Democracy Shamocracy


MattInShanghai recently commented:

I noticed that you also have been caught up by the “expenses scandal” which seems to be gripping the UK at the moment. But without resorting to “conspiracy theories”, think about this. Fiddling of expenses by our elected officials must have been going on for decades, at the very least, and thousands of people had to have been aware of it (including all of the media). Why has the “scandal” been exposed just now?? I mean, even if the PM hired his brother to clean his house at taxpayers’ expense, surely this did not cause the UK economy to collapse. Maybe it has something to do with a (temporary) split between the politicians and their masters? The politicians, currently in power, facing immanent defenestration might have gotten a misguided idea that going after some fat cats might just restore their street-cred enough to get reelected. If so, they were certainly put back in their proper place. Just a thought…

Tiberius agrees with this assessment, and  posted  this on a recent Cynicus Economicus blog:

I agree that Gordon Brown is a pragmatist: he understands well the limits of State power in a globalised world, and the power of international finance to make or break governments and their people. His ‘problem’ is that he has far less ability to shape public opinion than the ‘vested interests’ do, and, now both have turned against him, he has become unable to deliver the political stability on which the system relies.

Whether that next step towards stability will be one of fascism or democracy is the worry.

Why then has Tiberius even bothered to comment on the recent expenses scandal, if he realises that, in reality, it is just a power game?

In order to explain this, it will be necessary for Tiberius to expound some of the tenets of his political philosophy. He asks, Weary Surfer, for your patience.

Democracy Shamocracy


The essay that follows will seek to challenge a piece of what might be considered ‘received wisdom’; a falsehood so pervasive that it is passed over with little comment when uttered by our so-called political commentators: the illusion of a UK democracy.

This illusion constitutes one of the four foundational myths on which the civilized life of our country is based: common misapprehensions that  may pass for ‘common sense’, but which are, in reality, nothing more than symptoms of a collective self-delusion.

Tiberius believe it to be incumbent on every free-thinking person to take the time to challenge these falsities via a course of what Noam Chomsky refers to as “intellectual self-defence”.

These foundational myths, from which every rational person should seek to disavow themselves, can be listed as follows:

Myth 1: The UK is a “democracy” (in any meaningful sense of that word)

Myth 2: The UK is (and historically always has been) a force for good in the world

Myth 3: There exists in the UK a free, independent, and liberal press

Myth 4: The UK has a politically-neutral educational system

The remainder of this blog will challenge the first, and probably most insidious, of these myths.

The Myth of Democracy

The first thing to note is that most people think of democracy in binary terms: a country either is or is not democratic. This is a mistake and it should instead be more appropriately viewed as a spectrum, some countries being ‘more democratic’ than others.

In terms of a pure democracy, the UK has never been democratic. There was never a time when the entire population of the UK got to vote on all the major issues of their time, from distribution of wealth to foreign policy. The system that currently exists was never agreed upon by the masses but, rather, has developed incrementally from the system that went before it.

A few hundred years ago we lived under a theocracy – it was a system under which people had no power, save for those born into the ruling class. From there we achieved a system under which the landowners ruled the country, this was ostensibly called “democracy” but it was severely limited. However, if nothing else, it began to sow the popular seeds of what democracy could be.

Now, there is no denying that the system is “better” than the one it has replaced; nor that certain democratic victories have been won over the last few centuries. But to go further than this and imply that we have reached a democratic society, in an ‘end of history’ sense, is to misunderstand what democracy would look like: either through naivety or deliberate obfuscation from the status-quo.

At this point, some may consider this to be a purely semantic argument, and in some respects it is: but this is not to say that it is not an important one. The words that we use to represent our reality can serve as a limitation on our thoughts, quelling our capacity to imagine what could otherwise be. It’s Newspeak, but less transparently so.

But the important point to note is this: It is possible to oppose the current system and not be ‘anti-democratic’.

Democracy Renamed

If the UK is not a democracy, then what is it?

Technically, in sociological parlance, it is what is known as a polyarchy. The term was first coined in 1956 by the political scientist Robert A. Dahl in his book A Preface to Democratic Theory

Noam Chomsky defines the term thus:

[A polyarchy is a] system in which power resides in the hands of those who [James Madison] called “the wealth of the nation, the responsible class of men”. And the rest of the population is fragmented, distracted, allowed to participated every couple of years  – to come and say “Yes, thank you – you can continue for the next four years” and they have a little choice among the responsible men/wealth of the nation.

