Saturday, April 15, 2006


John Raulston Saul - Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, c.10, p.263-264.

It isn't suprising in this historical context that rational structures, moral beliefs and representative government have been confused as on one in people's minds. Nor that today, while structures reign supreme, man's sense of right and wrong is in frenzied confusion. And that democracy in the West, after a gradual rise over 150 years, is in sharp decline. Not that there are fewer elections or fewer politicians or less talk of politics. There has never been so much voting and campaigning and talking throughout the developed world. But the direct effect of citizen politics upon policy and administration seems extremely tenuous. Parliaments have become colourful circuses and to the extent that they attempt to exercise power, it is incresingly as the public arm of lobby groups.

None of this would have been possible had the people themselves not been seduced by the religion of reason. Once they had accepted that such things as expertise, administration and efficiency were irrefutable values, they couldn't help but look upon their own assemblies - chosen by their own vote - as old-fashioned, talkative and inefficient gatherings. These were no longer places where all good citizens would aspire to serve for a time. Instead, the people took to watching their ministers dash schizophrenically about, lost between attempts to become both administrators and stars. As administrators, they assimilate themselves with their bureaucrats in order to prove that the result of the democratic process is rational action. From there they somersault over and ever deeper into the light show of personality politics. They learn to project their looks, the whiteness of their teeth, their sporting abilities, their love for their wives and their ability to create fully formed children. Elected to set policy and govern, they flip frenetically from attempts at bureaucratic administration to embarrassing and irrelevant displays of "personality". Whatver policymaking aim they do manage to bring to power seems to wither away with experience.


Blogger Nick said...

Didja like it? One of my faves that I read last year.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous elephantitis_stew said...

Fantastic read. I would suggest that it has effectively changed the way I do business.

10:32 PM  

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