Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THIS column was the first to propose (9 August 1997) that the reformers of the House of Lords might try an experiment in real democracy and elect members on ancient Greek principles, i.e. any citizens could put themselves forward at local level, and those elected at that level would go forward to the national level, where a lottery - the only truly democratic means of selection, since elections are meritocratic -- would pick the winners out of a hat, in proportion to the size of their region. In the event, Lord Wakeham's chums were having none of it, and we are left with a delicious pickle of elected and appointed oligarchs.

Not that there is anything wrong with an oligarchy, the rule of the few, which our system exemplifies. As Herodotus pointed out some 2,500 years ago, it was a matter of choosing the best men of the country and giving them political power, on the grounds that the best men would choose the best policies. Perfectly sound: it is just that it bears no relation to democracy. If the Commons and Lords plucked up courage and called themselves oligarchs, it would save a great deal of trouble and strife because it would nail once and for all the implication of the word 'democracy', that we struggling masses can do anything about the decisions that our masters make except occasionally exchange one set of the brutes for another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.