Sunday, December 6, 2009

Political theory: Notes on the meaning of Guizot

Lecture 18 (p. 359) – wants to know about the division of legislative power.
- The philosophical school and the “other” school of thought
- Guizot has a “these people are stupid,” attitude towards what others are doing in history and philosophical
o What is it the philosophical school lacks that history has?
§ History has facts.
§ Guizot likes facts because what happened always happened, and the knowledge doesn’t change about the facts.
§ But facts by themselves are meaningless because you need a frame of reference to understand the facts.
§ Philisophical school is correct in using the Right as its end but also as its starting point
- What is Guizot’s problem with Rousseau?
o Rousseau is almost right
o Rousseau says that everyone has certain rights that cannot be restricted and that cannot be taken away
o Rousseau then says that the whole point of having certain rights that cannot be restricted means that people always give their consent to being governed.
o Guizot says - this is almost right
o He says that some people believe in representation, and since you voted for people who represent you, you have to accept everything they do –
§ Is this a good idea? No. Why? Just because you delegated things to someone, doesn’t mean that you have to like what they are doing – you need to hold them accountable.
§ Guizot says there are two things about representation: either the person who is elected is the slave to the electorate; or the electorate is the slave to the representative.
§ These won’t work – and so there is a problem with this because it takes away the will of someone.
§ Chapter 6, 7, and 8 of Part 1 – wants to divide things up
· Says that classifying things according to their external forms (government by the many, the few or the one) is error because sovereignty always belongs to some of the people, but not all of the people.
· P. 52 – ‘The classification which I am about to present……do not belong to our imperfect nature.” What is good for society isn’t always the thing that is done, because sometimes you may not do it because you don’t want to, or may not know what it is. So how do you make this thing into a principle of government? So that people put the needs of the society above the needs of the one?
o Pg. 53 – “Representative Government is….”
o Guizot says that having one republic is best – so England is the best example.
o There was no getting together in the woods to discern a social contract; instead something else happens
- Guizot’s history of England doesn’t start with the history of England – it starts with William the Conquerer who founded England and had the Tories (authority and tradition) and the Wicks (liberty); Tory – all power was vested in the King by God, and so even though the king has been letting things go, we should give him power.
- William doesn’t get all the power when he conquers - You had 2 people who were barbarians, but who had institutions that lasted for 100’s of years (the Normans)
- There is a division among aristocrats – some of them become rich and powerful and surround the king; some of them stay on their local turf because they are weaker.
- History is not the history of everyone, it is the history of actors (people who influence society on the political stage) – and most people are not actors because they don’t have freedom (politically or economically) and they are not doing anything. Free people require economic interests – if you are weak, you cannot resist.
- The barons – the rich aristocrats – want the kings to sign charters because the kings are abusing the barons. And the barons get the kings to sign the charters because they steal their sons, etc…..then when the barons leave the king ignores the charters…then the barons come back and get him to sign another charter….then the king ignores it…
- This history shows (for Guizot) that England went from a balanced power to an absolute king, then to trying to fix the problem…………so you can see from above, that there needs to be power to force the king to enforce the charters instead of doing things in an ad hoc fashion.
- People who are really poor have no power. Cities collapsed (like London) after the invasion and they became poorer so they had no power to stand up to the king or anyone else.
- But then the cities started growing more powerful – and the barons and the kings wanted them as their ally.
- If you have too powerful of an ally, you might become the subservient person rather than the dominant party in the alliance.
- So the king invited the barons, those who no longer attended court, and those representatives of the cities to advise him
- This is the history of the three part government in England
- The government of England has to be established based on the facts of the situation, and cannot be simply established in the forrest.
- Guizot says that everyone is not free to use their will (Children, mentally insane, mentally retarded) – parents don’t have free reign over their children, but there are responsibilities that arise out of things other than love.
- But in the history of England, it shows that there needs to be insitutitons to support and enforce the charters and those institutions need to be filled with people who have the inclination to be there and so that people cannot simply take power over others because they want to or rule based on their will.
- The determination is never final – you will not get representative government in a place where people do not have to prove themselves again in the future.
o Guizot is interested in publicity, elections because it requires everyone in power to go out and prove they are worthy of being in power again
o It is a constant deliberation and re-deliberation about whether the people in power are right and whether the laws are right
o It is never a final determination
o The search for the true Right is one that is continually going on
o It is the only way you can do it when people don’t know the law and have the willingness to follow the law all the time – because people are ignorant and not angels.
- So what does Britain do that almost makes them have a deliberative democracy?
o They have divided powers (Ch. 18 Part 2)
§ The 3 parts Britain has are a result of history – the great inequality of economics and power – House of Lords, House of Commons and the Kings
o Power doesn’t have to be divided that way, but it does have to be divided enough to have a 3-sided conflict to keep things in balance
o The other thing you need are decent rules of election
§ We are going to draw these from Britain’s fact, but they will show philosophical rules of Right
§ Britain ends up with election almost randomly: See his list of facts
§ Object of election is to obtain the most capable and best men in the country
· There is no real publicity when something is too big
· The community has to be small enough that you know the truth of who you are voting for and what is going on
o England discovers this by accident – counties and cities developed so small “the force of events”
o England lucked out

o So what does history offer, he says it become practical? What does that mean?
o The study of history never grows old – the old facts have new things discovered in them that were never revealed until now
o He says that history sn’t jus a random study of facts
§ He studies representative government because he wants to do something with it
§ And because all of Europe is developing representative government and so this is something history must be striving towards something/ that history is progressing.
§ Surprising idea – Europe has been tring to establish an idea of representation that works. England’s history is the history of moving from the tribal to the incredible inequality to move towards limits on absolute power of the king (charters/meetings etc),
· All of Europe is trying to do this, and everywhere is stinking except for England.
· So there must be something about England that is exceptional

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