The belief that politics can be scientific must inevitably produce tyrannies. Politics cannot be a science, because in politics theory and practice cannot be separated, and the sciences depend upon their separation. Empirical politics must be kept in bounds by democratic institutions, which leave it up to the subjects of the experiment to say whether it shall be tried, and to stop it if they dislike it, because, in politics, there is a distinction, unknown to science, between Truth and Justice.
If American politics does not look to you like a joke, a tragic dance; if you have enough blindness left in you, on any plea, on any excuse, to vote for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party (for at present machine and party are one), or for any candidate who does not stand for a new era, -- then you yourself pass into the slide of the magic-lantern; you are an exhibit, a quaint product, a curiosity of the American soil. You are part of the problem.
You need to know that a member of Congress who refuses to allow the minimum wage to come up for a vote made more money during last year's one-month government shutdown than a minimum wage worker makes in an entire year.
Instead of starry-eyed worship of grand illusions, the mature citizen admires and idealizes proven values. He reveres, among other things, certain time-honored virtues and the people who practice them, especially the personal ideals of honesty, integrity, self-reliance, courage, persistence and dependability; the political ideals of individual liberty, the rights of property and contract, and the rule of law; and the ethical ideals of mutuality, decency and charity, among others.
I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments; and, as it is the shortest and most agreeable and summary feeling imaginable, the first moment of an universal republic would convert me into an advocate for single and uncontradicted despotism. The fact is, riches are power, and poverty is slavery all over the earth, and one sort of establishment is no better, nor worse, for a people than another.
The ordinary politician has a very low estimate of human nature. In his daily life he comes into contact chiefly with persons who want to get something or to avoid something. Beyond this circle of seekers after privileges, individuals and organized minorities, he is aware of a large unorganized, indifferent mass of citizens who ask nothing in particular and rarely complain. The politician comes after a while to think that the art of politics is to satisfy the seekers after favors and to mollify the inchoate mass with noble sentiments and patriotic phrases.
Successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular -- not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately. Politicians rationalize this servitude by saying that in a democracy public men are the servants of the people.
The old parties are husks, with no real soul within either, divided on artificial lines, boss-ridden and privilege-controlled, each a jumble of incongruous elements, and neither daring to speak out wisely and fearlessly on what should be said on the vital issues of the day.
Growing older, I have lost the need to be political, which means, in this country, the need to be left. I am driven into grudging toleration of the Conservative Party because it is the party of non-politics, of resistance to politics.
The apparent rulers of the English nation are like the imposing personages of a splendid procession: it is by them the mob are influenced; it is they whom the spectators cheer. The real rulers are secreted in second-rate carriages; no one cares for them or asks after them, but they are obeyed implicitly and unconsciously by reason of the splendor of those who eclipsed and preceded them.
Every political system is an accumulation of habits, customs, prejudices, and principles that have survived a long process of trial and error and of ceaseless response to changing circumstances. If the system works well on the whole, it is a lucky accident -- the luckiest, indeed, that can befall a society.
The era of the political was one of anomie: crisis, violence, madness and revolution. The era of the trans-political is that of anomaly: an aberration of no consequence, contemporaneous with the event of no consequence.
Politicians -- power itself -- are abject because they merely embody the profound contempt people have for their own lives. One should be grateful to the politicians for accepting the abstractness of power, and ridding others of its burden. This inevitably kills them but they get their revenge by passing onto others the corpse of power.
I am really sorry to see my countrymen trouble themselves about politics. If men were wise, the most arbitrary princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the freest government is compelled to be a tyranny. Princes appear to me to be fools. Houses of Commons and Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools; they seem to me to be something else besides human life.
Circumstances give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.
Away with the cant of Measures, not men! -- the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. No, Sir, if the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing.
A political organization is a transferable commodity. You could not find a better way of killing virtue than by packing it into one of these contraptions which some gang of thieves is sure to find useful.
The average educated man in America has about as much knowledge of what a political idea is as he has of the principles of counterpoint. Each is a thing used in politics or music which those fellows who practice politics or music manipulate somehow. Show him one and he will deny that it is politics at all. It must be corrupt or he will not recognize it. He has only seen dried figs. He has only thought dried thoughts. A live thought or a real idea is against the rules of his mind.
Every clique is a refuge for incompetence. It fosters corruption and disloyalty, it begets cowardice, and consequently is a burden upon and a drawback to the progress of the country. Its instincts and actions are those of the pack.
