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Clairvoyance and better plumbing

A brilliant essay by Edmund Burke's biographer, Conor Cruise O’Brien, who recently died at 91, gave us some new ideas. (Thanks to Maggie's Farm for the tip.)

As part of a better future, most people would like to see better government. They think that if they change the person holding the office of President or Prime Minister they'll see an improvement. Edmund Burke, and many of you, would disagree.

While most people were happily celebrating the first act of the French Revolution, Burke predicted the tragic second and third acts - the September Massacres, the Terror and mass executions culminating in military despotism (Reflections on the French Revolution). Today, having freed themselves from the "cult of the Revolution", French historians speak of Burke's "penetrating clarivoyance".

Burke wanted politics to be based on facts, not theories. Like you he knew that the devil was in the details. Three big 20th century theories - fascism, socialism and communism - were imposed on the peoples of Europe and Asia without reference to them or to the facts of life. Burke would have been saddened but not surprised to see the catastrophically tragic results. (The great EU theory also appears bound to fail, hopefully without causing unimaginable harm and hurt first.) Burke wrote -

The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good; yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without enquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered?

Even liberty has to be examined with a realistic eye -

The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risque congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.

We would like to think that the future will be better if people understand the Constitution and vote in MPs who respect it. That would be helpful, but Burke says that more is needed -

Wise men [and women] will apply their remedies to vices, not to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to the occasional organs by which they act, and the transitory modes in which they appear.

Eureka! Surely one cause of evil is the political party system which aggregates power without holding it accountable. The parties do not act in the nation's interest, but in their own interest. One cause of this evil is the way that MPs are selected.

Though they are supposed to represent the people, MPs are actually appointed by the party. The people can vote between the candidates of several parties, but only for a candidate which the party has chosen.

In the United States, the people vote for the candidates who will stand for office, but this system has been subverted by gerrymandered districts where only one party ever wins.

As a result there is no thorough selection of representatives by the people and little way to hold elected representatives accountable by voting them out of office. If by chance an incumbent is replaced, it is almost always by a party clone, freshly baked to be sure, but just another party cut-out.

It is the insufferable and undemocratic parties that force the European project, excessive government (party) spending and barbaric multicultural pieties on their unwilling people. Forget about changing the names. Change the cause of these evils.

The system is backing up. We have to install new plumbing.

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