“Ask Not What The State Can Do For You. Ask What You Can Do For Society” *
* I apologise to both JFK and David Cameron for that mash-up.
It is true though. In Britain over the last dozen or so years we’ve become a country where for every chunky problem is there is a ‘Big State’ solution. Chuck tax payers money at it. Sit back. Let the government sort it out. Moan about the government it if doesn’t. Take it easy. Harriet and Gordon are on the case.
This attitude drives me nuts. Thank Heavens the expenses scandal has shaken the nation from its sleepwalk to apathy. True, it’s swapping apathy for outrage, but at least the outraged are engaged again. Annoyingly, those engaged don’t believe there is much difference between the parties: ” They’re all centreish”, goes the thinking. “So it comes down to competence rather than philosophy and they’re all incompetent, right? And all on the take. So what’s the point? They’re the same”.
This is wrong. They’re not the same. Yes, both parties have gravitated towards the centre. Yes, both parties need many MPs kicking out. But the difference between ‘Centre-Left’ and ‘Centre-Right’ is not one of nuance, it is one of substance.
One key aim in my ramblings in this blog is to draw out those differences. I’m no right wing-nutter or zealot. Far from it. At heart I’m a liberal that has been mugged by reality. I do strongly believe there is a role for government. But it is a subtle role – more of a referee than a player.
I believe in Social Justice and Social Mobility. I don’t believe the left should be allowed to claim a monopoly on those values and I don’t believe either can be forced upon the population. Certainly not through quotas or other well meaning, misguided attempts at ‘positive discrimination’. No, the only route to Social Justice and Social Mobility is to sow the right seeds and let them flourish organically. There aren’t easy short-cuts, but there are faster routes. The key is to harness the powers of Free Enterprise, Meritocracy, and Individual Responsibility whilst at the same time blunting the sharper edges of each. I put it to you that after general security the primary purpose of Government is to create then maintain the conditions for these powerful forces to do their magic.
- Free enterprise and market forces can only be a power for good if competition is in place and monopoly abuse is denied. That needs some regulation.
- True meritocracy will only come when we have equality of opportunity to access to a quality education. We’re miles from having that. We need a radical rethink of education policy and the funds to support it. That also needs the Government to take a lead in creating the right conditions – though it does not need the government micro managing what goes on in the classroom.
- Individual responsibility is the hardest for the government to promote. I admit that relying on individuals to take responsibility and deliver things we now lazily expect the state to provide requires a big leap of faith. But hey, I have that faith – I have huge optimism in peoples’ ability. Despite all the wickedness in the world and all the bad apples – I genuinely believe the majority of folk out there are fundamentally decent. Empower them, give them the tools to tackle their own problems and they will solve them. And they will take pride in doing so. And when this has caught on…….
….Then we will have a civic ‘society’ rather than a ‘state’. And this society will be far more enriching to live in – spiritually and materially – than the Britain we have now.