Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From An Englishman's Castle

Noblesse Oblige

We're under the thumb of the worst kind of aristocracy | Ross Clark - Times Online

At the risk of getting my backside blasted with a twelve-bore, I feel like falling to my knees at the gates of my local nob's house and saying sorry.
I was one of those who cheered on Tony Blair when he embarked on his mission to rid the House of Lords of hereditary peers....How dare these old buffoons, who are only in Parliament because some distant ancestor slept with Edward II, try to throw their weight around in a democracy, I thought...I now realise, though, that they were staunch upholders of civility and decency compared with the mercenary toadies that have replaced them. Somehow I can't imagine the late Duke of Devonshire trying to squeeze £120,000 out of a lobbyist to help to gain an exception on business rates - not even if the roof at Chatsworth had fallen in and he had worn through the leather patches on his elbows.
The appalling thing about the current House of Lords is that it has become a receptacle for all manner of wannabe politicians who would fail if they put themselves up before the electorate: MPs who have lost their seats, party donors with little popular appeal, and retired, often disgraced, Cabinet ministers who use the place like a free gentlemen's club....
Maybe there is something, after all, to be said for an upper parliamentary chamber made up entirely of hereditary peers, whose hands are unsullied by trade and who - in some cases, at least - have had a notion of public duty drummed into them from an early age...

Ross Clark then spoils his argument by suggesting driectly elected Lords, as though adding more bad apples to the barrel will make it better.

The advantage of hereditary peers was that they didn't have to seek short term approval or reward. They could afford to take a long term view informed by a sense of history, and by their position of influence being inheritable they were incented to ensure stability continued so they could pass it on to their heirs.
No other system is as good, though the old Greek habit of choosing some legislators by lot comes close. What we don't want is a House of Commons 2.0


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Aaron Davies said...

do you read mencius? you might be interested in his last post but one; search for the phrase "hereditary nobility" to get to the part that made me connect it to this post.

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Oh, yes, I do indeed read Mencius. And you're quite right to see the connection there.

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