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Andrew_lilico_1
Dr Andrew Lilico is Managing Director of Europe Economics, a member of
the IEA/Sunday Times Shadow Monetary Policy Committee, and author of
more than forty articles, pamphlets and reports on political and
economic questions.

Tim Congdon, in today’s
Daily Telegraph, has said he is abandoning the Conservative Party for
UKIP.  His main grounds for doing so appear to be that he sees David
Cameron as a Paternalist.  As he puts it:

"I never imagined that the
modern Conservative Party would again embrace old-fashioned Tory paternalism,
with a frank advocacy of expanding the state’s responsibilities."

Back in 2000, I published a
series of articles on what was the correct political philosophy for the
Conservative Party to be projecting in our age.  In one of them, "The
Next Conservative Coalition", I considered the role of Paternalism.
I consider the basic argument still valid today, and I would like to rehearse
it for you.
 

Political scientists
traditionally divided the coalition of ideas that is the Conservative Party
into four key components:

  • traditional Tories (believers in a strong, hierarchical state, order, morality, duty, and patriotism);
  • classical Whigs (believers in a sovereign elected legislature, free markets, toleration, and ordered liberty);
  • Paternalists (Tories for whom the duty to help the poor was particularly important – the able should help the less able); and
  • Corporatists
    (believers in the role of the State as arbitrating between big business
    and Labour, so as to agree on wages
    and working conditions that would promote sufficient social justice to
    maintain order and permit the enjoyment of private property).

Typically Conservative
governments would involve a stronger coalition of two of these elements,
focused on one, with the others "coming along for the ride" because
it was better than supporting the alternative (Liberal or Labour).  In the
first thirty years after the Second World War, the main combinations were
between Tories, Paternalists and Corporatists – perhaps Tories and Paternalists
(focused on Tories) in the 1940s, then perhaps Paternalists supported by
Corporatists from the late 1950s, then perhaps Corporatists supported by
Paternalists in most of the Heath period. 

Mrs Thatcher’s genius was to
find a way to combine two elements traditionally thought almost irreconcilable
– the traditional Tories and the classical Whigs.  The 1970s provided her
with the crucial issue – statecraft.  Whigs needed good statecraft to keep
inflation under control so that their free markets could function and so that
their elected legislature could stay sovereign (against threats from the
unions).  Tories needed good statecraft to maintain order against the
threat of strikes, riots, and crime.  Thus was born Thatcherism – the
coalition of traditional Tories and classical Whigs, focused on Whiggish
statecraft.

Understood thus, it should
be clear that Thatcherism was a coalition for its age.  Our society is not
riven by inflation and strikes.  Perhaps our elected legislature faces
threats to its sovereignty, but these come (if at all) from
Brussels, not from anarchists.  But
philosophically, Conservatism has moved very heavily in the Whiggish direction
in the past 30 years.  We are almost all Whigs now.

In the meantime, the
Thatcherite coalition, not including, as it did, Paternalists, was less able to
hold on to Paternalists when another coalition arose to appeal to them.
New Labour has been enormously successful at combing Social Democrats,
Corporatists and Paternalists.  In my view, today as it was in 2000, the
way for us to win is to form a coalition of the Whiggish and Paternalist
elements of Conservatism.

By 2005, I think, the
Conservative Party hierarchy had come round to this point of view.  The
remaining debate of principle was about focus.  Should it be a coalition
of focused on Whigs but appealing to Paternalists, or focused on Paternalists
but trying to appeal to Whigs?  In a sense these two positions broadly set
out the difference in approaches personified by Davis and Cameron. 

Davis said he wanted to
use free-market methods to address social problems.  In this article we
may understand that as Whiggish solutions to appeal to Paternalist
concerns.  In contrast, Cameron set himself as a straightforward
Paternalist, but tried to appeal to Whigs on certain key issues such as Europe
and ID cards.

In my view it is a mistake
for us to try to paint ourselves as Paternalists.  We aren’t.  We are
Whigs, and cannot and should not pretend to be anything else.  The way for
us to appeal to Paternalists is for us to undertake to use our Whiggish
techniques to address Paternalist concerns.  We should say to the
Paternalist:

"If you really want to help the poor and the oppressed, then
come with us, we shall use our methods to help them, and everyone knows that
our methods
work."

The more straightfoward Paternalism
Cameron has offered so far must set him always at tension with the
intellectuals in his party – and not in healthy tension, either.

But this is not to agree
with Congdon that Paternalism is bad and should be eschewed.  Cameron’s
people sometimes, I think, misunderstand critiques from Conservative
intellectuals.  We want to assist in a Paternalist project, but in doing
so we want to be true to ourselves.  We are Whigs.  We can be no
other.

19 comments for: Dr Andrew Lilico: The role of paternalism

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