That’s the way the country was founded: it was founded on the principle (explained by Madison in the Constitutional Convention) that the primary goal of government is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.

Chomsky reinforces this point by saying of America:

It is not a democratic society, and it was not intended to be.

This statement is equally applicable on this side of the Atlantic.

Yet that’s not how we see things: we tend to envisage ourselves as the masters (or mistresses) of our own destiny. This is for two reasons : firstly, this is how we are encouraged to see things (those pesky myth-makers!) and secondly, that is how we want to see things.

The human brain seems always to do its best to make a tolerable interpretation of any situation; we don’t want to face the reality that we are a subordinated mass supporting a corrupt (and often violent) oligarchy, so instead we try and identify with our superiors (“we’re all British after all”). We’re like an entire nation displaying Stockholm-syndrome and ‘democracy’ is the hood placed over us to blind us to our predicament.

In a society such as ours,  what passes for ‘democracy’ is the opium of the people.

Un-Representative Democracy

We sometimes hear our society described as “representative democracy”, under which the population ‘surrenders’  their right to determine law and policy to elected representatives, to whom the government is directly answerable.

In practice, popular rule under such systems comes down to a question of the accountability and responsiveness of the government to the people, via both their formal representatives and other informal channels of public opinion, i.e. interest groups, political lobbying, media campaigns.

Let us leave aside the question of whether the population ever actually possessed the rights they are asked to ‘surrender to the system’, and look instead at how the system works in principle.

Representative democracy is generally considered to presuppose the following:

  • Free and fair elections on the basis of universal suffrage;
  • Guaranteed freedoms of association and expression, independent of governmental control;
  • Openness of government action to public scrutiny;
  • An effective jury system;
  • Equality of access for citizens to the means of influencing public decision-making.

Now, it is usually agreed in sociological circles that the ‘liberal democracies’ of the West meet the first four of these criteria (though to differing degrees) but fail to meet the fifth.

“Not too bad”, you might say, “Four out of Five is a respectable score” and, to a certain extent, Tiberius would agree (he’d certainly rather live in a society with these freedoms than without them).

However, if we examine it closer, we can see that it is definitely a crucial 20% that we appear to be missing out on.

If we acknowledge that the five requirements above do not exist in isolation from one another then we can speculate on the effects of the absence of this fifth factor, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • In a society without “Equality of access for citizens to the means of influencing public decision-making”, who decided what constitutes a “Free and fair election”? Is, for example, the UK’s current ‘first past the post system’ a fair election?
  • In the absence of a written constitution, how can the public ensure that “Guaranteed freedoms of association and expression” remain “independent of governmental control”? What can we do about the fact that the UK government is currently kerbing our rights in the name of anti-terrorism if we have no means of creating a popular movement?
  • What is the point of “Openness of government action to public scrutiny” if, after scrutinising the action, there is no possibility of changing it or holding the government accountable to it? Knowledge may be power, but isn’t knowledge without the possibility of action simply powerlessness?
  • Who defines whether a jury system is “effective” and does it become ‘ineffective’ simply because it is not producing the results the government would like? The UK government is currently trying to kerb the right to trial by jury on the ground that it is ineffective – is this democratic?

So the reality is that we live in society in which some people have more access to the means of influencing decision-making then others; the state is systematically biased, and the resources to affect outcomes are heavily concentrated among elite groups (dominant classes /special interests).

For those people who lack the means of influence all of the above-stated prerequisites for the “representative democracy” become, in essence, articles of faith. Citizens of representative democracies are left to hope that elections remain fair, that governments continue to allow freedoms of association and remain open to scrutiny, and that the jury system continues to be seen as effective,  since in the event of any changes there would be very little they could do about it anyway.

The reason for widespread apathy is that any other response is a waste of time; and for people who do wish for society to change (like Tiberius), this political reality means that they have to become a more pragmatic, and less idealistic.

Tiberius will attempt to explain his position by highlighting an infinitely greater scandal, one for which New Labour will be remembered long after the dust has settled on moats and duck houses: the invasion of Iraq.


