Representation for authority

Representation for authority: This is at least the path to a solution of the two issues in the problem of authority that I outlined earlier in this article. It does not, as in the classic theory of politics, begin by postulating the necessary unity of society and continue by insisting on the supremacy of the State as the organ of that unity. It admits that the varying factors in the equation of life impel the admission of diversity. It agrees that unity is not there, but has to be made. It does not demand a unity of Procrustes, in which individual personality is abridged to fit the formula of those who, at some given moment, dominate the State. That is, of course, a unity  but it is the unity of the cannibal and his victim.

Rather it insists on unification made through a process of so associating interests that each, in the solution effected, finds sufficient concession to itself to experiment with the result. It does not even argue that the solution will succeed, or that it ought to be accepted because it happens to be a solution. Right, as it recognizes, is not a static thing, but made and remade in the crucible of experience. It follows therefore that, in its view, the claim of authority is worth just as much as it proves itself to be worth as men in their various relationships make trial of the result of its claim. It admits the desirability of obedience, because it realizes the superiority, in general, of order over conflict.

But it argues that obedience is only creative when it arises from a self-imposed discipline. It sees the imperative element in law as something derived not from the persons proclaiming it as law, but from the impact of its content upon the persons affected by the command. Orders as such are, therefore, morally neutral in this view, they become right or wrong as they work in the substance of men’s lives. And they are, it argues, the more likely to work as what they contain in their administration is wrought from and operated by the persons to whom the orders are issued. For building upon the basis that all experience is finite, that what I want and do is, ultimately, an induction limited by the narrow field I know, it seeks to expand my experience until it is shared with and becomes a part-function of, the largest available volume of knowledge.

At this point, clearly, it becomes a theory of representation It admits the necessity for co-ordination, though it urges that all co-ordination achieved is at best a partial thing. But it denies that simple view of the coordination effected by the legislature of a State which underlies, for instance, John Stuart Mill’s Representative Government. “The theory is,” says Mr. Lippmann, I applying it to the American position, “that the best man of each district brings the best wisdom of his Constituents to a central place, and that all these wisdom combined are all the wisdom that ,Congress needs.”

Obviously, nothing of the sort occurs. The wisdom of most men is simply never made available to their representatives in a central legislature. Those who choose are, often enough unable to say what that wisdom is those who are chosen are not seldom unable to interpret, sometimes from self-interest, sometimes from stupidity, the wisdom that does express itself.

The idea that my will and my experience are, in some mystic fashion, embodied in the will and experience of my representative is contradicted by all the facts at our disposal. My will cannot, as Rousseau saw, ever be represented at all, and my experience is for its intimate substance, essentially private to myself. I can recognize, in any average legislative assembly, men whose actions reveal a purpose sufficiently akin to my own to enlist my Support. I can infer from those actions interests which go along with my interests, experiences which are relevant to my experiences. The problem of representation is the problem of enabling me to have contact with those men.

It should be realized that my contact will rarely be at all direct and intimate. There is not time for more than partial glimpses of one another in the shifting scene of politics. There are too many people in the State, and too much to do in the , State, for the co-ordinations effected by a central legislature to be more than very rough first approximations. The views which from their expression there will be the powerful and the claimant views.

They will not mirror the total volume of interests in society simply because that is, frankly, sheer impossibility. The size of the modern State makes it necessary for the people to surrender direct control of principles and direct control of administration. They can, broadly, say yes or n0 to large general solutions, they can be for free trade and against child labor. But they must in general, express their will by choosing persons to say yes and no on their behalf. They must recognize that the persons so chosen cannot be made delegates in the sense either

  • Of making all their views known beforehand, or
  • Submitting their proposed views on new problems back to their constituents for scrutiny and approval.

The rush of business does not permit the leisurely survey that method would involve. All the direct power the average citizen can hope for is, first the opportunity periodically to seek a change in the co-ordinate authority, and, in the intervals, to use the groups of whim he is a part to bring pressure to bear upon that body.

It is the sense of the helplessness in which this seems to leave him that has led many to suggest different basis for the task of co-ordination. Mr. Cole, or instance, sees society as a mass of functions, and he would maize the ultimate co-coordinating authority an indirect organ to which those functions contribute representatives. I have already rejected this View.

It seems to me clear that the basis of choice in a co-ordinating body must be personal, simply because the individual is not merely a system of affiliations to different functions, nor do I believe that the general thesis of social life permit statement in terms of some given functional view.

The case for the magnicompetent and directly elected body driving a stream of tendency through affairs seems to me overwhelming. It is true that I cannot be fully represented as a citizen, but it is also true that I cannot be fully represented as an engineer or a doctor or a carpenter.

And the simplicity which makes me choose as a person is too important to be discarded for a view which makes the co-ordination body much mare, remote from me as a person than, say, the House of Commons now is. The success of the latter in affording satisfaction does not depend upon the rejection of its territorial basis. It is built rather upon other and more complex factors.

These are, I think, broadly contained within three categories. The character and ability of the members of the central legislature are important. The body which nominates them as candidates, the conditions which men are admitted as candidates, obviously here count for much. The work of men like Ostrogorski and Graham Wallas Has thrown a vivid light upon what may be termed the pathology of parliamentarism.

This, as I believe, is most largely due to the fact that our civilization is organized, not for service, but for acquisition.It is dominated by the view that success means wealth, and the general stream of tendency in society is, accordingly, poisoned at its source. Here, once more, emerges the importance of that system of rights already outlined. It constitutes the second great factor in the building of an adequate method of representation.

