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Human Nature In Politics by Graham Wallas

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biologically inherited associations which enable man and other animals
to interpret sensations without experience. The scarlet paint and
wolfskin headdress of a warrior, or the dragon-mask of a medicine man,
appeal, like the smile of a modern candidate, directly to our
instinctive nature. But even in very early societies the recognition of
artificial political entities must generally have owed its power of
stimulating impulse to associations acquired during life. A child who
had been beaten by the herald's rod, or had seen his father bow down
before the king, or a sacred stone, learned to fear the rod, or the
king, or the stone by association.

Recognition often attaches itself to certain special points (whether
naturally developed or artificially made) in the thing recognised. Such
points then become symbols of the thing as a whole. The evolutionary
facts of mimicry in the lower animals show that to some flesh-eating
insects a putrid smell is a sufficiently convincing symbol of carrion to
induce them to lay their eggs in a flower, and that the black and yellow
bands of the wasp if imitated by a fly are a sufficient symbol to keep
off birds.[11] In early political society most recognition is guided by
such symbols. One cannot make a new king, who may be a boy, in all
respects like his predecessor, who may have been an old man. But one can
tattoo both of them with the same pattern. It is even more easy and less
painful to attach a symbol to a king which is not a part of the man
himself, a royal staff for instance, which may be decorated and enlarged
until it is useless as a staff, but unmistakable as a symbol. The king
is then recognised as king because he is the 'staff-bearer' ([Greek:
skeptouchos basileus]). Such a staff is very like a name, and there
may, perhaps, have been an early Mexican system of sign-writing in which
a model of a staff stood for a king.

[11] Cf. William James, _Principles of Psychology_, vol. ii. p.
392:--'The whole story of our dealings with the lower wild animals is
the history of our taking advantage of the ways in which they judge of
everything by its mere label, as it were, so as to ensnare or kill

At this point it is already difficult not to intellectualise the whole
process. Our own 'common-sense' and the systematised common-sense of the
eighteenth-century philosophers would alike explain the fear of tribal
man for a royal staff by saying that he was reminded thereby of the
original social contract between ruler and ruled, or of the pleasure and
pain which experience had shown to be derived from royal leadership and
royal punishments, and that he therefore decided by a process of
reasoning on seeing the staff to fear the king.

When the symbol by which our impulse is stimulated is actual language,
it is still more difficult not to confuse acquired emotional association
with the full process of logical inference. Because one of the effects
of those sounds and signs which we call language is to stimulate in us a
process of deliberate logical thought we tend to ignore all their other
effects. Nothing is easier than to make a description of the logical use
of language, the breaking up by abstraction of a bundle of
sensations--one's memory, for instance, of a royal person; the selection
of a single quality--kingship, for instance--shared by other such
bundles of sensations, the giving to that quality the name king, and the
use of the name to enable us to repeat the process of abstraction. When
we are consciously trying to reason correctly by the use of language all
this does occur, just as it would occur if we had not evolved the use of
voice-language at all, and were attempting to construct a valid logic of
colours and models and pictures. But any text-book of psychology will
explain why it errs, both by excess and defect, if taken as a
description of that which actually happens when language is used for the
purpose of stimulating us to action.

Indeed the 'brass-instrument psychologists,' who do such admirable work
in their laboratories, have invented an experiment on the effect of
significant words which every one may try for himself. Let him get a
friend to write in large letters on cards a series of common political
terms, nations, parties, principles, and so on. Let him then sit before
a watch recording tenths of seconds, turn up the cards, and practise
observation of the associations which successively enter his
consciousness. The first associations revealed will be automatic and
obviously 'illogical.' If the word be 'England' the white and black
marks on the paper will, if the experimenter is a 'visualiser,' produce
at once a picture of some kind accompanied by a vague and half conscious
emotional reaction of affection, perhaps, or anxiety, or the remembrance
of puzzled thought. If the experimenter is 'audile,' the marks will
first call up a vivid sound image with which a like emotional reaction
may be associated. I am a 'visualiser,' and the picture in my case was a
blurred triangular outline. Other 'visualisers' have described to me the
picture of a red flag, or of a green field (seen from a railway
carriage), as automatically called up by the word England. After the
automatic picture or sound image and its purely automatic emotional
accompaniment comes the 'meaning' of the word, the things one knows
about England, which are presented to the memory by a process
semi-automatic at first, but requiring before it is exhausted a severe
effort. The question as to what images and feelings shall appear at each
stage is, of course, settled by all the thoughts and events of our past
life, but they appear, in the earlier moments at least of the
experiment, before we have time consciously to reflect or choose.

A corresponding process may be set up by other symbols besides language.
If in the experiment the hats belonging to members of a family be
substituted for the written cards, the rest of the process will go
on--the automatic 'image,' automatically accompanied by emotional
association, being succeeded in the course of a second or so by the
voluntary realisation of 'meaning,' and finally by a deliberate effort
of recollection and thought. Tennyson, partly because he was a born poet
and partly perhaps because his excessive use of tobacco put his brain
occasionally a little out of focus, was extraordinarily accurate in his
account of those separate mental states which for most men are merged
into one by memory. A song, for instance, in the 'Princess,' describes
the succession which I have been discussing:--

'Thy voice is heard through rolling drums,
That beat to battle where he stands.
Thy face across his fancy comes,
And gives the battle to his hands:
A moment, while the trumpets blow,
He sees his brood about thy knee;
The next, like fire he meets the foe,
And strikes him dead for thine and thee.'

'Thine and thee' at the end seem to me to express precisely the change
from the automatic images of 'voice' and 'face' to the reflective mood
in which the full meaning of that for which he fights is realised.

But it is the 'face' that 'gives the battle to his hands.' Here again,
as we saw when comparing impulses themselves, it is the evolutionarily
earlier more automatic, fact that has the greater, and the later
intellectual fact which has the less impulsive power. Even as one sits
in one's chair one can feel that that is so.

Still more clearly can one feel it if one thinks of the phenomena of
religion. The only religion of any importance which has ever been
consciously constructed by a psychologist is the Positivism of Auguste
Comte. In order to produce a sufficiently powerful stimulus to ensure
moral action among the distractions and temptations of daily life, he
required each of his disciples to make for himself a visual image of
Humanity. The disciple was to practice mental contemplation for a
definite period each morning of the remembered figure of some known and
loved woman--his mother, or wife, or sister. He was to keep the figure
always in the same attitude and dress, so that it should always present
itself automatically as a definite mental image in immediate association
with the word Humanite.[12] With that would be automatically associated
the original impulse of affection for the person imaged. As soon as
possible after that would come the meaning of the word, and the fuller
but less cogent emotional associations connected with that meaning. This
invention was partly borrowed from certain forms of mental discipline in
the Roman Catholic Church and partly suggested by Comte's own
experiences of the effect on him of the image of Madame de Vaux. One of
the reasons that it has not come into greater use may have been that men
in general are not quite such good 'visualisers' as Comte found himself
to be.

[12] _The Catechism of Positive Religion_ (Tr. by Congreve), First Part,
'Explanation of the Worship,' e.g. p. 65: 'The Positivist shuts his eyes
during his private prayers, the better to see the internal image.'

Cardinal Newman, in an illuminating passage of his _Apologia_, explains
how he made for himself images of personified nations, and hints that
behind his belief in the real existence of such images was his sense of
the convenience of creating them. He says that he identified the
'character and instinct' of 'states' and of those 'governments of
religious communities,' from which he suffered so much, with spirits
'partially fallen, capricious, wayward; noble or crafty, benevolent or
malicious, as the case might he.... My preference of the Personal to the
Abstract would naturally lead me to this view. I thought it countenanced
by the mention of the "Prince of Persia" in the prophet Daniel: and I
think I considered that it was of such intermediate beings that the
Apocalypse spoke, when it introduced "the angels of the seven
churches."'[13] In 1837 ... I said ... 'Take England with many high
virtues and yet a low Catholicism. It seems to me that John Bull is a
spirit neither of Heaven nor Hell.'

[13] Newman, _Apologia_ (1864), pp. 91, 92.

Harnack, in the same way, when describing the causes of the expansion of
Christianity, lays stress on the use of the word 'church' and the
'possibilities of personification which it offered.'[14] This use may
have owed its origin to a deliberate intellectual effort of abstraction
applied by some Christian philosopher to the common qualities of all
Christian congregations, though it more likely resulted from a half
conscious process of adaptation in the employment of a current term. But
when it was established the word owed its tremendous power over most men
to the emotions automatically stimulated by the personification, and not
to those which would follow on a full analysis of the meaning. Religious
history affords innumerable such instances. The 'truth embodied in a
tale' has more emotional power than the unembodied truth, and the visual
realisation of the central figure of the tale more power than the tale
itself. The sound-image of a sacred name at which 'every knee shall
bow,' or even of one which may be formed in the mind but may not be
uttered by the lips, has more power at the moment of intensest feeling
than the realisation of its meaning. Things of the senses--the sacred
food which one can taste, the Virgin of Kevlaar whom one can see and
touch, are apt to be more real than their heavenly anti-types.

[14] Harnack, _Expansion of Christianity_ (Tr.), vol. ii. p. 11.

If we turn to politics for instances of the same fact, we again discover
how much harder it is there than in religion, or morals, or education,
to resist the habit of giving intellectual explanations of emotional
experiences. For most men the central political entity is their country.
When a man dies for his country, what does he die for? The reader in his
chair thinks of the size and climate, the history and population, of
some region in the atlas, and explains the action of the patriot by his
relation to all these things. But what seems to happen in the crisis of
battle is not the logical building up or analysing of the idea of one's
country, but that automatic selection by the mind of some thing of sense
accompanied by an equally automatic emotion of affection which I have
already described. Throughout his life the conscript has lived in a
stream of sensations, the printed pages of the geography book, the sight
of streets and fields and faces, the sound of voices or of birds or
rivers, all of which go to make up the infinity of facts from which he
might abstract an idea of his country. What comes to him in the final
charge? Perhaps the row of pollard elms behind his birth-place. More
likely some personification of his country, some expedient of custom or
imagination for enabling an entity which one can love to stand out from
the unrealised welter of experience. If he is an Italian it may be the
name, the musical syllables, of Italia. If he is a Frenchman, it may be
the marble figure of France with her broken sword, as he saw it in the
market-square of his native town, or the maddening pulse of the
'Marseillaise.' Romans have died for a bronze eagle on a wreathed staff,
Englishmen for a flag, Scotchmen for the sound of the pipes.

Once in a thousand years a man may stand in a funeral crowd after the
fighting is over, and his heart may stir within him as he hears Pericles
abstract from the million qualities of individual Athenians in the
present and the past just those that make the meaning of Athens to the
world. But afterwards all that he will remember may be the cadence of
Pericles' voice, the movement of his hand, or the sobbing of some mother
of the dead.

In the evolution of politics, among the most important events have been
the successive creations of new moral entities--of such ideals as
justice, freedom, right. In their origin that process of conscious
logical abstraction, which we are tempted to accept as the explanation
of all mental phenomena, must have corresponded in great part to the
historical fact. We have, for instance, contemporary accounts of the
conversations in which Socrates compared and analysed the unwilling
answers of jurymen and statesmen, and we know that the word Justice was
made by his work an infinitely more effective political term. It is
certain too that for many centuries before Socrates the slow adaptation
of the same word by common use was from time to time quickened by some
forgotten wise man who brought to bear upon it the intolerable effort of
conscious thought. But as soon as, at each stage, the work was done, and
Justice, like a rock statue on whom successive generations of artists
have toiled, stood out in compelling beauty, she was seen not as an
abstraction but as a direct revelation. It is true that this revelation
made the older symbols mean and dead, but that which overcame them
seemed a real and visible thing, not a difficult process of comparison
and analysis. Antigone in the play defied in the name of Justice the
command which the sceptre-bearing king had sent through the sacred
person of his herald. But Justice to her was a goddess, 'housemate of
the nether gods'--and the sons of those Athenian citizens who applauded
the Antigone condemned Socrates to death because his dialectic turned
the gods back into abstractions.

