I’ve been rereading some of Kant’s political essays. As ever, the footnotes are tremendous.
“What is an absolute monarch? He is one at whose command war at once begins when he says it shall do so. And conversely, what is a limited monarch? He is one who must first ask the people whether or not there is to be a war, and if the people say that there shall be no war, then there will be none. For war is a condition in which all the powers of the state must be at the head of state’s disposal.
“Now the monarch of Great Britain has waged numerous wars without asking the people’s consent. This king is therefore an absolute monarch, although he should not be so according to the constitution. But he can always bypass the latter, since he can always be assured, by controlling the various powers of the state, that the people’s representatives will agree with him; for he has the authority to award all offices and dignities. This corrupt system, however, must naturally be given no publicity if it is to succeed. It therefore remains under a very transparent veil of secrecy.”
[From The Contest of Faculties, pp.186-7, Kant, Political Writings, ed. Reiss, 1991.]
As he goes on to explain, before we come to live under a suitable republican constitution, “it is the duty of monarchs to govern in a republican (not a democratic) manner, even although they may rule autocratically. In other words, they should treat the people in accordance with principles akin in spirit to the laws of freedom which a people of mature rational powers would prescribe for itself, even if the people is not literally asked for its consent.”
While on the subject of resignations, I’m sorry to see that Ron Davies has announced he’s not going to seek re-election as a member of the Welsh Assembly.
I met him a couple of years ago when he came to talk to the British Politics seminar here at Magdalen, and he was delightful, interesting and far more intelligent and articulate than most of the politicians who attempt to govern us. A great shame.
We have the first resignation from the Government… Well, sort of, since Parliamentary Private Secretaries come pretty low down the food chain. But it is the first resignation — the first of many, we hope — and that’s something to be happy about.
Click here after noon tomorrow for Comrade Reed’s official resignation statement.
Alexandra Kollontai, born in St Petersburg, 31 March 1872, died in Moscow, 9 March 1952. Old Bolshevik.
N.B. Some are asking, incidentally, why the DSW didn’t mark Stalin’s fiftieth the other day, since he’s a rather important Dead Socialist. (As one correspondent asked: “Was his exclusion from the Dead Socialist Hall of Infamy an editorial guillotine, or have I been misinformed and in fact he saw a few more days of March than I appreciated?”) Well, I forgot. He was on my list, but sometimes I don’t get round to posting anything. Given the degree of coverage in the mainstream press, you probably didn’t need the DSW to be reminded of the anniversary. Those who asked, in fact, demonstrated they didn’t need it by the fact of their asking.
I thought that my excellent friend and comrade Martin O’Neill was having a good day, as he beavers away on the metaphysics of egalitarian justice, or whatever it is that he does these days.
Ireland beat France 15-12 in a closely-fought Six Nations international.
Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 in the Scottish Premier League.
Arsenal were 2-1 up against Chelsea in the FA Cup, with a splendid goal from Thierry Henry just before half time.
[If he cares about any other sports teams, I’m not sure I know about it. Actually, I don’t know that he cares about the rugby, but he tends to like Ireland doing well at things, so I’m making an intelligent guess].And on top of all this, he tells me, it’s his birthday.
But then Chelsea equalised a few minutes from the end and forced a replay.
It’s fifty years since Tom Lehrer made his first recordings.
“I’m not tempted to write a song about George W. Bush. I couldn’t figure out what sort of song I would write. That’s the problem: I don’t want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them.” …
From an excellent article in a recent edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The entire (post-cull) Magdalen herd, just below my window, ten minutes ago.
I’ve finally got off my arse and installed an automated comments facility. Now to find out whether it works.
On Monday 3 March there will be (at least) eight hundred and ninety-two public readings of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata all around the world.
Friends and colleagues will be taking part in the Oxford instantiation of this phenomenon, which will take place at Balliol College at 7.30pm, using the Tony Harrison text. Do come.
While I’m on the subject, Virtual Stoa readers in Oxford might like to remember to sign the antiwar petition, which will close on Wednesday. Students go here; staff here.
UPDATE [8.3.2003]: The Oxford Lysistrata was excellent, and Katha Pollitt’s coverage of events in New York in The Nation is here.