Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation,
Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public
Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
“There is much to be said for trying to improve some disadvantaged people’s lot. There is nothing to be said for trying to create heaven on earth. When all the objectives of government include the achievement of equality – other than equality before the law – that government poses a threat to liberty.”
– Statecraft, Margaret Thatcher
Maybe I drank too much rum when I was living abroad for the past two years?
Maybe in time I will wake up from this horrible dream, this nightmare, in which the political party that gave us Churchill and Thatcher – the political creed that gave us Reagan and is still adhered to by John Howard and Stephen Harper – have been discarded by David Cameron in what increasingly seems to me to be nothing more than a naked push for power at any price, without any regard for political principle or the true needs of the vast majority of voters.
Learning that the views of Winston Churchill have been discarded in
favour of those of Polly Toynbee – who has been wrong on every single
issue that’s mattered for the past quarter century – fills me with such
a sense of dread that I am wondering more and more whether David
Cameron is actually really a conservative at all.
Conservatives are not utopian. Socialists tried to create Utopia by
consent (in Britain) and through oppression (in China, the Soviet
Union, Eastern Europe and Cuba). Yet socialism failed because it runs
completely counter to human nature and while it may have been, in the
abstract, a moral idea, the results were wholly immoral.
Conservatives have tended to take the view that the test of moral ideas is whether or not they generate moral results.
Conservatism has espoused the concept of helping those who are
genuinely in need. It was on this basis that the concept of the Welfare
State as a safety net for the truly disadvantaged was embraced. The
morality inherent in conservatism as a political creed remains at the
core of conservative thinking today with the principled and morally
correct stance being adopted by the Party as regards Darfur (and, dare
I say, Afghanistan and Iraq) and in the work of Iain Duncan Smith’s
Centre for Social Justice.
When David Cameron said that there is such a thing as society but that
it is not the same thing as the state, he was correct. Indeed he is
echoing Margaret Thatcher, rather than disavowing her views (as he
would have us believe), given that she said that while there is no such
thing as society, there are, however, families and communities and thus
we all have a civic responsibility to help those in genuine need.
Abrogating that responsibility onto some abstract concept of “society”
or the state apparatus is immoral.
The announcement this week that a future Conservative government (if
one is ever again elected) will address relative poverty – as opposed
to addressing absolute povery – is misguided and morally abhorrent.
Surely as conservatives our belief is that the economic pie should be
enlarged, not that everyone should receive an equal – or more
proximately equal – slice? It is for this reason that we have always
advocated tax cuts so as to generate more wealth in the economy as that
wealth benefits more people than simply redistributive economic
policies can achieve (particularly in today’s globalised markets).
The left’s view of the economy, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “could
be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps
moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it”. We are
entering the realms of a social democratic consensus that is wholly at
variance with the desires of millions of voters who have hitherto
supported the Conservative Party.
The key for us as conservatives must surely be to maximize opportunity
and social mobility. It is the decline in social mobility – of the
chances for people from poorer backgrounds to achieve everything they
dream of – that is the true failing of New Labour and the opportunity
for the Conservative Party to make its mark.
This is why conservatives should be embracing grammar schools, the
assisted places scheme, scholarships and bursaries. That is why
barriers to entry into professions, trades and new markets should be
removed. That is why taxes and regulation are inherently immoral
because they stifle innovation, strangle businesses, destroy
self-reliance and encourage the “sit back and wait for a hand-out
because it’s my right” mentality.
While it must be jolly tickety-boo for those who are heirs to vast
fortunes to adopt a patrician approach to “The Poor”, it does nothing
for those who are truly in poverty (by which I mean absolute poverty,
not simply poor by comparison to their neighbours who might have two
cars, holiday overseas and own an iPod).
Those who are in genuine need are those who need the help of everyone –
not the dead hand of the state (as is Gordon Brown’s way) but of
voluntary organizations, churches, families, friends and communities –
to help them achieve their true potential in life. David Cameron’s
wholly wrong-headed approach – God help us, the approach of the Polly
Toynbees of the world – is so wrong, so utterly unconservative that one
can only hope that the nightmare will soon end and common sense will be
restored before it is too late and a fourth general election defeat is
I finish with the words of Margaret Thatcher in Statecraft:
“The right-of-centre parties still often compete with
left-of-centre ones to proclaim their attachment to all the main
programmes of spending, particularly spending on social services of one
kind or another. But this is foolish as well as muddled. It is foolish
because left-of-centre parties will always be able to outbid
right-of-centre ones in this auction – after all, that is why they are
on the left in the first place. The muddle arises because once we
concede that public spending and taxation are than a necessary evil we
have lost sight of the core values of freedom.
Left-wing zealots have often been prepared to ride roughshod over due
process and basic considerations of fairness when they think they can
get away with it. For them the ends always seems to justify the means.
That is precisely how their predecessors came to create the gulag.
In a system of free trade and free markets poor countries – and poor
people – are not poor because others are rich. Indeed, if others became
less rich the poor would in all probability become still poorer."
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