Governance for the long term

The diaries of William Gladstone, one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, are shocking. Not the least shocking part is the inhuman mental energy that allowed him after every day to fill himself with hard and relentless work to push himself further to record his thoughts and opinions in a comprehensive journal.

Gladstone’s journal contains an extract which is informative. It is a detailed report of a discussion he had one day with two of his Ministers about English forest reserves. At one point, Gladstone records, they talked about the role of the oak tree in English history and went on to discuss ways and means to ensure that oak forests continue to thrive in England in 50 years, in 100 years time. That’s what strikes twelve – the decision of three old men to preserve part of the nation’s heritage long after their death. What they decided would bring no personal benefit or political merit whatsoever. The resources they have earmarked would bear no fruit at all.