The aims of the Liberalism of the early nineteenth century were not sufficient for the regeneration of society, and there was already a demand for something new. In the early twentieth century almost everything that had been demanded a hundred years before had been attained; life had been improved, but the chronic discontent of mankind remained and vented itself, as it usually does, on institutions. The times were preparing for the age-old theory of enlightened despotism to clothe itself in the least convincing of all the disguises it has ever worn and appear as Fascism.
Parliamentarianism failed in most countries because it demanded more civilisation than they possessed, or because the reactionary forces (as in Germany in 1914) plunged the state into a catastrophe from which everything emerged discredited. Even in the countries where the "representative" theory has survived, it is difficult for any one really to represent any one else-especially the thousands who make up his constituency. He may conceivably be the ablest man among them-though that is not probably so-but even if it were so, the assembly of the elected is merely an aristocracy of talent with certain obligations to the governed. Even if the assembly were representative in the sense of being typical, it could hardly be desirable to reproduce the limitations of ordinary people in their governors. Continental elections, in any case, were often corrupt. In France and England and the United States, the elections are correct enough in that the voting is by secret ballot and the votes are accurately counted. But the elections take place at long intervals, and too often reflect some moment of excitement, and the influence of demagogy or newspaper hysteria.
The gravest defects arose, however, in the actual working of Parliament, and are exemplified by the development of parliamentary government. Its business became so vast and technical that what was done was often botched; much could not be done at all. The independent member of parliament became rare, and the private member of one of the official parties had no influence. Power lay with the teams-often unseen-of civil servants who controlled departmental business, and with the groups who controlled parties. The defects of the British system were fewer than those of any other known system of government, but man's usual ignorance of his past and reckless expectations of his future always encourage discontent with his present.