The great Jewish prophets owed much of their spiritual supremacy to the
fact that they were able to present a moral idea with intense emotional
force without stiffening it into a personification; but that was because
they saw it always in relation to the most personal of all gods. Amos
wrote, 'I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will not smell the savour
of your assemblies.... Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs;
for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment roll down
as waters, and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream.'[15] 'Judgment'
and 'righteousness' are not goddesses, but the voice which Amos heard
was not the voice of an abstraction.

[15] Amos, ch. v., vv. 21, 23, 24 (R.V.M.).

Sometimes a new moral or political entity is created rather by immediate
insight than by the slow process of deliberate analysis. Some seer of
genius perceives in a flash the essential likeness of things hitherto
kept apart in men's minds--the impulse which leads to anger with one's
brother, and that which leads to murder, the charity of the widow's mite
and of the rich man's gold, the intemperance of the debauchee and of the
party leader. But when the master dies the vision too often dies with
him. Plato's 'ideas' became the formulae of a system of magic, and the
command of Jesus that one should give all that one had to the poor
handed over one-third of the land of Europe to be the untaxed property
of wealthy ecclesiastics.

It is this last relation between words and things which makes the
central difficulty of thought about politics. The words are so rigid, so
easily personified, so associated with affection and prejudice; the
things symbolised by the words are so unstable. The moralist or the
teacher deals, as a Greek would say, for the most part, with 'natural,'
the politician always with 'conventional' species. If one forgets the
meaning of motherhood or childhood, Nature has yet made for us
unmistakable mothers and children who reappear, true to type, in each
generation. The chemist can make sure whether he is using a word in
precisely the same sense as his predecessor by a few minutes' work in
his laboratory. But in politics the thing named is always changing, may
indeed disappear and may require hundreds of years to restore. Aristotle
defined the word 'polity' to mean a state where 'the citizens as a body
govern in accordance with the general good.'[16] As he wrote,
self-government in those States from which he abstracted the idea was
already withering beneath the power of Macedonia. Soon there were no
such States at all, and, now that we are struggling back to Aristotle's
conception, the name which he defined is borne by the 'police' of
Odessa. It is no mere accident of philology that makes 'Justices'
Justice' a paradox. From the time that the Roman jurisconsults resumed
the work of the Greek philosophers, and by laborious question and answer
built up the conception of 'natural justice, it, like all other
political conceptions, was exposed to the two dangers. On the one hand,
since the original effort of abstraction was in its completeness
incommunicable, each generation of users of the word subtly changed its
use. On the other hand, the actions and institutions of mankind, from
which the conception was abstracted, were as subtly changing. Even
although the manuscripts of the Roman lawyers survived, Roman law and
Roman institutions had both ceased to be. When the phrases of Justinian
were used by a Merovingian king or a Spanish Inquisitor not only was the
meaning of the words changed, but the facts to which the words could
have applied in their old sense were gone. Yet the emotional power of
the bare words remained. The civil law and canon law of the Middle Ages
were able to enforce all kinds of abuses because the tradition of
reverence still attached itself to the sound of 'Rome.' For hundreds of
years, one among the German princes was made somewhat more powerful than
his neighbours by the fact that he was 'Roman Emperor,' and was called
by the name of Caesar.

[16] _Politics_, ch. vii., [Greek: hotan to plethos pros to koinon
politeue tai sympheron.]

The same difficulties and uncertainties as those which influence the
history of a political entity when once formed confront the statesman
who is engaged in making a new one. The great men, Stein, Bismarck,
Cavour, or Metternich, who throughout the nineteenth century worked at
the reconstruction of the Europe which Napoleon's conquests shattered,
had to build up new States which men should respect and love, whose
governments they should willingly obey, and for whose continued
existence they should be prepared to die in battle. Races and languages
and religions were intermingled throughout central Europe, and the
historical memories of the kingdoms and dukedoms and bishoprics into
which the map was divided were confused and unexciting. Nothing was
easier than to produce and distribute new flags and coins and national
names. But the emotional effect of such things depends upon associations
which require time to produce, and which may have to contend against
associations already existing. The boy in Lombardy or Galicia saw the
soldiers and the schoolmaster salute the Austrian flag, but the real
thrill came when he heard his father or mother whisper the name of Italy
or Poland. Perhaps, as in the case of Hanover, the old associations and
the new are for many years almost equally balanced.

In such times men fall back from the immediate emotional associations of
the national name and search for its meaning. They ask what _is_ the
Austrian or the German Empire. As long as there was only one Pope men
handed on unexamined the old reverence from father to son. When for
forty years there had been two Popes, at Rome and at Avignon, men began
to ask what constituted a Pope. And in such times some men go further
still. They may ask not only what is the meaning of the word Austrian
Empire, or Pope, but what in the nature of things is the ultimate reason
why the Austrian Empire or the Papacy should exist.

The work therefore of nation-building must be carried forward on each
plane. The national name and flag and anthem and coinage all have their
entirely non-logical effect based on habitual association. Meanwhile the
statesmen strive to create as much meaning as possible for such symbols.
If all the subjects of a State serve in one army and speak, or
understand, one language, or even use a black-letter alphabet which has
been abandoned elsewhere, the national name will mean more to them. The
Saxon or the Savoyard will have a fuller answer to give himself when he
asks 'What does it mean, that I am a German or a Frenchman?' A single
successful war waged in common will create not only a common history,
but a common inheritance of passionate feeling. 'Nationalists,'
meanwhile, may be striving, by songs and pictures and appeals to the
past, to revive and intensify the emotional associations connected with
older national areas--and behind all this will go on the deliberate
philosophical discussion of the advantages to be derived from large or
small, racial or regional States, which will reach the statesman at
second-hand and the citizen at third-hand. As a result, Italy, Belgium,
and the German Empire succeed in establishing themselves as States
resting upon a sufficient basis of patriotism, and Austria-Hungary may,
when the time of stress comes, be found to have failed.

But if the task of State building in Europe during the nineteenth
century was difficult, still more difficult is the task before the
English statesmen of the twentieth century of creating an imperial
patriotism. We have not even a name, with any emotional associations,
for the United Kingdom itself. No Englishman is stirred by the name
'British,' the name 'English' irritates all Scotchmen, and the Irish are
irritated by both alike. Our national anthem is a peculiarly flat and
uninspiring specimen of eighteenth-century opera libretto and opera
music. The little naked St. George on the gold coins, or the armorial
pattern on the silver coins never inspired any one. The new copper
coinage bears, it is true, a graceful figure of Miss Hicks Beach. But we
have made it so small and ladylike that it has none of the emotional
force of the glorious portrait heads of France or Switzerland.

The only personification of his nation which the artisan of Oldham or
Middlesbrough can recognise is the picture of John Bull as a fat,
brutal, early nineteenth-century Midland farmer. One of our national
symbols alone, the 'Union Jack,' though it is as destitute of beauty as
a patchwork quilt, is fairly satisfactory. But all its associations so
far are with naval warfare.

When we go outside the United Kingdom we are in still worse case. 'The
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland together with its Colonies
and Dependencies' has no shorter or more inspiring name. Throughout the
Colonial Conference of 1907 statesmen and leader writers tried every
expedient of periphrasis and allusion to avoid hurting any one's
feelings even by using such a term as 'British Empire.' To the _Sydney
Bulletin_, and to the caricaturists of Europe, the fact that any
territory on the map of the world is coloured red still recalls nothing
but the little greedy eyes, huge mouth, and gorilla hands of 'John

If, again, the young Boer or Hindoo or ex-American Canadian asks himself
what is the meaning of membership ('citizenship,' as applied to
five-sixths of the inhabitants of the Empire, would be misleading) of
the Empire, he finds it extraordinarily difficult to give an answer.
When he goes deeper and asks for what purpose the Empire exists, he is
apt to be told that the inhabitants of Great Britain conquered half the
world in a fit of absence of mind and have not yet had time to think out
an _ex post facto_ justification for so doing. The only product of
memory or reflection that can stir in him the emotion of patriotism is
the statement that so far the tradition of the Empire has been to
encourage and trust to political freedom. But political freedom, even in
its noblest form, is a negative quality, and the word is apt to bear
different meanings in Bengal and Rhodesia and Australia.

States, however, constitute only one among many types of political
entities. As soon as any body of men have been grouped under a common
political name, that name may acquire emotional associations as well as
an intellectually analysable meaning. For the convenience, for instance,
of local government the suburbs of Birmingham are divided into separate
boroughs. Partly because these boroughs occupy the site of ancient
villages, partly because football teams of Scotch professionals are
named after them, partly because human emotions must have something to
attach themselves to, they are said to be developing a fierce local
patriotism, and West Bromwich is said to hate Aston as the Blues hated
the Greens in the Byzantine theatre. In London, largely under the
influence of the Birmingham instance, twenty-nine new boroughs were
created in 1899, with names--at least in the case of the City of
Westminster--deliberately selected in order to revive half-forgotten
emotional associations. However, in spite of Mr. Chesterton's prophecy
in _The Napoleon of Notting Hill_, very few Londoners have learnt to
feel or think primarily as citizens of their boroughs. Town Halls are
built which they never see, coats of arms are invented which they would
not recognise; and their boroughs are mere electoral wards in which they
vote for a list of unknown names grouped under the general title adopted
by their political party.

The party is, in fact, the most effective political entity in the modern
national State. It has come into existence with the appearance of
representative government on a large scale; its development has been
unhampered by legal or constitutional traditions, and it represents the
most vigorous attempt which has been made to adapt the form of our
political institutions to the actual facts of human nature. In a modern
State there may be ten million or more voters. Every one of them has an
equal right to come forward as a candidate and to urge either as
candidate or agitator the particular views which he may hold on any
possible political question. But to each citizen, living as he does in
the infinite stream of things, only a few of his ten million
fellow-citizens could exist as separate objects of political thought or
feeling, even if each one of them held only one opinion on one subject
without change during his life. Something is required simpler and more
permanent, something which can be loved and trusted, and which can be
recognised at successive elections as being the same thing that was
loved and trusted before; and a party is such a thing.

The origin of any particular party may be due to a deliberate
intellectual process. It may be formed, as Burke said, by 'a body of men
united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest
upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.'[17] But
when a party has once come into existence its fortunes depend upon facts
of human nature of which deliberate thought is only one. It is primarily
a name, which, like other names, calls up when it is heard or seen an
'image' that shades imperceptibly into the voluntary realisation of its
meaning. As in other cases, emotional reactions can be set up by the
name and its automatic mental associations. It is the business of the
party managers to secure that these automatic associations shall be as
clear as possible, shall be shared by as large a number as possible, and
shall call up as many and as strong emotions as possible. For this
purpose nothing is more generally useful than the party colour. Our
distant ancestors must have been able to recognise colour before they
recognised language, and the simple and stronger emotions more easily
attach themselves to a colour than to a word. The poor boy who died the
other day with the ribbon of the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club on
his pillow loved the colour itself with a direct and intimate affection.