Here in Leeds, we have five New Labour MPs:  Battle, Benn, Hamilton, Mundie, Truswell. (Note: plus one Liberal Democract, Mulholland, who shall be ignored for this analysis)

According to (TWFY) only one of these MPs (Battle) was “strongly against” the war in Iraq, two (Hamilton & Truswell) were “moderately against” it, while the other two (Benn & Mundie) were both “very strongly for”.

The war – as any legally-minded person can tell you – was illegal, and brought about by a multitude of lies (for best analysis of which Tiberius recommends Media Len’s ‘Myth of The Liberal Media‘, ch4.)

So, given the information that has come to light since then – dodgy-dossiers, bogus weapons claims – one would think an investigation into what brought this country to a war in violation of UN protocol would be a priority for the guardians of our democracy.

But instead, now one can see all of our city’s Labour MPs are singing from the  same hymn sheet – with four voting “Very strongly against” an investigation into the Iraq war, and one merely “Strongly against” (Truswell). Even Battle, who strongly opposed the Iraq war, is very strongly against an investigation into it.

This, to Tiberius’ mind, is a real scandal.

Now, it is, of course, lamentable that we happen to live in a country which is more upset by claims for duck houses and moats than by the illegal invasion of a sovereign state.  But given this political reality, what should one do if they hope for some kind of accountability?

Tiberius believes that you have to work with what you’ve got; if there is no appetite to hold people to account for murder, you have to make doubly sure you prosecute when there is evidence of theft; even Al Capone was only take down on the charge of tax evasion.

Now, of course, there are dangers inherent in such a strategy: what you consider an opportunity to make things more progressive, may be seen by others as an opportunity for reaction.This is why Tiberius wouldn’t base this attack purely on moral indignation, but rather use satire: taking the piss out of those politicians that have been taking the piss out of their constituents for years (even if in some cases the facts are so bizarre in some cases they are almost beyond parody).

If the BNP were voted in as a result of this tide of anger then this would be a disaster, and one that would call into question the tactics employed. Tiberius, however, likes to give the British public more credit than that, and will highlight this using a local example.

None Of The Above

Yesterday’s YEP, ran a feature on Anne Bateson – a boxing coach from Leeds who “is setting up a ‘protest party’ to allow voters to register their frustration with the mainstream parties at the ballot box.”

Her party, None Of The Above (NOTA) is:

appealing for the votes of people who are so fed up with politicians that they would either not vote or spoil their ballot papers.

In other words, it is an apolitical movement, offering no solutions, just the opportunity to register disillusionment with the system.

Not only this, but:

If a NOTA candidate won a constituency, he or she would immediately resign and force a by-election.

(Though of course, as things stand (and as millions of New Labour voters know) there would be no legal obligation for them to do so: a manifesto pledge is as worthless as the paper it is written on.)

Ms Bateson argues that this would force mainstream candidates to listen more carefully to voters.

So again, this is devoid of any real political content, instead merely trying to impell our MPs to behave a bit more appropriately.

But this is not to say that Ms. Bateson’s means of protest has no value: by politicising the populace it creates the possibility for a groundswell movement for genuine democratic change – as people create spaces for discussion, they become more engaged with the system. Once they do this it is inevitable that, to a certain extent they will begin to realise the system’s true nature and the limits of their own influence over it.

However, the effect could perhaps be the opposite of that intended: it could be that the more people understand of how the system works, the more disgusted they become with it in its entirety; they desire a ‘strong, incorruptible leader’, who will promise to ‘clean up the system’ and look out for the interests of the ‘working-class’. Without wishing to overstate the risk too much, let’s not forget that Hitler was elected in a climate of similar political and economic turmoil.

Revolution Or Revulsion?

So this is the issue of our time: whether to seize the opportunity to  press for a meaningful democracy or to do away with the system entirely. In short, Democratic Revolution or Democratic Revulsion?

As MattInShanghai alludes, the latter will always be the preferred option for the vested interests – the newspaper moguls, the shareholders, the financial elites – because corporations will, by definition, prefer a fascistic model of society.

And as funding for New Labour vanishes and the party slides ever closer to bankruptcy, it will be interesting to see where the money goes next; following the financial trial inevitably tells you who the elites are backing for symbolic governance.

