British Parliament and Big Ben, London

This brings me to another small point. A couple of elections ago, an opposition candidate came to my door with her 20-year-old son in tow, to canvass my vote. The son said something derogatory about the incumbent Member of Parliament, who was standing for reelection. I pointed out that, in the then-recent scandal about parliamentary expenses, our Member had come out very well: He had not claimed a single penny in expenses.

“€œThat’s because he’s a rich man,”€ said the 20-year-old, assuming that for me the word “€œrich”€ would be a moral accusation.

“€œIs that not an argument for having only rich men in Parliament?”€ I replied. “€œBetter a Parliament of rich men than one of men who enter Parliament to become rich.”€

Poor young man! I was only teasing him a little, and getting him, still a university student, to exercise his mind and escape for a moment from the clichés with which that capacious instrument had probably been filled from birth. 

My point was not entirely frivolous, however; rich men, provided they start their political careers in their 50s at the earliest, are the best suited for political life. They are more likely to accept the role of servitor of their nation than master of it; more likely, but not certain, of course, for nothing human is certain. An obvious exception comes immediately to mind, but an exception does not refute a general rule that is acknowledged to be no more than rough and ready. “€œIt is the mark of an educated man,”€ said Aristotle, “€œto look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits.”€ And while I am at it, let me quote Aristotle again, this time on the subject of young men and politics, highly relevant when there is some agitation afoot to reduce the voting age to 16 (for the moment, years rather than months):

A young man is not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends to follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable, because the end aimed at is not knowledge but action.



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