[17] _Thoughts on the Present Discontents_ (Macmillan, 1902), p. 81.

A party tune is equally automatic in its action, and, in the case of
people with a musical 'ear,' even more effective than a party colour as
an object of emotion. As long as the Marseillaise, which is now the
national tune of France, was the party tune of the revolution its
influence was enormous. Even now, outside of France, it is a very
valuable party asset. It was a wise suggestion which an experienced
political organiser made in the _Westminster Gazette_ at the time of
Gladstone's death, that part of the money collected in his honour should
be spent in paying for the composition of the best possible marching
tune, which should be identified for all time with the Liberal Party.[18]
One of the few mistakes made by the very able men who organised Mr.
Chamberlain's Tariff Reform Campaign was their failure to secure even a
tolerably good tune.

[18] _Westminster Gazette_, June 11, 1898.

Only less automatic than those of colour or tune come the emotional
associations called up by the first and simplest meaning of the word or
words used for the party name. A Greek father called his baby 'Very
Glorious' or 'Good in Counsel,' and the makers of parties in the same
way choose names whose primary meanings possess established emotional
associations. From the beginning of the existence and activity of a
party new associations are, however, being created which tend to take
the place, in association, of the original meaning of the name. No one
in America when he uses the terms Republican or Democrat thinks of their
dictionary meanings. Any one, indeed, who did so would have acquired a
mental habit as useless and as annoying as the habit of reading Greek
history with a perpetual recognition of the dictionary meanings of names
like Aristobulus and Theocritus. Long and precise names which make
definite assertions as to party policy are therefore soon shortened into
meaningless syllables with new associations derived from the actual
history of the party. The Constitutional Democrats in Russia become
Cadets, and the Independent Labour Party becomes the I.L.P. On the other
hand, the less conscious emotional associations which are automatically
excited by less precise political names may last much longer. The German
National Liberals were valuable allies for Bismarck during a whole
generation because their name vaguely suggested a combination of
patriotism and freedom. When the mine-owners in the Transvaal decided
some years ago to form a political party they chose, probably after
considerable discussion, the name of 'Progressive.' It was an excellent
choice. In South Africa the original associations of the word were
apparently soon superseded, but elsewhere it long suggested that Sir
Percy Fitzpatrick and his party had the same sort of democratic
sympathies as Mr. M'Kinnon Wood and his followers on the London County
Council. No one speaking to an audience whose critical and logical
faculties were fully aroused would indeed contend that because a certain
body of people had chosen to call themselves Progressives, therefore a
vote against them was necessarily a vote against progress. But in the
dim and shadowy region of emotional association a good name, if its
associations are sufficiently subconscious, has a real political value.

Conversely, the opponents of a party attempt to label it with a name
that will excite feelings of opposition. The old party terms of Whig and
Tory are striking instances of such names given by opponents and
lasting perhaps half a century before they lost their original abusive
associations. More modern attempts have been less successful, because
they have been more precise. 'Jingo' had some of the vague
suggestiveness of an effectively bad name, but 'Separatist,' 'Little
Englander,' 'Food Taxer,' remain as assertions to be consciously
accepted or rejected.

The whole relation between party entities and political impulse can
perhaps be best illustrated from the art of advertisement. In
advertisement the intellectual process can be watched apart from its
ethical implications, and advertisement and party politics are becoming
more and more closely assimilated in method. The political poster is
placed side by side with the trade or theatrical poster on the
hoardings, it is drawn by the same artist and follows the same empirical
rules of art. Let us suppose therefore that a financier thinks that
there is an opening for a large advertising campaign in connection, say,
with the tea trade. The actual tea-leaves in the world are as varied and
unstable as the actual political opinions of mankind. Every leaf in
every tea-garden is different from every other leaf, and a week of damp
weather may change the whole stock in any warehouse. What therefore
should the advertiser do to create a commercial 'entity,' a 'tea' which
men can think and feel about? A hundred years ago he would have made a
number of optimistic and detailed statements with regard to his
opportunities and methods of trade. He would have printed in the
newspapers a statement that 'William Jones, assisted by a staff of
experienced buyers, will attend the tea-sales of the East India Company,
and will lay in parcels from the best Chinese Gardens, which he will
retail to his customers at a profit of not more than five per centum.'
This, however, is an open appeal to the critical intellect, and by the
critical intellect it would now be judged. We should not consider Mr.
Jones to be an unbiassed witness as to the excellence of his choice, or
think that he would have sufficient motive to adhere to his pledge about
his rate of profit if he thought he could get more.

Nowadays, therefore, such an advertiser would practice on our automatic
and subconscious associations. He would choose some term, say
'Parramatta Tea,' which would produce in most men a vague suggestion of
the tropical East, combined with the subconscious memory of a geography
lesson on Australia. He would then proceed to create in connection with
the word an automatic picture-image having previous emotional
associations of its own. By the time that a hundred thousand pounds had
been cleverly spent, no one in England would be able to see the word
'Parramatta' on a parcel without a vague impulse to buy, founded on a
day-dream recollection of his grandmother, or of the British fleet, or
of a pretty young English matron, or of any other subject that the
advertiser had chosen for its association with the emotions of trust or
affection. When music plays a larger part in English public education it
may be possible to use it effectively for advertisement, and a
'Parramatta Motif' would in that case appear in all the pantomimes, in
connection, say, with a song about the Soldier's Return, and would be
squeaked by a gramophone in every grocer's shop.

This instance has the immense advantage, as an aid to clearness of
thought, that up to this point no Parramatta Tea exists, and no one has
even settled what sort of tea shall be provided under that name.
Parramatta tea is still a commercial entity pure and simple. It may
later on be decided to sell very poor tea at a large profit until the
original associations of the name have been gradually superseded by the
association of disappointment. Or it may be decided to experiment by
selling different teas under that name in different places, and to push
the sale of the flavour which 'takes on.' But there are other attractive
names of teas on the hoardings, with associations of babies, and
bull-dogs, and the Tower of London. If it is desired to develop a
permanent trade in competition with these it will probably be found
wisest to supply tea of a fairly uniform quality, and with a distinctive
flavour which may act as its 'meaning.' The great difficulty will then
come when there is a change of public taste, and when the sales fall
off because the chosen flavour no longer pleases. The directors may
think it safest to go on selling the old flavour to a diminishing number
of customers, or they may gradually substitute another flavour, taking
the risk that the number of housewives who say, 'This is not the real
Parramatta Tea,' may be balanced by the number of those who say,
'Parramatta Tea has improved.' If people will not buy the old flavour at
all, and prefer to buy the new flavour under a new name, the Parramatta
Tea Company must be content to disappear, like a religion which has made
an unsuccessful attempt to put new wine into old bottles.

All these conditions are as familiar to the party politician as they are
to the advertiser. The party candidate is, at his first appearance, to
most of his constituents merely a packet with the name of Liberal or
Conservative upon it. That name has associations of colour and music, of
traditional habit and affection, which, when once formed, exist
independently of the party policy. Unless he bears the party
label--unless he is, as the Americans say, a 'regular' candidate--not
only will those habits and affections be cut off from him, but he will
find it extraordinarily difficult to present himself as a tangible
entity to the electors at all. A proportion of the electors, varying
greatly at different times and at different places, will vote for the
'regular' nominee of their party without reference to his programme,
though to the rest of them, and always to the nominating committee, he
must also present a programme which can be identified with the party
policy. But, in any case, as long as he is a party candidate, he must
remember that it is in that character that he speaks and acts. The party
prepossessions and party expectations of his constituents alone make it
possible for them to think and feel with him. When he speaks there is
between him and his audience the party mask, larger and less mobile than
his own face, like the mask which enabled actors to be seen and heard in
the vast open-air theatres of Greece. If he can no longer act the part
with sincerity he must either leave the stage or present himself in the
mask of another party.

Party leaders again have always to remember that the organisation which
they control is an entity with an existence in the memory and emotions
of the electors, independent of their own opinions and actions. This
does not mean that party leaders cannot be sincere. As individuals they
can indeed only preserve their political life by being in constant
readiness to lose it. Sometimes they must even risk the existence of
their party itself. When Sir Robert Peel was converted to Free Trade in
1845, he had to decide whether he and his friends should shatter the
Tory Party by leaving it, or should so transform its policy that it
might not be recognised, even in the half-conscious logic of habit and
association, as that entity for which men had voted and worked four
years before. In either case Peel was doing something other and more
serious than the expression of his individual opinion on a question of
the moment. And yet, if, recognising this, he had gone on advocating
corn duties for the sake of his party, his whole personal force as a
politician, and therefore even his party value, would have been lost.

If a celestial intelligence were now to look down from heaven on the
earth with the power of observing every fact about all human beings at
once, he might ask, as the newspaper editors are asking as I write, what
that Socialism is which influences so many lives? He might answer
himself with a definition which could be clumsily translated as 'a
movement towards greater social equality, depending for its force upon
three main factors, the growing political power of the working classes,
the growing social sympathy of many members of all classes, and the
belief, based on the growing authority of scientific method, that social
arrangements can be transformed by means of conscious and deliberate
contrivance.' He would see men trying to forward this movement by
proposals as to taxation, wages, and regulative or collective
administration; some of which proposals would prove to be successfully
adapted to the facts of human existence and some would in the end be
abandoned, either because no nation could be persuaded to try them or
because when tried they failed. But he would also see that this
definition of a many-sided and ever-varying movement drawn by
abstraction from innumerable socialistic proposals and desires is not
a description of 'Socialism' as it exists for the greater number of its
supporters. The need of something which one may love and for which one
may work has created for thousands of working men a personified
'Socialism,' a winged goddess with stern eyes and drawn sword to be the
hope of the world and the protector of those that suffer. The need of
some engine of thought which one may use with absolute faith and
certainty has also created another Socialism, not a personification, but
a final and authoritative creed. Such a creed appeared in England in
1884, and William Morris took it down in his beautiful handwriting from
Mr. Hyndman's lectures. It was the revelation which made a little dimly
educated working man say to me three years later, with tears of genuine
humility in his eyes, 'How strange it is that this glorious truth has
been hidden from all the clever and learned men of the world and shown
to me.'

Meanwhile Socialism is always a word, a symbol used in common speech and
writing. A hundred years hence it may have gone the way of its
predecessors--Leveller, Saint-Simonism, Communism, Chartism--and may
survive only in histories of a movement which has since undergone other
transformations and borne other names. It may, on the other hand,
remain, as the Republic has remained in France, to be the title on coins
and public buildings of a movement which after many disappointments and
disillusionments has succeeded in establishing itself as a government.