So without some understanding of the myths they live under, without some kind of class-analysis, the British public will remain like a neutered cat: trapped in infantile pursuits, rolling over on its back for its owners’ pleasure, distracted by the simplest of things dangled enticingly infront of it. Yes, they may scratch their keeper once in a while for some perceived slight, but they’ll soon forgive – or if the damage is too great, move on to someone else who seems to promise better care.

But times are changing. In our internet age the cultural spells that we live under are easier to break, we become less vulnerable to attempts at bewitchment by those with power. If we are indeed a neutered cat then we’re one that still has a chance to grow some balls.

And, while always mindful of the victories that we have won and the attempts by power to roll these back, we must use these times of uncertainty to challenge the assumptions of this “shamocracy” that we all live under.

Instead of looking for celebrity saviours, or naively thinking that our representatives would behave better if only they knew how Gosh Darn Angry We Are, Tiberius thinks it’s high time we became our own politicians.


Minimum Wage Debate

A recent post by Cynicus Economicus has sparked a debate on the merit of the minimum wage between Tiberius and fellow commentator (and prospective Conservative councillor) Steve Tierney.

For practical reasons, the exchange has been moved here.


You ask: “Do you support the Minimum Wage?” and then suggest that if I don’t I must not be humanitarian.

Well, clumsily as ever, that is not exactly what Tiberius meant to suggest: it depends on what grounds a person rejects the Minimum Wage.

In practical terms, Tiberius’ own view is that, within the current system as it stands, a person cannot both object to a ‘Minimum Wage’ and defend that objection on humanitarian grounds.

Cynicus himself accepts this moral compromise in his post on benefit reform, where he writes:

At this stage it would be easy to characterise this point of view as heartless […] as a reader you have to either accept the economic rationale behind what I have said, or condemn me as a heartless monster.

And though Tiberius wouldn’t use such emotive terms, he cannot but describe as ‘non-humanitarian’ the following sentiments:

The UK can simply not support the ‘luxury’ of a system that lets people stay idle on benefits.

So what happens to those who exceed their allowance of one year of benefits? Quite simply, they will need to fall back on charity, friends and family. In the traditional usage of the word, they will be destitute.

What about a young person who is having trouble finding their first job? I have already outlined the education system in my previous post. If a person is unable to find a job then they will have the option of continuing education, provided they can be funded for this. If they can not either find an educational opportunity or work, they will be destitute and reliant on charity, friends and family.

That, to Tiberius’ mind, is no way to set out a road to a healthy society.

[Note: What Tiberius admires about Cynicus is his intellectual honesty in this regard: he diagnoses the problem, he acknowledges that his prescription will not be popular, yet he proposes the treatment anyway.

But does Tiberius agree with him? No, the more of Cynicus’ work Tiberius reads, the more he realise the fundamentally disagreement in their outlooks – economically, politically, and socially.

This, however, is precisely why Tiberius enjoys reading CE’s blog so much: he learns far more by listening to people with a perspective so opposed to his own than he ever could visiting sites where his own political biases are simply confirmed.]

Returning to the Minimum Wage, Tiberius believes that in this system as it stands you either accept that the labour of each citizen has minimum value that cannot be undercut, or you do not. Now, at a more abstract level, he also reject a Minimum Wage – but only on the same grounds that he rejects all forms of wage-slavery: that one cannot put a price on human labour, and man should always be an ends, and not a means. But that is purely theoretical economic system and probably has no relevance for what we are discussing.

[As a (possibly) interesting side note Tiberius’ position is not even a particularly radical one; a person of a more revolutionary persuasion may would agree with the argument that we should scrap the Minimum Wage ( and other forms social security) but for the opposite reason implied by Cynicus’ example.

What such a person may argue is that all forms of forms of social benefit ultimately serve as nothing more than a States’ buying-off of it’s people’s ‘revolutionary potential’.

An analogy would be that people in the Capitalist system are born into a prison of servitude which they are ‘naturally’ averse to. Therefore, in order to keep their inmates pacified and less inclined to riot, it serves the gaoler’s interest to furnish the cells with a few ‘luxuries’ to distract the inmates from their predicament. Take these away these provisions and the incarcerated masses begin to notice the bars of the institution, and begin to fight for their emancipation.

The more pure ideologues would go further than this and say this is the only way a free, equal, ‘revolutionary society’ can be born.

