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Canadian Transport Sourcebook > All works> 52 Questions on the Nationalization of Canadian Railways > Chapter 16


Nationalization and Democracy.

It can take nothing away from our pride and confidence in Democracy, to hold, as this book holds, that the management of railways lies outside the number of things which Democracy, in its present state of development, does well.

If this book repeats the charge that Democracy,—great in the making of laws, incomparable in the administration of justice, indispensable in developing, generation after generation, something nearer the ideal type of world citizen, is yet pitifully weak in matters of executive nature, and must be so for many generations, it is because there is nothing really discreditable to Democracy in the charge.

The executive weakness of Democracy is the surest guarantee of that magnificent individualism which helped to make Foch's armies greater than Hindenburg's. It is part of the very genius of Democracy, and something of which your true Democrat—not the panicky, fair-weather friend of Democracy who asks for Bureaucracy, because Bureaucracy is, forsooth, more "efficient"—approves with quiet, knowing, inner satisfaction.

No opportunity should be missed of reminding ourselves that our old democratic usages were suspended, not abandoned in the interests of war-time unity of control and speed of decision. Those frightened "democrats" who clamor to enthrone the State as rival to the individual in business—master of industry instead of regulator of industry—are in reality capitulating to the very thing our armies fought: Bureaucracy. We have modified our old conception of Individualism. War has quickened our consciousness of mutual interdependence within Nation and Empire. But Democracy remains the ideal.

And that is the great difference: Democracy is an Ideal; Bureaucracy a condition.

Democracy a movement, an evolution toward an ideal; Bureaucracy a fixed affair!

Democracy an unfolding from within, a growth from the soil upward: Bureaucracy something stamped upon the community from the top!

Democracy producing many men, tending to grow better in type and in conditions with every generation: Bureaucracy producing supermen—and dupes.

Democracy by its blunders and its allotment of responsibility to everyone, tending to teach every individual the lessons of their combined mistakes: Bureaucracy, concentrating responsibility, leaving the rank and file, as Bismarck himself admitted, "infants in political sense."

The Democratic State is not designed to do business! It is contrived to foster the growth of the individual within the brotherhood, to reflect and focus in Parliament the experiences of the brotherhood, to deduce from these experiences new laws, or amend old ones, to administer these laws, to "regulate" individual enterprise.

These things does your true Democratic Government and fends off hotly from every side those other things which tend to weaken its disinterestedness.

That it might own, for the brotherhood, those resources upon which the citizens depend for employment—land, minerals, forests, waters, is a piece of radical thinking not all inconsistent with the nature and powers of Democracy. That it should extend the principle of regulation to other industries such as farming, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing quite as thoroughly as it now does to railways—that it might even improve the control now exercised over the railways, is not at all impossible under the principles of real Democracy.

But Nationalization of Railways is an unnecessary and a mischievous extension of the executive side of Democracy. The Government becomes then no longer the disinterested Judge and Regulator. It is made a servant and yet Master. A competitor and yet an overlord! A servant above and beyond all direct control outside itself. The Government ceases to be the plastic coat, described by Anatole France, which continually alters as the people develop, and never tears! It tends to become, instead, a Bureaucracy!

Could anything, then, be more absurd and mischievous than the policy of "Nationalization"—a menace to our prosperity!—a threat to our Democracy!

[Public Domain] Copyright/Licence: This work was first published in 1964 or earlier, and the author of the work was anonymous. To the best of my knowledge, the author of the work was unknown at the end of the year 50 years after the work was published, meaning that this work would be in the public domain in Canada, per section 6.2 of the Copyright Act. Note also this link. See disclaimers.