The State as responsible

The State as responsible: If this argument be valid, we must seek the institutions of a responsible State in other directions. It is, in the first place, essential to note that to divide responsibility as a method of limiting power may result in its total destruction. To divide it as, for example, it is divided by the separation of powers in the United States, may be to evade it altogether.

In any effective administration it is urgent that the orders issued may be ultimately traced to a small group of persons. Its responsibility is secured in three ways. It is made effective, in the first place, by adequate methods of dismissing it from power. It is made effective, in the second place, by the sources of organized consultation with which it is surrounded.

It is thirdly, fundamental that those who are to pass ultimate  judgment upon the acts of the State should be in a full position to make that judgment intelligent and articulate. A State, that is to say, must be composed of citizens between whom there are no vast disparities of education and economic power.

The will of the State cannot, in this view, be made legally co-ordinate with wills that in fact cover a lesser area than its own. Moral co-ordination may be achieved; legal coordination. is impossible because the State, through its agents, defines the manner of vocational life. And however much we may reduce the direct administrative capacity of the political State, the fact remains that once it is charged with the provision of services of which men stand in common need, it has their interests in trust to a degree with which no other body can, at least in a temporal sense, compete.

Even if we abstract from the modern State the final control of international affairs, the civic area of internal matters that is left seems, in any casual glance, overwhelming. Education, public health, housing, the preservation of order, the regulation of vocations at that point below which their operation is detrimental to the public interest, merely, it is obvious, to state these functions in a broad way is to make the voice of government important in a very special manner. Practically speaking, what it surveys is the interest of man as citizen, the point at which he ceases to be a producer of services that he may live, and seeks from the result of that production to give meaning to his life.

It is here argued that production and consumption cannot be placed upon an equal footing so long as the division of labour makes no man sufficient unto himself. Put in a broad way, the protection of the interests of the consumer as citizen are paramount. However far decentralization may go in leaving producing functions to govern themselves, at some point their will becomes subject to the will of those Who, in the leisure-period, are seeking to make of life an art and not the fulfillment of a special task.

To grasp this point of view, it is most useful to take the individual citizen and build, so to speak, the community from his relationships. He lives upon the services of other men. For him, they exist that his leisure may be rich and fruitful only as they provide in a full degree the commodities of which he has need can he realize the impulses of his nature.

For him, that is to say, the aspect of consumer is the predominant aspect. It is what he will enjoy, not what he can produce, that is important for the fulfillment of himself. It is true, and it must be emphasized, that there are those to whom the aspect of producer is fundamental.

The artist, the statesman, the man born to write, to administer, to teach, find all of their best in the daily task from which they derive the means of life. No theory of social organization would be complete that did not endeavor to find ample room for the expression of that creative faculty.

It is yet only a minority to whom the effort of production contains the die upon which their personality is imprinted. In a civilization which, like our own, is built upon large-scale production, most are inevitably destined to find their best selves outside the categories from which they secure their livelihood.

The clerk who copies entries in a ledger, the printer who sets the type for a journal, the waiter who carries plates from kitchen to table and table to kitchen, the stoker who feeds the engines of a great ship these are most themselves, not in the hours of productive toil, but when the day’s work is done. And for them, accordingly, the thing that is supremely important is the opportunity their leisure affords.

What they desire is that the productive effort should use as little as may be of their energy, and that it should result in as much as possible of the means to use that energy in the fashion that pleases them best.  Society, for them, is essentially judged by what it does towards that end. Government becomes the arbiter between the parties to production, not as an end in itself, but as a means to the end for which men produce.

This does not, of course, imply that men can, or should, in their daily labour be regarded as the mere tenders of machines. But it does mean that, if we are to continue our civilization upon the present scale, it is important to realise that, whatever the form of industrial organization, the number of those who will find a creative channel of activity in their daily work is inevitably small.

Even if one grant the satisfaction that comes to the craftsman in his effort, machine technology destroys for most the prospect of any work that is not the mere repetition of a routine. There are, of course, those to whom the conduct of industrial direction is, at one point or another, confided  and there will always, doubtless, be the master less craftsman who lives by satisfying the personal taste of a few.

Yet when we measure these numbers against the serried masses of the general population, they remain pitifully small. They are the source of much discontent and social change is, on the side of productive reorganization, mainly an effort to satisfy impulses of leadership for which there is inadequate room in the present system. For the rest, the interest lies, not in the process itself, but in the results of the process.

They watch, so to say, not the details of the strategy, but the fruits of the victory. By them, accordingly, the State is judged as it makes that victory meagre or ample. The State, then, serves its members by organizing the avenues of consumption on their behalf. It effects that end in part by direct expenditure of the proceeds of taxation, in part by regulating the conditions under which commodities are produced.