But the use of a word in common speech is only the resultant of its use
by individual men and women, and particularly by those who accept it as
a party name. Each one of them, as long as the movement is really alive,
will find that while the word must be used, because otherwise the
movement will have no political existence, yet its use creates a
constant series of difficult problems in conduct. Any one who applies
the name to himself or others in a sense so markedly different from
common use as to make it certain or probable that he is creating a false
impression is rightly charged with want of ordinary veracity. And yet
there are cases where enormous practical results may depend upon keeping
wide the use of a word which is tending to be narrowed. The 'Modernist'
Roman Catholic who has studied the history of religion uses the term
'Catholic Church' to mean a society which has gone through various
intellectual stages in the past, and which depends for its vitality upon
the existence of reasonable freedom of change in the future. He
therefore calls himself a Catholic. To the Pope and his advisers, on the
other hand, the Church is an unchanging miracle based on an unchanging
revelation. Father Tyrrell, when he says that he 'believes' in the
Catholic Church, though he obviously disbelieves in the actual
occurrence of most of the facts which constitute the original
revelation, seems to them to be simply a liar, who is stealing their
name for his own fraudulent purposes. They can no more understand him
than can the Ultramontanes among the German Social-Democrats understand
Bernstein and his Modernist allies. Bernstein himself, on the other
hand, has to choose whether he ought to try to keep open the common use
of the name Socialist, or whether in the end he will have to abandon it,
because his claim to use it merely creates bad feeling and confusion of

Sometimes a man of exceptional personal force and power of expression
is, so to speak, a party--a political entity--in himself. He may fashion
a permanent and recognisable mask for himself as 'Honest John' or 'The
Grand Old Man.' But this can as a rule only be done by those who learn
the main condition of their task, the fact that if an individual
statesman's intellectual career is to exist for the mass of the present
public at all, it must be based either on an obstinate adherence to
unchanging opinions or on a development, slow, simple, and consistent.
The indifferent and half attentive mind which most men turn towards
politics is like a very slow photograph plate. He who wishes to be
clearly photographed must stand before it in the same attitude for a
long time. A bird that flies across the plate leaves no mark.

'Change of opinion,' wrote Gladstone in 1868, 'in those to whose
judgment the public looks more or less to assist its own, is an evil to
the country, although a much smaller evil than their persistence in a
course which they know to be wrong. It is not always to be blamed. But
it is always to be watched with vigilance; always to be challenged and
put upon its trial.'[19] Most statesmen avoid this choice between the
loss of force resulting from a public change of opinion, and the loss of
character resulting from the public persistence in an opinion privately
abandoned, not only by considering carefully every change in their own
conclusions, but by a delay, which often seems cowardly and absurd, in
the public expression of their thoughts upon all questions except those
which are ripe for immediate action. The written or reported word
remains, and becomes part of that entity outside himself which the
stateman is always building or destroying or transforming.

[19] _Gleanings_, vol. vii. p. 100, quoted in Morley's _Life_, vol. i.
p. 211.

The same conditions affect other political entities besides parties and
statesmen. If a newspaper is to live as a political force it must
impress itself on men's minds as holding day by day to a consistent
view. The writers, not only from editorial discipline, but from the
instinctive desire to be understood, write in the character of their
paper's personality. If it is sold to a proprietor holding or wishing to
advocate different opinions, it must either frankly proclaim itself as a
new thing or must make it appear by slow and solemn argumentative steps
that the new attitude is a necessary development of the old. It is
therefore rightly felt that a capitalist who buys a paper for the sake
of using its old influence to strengthen a new movement is doing
something to be judged by other moral standards than those which apply
to the purchase of so much printing-machinery and paper. He may be
destroying something which has been a stable and intelligible entity for
thousands of plain people living in an otherwise unintelligible world,
and which has collected round it affection and trust as real as was ever
inspired by an orator or a monarch.



The assumption--which is so closely interwoven with our habits of
political and economic thought--that men always act on a reasoned
opinion as to their interests, may be divided into two separate
assumptions: first, that men always act on some kind of inference as to
the best means of reaching a preconceived end, and secondly, that all
inferences are of the same kind, and are produced by a uniform process
of 'reasoning.'

In the two preceding chapters I dealt with the first assumption, and
attempted to show that it is important for a politician to realise that
men do not always act on inferences as to means and ends. I argued that
men often act in politics under the immediate stimulus of affection and
instinct, and that affection and interest may be directed towards
political entities which are very different from those facts in the
world around us which we can discover by deliberate observation and

In this chapter I propose to consider the second assumption, and to
inquire how far it is true that men, when they do form inferences as to
the result of their political actions, always form them by a process of

In such an inquiry one meets the preliminary difficulty that it is very
hard to arrive at a clear definition of reasoning. Any one who watches
the working of his own mind will find that it is by no means easy to
trace these sharp distinctions between various mental states, which seem
so obvious when they are set out in little books on psychology. The mind
of man is like a harp, all of whose strings throb together; so that
emotion, impulse, inference, and the special kind of inference called
reasoning, are often simultaneous and intermingled aspects of a single
mental experience.

This is especially true in moments of action and excitement; but when we
are sitting in passive contemplation we would often find it hard to say
whether our successive states of consciousness are best described as
emotions or inferences. And when our thought clearly belongs to the type
of inference it is often hard to say whether its steps are controlled by
so definite a purpose of discovering truth that we are entitled to call
it reasoning.

Even when we think with effort and with a definite purpose, we do not
always draw inferences or form beliefs of any kind. If we forget a name
we say the alphabet over to ourselves and pause at each letter to see
if the name we want will be suggested to us. When we receive bad news we
strive to realise it by allowing successive mental associations to arise
of themselves, and waiting to discover what the news will mean for us. A
poet broods with intense creative effort on the images which appear in
his mind and arranges them, not in order to discover truth, but in order
to attain an artistic and dramatic end. In Prospero's great speech in
_The Tempest_ the connection between the successive images--the baseless
fabric of this vision--the cloud-capped towers--the gorgeous
palaces--the solemn temples--the great globe itself--is, for instance,
one not of inference but of reverie, heightened by creative effort, and
subordinated to poetic intention.

Most of the actual inferences which we draw during any day belong,
indeed, to a much humbler type of thought than do some of the higher
forms of non-inferential association. Many of our inferences, like the
quasi-instinctive impulses which they accompany and modify, take place
when we are making no conscious effort at all. In such a purely
instinctive action as leaping backwards from a falling stone, the
impulse to leap and the inference that there is danger, are simply two
names for a single automatic and unconscious process. We can speak of
instinctive inference as well as of instinctive impulse; we draw, for
instance, by an instinctive mental process, inferences as to the
distance and solidity of objects from the movements of our eye-muscles
in focussing, and from the difference between the images on our two
retinas. We are unaware of the method by which we arrive at these
inferences, and even when we know that the double photograph in the
stereoscope is flat, or that the conjurer has placed two converging
sheets of looking-glass beneath his table, we can only say that the
photograph 'looks' solid, or that we 'seem' to see right under the

The whole process of inference, rational or non-rational, is indeed
built up from the primary fact that one mental state may call up
another, either because the two have been associated together in the
history of the individual, or because a connection between the two has
proved useful in the history of the race. If a man and his dog stroll
together down the street they turn to the right hand or the left,
hesitate or hurry in crossing the road, recognise and act upon the
bicycle bell and the cabman's shout, by using the same process of
inference to guide the same group of impulses. Their inferences are for
the most part effortless, though sometimes they will both be seen to
pause until they have settled some point by wordless deliberation. It is
only when a decision has to be taken affecting the more distant purposes
of his life that the man enters on a region of definitely rational
thought where the dog cannot follow him, in which he uses words, and is
more or less conscious of his own logical methods.

But the weakness of inference by automatic association as an instrument
of thought consists in the fact that either of a pair of associated
ideas may call up the other without reference to their logical
connection. The effect calls up the cause as freely as the cause calls
up the effect. A patient under a hypnotic trance is wonderfully rapid
and fertile in drawing inferences, but he hunts the scent backward as
easily as he does forward. Put a dagger in his hand and he believes that
he has committed a murder. The sight of an empty plate convinces him
that he has had dinner. If left to himself he will probably go through
routine actions well enough. But any one who understands his condition
can make him act absurdly.

In the same way when we dream we draw absurd inferences by association.
The feeling of discomfort due to slight indigestion produces a belief
that we are about to speak to a large audience and have mislaid our
notes, or are walking along the Brighton Parade in a night-shirt. Even
when men are awake, those parts of their mind to which for the moment
they are not giving full attention are apt to draw equally unfounded
inferences. A conjurer who succeeds in keeping the attention of his
audience concentrated on the observation of what he is doing with his
right hand can make them draw irrational conclusions from the movements
of his left hand. People in a state of strong religious emotion
sometimes become conscious of a throbbing sound in their ears, due to
the increased force of their circulation. An organist, by opening the
thirty-two foot pipe, can create the same sensation, and can thereby
induce in the congregation a vague and half-conscious belief that they
are experiencing religious emotion.

The political importance of all this consists in the fact that most of
the political opinions of most men are the result, not of reasoning
tested by experience, but of unconscious or half-conscious inference
fixed by habit. It is indeed mainly in the formation of tracks of
thought that habit shows its power in politics. In our other activities
habit is largely a matter of muscular adaptation, but the bodily
movements of politics occur so seldom that nothing like a habit can be
set up by them. One may see a respectable voter, whose political
opinions have been smoothed and polished by the mental habits of thirty
years, fumbling over the act of marking and folding his ballot paper
like a child with its first copybook.

Some men even seem to reverence most those of their opinions whose
origin has least to do with deliberate reasoning. When Mr. Barrie's
Bowie Haggart said: 'I am of opeenion that the works of Burns is of an
immoral tendency. I have not read them myself, but such is my
opeenion,'[20] he was comparing the merely rational conclusion which
might have resulted from a reading of Burns's works with the conviction
about them which he found ready-made in his mind, and which was the more
sacred to him and more intimately his own, because he did not know how
it was produced.

[20] _Auld Licht Idylls_, p. 220.

Opinion thus unconsciously formed is a fairly safe guide in the affairs
of our daily life. The material world does not often go out of its way
to deceive us, and our final convictions are the resultant of many
hundreds of independent fleeting inferences, of which the valid are more
numerous and more likely to survive than the fallacious. But even in our
personal affairs our memory is apt to fade, and we can often remember
the association between two ideas, while forgetting the cause which
created that association. We discover in our mind a vague impression
that Simpson is a drunkard, and cannot recollect whether we ever had any
reason to believe it, or whether some one once told us that Simpson had
a cousin who invented a cure for drunkenness. When the connection is
remembered in a telling phrase, and when its origin has never been
consciously noticed, we may find ourselves with a really vivid belief
for which we could, if cross-examined, give no account whatever. When,
for instance, we have heard an early-Victorian Bishop called 'Soapy Sam'
half a dozen times we get a firm conviction of his character without
further evidence.

Under ordinary circumstances not much harm is done by this fact;
because a name would not be likely to 'catch on' unless a good many
people really thought it appropriate, and unless it 'caught on' we
should not be likely to hear it more than once or twice. But in
politics, as in the conjuring trade, it is often worth while for some
people to take a great deal of trouble in order to produce such an
effect without waiting for the idea to enforce itself by merely
accidental repetition. I have already said that political parties try to
give each other bad names by an organised system of mental suggestion.
If the word 'Wastrel,' for instance, appears on the contents bills of
the _Daily Mail_ one morning as a name for the Progressives during a
County Council election, a passenger riding on an omnibus from Putney to
the Bank will see it half-consciously at least a hundred times, and will
have formed a fairly stable mental association by the end of the
journey. If he reflected, he would know that only one person has once
decided to use the word, but he does not reflect, and the effect on him
is the same as if a hundred persons had used it independently of each
other. The contents-bills, indeed, of the newspapers, which were
originally short and pithy merely from considerations of space, have
developed in a way which threatens to turn our streets (like the
advertisement pages of an American magazine) into a psychological
laboratory for the unconscious production of permanent associations.
'Another German Insult,' 'Keir Hardie's Crime,' 'Balfour Backs Down,'
are intended to stick and do stick in the mind as ready-made opinions.

