THE invention of a new label is much to be deprecated unless just cause can be shown for its use. The term 'bio-politics' can be justified by a consideration of its meaning and the aspect of politics which it has been designed to explain and characterise. The present condition of the nations of Europe gives much cause for apprehension. There is a general unrest, an almost universal discontent and distrust of existing methods, and, unfortunately, but few honest attempts at a policy of reconstruction. Everyone is nowadays iconoclastic. This party and that party are useless and must be abolished. One man calls for a 'business', Government, which is as vague in its meaning as the blessed word 'Mesopotamia.' Another joins a society of dilettante windbags who talk and talk and talk about social degeneracy and do nothing. Others find attraction in wild schemes of universal suffrage, of redistribution of wealth, and other chimeras as impracticable as they are sensational. Either England is in need of a severe war and a sound thrashing, or else she must begin to reconstruct her home policy from a logical and obvious basis. The inevitable result of democracy and particularly is this noticeable in the case of a democracy semi-ochlocratic is a system of cast-iron bureaucracy in which everything is subordinated to some futile red-tapeish procedure. Democracy, in fact, is mediocrity in excelsis in all meanings of the words particularly in the matter of high places. The choice of Mr. Runciman as Minister of Agriculture is simply the illustration of this fatal habit of endeavouring to find places for men, instead of men for places. By the term 'bio-politics' we mean a policy which should consider two aspects of the nation: in the first place, the increase of population and competition; in the second place, the individual attributes of the men who are available for filling places of responsibility in the State.

There can be little doubt that before very long every State will have to take in hand seriously the question of increased population and examine accurately the places and classes in which increase is most pronounced. The present troubles with hysterical women are greatly due to the excess of the female over the male population, this superfluity having nothing to do and doing it extremely ill. There is clearly a case where legislation might rationally diminish the number of female births, and thus leave enough women to go round without superfluity. Or, again, the superfluous women might be compelled to leave the country by a process of lot drawing - a method employed by the Athenians for selecting their archons, and one which can be regarded as the result of their mature consideration. Again, the absurd procedure adopted at the present time in the case of the production of abortion should be abandoned. If a woman is with child and does not want it, it is impossible to see why, when at her request a doctor undertakes an operation at present called illegal, he should not only be permitted but actually empowered to do so. The production of illegitimate children is one of those phenomena which will always occur so long as the law stands as it is, and there can be little doubt that bastardy is not only a great hindrance in life, but is also liable to swell the numbers of those who, for want of something better to do, turn their hands to crime and other ignoble pursuits.

The upkeep of lunatics and criminal lunatics is another question which must be attacked. Unless some pratical use can be made of them for experiment and the understanding of the causes of their disease, then a State lethal chamber is the best way out of the difficulty. Once we do away with the pomp and ceremony and ethical and moral lamentations over death, crime and other evils, we shall be able to treat them in a rational way without endeavouring to extract self satisfaction from the failure of the ungodly. There is no panacea, and we do not suppose for a moment that bio-politics is all-in-all and the end-all of suffering. But it is highly essential to consider the men themselves and avoid handing over to a lamp-lighter, for example, the care of the town clock. The search for good men, though difficult, is not hopeless; and were so much ingenuity displayed in the search as is shown by the promoters of the Insurance and Stamp Bills, good men would have been found long ago. Above all, the fewer orators we have the better. We do not want public speeches and canvassing and the exuberance of verbose and emotional idealists. Far better to leave the people alone who do not come voluntarily to vote-and to vote, not because the man is a Liberal or otherwise, but because he is a good man and has some knowledge of how to govern.

*First published in The New Age, 28th December, 1911

little site banner