The Forgotten Laws of Democracy

By Webb, Keith | Contemporary Review, January 1995 | Go to article overview
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The Forgotten Laws of Democracy


Webb, Keith, Contemporary Review


When George Stevenson's steam locomotive 'The Rocket' opened the world's first Intercity Railway, between Liverpool and Manchester in 1830 the Duke of Wellington expressed grave misgivings about the effects that mass transport would have upon the stability of the population. A static population is more easily overseen and influenced to conform to acceptable standards.

History shows man as being reluctant to act on his own. In conflict with the forces of nature and other men, he soon finds that collective action is essential if he is to believe that he controls his destiny for his own and the good of others. This brings about communities, sects, races, nations and empires.

It is the basis of the present day nationalism that is gaining attention in eastern Europe to replace the vacuum that exists since the fall of the USSR and its satellites. Elsewhere others look on who think it might be a good opportunity to take matters into their own hands for their own ends and believe it would also be an attractive method to follow.

The fact that all members of a community will not keep some or all of its rules is inevitable but such behaviour in this respect weakens and endangers the welfare and the existence of other members as well as the existence of the community as a whole. A lowering of standards that a community considers acceptable has a debilitating effect on that community's will to exist. Who decides what those standards are and how are they enforced? It is the majority that decides standards, outlook and lays down what it thinks is normal and what is right or wrong.

In the past a static population, in villages or towns, could be influenced mainly through the church. The factory or land owner could take note of who did and who didn't go to church. Even London is a multitude of village parishes. Questions might be asked if any worker and his family were not in attendance at church every Sunday. Non-attendance was seen as rebellion against the established order. A moral code could be preached at every service and even at Sunday school. A code where every man knew his place and his duty to his masters. An ever moving population would break that system down.

One way or another has to be found to enforce effectively observance of the laws of that community or society if it is to survive. The degree of their effectiveness is, next to a spiritual force, the dominant factor in a community's contribution to the making of its own and world history. More communities have decayed and perished by their own inability to enforce their own laws than have been destroyed by nature or hostile aggression.

Without providing itself with those effective means, no community exists for long. All that do, are found to be successful by the use of force. Today in Britain physical force, even the minimum amount, is a means of last resort.

It is only during modern history that this authority has been effected through a police force that has rid itself of a great deal of the blatant influences of the class structure only to have it replaced with allegations of other prejudices. These too have to have no basis if confidence in any police force is to be justified. The judicial system must be independent of the community's ruling authority if the judiciary is to have the trust and willing co-operation of those on whose part it acts.

Democracy depends for its existence on a system by which the ruling authority in a community bestows on its members, as a whole, the responsibility for securing and maintaining observance of its laws. The democratic system is force exerted indirectly by the people from below but such a system brings far more responsibilities than rights, although these are part of the bargain too. It is the price we are expected to pay if we want that way of life. Turning a 'blind eye' betrays our responsibilities and our rights.

The parallel system that has evolved over the years is the use of the latent power of an army.

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