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The English Constitution
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Now then, Bagehot, like Madison, describes the operation of a modern liberal regime. The trick for founders of liberal government is to produce a government that permits the people civil liberties, but does not permit the people to abuse those liberties, or in the words of Madison, to create a government that is "democratic yet decent". Madison and the American Founders accomplish this end by so constructing the institutions of government that mens' selfish natures will be turned against each other ("ambition is made to check ambition"), rather than united in tyrannical concert.
Bagehot too describes the operation of a system of government that rules by the consent of the governed, yet which does so by restraining the vices of those who ought not to rule. Bagehot argues that the English government is moderate and decent because of a division of government into the "dignified" and the "efficient" parts, and a "noble lie" about the relationship between the two. It is this noble lie that permits the government to operate without the interference of those who would turn it away from the public good. But to discover the noble lie, you'll have to read Bagehot.
Professor of Political Science
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book stimulates the little gray cells. Every time I watch Prime Minister's Questions, the superiority of the Cabinet system over the Presidential system is painfully obvious. Read morePublished on March 19, 2006 by J. France
Walter Bagehot was a journalist and a social and political thinker of the middle Victorian period (1850s and 1860s). Read morePublished on January 1, 2003 by Boris Aleksandrovsky