Tiberius puts little stock in such “out of the ashes” rhetoric, however, he does have sympathy for the argument that anyone seeking to eliminate all kind of State subsidies, is unwittingly or not, promoting a revolutionary agenda; this is why some on the ‘far-left’ supported Ron Paul presidency ]

To return to practical matters though: removing any of the government provisions that ensure people have enough money to feed themselves, that families do not go destitute, that people are able to maintain a minimum standard of living, cannot, Tiberius believes, be morally defended. (An illustration of this point was provided last year when a Ron Paul-supporter wrote to Noam Chomsky saying that: “I really can’t find differences between your positions and his” and was politely schooled by the Professor on the vast gulf in the men’s beliefs; it is worth reading it full here.)

That being said, Tiberius is always interested to hear from others who do not believe that this is the case…

Cynicus Chomsky-us

Tiberius recently posted a comment piece regarding a recent article by Cynicus Economicus.

Though the two agree in most respects, the comment attempted to identify the root cause of their diverging viewpoints via a tasty analogy.

Cynicus himself was kind enough to respond to the post directly and what follows is an attempt to clarify (and rebut) some of the points he makes – so unless you’ve read the original comment and Cynicus’ reply, it will mean very little to you (but you can catch up here)

In his reply, Cynicus (politely) suggests that the difference in approach is due to a misunderstanding on Tiberius’ part:

The error in your critique is as follows; the current system of interventions and bailouts is what allows the unholy alliance. Take away the guarantees, the special position of particular banks, the bailouts and so forth, and you have a different situation. That is a situation where the politicians and banks at the top do not have the power to win.

However, while Tiberius understands that the “system of interventions and bailouts is what allows the unholy alliance”, what he disagrees with is that this system is ‘current’ – if this word is used to imply that there used to be a different system.

Tiberius does take this to be Cynicus’ meaning as he goes on to say: “Take away the guarantees, the special position of particular banks, the bailouts and so forth, and you have a different situation” – which, by implication again, suggests that these phenomena are new and that, by removing them, we shall be returning to another system which Cynicus regards as preferential (the ‘different situation’)

If this is indeed what Cynicus is implying then it is,  Tiberius believes, an error – an understandable error no doubt, as many people (especially economically-minded people) believe in the myth of the free market – but an error nonetheless.

What Cynicus calls the ‘current system’ of Capitalism is in fact the only system of Capitalism that has ever existed in the Western economies; the ‘unholy alliance’ he identifies is, therefore, not a new arrangement, but rather, as old as Capitalism itself (and, in differing forms, a great deal older that that).

Taking, for the sake of argument, this to be Cynicus’ position – that this system of interventions and bailouts is new – Tiberius will now attempt to show why he believes it to be a mistake. Or rather,  he’ll get the world’s leading intellectual to do it for him.

Cynicus Chomsky-us

In a recent interview , Noam Chomsky discusses the bailouts in the US and the need for the newly-nationalised banks to become more regulated. At one point the interviewer, agreeing with Chomsky, adds: “Especially when it’s all public money that at this point is running the system!”. Chomsky’s response [starting 4m39s in] is revealing:

Chomsky: Well the fact of the matter is that it almost always is public money. So take, say, the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, how did he become the richest man in the world? Well a lot of it is public money. In fact, places like where we’re sitting right now [MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology] – that’s where computers were developed, the internet was developed, software was developed – either here on in similar places it was almost entirely publicly funded…

The way the system works fundamentally is that the public bears the cost and takes the risks, and the profit is privatised

Interviewer: Which is what we’re seeing now with the whole banking bailout…

Chomsky: Well there’s alot of talk about it now because it’s the financial institutions and it’s very visible – but it happens all the time.

So, Chomsky is suggesting that the bailouts to which Cynicus objects – far from being a bastardisation of the current system- are in fact an integral part of that system; they are endemic to it; the system could not have gotten to this point without them.

That most people do not recognise this is testament to the propagandised view of the world that these Captains of Industry and Barons of Finance would have us believe in. It is, nonetheless, a fantasy and Chomsky elaborates on this basic point at some length in a lecture called ‘Free Market Fantasies’ which you listen to here.

So, when Cynicus says:

As such, ‘yes’, the freemarket system does work. ‘Yes’, those at the top are profiting. ‘No’, they do not do so due to a freemarket system but as the result of interventions and distortions by the government.