Now, we deny not, but that politicians may sometimes abuse religion, and make it serve for the promoting of their own private interests and designs; which yet they could not do so well neither, were the thing itself a mere cheat and figment of their own, and had no reality at all in nature, nor anything solid at the bottom of it.
The work of the political activist inevitably involves a certain tension between the requirement that position be taken on current issues as they arise and the desire that one's contributions will somehow survive the ravages of time.
The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the land, in England there shall be dear bread -- in Ireland, sword and brand; and poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand, so rally round the rulers with the gentle iron hand, of the fine old English Tory days; hail to the coming time!
A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself.
Nothing is so foolish, they say, as for a man to stand for office and woo the crowd to win its vote, buy its support with presents, court the applause of all those fools and feel self-satisfied when they cry their approval, and then in his hour of triumph to be carried round like an effigy for the public to stare at, and end up cast in bronze to stand in the market place.
I do not deny that there may be other well-founded causes for the hatred which various classes feel toward politicians, but the main one seems to me that politicians are symbols of the fact that every class must take every other class into account.
A Whig is properly what is called a Trimmer -- that is, a coward to both sides of the question, who dare not be a knave nor an honest man, but is a sort of whiffing, shuffling, cunning, silly, contemptible, unmeaning negation of the two.
You know, what I very well know, that I bought you. And I know, what perhaps you think I don't know, you are now selling yourselves to somebody else; and I know, what you do not know, that I am buying another borough. May God's curse light upon you all: may your houses be as open and common to all Excise Officers as your wives and daughters were to me, when I stood for your scoundrel corporation.
Cant is always rather nauseating; but before we condemn political hypocrisy, let us remember that it is the tribute paid by men of leather to men of God, and that the acting of the part of someone better than oneself may actually commit one to a course of behavior perceptibly less evil than what would be normal and natural in an avowed cynic.
Once you run for office, you're in it -- sort of like going into the military. You'd better be damned sure it is what you want to do and that the rest of your life is set up to accommodate that. It takes a certain toll on your personality and on your family life. I've seen it personally.
Most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political viewpoint -- Republican or Democratic, liberal, conservative, or moderate. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems that we now face are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments, which do not lend themselves to the great sort of passionate movements which have stirred this country so often in the past. [They] deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men.
The chief element in the art of statesmanship under modern conditions is the ability to elucidate the confused and clamorous interests which converge upon the seat of government. It is an ability to penetrate from the na?ve self-interest of each group to its permanent and real interest. Statesmanship consists in giving the people not what they want but what they will learn to want.
Many politicians lay it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
The Tories in England had long imagined that they were enthusiastic about the monarchy, the church and beauties of the old English Constitution, until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are enthusiastic only about rent.
In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest.
As in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, so in historical struggles one must still more distinguish the language and the imaginary aspirations of parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality.
A man who is a politician at forty is a statesman at three score and ten. It is at this age, when he would be too old to be a clerk or a gardener or a police-court magistrate, that he is ripe to govern a country.
The two-party system has given this country the war of Lyndon Johnson, the Watergate of Nixon, and the incompetence of Carter. Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life-rafts.
One thing about a pig, he thinks he's warm if his nose is warm. I saw a bunch of pigs one time that had frozen together in a rosette, each one's nose tucked under the rump of the one in front. We have a lot of pigs in politics.
The newspaper reader says: this party will ruin itself if it makes errors like this. My higher politics says: a party which makes errors like this is already finished -- it is no longer secure in its instincts.
It is far easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the needle's eye, hump and all, than for an erstwhile colonial administration to give sound and honest counsel of a political nature to its liberated territory.
Beware the politically obsessed. They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures; there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up. It leaves them somehow misshapen.
We assume that politicians are without honor. We read their statements trying to crack the code. The scandals of their politics: not so much that men in high places lie, only that they do so with such indifference, so endlessly, still expecting to be believed. We are accustomed to the contempt inherent in the political lie.
There is an increasingly pervasive sense not only of failure, but of futility. The legislative process has become a cruel shell game and the service system has become a bureaucratic maze, inefficient, incomprehensible, and inaccessible.
What in fact takes place in an election is that two hand picked candidates are propped up before the citizenry, each candidate having been selected by a very small group of politically active people. A minority of the people... then elects one of these hand picked people to rule itself and the majority.