It acts as a check upon what a co-ordination body can do, it defines the limits within which it can work. It means,for example, that there is outside it an alert-minded, because educated electorate, and that the power of property to sway its decisions is consciously limited. It means that it cannot interfere with the expression of opinion. It ensures, I think, the existence of parties the aims of which are more realistic, the terms of conflict between which are less likely to involve the defeat of the general purposes of the State.

The third category is that of the information at the disposal of the co-ordination authority. Its significance, I think, can hardly be over estimated. Anyone who reads the speeches in an average debate of Congress or the House of Commons, and Compares those speeches with the criticism, say, of a physical theory by physicists, will be appalled at the quality of the evidence upon which we rely for social decisions. It is defective in three primary ways. It is inadequate, first, in the range that it covers.

Anyone, for example, who analyses the housing problem in England will find that we have no exact information upon any one of the constituent factors upon which that problem depends. The coal industry, again,  is the only one whose organization has been at all systematically surveyed. The most elementary statistics are lacking upon which successful educational policy depends, Social processes, says Mr. Lippmann, are recorded spasmodically, quite often as accidents of administration.

Though it (the material) deals with the conscious life of his fellow-citizens, it is all too often distressingly opaque, because the man who is trying to generalize has practically no supervision of the way his data are collected.We need immensely to develop the business of expert fact-finding if we are to possess the body of information out of Which sound conclusions can emerge, and this, it should be added, is one of the most urgent ways in which the opinion formed by the public press may be invested with the atmosphere of myth.

But the finding of facts is one thing their interpretation is another. Facts have to be evaluated by those to whom their import is directly relevant. What is here important is the way in which the co-ordination authority is linked to the body of experiences it is seeking to serve. At present, that linkage is largely a chaotic group of relationships, without even attempt at system.

The opinion that filters through, the emphasis, accordingly, the co-ordination body receives, is at every point spasmodic and haphazard. The validity of co-ordination depends upon two things. It depends, first, upon the way in which it is built from the experience it is seeking to coordinate, and the way, secondly, that the solution it reaches is later administered. I have already discussed these questions in part, and I shall later indicate in detail the institutions they seem to me to involve. Here it is enough to point out the grounds upon which I am emphasizing the importance of this linkage, if representation is to be effective.

I am arguing that the only way to do things for people is to make them do things for themselves, that men who stand outside a situation can only be made responsible about it by being driven to make their minds march along with those who are inside. But they must not choose those whom they think inside, as, for instance, modern governments choose trade unionists who have long lost touch with the mind of labor to represent labor on inquiries they initiate.

Those so chosen must be the nominated choices of the interests organized for consultation have need, in short, permanent and continuous organs which are consulted before decisions are reach . If legislation is introduced about the mines, we need to know that the Minister of Mines has had to weigh the facts and opinions of every interest directly involved in mining need a system, to take an obvious example, which does for public bills, and m a coherently systematic way, what is now done for private bills in the House of Commons.

We need, that is, to interweave the relationship of the co-ordination authority to the group affected by it. For we then make that group share in the decision we reach. We make it interpenetrate with that decision so as to ensure the infusion of its experience into the will given effectiveness. We prevent the crystallization of that will before it has sought the necessary foundations upon which it is to be built. We mould the purposes of each social function into a unity where they may so recognize their purpose as to admit the tightness of that unity. We maximize inventiveness by making our social decisions growing the largest range we can hope to encompass.

I do not mean to imply that this method of making solutions ,will enable us to avoid all disagreement. The interests in society are too diverse to make it probable that men can always pool their differences by conferring upon them. A co-ordination authority determined upon secular education could not, obviously, persuade the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church to accept its views.

But I think it probable that their joint search into that differences would find a meeting-ground where each felt that its purpose found a just realization, and it is not unlikely that this will be true of many of the problems we now state in the form of mutually exclusive alternatives. I think it possible that those who desire, and those who oppose, the nationalization of banks might by conference reach a plan of organization that would satisfy the fears of bureaucracy on the one hand and the dread of irresponsible finance on the other. Problems will, of course, arise in which the interests participating will feel that they have been unjustly treated and they will fight rather than give way. There will even be occasions in which that injustice is real, and their pugnacity intelligible. But we can at least minimize that danger.

But when the solution has been made, it has to be applied. Here, I suggest, is the largest area of future inventiveness. The less there is of complex detail in the decisions of a coordinating authority, the more of flexibility that enables creative adjustment to the special case,the more are those decisions likely to be fruitful. We have recognized something of this in the principle of the grant in aid. We have admitted even more in the abrogation of Parliamentary Sovereignty where the will of the Dominions is concerned. What we need is to multiply the channels through which the general civic standards may be translated at the circumference into locally applied statutes.

We need to let the cotton industry legislate for itself within the ambit of the general level at which the society broadly aims. We need to allow it to grow organs which can take initiative in detail on its behalf. War experience has thrown much light on possibilities of this kind.

The Cotton Control Board, for example, was an instance where the solutions made were effective because they were administered by those who lived directly by the results  and its success is the more striking when the generally antithetic nature of the interests to be organized is borne in mind The plain lesson of the record of Works Committees during the war is that solutions which are the result of self-imposed authority operate far better that those imposed from without.

The power of the Shop-Steward Movement was largely derived from the fact that their connection with the rank and file looked outwards from within instead of looking inwards from without. They were able to integrate their relationship with their constituents in a way impossible to other persons.

They spoke much more nearly the mind of the workshop than others could hope to do, because they were in and of it. Their demands met the support they did because they grew recognizable out of a similar experience. What we need is to plan our industrial organization as it relates to the State 56 that the voice which speaks to the State may have a character as genuine and veracious.

Leave a Comment