Friday, July 20, 2007

GKChesterton on Everyman and Democracy

Here we find why certain exotic things will not survive referenda.

DEMOCRACY in its human sense is not arbitrament by the majority; it is not even arbitrament by everybody. It can be more nearly defined as abitrament by anybody: I mean that it rests on that club-habit of taking a total stranger for granted, of assuming certain things to be inevitably common to yourself and him.

Only the things that anybody may be presumed to hold have the full authority of democracy. Look out of the window and notice the first man who walks by. The Liberals may have swept England with an overwhelming majority; but you would not stake a button that the man is a Liberal. The Bible may be read in all schools and respected in all law courts; but you would not bet a straw that he believes in the Bible. But you would bet your week's wages, let us say, that he believes in wearing clothes. You would bet that he believes that physical courage is a fine thing, or that parents have authority over children.

Of course, he might be the millioneth man who dees not believe these things; if it comes to that, he might be the Bearded Lady dressed up as a man. But these prodigies are quite a different thing from any mere calculation of numbers. People who hold these views are not a minority, but a monstrosity.

But of these universal dogmas that have full democratic authority the only test is this test of anybody: what you would observe before any new-coiner in a tavern -- that is the real English law. The first man you see from the window, he is the King of England.

GKChesterton, What's Wrong With the World

By my count, there is only one actual "statistic" in that passage--but his point is conclusively demonstrated, statistically.

HT: Chesterton Day by Day.

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