In all this again the same rule holds as in the production of impulse.
Things that are nearer sense, nearer to our more ancient evolutionary
past, produce a readier inference as well as a more compelling impulse.
When a new candidate on his first appearance smiles at his constituents
exactly as if he were an old friend, not only does he appeal, as I said
in an earlier chapter, to an ancient and immediate instinct of human
affection, but he produces at the same time a shadowy belief that he is
an old friend; and his agent may even imply this, provided that he says
nothing definite enough to arouse critical and rational attention. By
the end of the meeting one can safely go as far as to call for three
cheers for 'good old Jones.'[21]

[21] Three-quarters of the art of the trained salesman depends upon his
empirical knowledge of this group of psychological facts. A small girl
of my acquaintance, explaining why she had brought back from her first
independent shopping expedition a photograph frame which she herself
found to be distressing, said: 'The shopman seemed to suppose I had
chosen it, and so I paid for it and came away.' But her explanation was
the result of memory and reflection. At the moment, in a shadowy way
which was sufficient for the shopman, she supposed that she had chosen

Mr. G.K. Chesterton some years ago quoted from a magazine article on
American elections a sentence which said: 'A little sound common-sense
often goes further with an audience of American working men than much
high-flown argument. A speaker who, as he brought forward his points,
hammered nails into a board, won hundreds of votes for his side at the
last Presidential election.'[22] The 'sound common-sense' consisted, not,
as Mr. Chesterton pretended to believe, in the presentation of the
hammering as a logical argument, but in the orator's knowledge of the
way in which force is given to non-logical inference and his willingness
to use that knowledge.

[22] _Heretics_, p. 122.

When a vivid association has been once formed it sinks into the mass of
our mental experience, and may then undergo developments and
transformations with which deliberate ratiocination had very little to
do. I have been told that when an English agitation against the
importation of Chinese contract labour into South Africa was proposed,
an important personage said that 'there was not a vote in it.' But the
agitation was set on foot, and was based on a rational argument that the
conditions enacted by the Ordinance amounted to a rather cruel kind of
slavery imposed upon unusually intelligent Asiatics. Any one, however,
who saw much of politics in the winter of 1905-6 must have noticed that
the pictures of Chinamen on the hoardings aroused among very many of the
voters an immediate hatred of the Mongolian racial type.

This hatred was transferred to the Conservative party, and towards the
end of the general election of 1906 a picture of a Chinaman thrown
suddenly on a lantern screen before a working-class audience would have
aroused an instantaneous howl of indignation against Mr. Balfour.

After the election, however, the memory of the Chinese faces on the
posters tended slowly to identify itself, in the minds of the
Conservatives, with the Liberals who had used them. I had at the general
election worked in a constituency in which many such posters were
displayed by my side, and where we were beaten. A year later I stood for
the London County Council in the same constituency. An hour before the
close of the poll I saw, with the unnatural clearness of polling-day
fatigue, a large white face at the window of the ward committee-room,
while a hoarse voice roared: 'Where's your bloody pigtail? We cut it off
last time: and now we'll put it round your bloody neck and strangle

In February 1907, during the County Council election, there appeared on
the London hoardings thousands of posters which were intended to create
a belief that the Progressive members on the Council made their personal
livelihood by defrauding the ratepayers. If a statement had been
published to that effect it would have been an appeal to the critical
intellect, and could have been met by argument, or in the law courts.
But the appeal was made to the process of subconscious inference. The
poster consisted of a picture of a man supposed to represent the
Progressive Party, pointing a foreshortened finger and saying, with
sufficient ambiguity to escape the law of libel: 'It's your money we
want.' Its effectiveness depended on its exploitation of the fact that
most men judge of the truth of a charge of fraud by a series of rapid
and unconscious inferences from the appearance of the man accused. The
person represented was, if judged by the shape of his hat, the fashion
of his watch-chain and ring, the neglected condition of his teeth, and
the redness of his nose, obviously a professional sharper. He was, I
believe, drawn by an American artist, and his face and clothes had a
vaguely American appearance, which, in the region of subconscious
association, further suggested to most onlookers the idea of Tammany
Hall. This poster was brilliantly successful, but, now that the election
is over, it, like the Chinese pictures, seems likely to continue a
career of irrational transference. One notices that one Progressive
evening paper uses a reduced copy of it whenever it wishes to imply that
the Moderates are influenced by improper pecuniary motives. I myself
find that it tends to associate itself in my mind with the energetic
politician who induced the railway companies and others to pay for it,
and who, for all I know, may in his own personal appearance recall the
best traditions of the English gentleman.

Writers on the 'psychology of the crowd' have pointed out the effect of
excitement and numbers in substituting non-rational for rational
inference. Any cause, however, which prevents a man from giving full
attention to his mental processes may produce the phenomena of
non-rational inference in an extreme degree. I have often watched in
some small sub-committee the method by which either of the two men with
a real genius for committee work whom I know could control his
colleagues. The process was most successful towards the end of an
afternoon, when the members were tired and somewhat dazed with the
effort of following a rapid talker through a mass of unfamiliar detail.
If at that point the operator slightly quickened the flow of his
information, and slightly emphasised the assumption that he was being
thoroughly understood, he could put some at least of his colleagues into
a sort of waking trance, in which they would have cheerfully assented to
the proposition that the best means of securing, _e.g.,_ the permanence
of private schools was a large and immediate increase in the number of
public schools.

It is sometimes argued that such non-rational inferences are merely the
loose fringe of our political thinking, and that responsible decisions
in politics, whether they are right or wrong, are always the result of
conscious ratiocination. American political writers, for instance, of
the traditional intellectualist type are sometimes faced with the fact
that the delegates to national party conventions, when they select
candidates and adopt programmes for Presidential elections, are not in a
condition in which they are likely to examine the logical validity of
their own mental processes. Such writers fall back on the reflection
that the actual choice of President is decided not by excited
conventions, but by voters coming straight from the untroubled sanctuary
of the American home.

President Garfield illustrated this point of view in an often-quoted
passage of his speech to the Republican Convention of 1880:--

'I have seen the sea lashed into fury and tossed into spray, and its
grandeur moves the soul of the dullest man. But I remember that it is
not the billows, but the calm level of the sea from which all heights
and depths are measured.... Not here, in this brilliant circle where
fifteen thousand men and women are gathered, is the destiny of the
Republic to be decreed for the next four years ... but by four millions
of Republican firesides, where the thoughtful voters, with wives and
children about them, with the calm thoughts inspired by love of home and
country, with the history of the past, the hopes of the future, and
knowledge of the great men who have adorned and blessed our nation in
days gone by. There God prepares the verdict that shall determine the
wisdom of our work to-night.'[23]

[23] _Life of J.A. Garfield_, by R. H. Conwell, p. 328.

But the divine oracle, whether in America or in England, turns out, too
often, only to be a tired householder, reading the headlines and
personal paragraphs of his party newspaper, and half-consciously forming
mental habits of mean suspicion or national arrogance. Sometimes,
indeed, during an election, one feels that it is, after all, in big
meetings, where big thoughts can be given with all their emotional
force, that the deeper things of politics have the best chance of

The voter as he reads his newspaper may adopt by suggestion, and make
habitual by repetition, not only political opinions but whole trains of
political argument; and he does not necessarily feel the need of
comparing them with other trains of argument already in his mind. A
lawyer or a doctor will on quite general principles argue for the most
extreme trade-unionism in his own profession, while he thoroughly agrees
with a denunciation of trade-unionism addressed to him as a railway
shareholder or ratepayer. The same audience can sometimes be led by way
of 'parental rights' to cheer for denominational religious instruction,
and by way of 'religious freedom' to hoot it. The most skilled political
observer that I know, speaking of an organised newspaper attack, said,
'As far as I can make out every argument used in attack and in defence
has its separate and independent effect. They hardly ever meet, even if
they are brought to bear upon the same mind.' From the purely tactical
point of view there is therefore much to be said for Lord Lyndhurst's
maxim, 'Never defend yourself before a popular assemblage, except with
and by retorting the attack; the hearers, in the pleasure which the
assault gives them, will forget the previous charge.'[24]

[24] Morley's _Life of Gladstone_, vol. i. p. 122.



But man is fortunately not wholly dependent in his political thinking
upon those forms of inference by immediate association which come so
easily to him, and which he shares with the higher brutes. The whole
progress of human civilisation beyond its earliest stages has been made
possible by the invention of methods of thought which enable us to
interpret and forecast the working of nature more successfully than we
could if we merely followed the line of least resistance in the use of
our minds.

These methods, however, when applied in politics, still represent a
difficult and uncertain art rather than a science producing its effects
with mechanical accuracy.

When the great thinkers of Greece laid down rules for valid reasoning,
they had, it is true, the needs of politics specially in their minds.
After the prisoners in Plato's cave of illusion should be unbound by
true philosophy it was to the service of the State that they were to
devote themselves, and their first triumph was to be the control of
passion by reason in the sphere of government. Yet if Plato could visit
us now, he would learn that while our glass-makers proceed by rigorous
and confident processes to exact results, our statesmen, like the
glass-makers of ancient Athens, still trust to empirical maxims and
personal skill. Why is it, he would ask us, that valid reasoning has
proved to be so much more difficult in politics than in the physical

Our first answer might be found in the character of the material with
which political reasoning has to deal. The universe which presents
itself to our reason is the same as that which presents itself to our
feelings and impulses--an unending stream of sensations and memories,
every one of which is different from every other, and before which,
unless we can select and recognise and simplify, we must stand helpless
and unable either to act or think. Man has therefore to create entities
that shall be the material of his reasoning, just as he creates entities
to be the objects of his emotions and the stimulus of his instinctive

Exact reasoning requires exact comparison, and in the desert or the
forest there were few things which our ancestors could compare exactly.
The heavenly bodies seem, indeed, to have been the first objects of
consciously exact reasoning, because they were so distant that nothing
could be known of them except position and movement, and their position
and movement could be exactly compared from night to night.

In the same way the foundation of the terrestrial sciences came from two
discoveries, first, that it was possible to abstract single qualities,
such as position and movement, in all things however unlike, from the
other qualities of those things and to compare them exactly; and
secondly, that it was possible artificially to create actual
uniformities for the purpose of comparison, to make, that is to say, out
of unlike things, things so like that valid inferences could be drawn as
to their behaviour under like circumstances. Geometry, for instance,
came into the service of man when it was consciously realised that all
units of land and water were exactly alike in so far as they were
extended surfaces. Metallurgy, on the other hand, only became a science
when men could actually take two pieces of copper ore, unlike in shape
and appearance and chemical constitution, and extract from them two
pieces of copper so nearly alike that they would give the same results
when treated in the same way.

This second power over his material the student of politics can never
possess. He can never create an artificial uniformity in man. He cannot,
after twenty generations of education or breeding render even two human
beings sufficiently like each other for him to prophesy with any
approach to certainty that they will behave alike under like

How far has he the first power? How far can he abstract from the facts
of man's state qualities in respect of which men are sufficiently
comparable to allow of valid political reasoning?

On April 5th, 1788, a year before the taking of the Bastille John Adams,
then American Ambassador to England, and afterwards President of the
United States, wrote to a friend describing the 'fermentation upon the
subject of government' throughout Europe. 'Is Government a science or
not?' he describes men as asking. 'Are there any principles on which it
is founded? What are its ends? If indeed there is no rule, no standard,
all must be accident and chance. If there is a standard, what is it?'[25]

[25] _Memoir of T. Brand Hollis_, by J. Disney, p. 32.

