Thursday, December 25, 2003


I have often made the point that the Left/Right divide in the English-speaking world is largely a divide between the traditional English form of political organization -- which was decentralized and consultative -- versus a desire for something like an all-powerful oriental despotism. Conservatives like the traditional limited power of the centre while Leftists want to centralize all power in their hands. I trace the English tradition of limited central power all the way back to the primitive German tribes (Angles and Saxons) who conquered Britannia 1500 years ago and made it into England.

An Indian reader has noted my arguments to that effect and says that the political organization of the early Aryan settlers of North India was similar to that of the early Anglo-Saxons: "Far from the widely held perception of 'Oriental despotism', their political system required the king ('Rajan') to act in a manner which may be described as a constitutional monarchy of sorts. He was assisted in administration by two assemblies called 'Sabha' and 'Samiti' which could even depose him if he was found to be tyrannical or currupt. Hereditary succession was not guaranteed. Later of course with the absorption of small kingdoms into a large 'Magadhan' Empire - which was strong enough to deter Alexander from invading Central India -- the 'Rajan' became 'Samrat' or Emperor and the assemblies gradually became redundant".

And Ancient Rome too started out as a republic with a powerful Senate and elected rulers. And the ancient Greeks are widely credited with having invented democracy -- though as all readers of Thucydides know, the direct form of democracy that the Athenians favoured was disastrous for them. So it seems that our good luck (or good management) as Anglo-Saxons is simply that original Indo-European traditions and systems survived longer among us than elsewhere.


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