The success of the West, from the philosophical basis of the free-market, mass literacy, democracy and fundamental freedoms are rooted in the single most important idea in the history of philosophy. This is to be found in the work of Erastus who began the shift away from the medieval world of arbitrary government and dictatorship of free will by theological superstition. He stated in significant contrast to his times that, in simplest terms, it was the state who was the final arbitrator of sin (right and wrong) and not the church. In essence it was for man to reason and decide what the yardsticks of acceptable conduct were. It placed the significantly onerous task of self-responsibility on the human-being and the governments he would create, by giving him the most important freedom of all: Reason. Of course we have struggled with the freedom that reason has given us, and the victory of saving man from the darker parts of himself is far from being won. What is, however, of significant concern in Britain today is how our politics has begun to support the irrational- how the sharper swords of intelligence have given way to emotion, and how emotion has confounded both common-sense and sensibility.
The clearest example of the Erastian yard-stick in a democracy is the level of detailed debate that politicians are capable of delivering, and the public are capable of engaging in, during an election. In the 2010 UK General Election, the Erastian short-comings lay with the leaders not the people. The critical signs of politics being rules by emotion rather than intelligence were the following issues raised to the national agenda: Climate Change (ruled by scientific consensus, not fact); International Development (ruled by the emotion of charity not by the propagation of the ideal of self-responsibility. In any event, ludicrous in a time of significant budget-deficit); Equality espoused by the Conservatives (not understanding that this is the right to prevent others from doing better than oneself); Social mobility (not appreciating that one needs a very large state apparatus to do this, the cost of which is in unaffordable, and that it advocates the abdication of self-responsibility at its very core); multi-culturalism and diversity (words that will lead first to the destruction of identity, and, following from this, of the nation state). (That the link between the word 'diversity' and the words: 'diversification', 'alienation', 'separation' and 'segregation' leading to a lack of social cohesion are not seen by the media is quite surprising).
We have come to difficult waters in the UK. Unless we are willing to speak the supposedly unspeakable, our heritage will be lost and with it our sense of nationhood. Courage is needed, as well as the strength to frown upon and despise cowardice when the spirit of 'Reason' is at threat in public debate. I recall a splendid passage in Heffer’s majestic biography of Enoch Powell. Powell attended a meeting of the Conservative One Nation group in 1950, where the odious Heath and the mercurial Macleod were present. Powell stated unequivocally, ‘that there was no such thing as social justice’. It was crystal clear then to him, as it should be now to all of us, that such a concept simply cannot be compatible with a meritocracy. Further, that without meritocracy one cannot get competition and a free-market based democracy. So what does the Conservative Party do when unable, due to post 1997 emasculation, to intellectually defeat Blair’s egalitarian (the opposite of merit) social justice model? It allows a former abysmal Party leader, Duncan-Smith to form ‘the Centre for Social Justice’ and use it as a back-bone for Conservative Party policy-making. The ghosts of the concrete socialists; Cripps, Gaitskell and Dalton; all laugh from their graves.
Cameron has wonderfully started off this coalition with a unique duplicity of moral vision. He proposed the 55% vote entrenchment of his Government for a fixed term to shore up the failings of the Conservative Manifesto in not getting a workable number of seats. He must have been reading a biography of Robert Mugabe when he thought of this. He then has the sheer idiocy to say that David Laws is ‘a good and honourable man’ for stealing £40,000 of tax-payers money for the character flaw of insecurity. Yes Laws stole because he was obsessed with what people thought of him. And as Cameron's PR experience informs him, it is right, just and 'honourable' to be concerned of public perception, so much so that it great that one can admit this publicly. It so evidently, so Reasonably, offers a valid excuse to wrongdoing. This is a leader who has little grasp of logic, and one whom massaging public relations- from whatever rationality, is more important than thinking through the rationality of so doing. It is thus clear that from manifesto to politics in practice that the Conservative Party will offer very little different, expenses included, from New Labour.
The staring road to reason is to talk about the very issues that lay at the heart of Britain’s problems. It is to speak the unspeakable, the impalatable, that which is most difficult to stomach. It is to reason things through. To not do as Duncan-Smith did, spend thousands of pounds in a centre for social justice, delivering a paper on social mobility that does not deal with skills training or employment building. It is to understand that a clear figure, a cap, is needed to put immigration under control to preserve our heritage and identity. To road to reason and honesty is to admit that multi-culturalism was responsible for the 7/7 attacks and British born youths fighting against the armed forces in Afghanistan. Unfortunately on the present course the Erastian spirit is far from our political agenda. Without reason we could not have had created the modern world, and we can only have a democracy which comprises banter based on fear, control based on spin and PR, and emotion. On our current course, despairingly, common-sense will be spoken in the impossible climate after lunacy has taken grip. If we are not already there…
Copyright Abhijit P.G Pandya 2010
Copyright Birkenhead Society 2010