| The Republic
New Year Resolution
The Voiceless Put-Upon
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See also:Of Wealth and Justice
The Individual and the World
As the title implies, The Republic is about political philosophy. Although it was written nearly 2500 years ago, the questions it poses still require answers today. Many generations of people of many nations, religions, professions, and shades of political opinion have down the centuries tried one answer after another, and still the world keeps throwing up new problems or old problems in new guises.
The book begins by inquiring into the nature of Justice. Various attempts at definition emerge in discussion, but each in turn gets lost in a welter of contradictions. Subsequent chapters develop the theme.
Citizens of other nations may wish to focus their searchlights on the more obscure aspects of their own polities.
Members of this age group represent the future of the country because it is from among them that the guardians of whatever is best in British traditions, institutions, and attitudes will be drawn two or three decades hence. Members of the Voiceless Put-Upon naturally look forward to breaking free from school, to becoming independent of their parents, to taking responsibility for themselves, and to becoming established as valued contributors to society. Most of them expect to "marry" in one form or another, to set up homes, and to rear families of their own. That is the normal pattern of development we expect for those who, in twenty or thirty years' time, we shall be able to look upon as responsible respectable pillars of society and appropriate rτle models for succeeding generations of young adults. Yet all too many of them now despair of achieving these natural aspirations because of the high cost of housing and the inadequacy of their probable after-tax income. The spectre of financial hardship casts its shadow before it and blights the final years of compulsory schooling. If the Voicless Put-Upon are demoralised, we must anticipate the demoralisation of Britain.
All over the country, there are tell-tale signs of demoralised young people. Litter is everywhere. Unattended property is vandalised. Drug-abuse and binge drinking are rife. Living on meagre "benefits" (another word of dubious accuracy) often seems preferable to sweating for a wage which begins to be eroded by taxation at a level far below that required to afford a decent independent livelihood for a self-respecting young person. As I tried to point out in my Letter to the Prime Minister, young people should not have to begin to support a government until they have first become able to support themselves.
Politicians make great play of "shaving" a penny or two off the "standard rate of income tax", but the standard rate should become relevant only at a level below which all tax-payers already earn enough to care for themselves and their families. What is urgently necessary is to set a level of personal income below which no tax is payable. In an essay on Alleviating Parent Poverty, I tentatively suggested some figures I thought appropriate to conditions in May, 2007. The rate at which the pound has recently been falling with respect to the Euro suggests that significant upward revision will be required whenever this most essential reform is eventually implemented.
When we turn our attention to defence of the realm, we see further grossly wasteful expenditure apparently with the sole objective of cutting a political dash on the world stage. Is there any other rational explanation for retention of a costly nuclear "deterrent" and maintenance of forces capable of invading foreign countries to impose "democracy" upon them? Would national humanpower not be better employed protecting national insular borders against self-serving infiltrators from the EU, from the former Empire, and from any ill-governed state which emanates "refugees" who are given "asylum" on no better grounds than sentimentality? The material wealth accumulated by generations of thrifty Britons is being squandered on providing benefits for people whose parents and grand-parents have not earned them, and on handouts by way of "Overseas Aid" to dictators who salt most of it away in numbered bank accounts well away from the clutches of the hungry poor in their own countries. The even more important immaterial wealth invested in national traditions, institutions, and ethos is allowed to decay by neglect.
If these and other leakages of national wealth were plugged, there would be no difficulty in keeping members of the Voiceless Put-Upon off drink, drugs, and vandalism, setting them to enthusiastic work, and thus restoring a relatively small and manageable nation to a condition in which all its citizens could take legitimate pride.
I commend the Masonic Degree Lectures found elsewhere in these pages as representing some of the finest attributes typical of former opinion leaders in Britain and America. They, like Plato's Republic, contain many lessons for economic and political life in modern Britain, and provide a sound foundation for a state of manageable size which can be both adequately powerful and genuinely compassionate.
In future essays, I expect I shall have something to say about the ways in which individuals achieve political power and why they tend to waste so much of the revenue they extort from people who lack the will to resist them. This may in turn suggest some ways of overcoming the defects of the political system if "system" is not too polite a word for the actuality. In the meantime, I wish all readers as happy and prosperous a New Year as they can contrive in spite of their governments.