Unformatted text preview: is last years. Behemouth is perhaps a strange example of its genre, inasmuch as it takes the form of a dialogue in which the two parties exchange hypotheses about the causes of the English Civil War. Nonetheless, it was historical in form and in purpose; it was intended to unravel the course of particular events and to draw a moral from them: the principle and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men, by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently towards the future." MASSES ARE INCAPABLE OF GOVERNING Walter Lippman, Dean of American Journalism, ESSAYS IN THE PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, 1955, p. 14. If I am right in what I have been saying, there has developed in this century a functional derangement of the relationship between the mass of the people and the government. The people have acquired power which they are incapable of exercising, and the governments they elect have lost powers which they must recover if they are to govern. What then are the true boundaries of the people's power? The answer cannot be simple. But for a rough beginning let us say that the people are able to give and withhold their consent to being governed--their consent to what the government asks of them, proposes to them, and has done in the conduct of their affairs. They can elect the government. They can remove it. They can approve or disapprove of its performance. But they cannot administer the government. They cannot themselves perform. They cannot normally initiate and propose the necessary legislation. A mass cannot govern. PUBLIC OPINION OFTEN CAUSES CATASTROPHIC DECISIONS Walter Lippman, Dean of American Journalism, ESSAYS IN THE PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, 1955, p. 20. The unhappy truth is that the prevailing public opinion has been destructively wrong at the critical junctures. The people have imposed a veto upon the judgments of informed and responsible officials. They have compelled the governments, which usually knew what would have been wiser, or was necessary, or was more expedient, to be too late with too little, or too long with too much, too pacifist in peace and too bellicose in war, too neutralist or appeasing in negotiation or too intransigent. Mass opinion has acquired mounting power in thi...
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This document was uploaded on 11/20/2013.
- Fall '13