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Gorgeous & Practical Ideas #4 - Political Parties

Mark Steyn relates a story about the Duke of Edinburgh visiting a country in Africa several years after its independence from Britain:

His Royal Highness was amused to find that the parliamentary chamber still had benches arranged on two sides, London-style, and remarked to the President-for-Life that the seating arrangements were surely a trifle absurd given that under the constitution of the new People's Republic only one side was permitted.

This was perhaps not the most culturally sensitive quip, and the Kleptocrat-for-Life was sufficiently chippy about these things that he felt obliged to respond. He explained earnestly that his country had learned from the mistakes of the British: having a lot of different parties simply meant you wasted too much time arguing with each other. Under his nation's evolved form of democracy, lots of different views were still allowed, but now they were brought together within one party, which was much more effective.

Nonsense, of course. As Lord Acton remarked in 1887, "The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. . .Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It was Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury) and his supporters who transformed government by starting the world’s first political party, the Whigs, between 1679 and 1681. Shaftesbury had a turbulent career, supporting both sides of Britain's Civil War, though not simultaneously. John Locke saved his life, and in return, Shaftesbury helped Locke, whose ideas on freedom would be crucial to the history of liberty in Britain and America. Shaftesbury saw that a political party could harness energy that would otherwise be dissipated, and effect change in government.

There is not a political party in America that I have not at one time loathed. But despite the obvious negatives associated with modern parties, a political party can channel and magnify an individual’s energy, create a coherent national policy, criticize an inadequate one, and protect and sustain freedom.

There is, of course, one thing a political party has to have, and that, as you have already guessed, is a nation. The Liberty Timeline shows how the Brits created a free nation.

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The section on the EU shows what Brits are are doing about a superstate that threatens their country and all their political parties.


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