American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

12: WHO DETERMINES OUR FOREIGN POLICY?

Lindsay Rogers

Fifty years ago, a distinguished ornament of the Harvard Law School, John Chipman Gray, intrigued students of politics with an aphorism that has been much quoted: "The real rulers of a political society are undiscoverable."1 Ten years later, Harold Laski elaborated: "The new Chancellor of the Exchequer may be dependent upon a permanent official whose very name is unknown to the vast majority whose destinies he may so largely shape; and, indeed, the position of the English civil servant has been defined as that of a man who has exchanged dignity for power." I add that the position of a Cabinet member has been defined as that of a man who puts restraints on his civil servants so that he and his colleagues will not be hanged to the nearest lamp posts. "Public opinion may be the ultimate controlling factor," Mr. Laski continued; "but not the least complex of our problems is, as Mr. Lowell has said, when it is public and when it is opinion."2

In October, 1957, the English monthly The Twentieth Century devoted an entire issue to a symposium under the title "Who Governs Britain?" Eminent contributors discussed whether a governing class could be isolated and defined; the authority of parliament; the influence of the press; and the occult leverage exerted by trade unions, lobbies, committeemen, technicians, university dons, and journalistic gadflies. In his contribution to the symposium, A. J. P. Taylor said that it had lately become the fashion to call these undiscoverable rulers "The Establishment" and that he had been charged with starting it. "I regret the idea, whoever had it. The very word, so plummy, so ponderous, so respectable, tempts us to acknowledge the moral

____________________
1
John C. Gray, The Nature and Sources of the Law ( New York, 1909), p. 77.
2
Harold Laski, Authority in the Modern State ( New Haven, 1919), p. 29; A. Lawrence Lowell, Public Opinion and Popular Government ( New York, 1913).

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