Again and again in the history of political thought men have believed
themselves to have found this 'standard,' this fact about man which
should bear the same relation to politics which the fact that all things
can be weighed bears to physics, and the fact that all things can be
measured bears to geometry.

Some of the greatest thinkers of the past have looked for it in the
final causes of man's existence. Every man differed, it is true, from
every other man, but these differences all seemed related to a type of
perfect manhood which, though few men approached, and none attained it,
all were capable of conceiving. May not, asked Plato, this type be the
pattern--the 'idea'--of man formed by God and laid up 'in a heavenly
place'? If so, men would have attained to a valid science of politics
when by careful reasoning and deep contemplation they had come to know
that pattern. Henceforward all the fleeting and varying things of sense
would be seen in their due relation to the eternal and immutable
purposes of God.

Or the relation of man to God's purpose was thought of not as that
between the pattern and the copy, but as that between the mind of a
legislator as expressed in enacted law, and the individual instance to
which the law is applied. We can, thought Locke, by reflecting on the
moral facts of the world, learn God's law. That law confers on us
certain rights which we can plead in the Court of God, and from which a
valid political science can be deduced. We know our rights with the same
certainty that we know his law.

'Men,' wrote Locke, 'being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and
infinitely wise maker, all the servants of one sovereign master, sent
into the world by his order and about his business; they are his
property whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one
another's, pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing
all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such
subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy another as if
we were made for one another's uses as the inferior ranks of creatures
are for ours.'[26]

[26] Locke, _Second Treatise of Government_, 1690, ed. 1821, p. 191.

When the leaders of the American revolution sought for certainty in
their argument against George the Third they too found it in the fact
that men 'are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.'

Rousseau and his French followers rested these rights on a presumed
social contract. Human rights stood upon that contract as the elephant
upon the tortoise, though the contract itself, like the tortoise, was
apt to stand upon nothing at all.

At this point Bentham, backed by the sense of humour of mankind, swept
aside the whole conception of a science of politics deduced from natural
right. 'What sort of a thing,' he asked, 'is a natural right, and where
does the maker live, particularly in Atheist's Town, where they are most

[27] _Escheat vice Taxation_, Bentham's Works, vol. ii. p. 598.

Bentham himself believed that he had found the standard in the fact that
all men seek pleasure and avoid pain. In that respect men were
measurable and comparable. Politics and jurisprudence could therefore be
made experimental sciences in exactly the same sense as physics or
chemistry. 'The present work,' wrote Bentham, 'as well as any other work
of mine that has been or will be published on the subject of
legislation or any other branch of moral science, is an attempt to
extend the experimental method of reasoning from the physical branch to
the moral.'[28]

[28] MS. in University College, London, quoted by Halevy, _La Jeunesse
de Bentham_, pp. 289-290.

Bentham's standard of 'pleasure and pain' constituted in many ways an
important advance upon 'natural right.' It was in the first place
founded upon a universally accepted fact; all men obviously do feel both
pleasure and pain. That fact was to a certain extent measurable. One
could, for instance, count the number of persons who suffered this year
from an Indian famine, and compare it with the number of those who
suffered last year. It was clear also that some pains and pleasures were
more intense than others, and that therefore the same man could in a
given number of seconds experience varying amounts of pleasure or pain.
Above all, the standard of pleasure and pain was one external to the
political thinker himself. John Stuart Mill quotes Bentham as saying of
all philosophies which competed with his Utilitarianism: 'They consist,
all of them, in so many contrivances for avoiding the obligation of
appealing to any external standard, and for prevailing upon the reader
to accept the author's sentiment or opinion as a reason for itself.'[29]

[29] Bentham's _Works_, vol. i. p. 8, quoted in Lytton's _England and
the English_ (1833), p. 469. This passage was written by Mill, cf.

A 'Benthamite,' therefore, whether he was a member of Parliament like
Grote or Molesworth, or an official like Chadwick, or an organising
politician like Francis Place, could always check his own feelings about
'rights of property,' 'mischievous agitators,' 'spirit of the
Constitution,' 'insults to the flag,' and so on, by examining
statistical facts as to the numerical proportion, the income, the hours
of work, and the death rate from disease, of the various classes and
races who inhabited the British Empire.

But as a complete science of politics Benthamism is no longer possible.
Pleasure and pain are indeed facts about human nature, but they are not
the only facts which are important to the politician. The Benthamites,
by straining the meaning of words, tried to classify such motives as
instinctive impulse, ancient tradition, habit, or personal and racial
idiosyncrasy as being forms of pleasure and pain. But they failed; and
the search for a basis of valid political reasoning has to begin again,
among a generation more conscious than were Bentham and his disciples of
the complexity of the problem, and less confident of absolute success.

In that search one thing at least is becoming clear. We must aim at
finding as many relevant and measurable facts about human nature as
possible, and we must attempt to make all of them serviceable in
political reasoning. In collecting, that is to say, the material for a
political science, we must adopt the method of the biologist, who tries
to discover how many common qualities can be observed and measured in a
group of related beings, rather than that of the physicist, who
constructs, or used to construct, a science out of a single quality
common to the whole material world.

The facts when collected must, because they are many, be arranged. I
believe that it would be found convenient by the political student to
arrange them under three main heads: descriptive facts as to the human
type; quantitative facts as to inherited variations from that type
observed either in individuals or groups of individuals; and facts, both
quantitative and descriptive, as to the environment into which men are
born, and the observed effect of that environment upon their political
actions and impulses.

A medical student already attempts to master as many as possible of
those facts about the human type that are relevant to his science. The
descriptive facts, for instance, of typical human anatomy alone which he
has to learn before he can hope to pass his examinations must number
many thousands. If he is to remember them so that he can use them in
practice, they must be carefully arranged in associated groups. He may
find, for instance, that he remembers the anatomical facts about the
human eye most easily and correctly by associating them with their
evolutionary history, or the facts about the bones of the hand by
associating them with the visual image of a hand in an X-ray photograph.

The quantitative facts as to variations from the anatomical human type
are collected for him in statistical form, and he makes an attempt to
acquire the main facts as to hygienic environment when and if he takes
the Diploma of Public Health.

The student teacher, too, during his period of training acquires a
series of facts about the human type, though in his case they are as yet
far less numerous, less accurate and less conveniently arranged than
those in the medical text-books.

If the student of politics followed such an arrangement, he would at
least begin his course by mastering a treatise on psychology, containing
all those facts about the human type which have been shown by experience
to be helpful in politics, and so arranged that the student's knowledge
could be most easily recalled when wanted.

At present, however, the politician who is trained for his work by
reading the best-known treatises on political theory is still in the
condition of the medical student trained by the study of Hippocrates or
Galen. He is taught a few isolated, and therefore distorted, facts about
the human type, about pleasure and pain, perhaps, and the association of
ideas, or the influence of habit. He is told that these are selected
from the other facts of human nature in order that he may think clearly
on the hypothesis of there being no others. What the others may be he is
left to discover for himself; but he is likely to assume that they
cannot be the subject of effective scientific thought. He learns also a
few empirical maxims about liberty and caution and the like, and, after
he has read a little of the history of institutions, his political
education is complete. It is no wonder that the average layman prefers
old politicians, who have forgotten their book-learning, and young
doctors who remember theirs.[30]

[30] In the winter of 1907-8 I happened, on different occasions, to
discuss the method of approaching political science with two young
Oxford students. In each case I suggested that it would be well to read
a little psychology. Each afterwards told me that he had consulted his
tutor and had been told that psychology was 'useless' or 'nonsense.' One
tutor, a man of real intellectual distinction, was said to have added
the curiously scholastic reason that psychology was 'neither science nor

A political thinker so trained is necessarily apt to preserve the
conception of human nature which he learnt in his student days in a
separate and sacred compartment of his mind, into which the facts of
experience, however laboriously and carefully gathered, are not
permitted to enter. Professor Ostrogorski published, for instance, in
1902, an important and extraordinarily interesting book on _Democracy
and the Organisation of Political Parties_, containing the results of
fifteen years' close observation of the party system in America and
England. The instances given in the book might have been used as the
basis of a fairly full account of those facts in the human type which
are of importance to the politician--the nature of our impulses, the
necessary limitations of our contact with the external world, and the
methods of that thinking brain which was evolved in our distant past,
and which we have now to put to such new and strange uses. But no
indication was given that Professor Ostrogorski's experience had altered
in the least degree the conception of human nature with which he
started. The facts observed are throughout regretfully contrasted with
'free reason,'[31] 'the general idea of liberty,'[32] 'the sentiments
which inspired the men of 1848,'[33] and the book ends with a sketch of a
proposed constitution in which the voters are to be required to vote for
candidates known to them through declarations of policy 'from which all
mention of party is rigorously excluded.'[34] One seems to be reading a
series of conscientious observations of the Copernican heavens by a
loyal but saddened believer in the Ptolemaic astronomy.

[31] _Passim_, e.g., vol. ii. p. 728.

[32] _Ibid_., p. 649.

[33] _Ibid_., p. 442.

[34] _Ibid_., p. 756.

Professor Ostrogorski was a distinguished member of the Constitutional
Democratic Party in the first Duma of Nicholas II., and must have learnt
for himself that if he and his fellows were to get force enough behind
them to contend on equal terms with the Russian autocracy they must be a
party, trusted and obeyed as a party, and not a casual collection of
free individuals. Some day the history of the first Duma will be
written, and we shall then know whether Professor Ostrogorski's
experience and his faith were at last fused together in the heat of that
great struggle.

The English translation of Professor Ostrogorski's book is prefaced by
an introduction from Mr. James Bryce. This introduction shows that even
in the mind of the author of _The American Constitution_ the conception
of human nature which he learnt at Oxford still dwells apart.

'In the ideal democracy,' says Mr. Bryce, 'every citizen is intelligent,
patriotic, disinterested. His sole wish is to discover the right side in
each contested issue, and to fix upon the best man among competing
candidates. His common sense, aided by a knowledge of the constitution
of his country, enables him to judge wisely between the arguments
submitted to him, while his own zeal is sufficient to carry him to the
polling booth.'[35]

[35] Ostrogorski, vol. i. p. xliv.

A few lines further on Mr. Bryce refers to 'the democratic ideal of the
intelligent independence of the individual voter, an ideal far removed
from the actualities of any State.'

What does Mr. Bryce mean by 'ideal democracy'? If it means anything it
means the best form of democracy which is consistent with the facts of
human nature. But one feels, on reading the whole passage, that Mr.
Bryce means by those words the kind of democracy which might be possible
if human nature were as he himself would like it to be, and as he was
taught at Oxford to think that it was. If so, the passage is a good
instance of the effect of our traditional course of study in politics.
No doctor would now begin a medical treatise by saying, 'the ideal man
requires no food, and is impervious to the action of bacteria, but this
ideal is far removed from the actualities of any known population.' No
modern treatise on pedagogy begins with the statement that 'the ideal
boy knows things without being taught them, and his sole wish is the
advancement of science, but no boys at all like this have ever existed.'

And what, in a world where causes have effects and effects causes, does
'intelligent independence' mean?

Mr. Herman Merivale, successively Professor of Political Economy at
Oxford, under-Secretary for the Colonies, and under-Secretary for India,
wrote in 1861:

'To retain or to abandon a dominion is not an issue which will ever be
determined on the mere balance of profit and loss, or on the more
refined but even less powerful motives supplied by abstract political
philosophy. The sense of national honour; the pride of blood, the
tenacious spirit of self-defence, the sympathies of kindred communities,
the instincts of a dominant race, the vague but generous desire to
spread our civilisation and our religion over the world; these are
impulses which the student in his closet may disregard, but the
statesman dares not....'[36]

[36] Herman Merivale, _Colonisation_, 1861, 2nd edition. The book is a
re-issue, largely re-written, of lectures given at Oxford in 1837. The
passage quoted forms part of the 1861 additions, p. 675.