It is made responsible to its members in a variety of ways. Its government is, firstly, subject to dismissal by its constituents. That dismissal may be secured by different methods. The period of office may be limited and the legislature itself may, through the pressure of public opinion, compel the resignation of the executive by which it is itself directed.

The limitation of the period of office means that at a fixed term all who are legally to direct the affairs of State are subject to the choice of an electorate which has now come, generally speaking, to include the adult population of most communities which live under the aegis of modern civilization and in States where orderly government is a general habit, that test can hardly be evaded save under penalty of revolution. Governments are therefore driven, within limits of real importance, to defer to popular desires if they wish to remain in power.

Deference to popular desire is, of course, a vague term and the degree to which it is effective depends naturally upon the degree to which public opinion is organized and, through Its or organization, can make its will known. We shall discuss later the problem of satisfying that opinion in a legislative assembly obviously the methods by which it is elected are of extreme importance.

It suffices to say here that election does not mean that I choose Jones to represent me in the sense of feeling that my will is embodied in his it means only that I believe Jones likely, over a period after which I can judge his activities, to vote for a policy I can broadly approve.

But, clearly enough if I am to pass judgment upon him, I must be so instructed that my judgment my be adequate and articulate. The education of the citizen, in other words, is the heart of the modern State Most of the disgust which even the adherents of democratic government have felt with its working is due to the fact that it has never been trained to the understanding of its functions most, also, of the difficulties which social theorists have sought to meet by changes in the machinery are largely due, less to defects in the machinery itself, than to the fact that it is seeking to cope with a population which often passes through life without even the knowledge of its existence.

Children who are herded into industry at the age of fourteen, when the problem of knowledge has scarcely begun to exert its fascination, can hardly be expected! under the conditions of modern industrial life, to understand, much less to work, the complicated technique upon which their well-being depends. The defects of democracy are most largely due to the ignorance of democracy , and to Strike at that ignorance is to attack the foundation upon which those defects are built. In the presence of that ignorance, it is inevitable that those who can afford the luxury of knowledge will alone be likely, or even able, to make their desires effective. A State which fails to offer an equal level of educational opportunity to its citizens is penalizing the poor for the benefit of the rich. There cannot be a responsible State until there is an educated electorate.

But even an educated electorate will not secure the essential conditions of responsibility. The individual in the modern State is, after all, a voice crying in the wilderness unless he acts with those whose interests are kindred to his own. The individual worker, for example, cannot, as a normal rule, bargain with the individual employer for reasonable terms equality of bargaining power is the necessary prelude to freedom of contract. And equality of bargaining power can only be secured by means of association.

The individual who seeks an economic master and yet strives to stand alone destroys the standard of satisfaction that his fellows can hope to secure. He acts as a reservoir from which power may be drawn to compete against some standard urged as a necessary minimum and that is still more true in a system which, like that of private enterprise, compels the maintenance of a reserve of unemployed.

The compulsory recognition of trade unionism is essential if decent working conditions are to be maintained and this, in its turn, means the disappearance of that unassociated worker who has been supposed, by an unamiable fiction, free to sell his labour in the clearest market. The worker who does not stand by his fellows is in fact destroying their access to proper standards of life.

On the other side, the anarchy of modern trades is fatal to any attempt properly to cope with their conditions. The variations in the sanitary quality of factories, of book-keeping, of estimation of cost, of methods of sale, of research into the technique of production, of engagement and promotion, of access by the workers to some share in the diction of the enterprise, are all of them fatal to the proper conduct of the industry.

We have combinations to diminish the share the worker may hope to obtain from his part in production. We have combinations to wring the highest possible Price from the consumer. We have not yet had a combination to build some given industry into what can be recognized as a public service.

It seems clear that if the relations between the State and industry are to be upon an equitable footing, each trade must have its associations for organized and coherent consultation with the government. Anything less than a body to which, on either side, each worker and each employer must belong, leaves the opinion inadequately explored through the expression of Which a government finds its policy. It leaves, also, influential men with access to the sources of power that is consistently liable to abuse.

We can imagine such an organization of industry in modern society as gives to its working the character and responsibility of constitutional government. It will have standards, statutory and traditional, to maintain it will have channels through which those standards may be enforced.

It cannot be too emphatically insisted that the maintenance of those standards is, as to their ultimate definition, always a matter for the State. For whatever may be the vehicles of their administration, those standards are maintained to protect the interest of the consumer.

They mean, of course, that no man, to use the current phrase, can be left to conduct his own business in his own way the context of citizenship always determines the methods by which it is administered. And that context is defined by the State. The problem, therefore, is to find channels through which the relationship of the State to industrial functions may make consistently explicit the civic interests of men.