Government by Committee: An Essay on the British Constitution

Government by Committee: An Essay on the British Constitution

Government by Committee: An Essay on the British Constitution

Government by Committee: An Essay on the British Constitution

Excerpt

In writing this book I am attempting to fly before I can walk. I can explain and, I hope, justify the attempt. The student of committees has to make a choice. Either he can try to hack his way through the jungle on foot or he can try to get a bird's eye view of the terrain from the air. If he chooses the first alternative, the most he can hope for is to clear a portion of his territory; if he chooses the second, the most he can hope for is to produce a rough sketch-map of the whole area. Each course has its advantages and its defects. The explorer on foot will know a part, but he will not understand its relation to the whole; the explorer from the air will see the whole but he is certain to miss or to misread or to misunderstand some at least of the parts. I have chosen to attempt a reconnaissance from the air, in spite of its dangers, for it seems to me that when you are exploring a jungle an aerial map is the first essential. I hope that others will persevere with the exploration on foot and that, while they correct and amplify my map, they may testify that it had some rough working value for them.

I have had a great deal of help in writing the book from my friends, and I express my gratitude to them. The manuscript was read in its entirety by Dr. A. L. Poole, President of St. John's College, Oxford, and by Mr. D. N. Chester, Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford. Parts of it were read by Mr. H. A. Clegg, Fellow of Nuffield College, and by Mr. Graham Higgins. I must acknowledge my debt, too, to the many colleagues with whom I have sat upon committees and from whom I have learnt continuously. In particular may I refer to my fellow members of the Oxford City Council with whom I have been associated since 1940. I cannot refrain from recording also my debt to two officials among many, Sir Douglas Veale, Registrar of the University of Oxford, and Mr. Harry Plowman, Town Clerk of Oxford, from whom I believe I have learnt most, by precept and example, about government by committee.

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