The Study of Man: The Role of Brains in the Total State
A PERENNIAL problem of government concerns the relation between men of knowledge and men of power in the shaping of social policy. The best-known answer of classical antiquity-never, however, tried out-was that proposed by Plato in The Republic: men of knowledge should be kings and men of power should be their guardians. It remained for Machiavelli, fifteen centuries later, to describe the actual conditions of governance: a man rules by virtue of his power; knowledge is but an instrument which, if he is wise, he will use to insure the stability of his rule. Machiavelli thus reverses the Platonic perspective. Government is by power, which “guards” such knowledge as it finds useful.
Democracy complicated but did not ultimately change this formulation. Under the system of democracy, power is compromised by suffrage and knowledge by opinion. Government becomes a process of brokerage in the opinion market, with the politician serving as the professional broker. The skills needed to mediate power conflicts of interest and desire were those acquired by knowledge of law and experience of affairs. Hence we find the lawyer figuring most prominently in modem political elites. To illustrate: of the 221 members of the American Cabinet since 1890, over half were lawyers; eliminating Attorneys General, who must be lawyers, still leaves 43.9 per cent. A comparable situation prevails in Britain, France, and pre-Nazi Germany.
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