Thursday, 24 January 2013

What Herbert Spencer actually believed

Like J. S. Mill, Spencer struggled to make utilitarianism authentically liberal by infusing it with a demanding principle of liberty and robust moral rights. He was convinced, like Mill, that utilitarianism could accommodate rights with independent moral force and yet remain genuinely consequentialist. Subtly construed, utilitarianism can effectively mimick the very best deontological liberalism.
That's from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
 Spencer sound like a right ray of sun-shine doesn't he? No wonder Shyamjee Krishna Verma admired the old man so much or that he came to be affectionately known as Harbhat Pendse in Marathi.
But this was his confidential advice to a Japanese statesman circa 1893-
1) Restrict political representation to elderly clan heads and then too only permit a right to petition- 'You have, I believe, in Japan still surviving the ancient system of family organization. ... Under this family or patriarchal organization it habitually happens that there exists in each group an eldest male ascendant, who is the ruling authority of the group – an authority who has in many cases a despotic power to which all descendants of the first and second generations unhesitatingly submit. This organization should be made use of in your new political form. These patriarchs or heads of groups should be made the sole electors of members of your representative body. ... Several beneficial results would arise. In the first place, your electorate would be greatly reduced in number, and therefore more manageable. In the second place, the various extreme opinions held by the members of each group would be to a considerable extent mutually cancelled and made more moderate by having to find expression through the patriarch who would in a certain measure be influenced by the opinions of his descendants. And then, in the third place, and chiefly, these patriarchal electors, being all aged men, would have more conservative leanings than the younger members of their groups – would not be in favour of rash changes.
I suggest that, for three or four generations, the assembly formed of representative men elected by these patriarchal heads of groups should be limited in their functions to making statements of grievances, or of evils or what they think evils, which they wish to have remedied – not having any authority either to take measures for remedying them, or authority even for suggesting measures, but having the function simply of saying what they regard as grievances. 

2) Permit no free trade or foreign direct investment- Apparently you are proposing by revision of the treaty powers with Europe and America “to open the whole Empire to foreigners and foreign capital.” I regard this as a fatal policy. If you wish to see what is likely to happen, study the history of India. Once let one of the more powerful races gain a point d’appui [Online editor’s note: a base or secure location; a foothold. – RTL] and there will inevitably in course of time grow up an aggressive policy which will lead to collisions with the Japanese; these collisions will be represented as attacks by the Japanese which must be avenged; forces will be sent from America or Europe, as the case may be; a portion of territory will be seized and required to be made over as a foreign settlement; and from this there will grow eventually subjugation of the entire Japanese Empire. I believe that you will have great difficulty in avoiding this fate in any case, but you will make the process easy if you allow any privileges to foreigners beyond those which I have indicated.

3) Don't permit inter-marriage with foreigners. To your remaining question, respecting the inter-marriage of foreigners and Japanese, which you say is “now very much agitated among our scholars and politicians,” and which you say is “one of the most difficult problems,” my reply is that, as rationally answered, there is no difficulty at all. It should be positively forbidden. It is not at root a question of social philosophy. It is at root a question of biology. There is abundant proof, alike furnished by the inter-marriages of human races and by the inter-breeding of animals, that when the varieties mingled diverge beyond a certain slight degree the result is invariably a bad one in the long run. I have myself been in the habit of looking at the evidence bearing on this matter for many years past, and my conviction is based upon numerous facts derived from numerous sources. This conviction I have within the last half hour verified, for I happen to be staying in the country with a gentleman who is well-known as an authority on horses, cattle and sheep, and knows much respecting their inter-breeding; and he has just, on inquiry, fully confirmed my belief that when, say of different varieties of sheep, there is an inter-breeding of those which are widely unlike, the result, especially in the second generation, is a bad one – there arises an incalculable mixture of traits, and what may be called a chaotic constitution. And the same thing happens among human beings – the Eurasians in India, and the half-breeds in America, show this.

So there we have it. Political Philosophy is about pretending to be all sunshine and roses and then, sub rosa, being a bigger asshole than the worst sort of elderly misogynist, red-neck, drunk.

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