Diversity requires a common bottom line

Fascinating piece from Martin Wolf at the FT. Evidently he is not thinking of Northern Ireland, but there may be relevant lessons to be drawn from his argument. He praises British multiculturalism but warns that it has limits and that no political entity can hold with a certain number of key requisites to retain the loyality of its entire population:

Human beings, said Aristotle, are political animals. For a political community to flourish there must at least be agreement on the rules of the game. The notion of politics here is a broad one. It includes the methods for choosing the holders of executive, judicial and legislative power. It covers what they are entitled to do. It also concerns the rights of individuals against the state and fellow citizens. It concerns, in short, both the legitimacy and limits of power.

A society without agreement on these questions will be either repressive or on the verge of civil war. Alas, neither is an abnormal condition: much of Latin America oscillates between one state and the other. The UK, however, is quite different. It has a claim to be the most successful of today’s relatively large polities to have evolved from pre-modern times. Its political culture has sparked imitations across the globe, for it is the birthplace of parliamentary democracy.

What then is the contemporary political culture of this polity? First, political authority derives from the people, to whom the government is accountable and by whom it is elected. Second, the law is human, not divine. Third, people accept the outcome of elections as legitimate. Fourth, citizens have an obligation of obedience to legitimately exercised authority. Fifth, individuals not groups, have political rights. Sixth, individuals are free in their political and religious opinions. Seventh, adult citizens, both male and female, have equal political and legal rights.

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