The Spectator

The Spectator at war: German lessons

From The Spectator, 21 November 1914:

No English writer knows more of German ways than Mr. Dawson, and his large book upon public administration in towns is a mass of information. It is his misfortune to have produced it at a moment when Englishmen are not likely to be eagerly receptive of the German methods that he praises, or very patient of his unfavourable comparisons of British muni- cipal activities with those which Prussia has adopted and encouraged other States to accept. It is as unnecessary to emphasize the fact that German machines, military or municipal, are efficient for the purposes at which they aim as it is to impress upon any one that we dislike some of those purposes. But honesty demands that we should admit not only the efficiency and discipline with the complementary vices, servility and illiberal authoritarianism, but also a virtue genuinely to Germany’s credit: for the great body of German officials, to whom such horrible power over their fellow- creatures must offer great temptation, are not a corrupt class. Many people might prefer to be governed by a light-hearted and even light-fingered Latin, and shrug their shoulders at the thought of his feathering his nest at their expense, rather than submit to the heavy-banded, omnipresent Teutonic official whose income is strictly limited to his salary; but we cannot withhold due respect.

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