The War and Democracy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 414 pages of information about The War and Democracy.

Such constitutional provisions may be good in their way, and it may be that we should copy them.  But the question is one of secondary importance.  Whether treaties must actually be ratified by Parliament, or merely laid before Parliament for an expression of its opinion, as is commonly done in this country, the Parliament and people of Great Britain will have control over foreign policy just in the measure that they take a keen interest in it.  If they take a keen interest no statesman dependent for his position on the votes of the electorate will dare to embody in a treaty a policy of which they disapprove; while if they do not take an adequate interest, no amount of constitutional provisions will enable them to exercise an intelligent control over the actions of statesmen.

The same may be said of another expedient adopted in many countries; namely, the appointment by Parliament of Committees on Foreign Affairs, with power to call for papers and examine Ministers on their policy.  Democratic government both in foreign and internal affairs has hitherto rested on the idea that Parliament should have adequate control over the principles on which policy is conducted, but must to a large extent leave the details of administration to the executive departments which are controlled by the Ministers of the Crown.  Parliament, whether through committees or otherwise, will never be able to follow or control all diplomatic negotiations, any more than it can control all the details of the administration necessary to carry out a complicated law like the Insurance Act; and Committees of Parliament, however useful, will have no influence unless the people of the country so recognise their responsibilities in foreign politics that they will demand from the men whom they elect to Parliament a judgment and a knowledge of foreign affairs, at least as sound and well based as they now require in the case of internal affairs.

It will be seen that this imposes a very difficult task on the British electorate.  How are they to weigh foreign affairs and internal affairs against each other?  What are they to do if they approve the internal policy of a Government, but disapprove of its foreign policy, or vice versa?  Are we, for instance, to sacrifice what we believe to be our duty in foreign affairs in order that we may keep in power a Government which is carrying out what we believe to be a sound policy of internal social reform?  It is here, it would seem, that some reform is really needed.  There is one solution:  namely, to separate the control of domestic affairs on the one hand and foreign affairs on the other, placing domestic affairs in the hands of a Parliament and and a Cabinet who will stand or fall by their internal policy alone, and entrusting foreign affairs to an Imperial Parliament and an Imperial Cabinet formed of representatives not of Great Britain alone but of the whole British Empire.  This is an idea which merits the most careful consideration

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The War and Democracy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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