What does 'abstract political philosophy' here mean? No medical writer
would speak of an 'abstract' anatomical science in which men have no
livers, nor would he add that though the student in his closet may
disregard the existence of the liver the working physician dares not.

Apparently Merivale means the same thing by 'abstract' political
philosophy that Mr. Bryce means by 'ideal' democracy. Both refer to a
conception of human nature constructed in all good faith by certain
eighteenth-century philosophers, which is now no longer exactly believed
in, but which, because nothing else has taken its place, still exercises
a kind of shadowy authority in a hypothetical universe.

The fact that this or that writer speaks of a conception of human nature
in which he is ceasing to believe as 'abstract' or 'ideal' may seem to
be of merely academic interest. But such half-beliefs produce immense
practical effects. Because Merivale saw that the political philosophy
which his teachers studied in their closets was inadequate, and because
he had nothing to substitute for it, he frankly abandoned any attempt
at valid thought on so difficult a question as the relation of the white
colonies to the rest of the British Empire. He therefore decided in
effect that it ought to be settled by the rule-of-thumb method of
'cutting the painter'; and, since he was the chief official in the
Colonial Office at a critical time, his decision, whether it was right
or wrong, was not unimportant.

Mr. Bryce has been perhaps prevented by the presence in his mind of such
a half-belief from making that constructive contribution to general
political science for which he is better equipped than any other man of
his time. 'I am myself,' he says in the same Introduction, 'an optimist,
almost a professional optimist, as indeed politics would be intolerable
were not a man grimly resolved to see between the clouds all the blue
sky he can.'[37] Imagine an acknowledged leader in chemical research who,
finding that experiment did not bear out some traditional formula,
should speak of himself as nevertheless 'grimly resolved' to see things
from the old and comfortable point of view!

[37] _Loc. cit._, p. xliii.

The next step in the course of political training which I am advocating
would be the quantitative study of the inherited variations of
individual men when compared with the 'normal' or 'average' man who had
so far served for the study of the type.

How is the student to approach this part of the course? Every man
differs quantitatively from every other man in respect of every one
of his qualities. The student obviously cannot carry in his mind or
use for the purposes of thought all the variations even of a single
inherited quality which are to be found among the fifteen hundred
millions or so of human beings who even at any one moment are in
existence. Much less can he ascertain or remember the inter-relation
of thousands of inherited qualities in the past history of a race in
which individuals are at every moment dying and being born.

Mr. H.G. Wells faces this fact in that extremely stimulating essay on
'Scepticism of the Instrument,' which he has appended to his _Modern
Utopia_. His answer is that the difficulty is 'of the very smallest
importance in all the practical affairs of life, or indeed in relation
to anything but philosophy and wide generalisations. But in philosophy
it matters profoundly. If I order two new-laid eggs for breakfast, up
come two unhatched but still unique avian individuals, and the chances
are they serve my rude physiological purpose.'[38]

[38] _A Modern Utopia_, p. 381.

To the politician, however, the uniqueness of the individual is of
enormous importance, not only when he is dealing with 'philosophy and
wide generalisations' but in the practical affairs of his daily
activity. Even the fowl-breeder does not simply ask for 'two eggs' to
put under a hen when he is trying to establish a new variety, and the
politician, who is responsible for actual results in an amazingly
complicated world, has to deal with more delicate distinctions than the
breeder. A statesman who wants two private secretaries, or two generals,
or two candidates likely to receive equally enthusiastic support from
nonconformists and trade-unionists, does not ask for 'two men.'

On this point, however, most writers on political science seem to
suggest that after they have described human nature as if all men were
in all respects equal to the average man, and have warned their readers
of the inexactness of their description, they can do no more. All
knowledge of individual variations must be left to individual

John Stuart Mill, for instance, in the section on the Logic of the Moral
Sciences at the end of his _System of Logic_ implies this, and seems
also to imply that any resulting inexactness in the political judgments
and forecasts made by students and professors of politics does not
involve a large element of error.

'Excepting,' he says, 'the degree of uncertainty, which still exists as
to the extent of the natural differences of individual minds, and the
physical circumstances on which these may be dependent, (considerations
which are of secondary importance when we are considering mankind in
the average or _en masse_), I believe most competent judges will agree
that the general laws of the different constituent elements of human
nature are even now sufficiently understood to render it possible for a
competent thinker to deduce from those laws, with a considerable
approach to certainty, the particular type of character which would be
formed, in mankind generally, by any assumed set of circumstances.'[39]

[39] _System of Logic_, Book vi. vol. ii. (1875), p. 462.

Few people nowadays would be found to share Mill's belief. It is just
because we feel ourselves unable to deduce with any 'approach to
certainty' the effect of circumstances upon character, that we all
desire to obtain, if it is possible, a more exact idea of human
variation than can be arrived at by thinking of mankind 'in the average
or _en masse_.'

Fortunately the mathematical students of biology, of whom Professor Karl
Pearson is the most distinguished leader, are already showing us that
facts of inherited variation can be so arranged that we can remember
them without having to get by heart millions of isolated instances.
Professor Pearson and the other writers in the periodical _Biometrika_
have measured innumerable beech leaves, snails' tongues, human skulls,
etc. etc., and have recorded in each case the variations of any quality
in a related group of individuals by that which Professor Pearson calls
an 'observation frequency polygon,' but which I, in my own thinking,
find that I call (from a vague memory of its shape) a 'cocked hat.'

Here is a tracing of such a figure, founded on the actual measurement of
25,878 recruits for the United States army.

[Transcriber's Description:
A line graph of number of recruits vs. height. The horizontal axis is
AC, and the line itself is ABC, which is roughly normal.]]

The line _ABC_ records, by its distance at successive points from the
line _AC_, the number of recruits reaching successive inches of height.
It shows, e.g. (as indicated by the dotted lines) that the number of
recruits between 5 ft. 11 in. and 6 ft. was about 1500, and the number
of those between 5 ft. 7 in. and 5 ft. 8 in. about 4000.[40]

[40] This figure is adapted (by the kind permission of the publishers)
from one given in Professor K. Pearson's _Chances of Death_, vol. i. p.
277. For the relation between such records of actual observation and the
curves resulting from mathematical calculation of known causes of
variation, see _ibid._, chap, viii., the paper by the same author on
'Contributions to the Mathematical Theory of Evolution,' in vol. 186 (A)
of the _Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions_ (1896), and the
chapters on evolution in his _Grammar of Science_, 2nd edition.

Such figures, when they simply record the results of the fact that the
likeness of the offspring to the parent in evolution is constantly
inexact, are (like the records of other cases of 'chance' variation)
fairly symmetrical, the greatest number of instances being found at the
mean, and the descending curves of those above and those below the mean
corresponding pretty closely with each other. Boot manufacturers, as the
result of experience, construct in effect such a curve, making a large
number of boots of the sizes which in length or breadth are near the
mean, and a symmetrically diminishing number of the sizes above and
below it.

In the next chapter I shall deal with the use in reasoning of such
curves, either actually 'plotted' or roughly imagined. In this chapter I
point out, firstly, that they can be easily remembered (partly because
our visual memory is extremely retentive of the image made by a black
line on a white surface) and that we can in consequence carry in our
minds the quantitative facts as to a number of variations enormously
beyond the possibility of memory if they were treated as isolated
instances; and secondly, that we can by imagining such curves form a
roughly accurate idea of the character of the variations to be expected
as to any inherited quality among groups of individuals not yet born or
not yet measured.

The third and last division under which knowledge of man can be arranged
for the purposes of political study consists of the facts of man's
environment, and of the effect of environment upon his character and
actions. It is the extreme instability and uncertainty of this element
which constitutes the special difficulty of politics. The human type and
the quantitative distribution of its variations are for the politician,
who deals with a few generations only, practically permanent. Man's
environment changes with ever-increasing rapidity. The inherited nature
of every human being varies indeed from that of every other, but the
relative frequency of the most important variations can be forecasted
for each generation. The difference, on the other hand, between one
man's environment and that of other men can be arranged on no curve and
remembered or forecasted by no expedient. Buckle, it is true, attempted
to explain the present and prophesy the future intellectual history of
modern nations by the help of a few generalisations as to the effect of
that small fraction of their environment which consisted of climate. But
Buckle failed, and no one has attacked the problem again with anything
like his confidence.

We can, of course, see that in the environment of any nation or class at
any given time there are some facts which constitute for all its members
a common experience, and therefore a common influence. Climate is such a
fact, or the discovery of America, or the invention of printing, or the
rates of wages and prices. All nonconformists are influenced by their
memory of certain facts of which very few churchmen are aware, and all
Irishmen by facts which most Englishmen try to forget. The student of
politics must therefore read history, and particularly the history of
those events and habits of thought in the immediate past which are
likely to influence the generation in which he will work. But he must
constantly be on his guard against the expectation that his reading will
give him much power of accurate forecast. Where history shows him that
such and such an experiment has succeeded or failed he must always
attempt to ascertain how far success or failure was due to facts of the
human type, which he may assume to have persisted into his own time, and
how far to facts of environment. When he can show that failure was due
to the ignoring of some fact of the type and can state definitely what
that fact is, he will be able to attach a real meaning to the repeated
and unheeded maxims by which the elder members of any generation warn
the younger that their ideas are 'against human nature.' But if it is
possible that the cause was one of mental environment, that is to say, of
habit or tradition, or memory, he should be constantly on his guard
against generalisations about national or racial 'character.'

One of the most fertile sources of error in modern political thinking
consists, indeed, in the ascription to collective habit of that
comparative permanence which only belongs to biological inheritance. A
whole science can be based upon easy generalisations about Celts and
Teutons, or about East and West, and the facts from which the
generalisations are drawn may all disappear in a generation. National
habits used to change slowly in the past, because new methods of life
were seldom invented and only gradually introduced, and because the
means of communicating ideas between man and man or nation and nation
were extremely imperfect; so that a true statement about a national
habit might, and probably would, remain true for centuries. But now an
invention which may produce profound changes in social or industrial
life is as likely to be taken up with enthusiasm in some country on the
other side of the globe as in the place of its origin. A statesman who
has anything important to say says it to an audience of five hundred
millions next morning, and great events like the Battle of the Sea of
Japan begin to produce their effects thousands of miles off within a few
hours of their happening. Enough has already occurred under these new
conditions to show that the unchanging East may to-morrow enter upon a
period of revolution, and that English indifference to ideas or French
military ambition are habits which, under a sufficiently extended
stimulus, nations can shake off as completely as can individual men.



The traditional method of political reasoning has inevitably shared the
defects of its subject-matter. In thinking about politics we seldom
penetrate behind those simple entities which form themselves so easily
in our minds, or approach in earnest the infinite complexity of the
actual world. Political abstractions, such as Justice, or Liberty, or
the State, stand in our minds as things having a real existence. The
names of political species, 'governments,' or 'rights,' or 'Irishmen,'
suggest to us the idea of single 'type specimens'; and we tend, like
medieval naturalists, to assume that all the individual members of a
species are in all respects identical with the type specimen and with
each other.

