A Conservative view of democracy

My article, ‘Speaking for the people: A Conservative narrative of democracy’ has been published online by Policy Studies.  You can see details on the journal’s website (look under Online Contents and then Forthcoming Articles.)  It will appear shortly in an issue of the journal.

Here is the abstract: 

‘The Conservative accepts that democracy entails government by and (especially) for the people, but what constitutes the people is seen not in narrow but in expansive terms: the people are not confined to those who constitute a present transient majority but encompass rather past and future generations.  Democracy is tempered by the need to avoid dictatorship of the masses, entrusting the task of governing to those chosen by the people and able to lead in interests of the people.  Government entails a balance between accountability and autonomy, a balance delivered by the Westminster system of government, a system challenged by attempts at fundamental constitutional change. ‘

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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7 Responses to A Conservative view of democracy

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    Certainly an American cannot help feeling you are addressing the Lincoln formulation of “Government of the People, by the People and for the People”. Nobody has ever questioned that the Westminster government governs the people. So you are conceding the two main points by Lincoln that it should be a governance for the people and by the people. Then you add a fullness and nuance to the formula which is a creditable formulation I think of what many in your society feel.
    Despite the complexity of the situation which cannot be greater than when discussed by an American and a British Parliamentarian and perhaps you and I more than most, the US revolution had conservative, moderate and radical elements in its intrinsic structure. It was also truly reactionary in some elements often overlooked. This blend of elements took place in a not very well organized young polity. But they understood the need to delineate the distinction from Westminster in very specific terms. Thus declaring: ” When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

    Then, after much bloodshed and a placekeeper confederacy of the States an American People was constitute in a legal act which was known to be both very sacred and serious on the one hand — and this hand confirmed by thirteen vast and intense consultations. But was also known to be a way of seizing for the constitutional government those powers which the people could in no meaning ful way exercise. This formal popular consent is in the opening words of our Counstituion: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Lincoln began in earnest the process of creating a revolutionary regime which not only destroys federalism at home when possible and is committed to debasing the People in its full complex meaning but undermines the national and transgenerational meaning of people in a way that empowers America to dictate from its own decaying and diseased sense of law the proper constitutional arrangements of all other countries. For all the popularity of the British Monarchy here at many levels many believe it is our destiny to abolish it and all other royal systems, to get rid of all things whether the Italian Senate or the House of Lords which offend an ideology both anthema to our founding and insidous to all our institutions and to our survival. All governments want to influence others — few are more chauvinist in this sense then Your Lordship. I myself am happy to promote those American ideals which I feel have been most excellent in practice. But the calculator democracy of an undefined nebulous people with not ties to national heitage is an abomination. It is an abomination Lincoln largely intended. Lincoln was a great man by any measure and a great leader. But neither a good President nor a good American by any standard which does not make itself ridiculous in the articulation. If there was a way to preserve the Union without betraying the inner genius of our history he did little to find it. No president is more honored and he is the effective founder of our current polity.

    Of course, I realize you cannot fairly be drawn into all of this controversy for an oblique and minimal allusion. But it also straight at my wicket as it were — the area of ideas in which I most comment etc.

  2. Pingback: On Democracy « The Robert Lowe Institute

  3. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    I read the pingback and congratulate you on the addition of Neath along with Louth to the titualr sphere of your title…

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: Yes, I noticed that. Well, Neath and Louth have the same number of letters, end in ‘th’. and are in the United Kingdom. That, I think, exhausts the similarities.

  4. Rebeccca says:

    We are doing a debate in our A Level politcs class, arguing for the removal of the House of Lords. You recently came to talk at our school, so we know you have a lot of knowledge in this area. Would you be able to give us some basic points to reinforce our argument? Thank you!

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