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24 januari 2010

 

GW - ... Machiavelli projects his ideal of liberty ...


-GW-


Machiavelli's preferences are always disciplined by truth.
(...)
There is no way, Machiavelli believes, to solve all or even most human problems.

     Beyond and superior to his preference among the forms of government, Machiavelli projects his ideal of "liberty". For any given group of people, "liberty", as Machiavelli uses the word, means: independence - that is, no external subjection to another group; and internally, a government by law, not by arbitrary will of any individual men, princes or commoners.
     Independence, the first condition of liberty, can be secured in the last analysis only by the armed strength of the citizenry itself, never by mercenaries or allies or money; consequently, arms are the first foundations of liberty. There is no lasting safeguard for liberty in anything but one's own strength.
     Internally, also, liberty rests on force - on the public force of the state, however, never on force exercised by private individuals or groups, which is invariably a direct threat to liberty. Guaranteed by force, then, internal government means government by law, with strict adherence to due legal process.
     As protectors of liberty, Machiavelli has no confidence in individual men as such; driven by unlimited ambition, deceiving even themselves, they are corrupted by power. But individuals can, to some extent at least and for a while, be disciplined within the established framework of laws.
     A great deal of Discourses is a commentary on this problem. In chapter after chapter, Machiavelli insists that if liberty is to be preserved: no person and no magistrate may be permitted to be above the law; there must be legal means for any citizen to bring accusations against any other citizen or any official; terms of office must be short, and must never, no matter what the inconvenience, be lengthened; punishment must be firm and impartial; the ambitions of citizens must never be allow to build up private power, but must be directed into pubic channels.
    - James Burnham, The Machiavellians, p. 78-80, 1943


Almost none of these things hold for the country I live in, Holland, which is supposed to be a free and liberal country, ruled by liberal laws that apply to all:

  • The citizens are not allowed to own arms - only a few tenthousands of policemen and military men, both groups civil servants of the government, are allowed to. [1]
  • Such laws as get accepted are proposed by one of two small groups of the ruling elite: Parliamentarians or leading civil servants serving the government. [2]
  • The Dutch drugsmafia lives and trades since four decades effectively both protected by mayors and police while remaining officially illegal, which frees them from having to pay taxes or to have the drugs they sell controlled for quality or dangers. [3]
  • Leaders of big business and leaders of the drugsmafia are effectivey above the law: They do not get arrested, or if arrested, even for major crimes, are let off with symbolical punishments. [4]
  • The Dutch High Court has decided that, as a matter of principle, civil servants do not bear any personal responsibiity. [5]
  • A person living in the dole in Holland receives per month as money to live on what good Dutch lawyers may and do demand per hour in payment for services rendered. [6]
  • Terms of political or bureaucratic office tend to be livelong, or even generations long, and only may seem to be broken because the officeholders change positions between being (nominally) a high civil servant and being (nominally) a politician in the parliament or mayor of a city or village. [7]
  • Appointments in a political office, such as that of mayors or aldermen, may last for 10 or 20 years, all of which are without real control, since those who are supposed to control them generally are from their own parties, priming themselves for a similar career. [8]
  • Punishment in Holland go by income: The higher the income, the lesser the judicial punishment, and conversely. [9]
  • Anybody who gets to be a mayor, alderman, or belongs to the top of the bureaucracy of a city, town, or ministery, can and generally does build his own power base and sources of extra income. [10]

But there are regular elections, that are nominally fair, and the majority of the citizens do believe they live in a free country, in an open society, and in a real democracy, though effectively they are illiterate in vast majority as regards science, politics, history, or almost anything else that forms part of a good civilized education, because that means of personal emancipation has also been mostly ruined by levelling down all schools and all education so that at present at least half of the people can acquire, if they have the money, some MSc. in a science like "European Studies", "Business Studies", or "Emancipation."

As to the points I sowed (mostly for skeptical Dutchmen):

[1] Even so, Dutchmen are free to defend themselves by prayer if the government - democratically of course - gets authoritarian.
[2] This group does not number more than a few hundreds persons, in practice.
[3] This is literally and precisely true: See e.g. my The Willing Executioners of The Truth About Amsterdam
[4] Albert Heyn affair (top provably swindles for hundreds of millions of euros: punished by 25.000 euros, "because they have been punished already by negative publicity"); Bouwfraude (most public building in Holland - billions of euros yearly - are priced systematically much too high by fraud: not punished at all).
[5] Pikmeer-arrest.
[6] And this applies only to the cheaper more or less good lawyers - and "good lawyers" generally will refuse to prosecute people in power, especially if these risk to be convicted of some crime if they were to be competently prosecuted.
[7] Quite a few Dutch ministers/mayors/top bureaucrats come from governing families, and had fathers and grandfathers with the same jobs even functions: Donner, De Graaf, Van Aartsen, for example.
[8] As in Amsterdam (12 years for mayors) and Limburg (18 years of mayors and aldermen).
[9] See [6] for part of the explanation. Besides, Holland is a small country, so the leading men often know each other from university, if not married into the families of other leading men.
[10] As with drugs and the inner city in Amsterdam, that are exploited by mayor and aldermen and leading civil servants from the Dutch Labour Party.

The truth about Holland gets rarely written, if that truth may in any way be painful to anyone with power in Holland, or to the average electorate's proud chauvinism. It does happen occasionally that foreigners who lived in Holland, attracted by its reputation, after they succeeded in fleeing again, also succeed in publish some of the truth about Holland, and one such book is the amusing The UnDutchables (link to the site for it).

And yes... elsewhere, from North Korea to Venezuela by way of Russia, it may be considerably or much worse indeed, since

"Presque toute l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."
   (Chamfort)

for which reason

"La meilleure Philosophie, rélativement au monde, est d'allier, ŕ son régard, le sarcasme de gaité avec l'indulgence du mépris."
    (The same)


P.S.  Ik ben ook vandaag niet zo fris, en beperkte me dus tot een fraai citaat, met enig commentaar. Wie er anders over denkt - als trotse Hollander - mag dat natuurlijk (totdat bijvoorbeeld een regering Wilders ook dat verbiedt) maar zou Over "De illusie van democratie" eens moeten doornemen.

En mocht ik morgen wat frisser zijn, dan kunt u een verhandeling verwachten in verband met Wilders of in verband met ME.

Maarten Maartensz

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