "good institutions" he was not stopped.

You make my case.

I rest my case.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

You make my case.

Glad to hear that my advocacy of restraining democracy makes your case.

I rest my case.


David Byers said...

Beaverbrook, these 7 articles are great and get people thinking. Maybe they should be made into a booklet that could be put into schools?

David Byers said...

Beaverbrook, these 7 articles are great and get people thinking. Maybe they should be made into a booklet that could be put into schools?

Neil Welton said...

Hang on, Baltzers - you're spinning.

Nothing wrong with restraining democracy via "good institutions" ordained by God.

I am not against restraint in itself.

It is only wrong when democracy is restrained by "good Government" - this is the argument that I am making.

You believe democracy should be restrained by "good Government" as a governing principle - I believe democracy should only be restrained by "good institutions" in a national emergency.

Neil Welton said...

Hmmm... I can see it now.

A national emergency is called.

I rush to the Palace (flashing my sword) offering my services to my Sovereign to help restore democracy.

Baltzers rushes to The Palace Westminster (flashing his party membership card) because, like his "good Government", he doesn't like democracy.


J.K. Baltzersen said...

Oh, but the good gentleman from the Principality of Wales is mistaken.

He thinks the Sovereign is at Buckingham Palace, but that is not so.

The Sovereign is at Windsor Castle. Baltzers rushes to Windsor Castle (flashing a copy of The Spirit of Laws by Montesquieu).

Baltzers convinces the Sovereign that Montesquieu was right when he said:

But if there were no monarch, and the executive power should be committed to a certain number of persons selected from the legislative body, there would be an end then of liberty; by reason the two powers would be united, as the same persons would sometimes possess, and would be always able to possess, a share in both.

And Baltzers convinces the Sovereign that we now only have a shadow of a monarch, and that the French baron's prophecy sadly has come true.

Baltzers further convinces the Sovereign that Bertrand de Jouvenel was right about democracy when he said:

The mistake is one which was exposed in advance by Montesquieu: "As it is a feature of democracies that to all appearance the people does almost exactly as it wishes, men have supposed that democratic governments were the abiding-place of liberty: they confused the power of the people with the liberty of the people." This confusion of thought is at the root of modern despotism.

The Sovereign is convinced that the national emergency is a good opportunity to restore real royal powers as a real check on democracy and the all too powerful House of Commons.


Neil Welton said...

Ha! Ha! Ha!

I love it.

Now you've dumped your "good Government" and party membership card at Westminster - you are aiming to alter a "good institution" in order to impose your view of "good Government". By so doing you spectacularly concede I was right by switching your emphasis away from "good Government" and on to "good institutions". Yet, you are still not a "good Constitutionalist", for the reasons that will become clear. However, our debate can now close as you concede (but without actually saying so) that I was right all along. Being a "good Constitutionalist" is all about individuals defending "good institutions" - and not about "good Government" defending "good institutions". A subtle difference but an important one - in a Constitutional Monarchy. I wonder why the change of emphasis has come now.

It must have been the sight of my flashing sword - or the arrival of The Royal Artillery at Westminster. :-)

You are indeed a danger to Her Majesty's subjects, British democracy and Constitutional Monarchy. :-)

Your undemocratic actions have already resulted in a national emergency being called and have brought danger to the peace, good order and stability of the Realm. Now, by trespassing at Windsor Castle and attempting to redefine a "good institution", you have endangered The Majesty Of The Queen and also The Majesty Of Her Family. SLAM! Oh dear, you now appear to be in jail, held under Her Majesty's emergency laws.

There's a message there folks.

Don't mess with The Queen. :-)

For I merely "offered my services" to Her Majesty. My services being my loyalty, my obedience, my strength, my mind and also my opinions. I did not dare insult my Queen by telling Her that she will "offer Her services" to me and do as I say in order to further my own ends.

As for who The Queen actually consults - have a guess.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

My party membership card is an illusion. It is a figure of the Welsh gentleman's imagination. It must have been the phrase "restrain democracy" that made the good gentleman see "Hitler, Hitler, Hitler."

All the warnings of philosophers against the vices of democracy before the fateful summer of 1914 be damned. Anyone warning against democracy nowadays is "Hitler, Hitler, Hitler!"

That the modern democratic regime has tendencies that are more similar to the Hitlerite regime than the predemocratic regimes be damned.

As for who has redefined institutions, that clearly is the power-hungry politicos, who over the years step by step have usurped powers.

I have merely offered my advice to Her Majesty. I have not given any orders to Her Majesty. Her Majesty has listened and found what I have said convincing.

The rumors of my jailing are greatly exaggerated.

It would not, however, surprise me if the good Welsh gentleman would like to throw the sarcophagus of Montesquieu in jail.

The French baron believed that there was a role in a constitutional monarchy for a monarch other than to intervene only in national emergencies. Bad boy! He was clearly not a "good constitutionalist." He was hardly a constitutionalist at all. Any broader definition of "constitutional" be damned! :-)

Lord Best said...

As a point of interest, one of the subjects I am studying at university at the moment is about Nazi Germany. When the lecturer pointed out that 'Nazi' stood for National Socialist, and that it was a socialist form of government, there was a mini-riot by the socialist club because it conflicted with their statements that socialism was inherently good. In a later lecture when it was shown that Hitler was democratically elected, there was another mini-riot on account of democracy being inherently good and whatnot. They then tried to pursuade the lecturer not to say these things in lectured any more.
The moral of the story: The new generation of left wing intellectuals are both stupid and dangerous.

Neil Welton said...

Excellent point, Lord Best.

Left wing fanatical intellectuals who try to rewrite history, just like right wing fanatical intellectuals who try to rewrite their history, are another excellent reason why elected so-called "good Government" has no business defining, altering or defending "good institutions" - keep them all way!

It is dangerous.

In a Constitutional Monarchy it is always very important to keep fanatical "good Government" away from our "good institutions". That's why good Constitutionalists know only too well that only individuals can defend "good institutions". "Good Government", and its elected representatives, just cannot be trusted not to try to redefine our "good institutions" when they cannot get their own way - and then to use them for their own undeclared screwball, selfish and wacky purposes.

I think we all agree on this one.