In politics a true proposition in the form of 'All A is B' almost
invariably means that a number of individual persons or things possess
the quality B in degrees of variation as numerous as are the individuals
themselves. We tend, however, under the influence of our words and the
mental habits associated with them to think of A either as a single
individual possessing the quality B, or as a number of individuals
equally possessing that quality. As we read in the newspaper that 'the
educated Bengalis are disaffected' we either see, in the half-conscious
substratum of visual images which accompanies our reading, a single Babu
with a disaffected expression or the vague suggestion of a long row of
identical Babus all equally disaffected.

These personifications and uniformities, in their turn, tempt us to
employ in our political thinking that method of _a priori_ deduction
from large and untried generalisations against which natural science
from the days of Bacon has always protested. No scientist now argues
that the planets move in circles, because planets are perfect, and the
circle is a perfect figure, or that any newly discovered plant must be a
cure for some disease because nature has given healing properties to all
plants. But 'logical' democrats still argue in America that, because all
men are equal, political offices ought to go by rotation, and 'logical'
collectivists sometimes argue from the 'principle' that the State should
own all the means of production to the conclusion that all railway
managers should be elected by universal suffrage.

In natural science, again, the conception of the plurality and
interaction of causes has become part of our habitual mental furniture;
but in politics both the book-learned student and the man in the street
may be heard to talk as if each result had only one cause. If the
question, for instance, of the Anglo-Japanese alliance is raised, any
two politicians, whether they are tramps on the outskirts of a Hyde Park
crowd or Heads of Colleges writing to the _Times_, are not unlikely to
argue, one, that all nations are suspicious, and that therefore the
alliance must certainly fail, and the other that all nations are guided
by their interests, and that therefore the alliance must certainly
succeed. The Landlord of the 'Rainbow' in _Silas Marner_ had listened to
many thousands of political discussions before he adopted his formula,
'The truth lies atween you: you're both right and both wrong, as I
allays say.'

In Economics the danger of treating abstract and uniform words as if
they were equivalent to abstract and uniform things has now been
recognised for the last half century. When this recognition began, it
was objected by the followers of the 'classical' Political Economy that
abstraction was a necessary condition of thought, and that all dangers
arising from it would be avoided if we saw clearly what it was that we
were doing. Bagehot, who stood at the meeting-point of the old Economics
and the new, wrote about 1876:--

'Political Economy ... is an abstract science, just as statics and
dynamics are deductive sciences. And in consequence, it deals with an
unreal and imaginary subject, ... not with the entire real man as we
know him in fact, but with a simpler imaginary man....'[41]

[41] _Economic Studies_ (Longmans, 1895), p. 97.

He goes on to urge that the real and complex man can be depicted by
printing on our minds a succession of different imaginary simple men.
'The maxim of science,' he says, 'is that of common-sense--simple cases
first; begin with seeing how the main force acts when there is as little
as possible to impede it, and when you thoroughly comprehend that, add
to it in succession the separate effects of each of the encumbering and
interfering agencies.'[42]

[42] _Ibid._, p. 98.

But this process of mental chromolithography, though it is sometimes a
good way of learning a science, is not a way of using it; and Bagehot
gives no indication how his complex picture of man, formed from
successive layers of abstraction, is to be actually employed in
forecasting economic results.

When Jevons published his _Theory of Political Economy_ in 1871, it was
already widely felt that a simple imaginary man, or even a composite
picture made up of a series of different simple imaginary men, although
useful in answering examination questions, was of very little use in
drafting a Factory Act or arbitrating on a sliding scale of wages.
Jevons therefore based his economic method upon the variety and not the
uniformity of individual instances. He arranged the hours of labour in
a working day, or the units of satisfaction from spending money, on
curves of increase and decrease, and employed mathematical methods to
indicate the point where one curve, whether representing an imaginary
estimate or a record of ascertained facts, would cut the others to the
best advantage.

Here was something which corresponded, however roughly, to the process
by which practical people arrive at practical and responsible results. A
railway manager who wishes to discover the highest rate of charges which
his traffic will bear is not interested if he is told that the rate when
fixed will have been due to the law that all men seek to obtain wealth
with as little effort as possible, modified in its working by men's
unwillingness to break an established business habit. He wants a method
which, instead of merely providing him with a verbal 'explanation' of
what has happened, will enable him to form a quantitative estimate of
what under given circumstances will happen. He can, however, and, I
believe, now often does, use the Jevonian method to work out definite
results in half-pennies and tons from the intersection of plotted curves
recording actual statistics of rates and traffic.

Since Jevons's time the method which he initiated has been steadily
extended; economic and statistical processes have become more nearly
assimilated, and problems of fatigue or acquired skill, of family
affection and personal thrift, of management by the _entrepreneur_ or
the paid official, have been stated and argued in quantitative form. As
Professor Marshall said the other day, _qualitative_ reasoning in
economics is passing away and _quantitative_ reasoning is beginning to
take its place.[43]

[43] _Journal of Economics_, March 1907, pp. 7 and 8. 'What by chemical
analogy may be called qualitative analysis has done the greater part of
its work.... Much less progress has indeed been made towards the
quantitative determination of the relative strength of different
economic forces. That higher and more difficult task must wait upon the
slow growth of thorough realistic statistics.'

How far is a similar change of method possible in the discussion not of
industrial and financial processes but of the structure and working of
political institutions?

It is of course easy to pick out political questions which can obviously
be treated by quantitative methods. One may take, for instance, the
problem of the best size for a debating hall, to be used, say, by the
Federal Deliberative Assembly of the British Empire--assuming that the
shape is already settled. The main elements of the problem are that the
hall should be large enough to accommodate with dignity a number of
members sufficient both for the representation of interests and the
carrying out of committee work, and not too large for each member to
listen without strain to a debate. The resultant size will represent a
compromise among these elements, accommodating a number smaller than
would be desirable if the need of representation and dignity alone were
to be considered, and larger than it would be if the convenience of
debate alone were considered.

A body of economists could agree to plot out or imagine a succession of
'curves' representing the advantage to be obtained from each additional
unit of size in dignity, adequacy of representation, supply of members
for committee work, healthiness, etc., and the disadvantage of each
additional unit of size as affecting convenience of debate, etc. The
curves of dignity and adequacy might be the result of direct estimation.
The curve of marginal convenience in audibility would be founded upon
actual 'polygons of variation' recording measurements of the distance at
which a sufficient number of individuals of the classes and ages
expected could hear and make themselves heard in a room of that shape.
The economists might further, after discussion, agree on the relative
importance of each element to the final decision, and might give effect
to their agreement by the familiar statistical device of 'weighting.'

The answer would perhaps provide fourteen square feet on the floor in a
room twenty-six feet high for each of three hundred and seventeen
members. There would, when the answer was settled, be a 'marginal' man
in point of hearing (representing, perhaps, an average healthy man of
seventy-four), who would be unable or just able to hear the 'marginal'
man in point of clearness of speech--who might represent (on a polygon
specially drawn up by the Oxford Professor of Biology) the least audible
but two of the tutors at Balliol. The marginal point on the curve of the
decreasing utility of successive increments of members from the point of
view of committee work might show, perhaps, that such work must either
be reduced to a point far below that which is usual in national
parliaments, or must be done very largely by persons not members of the
assembly itself. The aesthetic curve of dignity might be cut at the
point where the President of the Society of British Architects could
just be induced not to write to the _Times_.

Any discussion which took place on such lines, even although the curves
were mere forms of speech, would be real and practical. Instead of one
man reiterating that the Parliament Hall of a great empire ought to
represent the dignity of its task, and another man answering that a
debating assembly which cannot debate is of no use, both would be forced
to ask 'How much dignity'? and 'How much debating convenience'? As it
is, this particular question seems often to be settled by the architect,
who is deeply concerned with aesthetic effect, and not at all concerned
with debating convenience. The reasons that he gives in his reports seem
convincing, because the other considerations are not in the minds of
the Building Committee, who think of one element only of the problem at
a time and make no attempt to co-ordinate all the elements. Otherwise it
would be impossible to explain the fact that the Debating Hall, for
instance, of the House of Representatives at Washington is no more
fitted for debates carried on by human beings than would a spoon ten
feet broad be fitted for the eating of soup. The able leaders of the
National Congress movement in India made the same mistake in 1907, when
they arranged, with their minds set only on the need of an impressive
display, that difficult and exciting questions of tactics should be
discussed by about fifteen hundred delegates in a huge tent, and in the
presence of a crowd of nearly ten thousand spectators. I am afraid that
it is not unlikely that the London County Council may also despise the
quantitative method of reasoning on such questions, and may find
themselves in 1912 provided with a new hall admirably adapted to
illustrate the dignity of London and the genius of their architect, but
unfitted for any other purpose.

Nor is the essence of the quantitative method changed when the answer is
to be found, not in one, but in several 'unknown quantities.' Take, for
instance, the question as to the best types of elementary school to be
provided in London. If it were assumed that only one type of school was
to be provided, the problem would be stated in the same form as that of
the size of the Debating Hall. But it is possible in most London
districts to provide within easy walking distance of every child four or
five schools of different types, and the problem becomes that of so
choosing a limited number of types as to secure that the degree of
'misfit' between child and curriculum shall be as small as possible. If
we treat the general aptitude (or 'cleverness') of the children as
differing only by more or less, the problem becomes one of fitting the
types of school to a fairly exactly ascertainable polygon of
intellectual variation. It might appear then that the best results would
come from the provision, say, of five types of schools providing
respectively for the 2 per cent, of greatest natural cleverness, the
succeeding 10 per cent., the intermediate 76 per cent., the
comparatively sub-normal 10 per cent., and the 2 per cent, of 'mentally
deficient.' That is to say the local authority would have to provide in
that proportion Secondary, Higher Grade, Ordinary, Sub-Normal, and
Mentally Deficient schools.

A general improvement in nutrition and other home circumstances might
tend to 'steepen' the polygon of variation, i.e. to bring more children
near the normal, or it might increase the number of children with
exceptional inherited cleverness who were able to reveal that fact, and
so 'flatten' it; and either case might make a change desirable in the
best proportion between the types of schools or even in the number of
the types.

It would be more difficult to induce a committee of politicians to agree
on the plotting of curves, representing the social advantage to be
obtained by the successive increments of satisfaction in an urban
industrial population of those needs which are indicated by the terms
Socialism and Individualism. They could, however, be brought to admit
that the discovery of curves for that purpose is a matter of observation
and inquiry, and that the best possible distribution of social duties
between the individual and the state would cut both at some point or
other. For many Socialists and Individualists the mere attempt to think
in such a way of their problem would be an extremely valuable exercise.
If a Socialist and an Individualist were required even to ask themselves
the question, 'How much Socialism'? or 'How much Individualism'? a basis
of real discussion would be arrived at--even in the impossible case that
one should answer, 'All Individualism and no Socialism,' and the
other, 'All Socialism and no Individualism.'

The fact, of course, that each step towards either Socialism or
Individualism changes the character of the other elements in the
problem, or the fact that an invention like printing, or representative
government, or Civil Service examinations, or the Utilitarian
philosophy, may make it possible to provide greatly increased
satisfaction both to Socialist and Individualist desires, complicates
the question, but does not alter its quantitative character. The
essential point is that in every case in which a political thinker is
able to adopt what Professor Marshall calls the quantitative method of
reasoning, his vocabulary and method, instead of constantly suggesting a
false simplicity, warn him that every individual instance with which he
deals is different from any other, that any effect is a function of many
variable causes, and, therefore, that no estimate of the result of any
act can be accurate unless all its conditions and their relative
importance are taken into account.

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