He is creating a false dichotomy – there is no ‘freemarket system’ in the West; never has been, probably never will be. This is not to say that a freemarket system has not been tried elsewhere – it is forced on the developing world through IMF conditionalities – but it is not what we have here.

Furthermore, when Cynicus says:

…it has nothing to do with free markets. It is the close relationship between banks built upon regulation, and the mutual interdependence of the government and banks that is the problem

He is only half right: he correctly identifies the problem, but mistakenly (Tiberius believes) implies that it is due to an error in the system, rather than something that is, in reality, integral to it. Simply put: No Western Capitalist system exists (or has ever existed) other than the one he (correctly) identifies as problematic.

Chomsky again, elsewhere:

As for Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations, well, first of all the idea of an unsubsidised – not state-subsided – capitalism we don’t even bother talking about that. It has existed: it exists in a good part of the third world – which is why the third world looks the way it does.

It has never existed in any developed society for a very simple reason: the wealthy and the powerful won’t allow it – just as Adam Smith understood. They will use the levers of power to make sure that State power subsidises them – that’s why England developed, that’s why the United States developed, that’s why France developed, that’s why Germany developed, that’s why Japan developed; and in fact every developed society has developed just that way. That’s one of the clichés of economic history.

So we don’t talk about that anymore – because it’s non-existent, it never will exist except for people who have it rammed down their throats.

Now am I in favour of it? That’s another question – like in some mythical world would I like to see laissez-faire capitalism?

Well, only under the conditions described by Adam Smith [..] and, if you look at his argument for markets it’s pretty clear (maybe the argument’s right, maybe it’s wrong) but it’s clear what it was: that under conditions of perfect liberty markets will lead to perfect equality – that’s why markets are good; they will lead to perfect equality and they will not force people to subject themselves to outside orders – so they become less-than-human

Well, if that were possible, maybe so. But it’s not on the cards – and I don’t know if that argument works anyway, it probably doesn’t; the argument was fallacious.

But the goal was clear: the goal was a society based on enlightened values..

There is no way that Cynicus can say “‘yes’, the free-market system does work” because, the fact of the matter is, we don’t have one – so how could he possibly know? He may add the words ‘in theory’ to the statement, but then ‘in theory’ can even make Communism seem plausible.

So, while Cynicus says:

Take away such interference and there is no unholy alliance.

Tiberius would say:

“such interference” is the system, “the unholy alliance” are the system; and no one with the institutional power to do so is going to ‘take away’ anything – you may as well hope for a turkey to organise your Christmas dinner this year!

To put this in the most simple way possible:

Cynicus & Chomsky both agree that the current system stinks.

Where they disagree is that while Cynicus thinks this is due to political interference with what is a healthy underlying economic model, Chomsky would says it is that very economic model itself (when seen for what it truly is and not what academic text books may propagandise it to be) that is the root of the problem (and that the problem is exacerbated by the creation of a political system that the economic model favours, i.e. fascism, totalitarianism, sham-democracies, etc.).

In this respect, Chomsky out-cynics Cynicus.

But let us turn finally to Tiberius’ cornflake box (for he knows, Weary Surfer, that you are hungry for another bowlful)

Cynicus states that: “I do believe that the cornflake packet is wrong”  and “My cornflake packet would indeed be different. I would prevent the collusion between banks and government, and also prevent the issuance of debt by the government.”

In other words, he would design a packet where the big flakes do not rise to the top.

The problem is, although Cynicus may shun ‘conspiracy theories’, the current box we all live in was actually designed by the bigger flakes themselves:  not necessarily consciously in a ‘lets think of the best design to ensure our dominance’ fashion, but rather slowly and incrementally in more of a ‘this seems to work best for us’ way – though less ‘Blind Watchmaker’, more ‘Short-sighted Bastard’.

Those bigger flakes are very happy with the box as it already is thankyouverymuch, and are not going to change it just because crumbs like us are tired of being last out of the packet.

Which bring us to the last point:  In the final analysis, the current system does work – but the pertinent question is – “Works for whom?” And that’s another story.


All the above is based on Tiberius’ understanding of Chomsky, and, though Tiberius has studied Chomsky’s work in depth and continues to follow it closely, he does not (of course) claim to speak on the great man’s behalf.