Monday, 7 January 2008

Humboldt, Humboldt

The unnerving promise from the Labour Regime and its 'Minister of Justice', to provide a new constitution for the one we have watched them trash is enough to make the wary turn to Humboldt.

' every attempt to frame or reorganize a political constitution, there are two main objects...neither of which can be overlooked or made subordinate without serious injury to the general purposes;

first, to determine...who shall govern, who shall be governed, and to arrange the actual working of the administration; and secondly,

to prescribe the exact sphere to which the government, once constructed, should extend or confine its operations. The latter object, which more immediately affects the private life of the citizen, and more especially determines the limits of his free, spontaneous activity, is, strictly speaking, the true ultimate purpose; the former is only a necessary means for arriving at this end.'

He adds gloomily, 'And yet, ... it is to the attainment of the first of these ends that man directs his most earnest attention;'.

Then it is up to us all to direct our earnest attention to the limits of state action when the horrid proposals are thrust at us.


Sackerson said...

Quite right.

hatfield girl said...

You would be be all right reading H in all his complexity S., but
Angelic German is wholly inadequate; Burrow gives the clearest translation and an illuminating introduction for the rest of us.

I am at chapter IX - The solicitude of the State for security more actively and positively defined - Further development of the idea of security.

Particularly apposite is, 'For, although we have disapproved of any attempt on the part of the State directed to the reformation of morals, there still remains, in this respect, too large an indefinite a field for political enterprise. far the State's restrictive enactments are removed from those actions which immediately violate the rights of others; and how far the State may proceed in preventing actual crimes by stopping up their sources, not in the character of the citizens, but in the opportunities for their far and dangerously it is possible to err in this respect is already shown by the fact that the concern for freedom itself has disposed a number of men of sound judgement to make the State responsible for the whole welfare of its citizens..'

And we are not in the thrall of a man of sound judgement , S, nor could that be applied to any of his corrupt and ridiculously ill-equipped court. And they speak of morals !

Sackerson said...

I put a piece on yesterday about celebrity maths as applied to politicians. As I see it, the Blair-Brown combination worked like a public school head and deputy - glamour boy/meeter & greeter plus hard-working No. 2. Now we see why that kind of deputy head doesn't usually get to be head - different skill set altogether.

As to your Humboldt (& my German is no more up to it than yours), I think it's a mistake to start from defining the State. We need to do what the revolutionary Americans did, start with the principle that power is temporarily loaned to the State by the people, to whom it is fully and exclusively answerable. Anthing else and you get into the terrible business of a State defining the liberties of the citizen.

Sackerson said...

P.S.: are you reading him in paperback? If so, it must be a Humboldt Penguin; and if the latest edition, a Humboldt Current.

hatfield girl said...

Cambridge University Press 1969 edition S., the one with the introduction by Burrow.
Aren't Humboldt Penguins the birds? And the Current is presumably where they live; ah, I'm reading Wilhelm, you refer to Alexander. Alexander isn't on the shelves here.

Sackerson said...

VON Humboldt, pliss!

hatfield girl said...

And he says the investigation of the limits of state action can only proceed from a consideration of human nature and its highest aims.

Positively against providing for the welfare of the nation, and gives a sharp review of 'legislators and authors' in favour of doing so.

'Man's highest end is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers in their perfect individuality.'
'A solicitude of the State for the positive welfare of the citizen is harmful - For it creates uniformity;'which, in turn,
'....hinders the development of individuality in human nature..increases the difficulty of administration, multiplies the means necessary for it, and so becomes a source of manifold evils.'

Blair plus Brown equals manifold evils; might it be that Brown was never second in command but always in charge and is fully responsible
for what is happening to the UK? Blair was trying to stop him, trying to turn Labour into a modern pluralist political party of the centre left, what Prodi has done with the communists and socialists in Italy, but Brown held the power base within the longterm dominated communist trade unions and their political wing. He still does, but he has to deal with other power bases now and flies into impotent furies when he can't order them about.
Blair plus Brown equals the end of hope for a political evolution; I fear we are going to get bitter expression of tribalised loathing that should have been fading into the last century's economic history by now.

Newmania said...

HG I agree entirely with your version of what happened. One of the peculair achievements of the labour party has been to become two Parties in one almost providing its own opposition.

The key moment was the sacking of Frank Field and then the failure of the plan to reign Brown in. If you think about it the second Blair spent his popularity in the country he was dead meat. If you want to know what brown is , just look at the people who are his slavish supporters .

Elby the Beserk said...

Generally believed that part of the Granita deal was that Brown determined home policy, both in dogma and by holding the purse strings, as it were. Bliar left to prance and dazzle, slaughter countless Iraqis whilst Brown Gollumed his way to Number 10.

So now he has - to his mind - the chance to entrench Brownism (Oh God help us all - the very phrase - Thatcherism has a ring, regardless of how you saw the woman, but "Brownism" says it all) as the dominant political philosophy if the time.

There does however seem to be a deep undercurrent of loathing for the man, which is starting to bubble up here and there in the media.

I do find considerably more enjoyment in my daily five mile walk with Pig (and L when she's not working out of town) than contemplating the fisting clunk of The Dear Leader. It is along a beautiful west country limestone gorge (on the small scale) with river at the bottom. Remains of 19th century iron works (one of five in the area) along the river at one point. Most days we get to see a dipper, a bird I had never seen before we started walking there, and the dog comes home happily covered in mud. As do I.

Brown gives me the creeps.

Electro-Kevin said...

I prefer Brownian or Brownianism actually, Elby.

And like his physicist namesake who discovered the motion of gas particles (Brownian motion) he realised the more you pack into a vessel the more heat was generated.

The perfect analogy for our 'booming' economy allied to unfettered immigration, so 'Brownianism' works well on two levels.

By the way I thought that the boom/bust cycle was supposed to have ended under Brown yet everyone has been talking for years about boom times in housing and on the high street; am I to infer that - as there will be no bust - the good times will roll on forever ?

Whoopeee !