Russell Taylor: A chance for salvation?

One of the greatest obstacles to meaningful change in Britain is the belief that the two main political parties are separated by an ideological gulf. The idea that the Tories are positioned far to the right of Labour sets a boundary for mainstream conservatism, beyond which everything is considered extremist. Thus, George Osborne’s tax and spending plans are deemed to be the acme of banker-friendly, prole-bashing Toryism, despite them being less conservative than most of Gordon Brown’s budgets under New Labour. Any opinion to the Right of the government’s position, meanwhile, is automatically the stuff of swivel-eyed lunacy.

This is caused, in part, by a media which is naturally disdainful of do-nothing governments that refuse to dance to the tune of opinionated hacks. Most journalists think of politics as a game, wherein they set increasingly difficult hurdles for the authorities to jump (the public is not invited to play). The practical effect of this is that poll-watching politicians commit themselves to ever more spending and regulation, meaning the status quo drifts inexorably to the Left. What constitutes the centre ground nowadays would be recognised by Thatcher-era Conservatives as resolutely left-wing.

For all their failings, the Tories are still preferable to Labour; but that’s like saying that arsenic is better for you than cyanide. Both parties are largely committed to maintaining the state at its current Brobdignagian size, and both place too much faith in the redemptive power of government. No doubt the supporters of both parties would cry foul at this accusation, but until David Cameron is ready to slash public spending, take a wrecking ball to the civil service, reform the NHS, abolish the licence fee, repeal about five thousand laws, and get us out of the EU, he can’t be described as a friend of small government. Within the narrow isthmus of modern political debate, perhaps Cameron is right-wing, but Milton Friedman he ain’t.

It’s easy, under the circumstances, for proper right-wingers to feel like they’re shouting into the wind – to believe that their concerns count for nothing, and that there’s no way of stopping the gradual calcification of the nation into an over-taxed, over-regulated municipal death-maze. And maybe there isn’t. Once the consumers of tax start out-voting its creators, very little can be done to reverse the slide. The productive members of society become a meal ticket for a self-replicating bureaucracy and the burgeoning constituency it serves. The theories and prejudices of the big state crew achieve common sense status, and, before you know it, the idea of managing one’s own affairs appears primitive and barbaric, like having to hunt for your dinner.

That’s the doomsday scenario for the Right: a public so infantilised that it simply cannot contemplate life without the government sugar daddy feeding it lollipops. The likelihood of this outcome is what makes it so easy for gloom-merchants like me to wander the internet, banging the black drum of pessimism. In fact, we’re already a long way down this path, with so-called conservatives recycling arguments that were once the preserve of leftists. Only the other day, a Tory voter told me he was concerned about the gap between rich and poor. I pointed out that a proper conservative would be more interested in helping people improve their lot, than with changing their position relative to others, but this argument was lost on him. When the zero-sum logic of the Left is the default assumption of self-styled right-wingers, significant reform seems a long way away.

But what are the other, more optimistic scenarios that might play out? Scenario 1 is that the Tories win the next general election with a small majority. An emboldened Cameron, finally rid of the dead weight of the Lib-Dems, is able to show his true blue colours, and ushers in a raft of far-reaching reforms.

Scenario 2 is that Cameron loses the next election and is replaced by a leader who recognises the popularity of key Ukip policies, and understands that Cameron’s Labour-lite formula has run its course. He or she leads the Conservatives recovery and wins the subsequent election, ushering in a raft of far-reaching reforms.

I don’t find either of these possibilities likely – the first, because Cameron has never done anything to suggest he has a radical bone in his body; and the second, because Britain is too hooked on the drug of government, and too flushed in the currency of liberal compassion, to embrace a libertarian revolution.

In the face of this entrenched antipathy, I don’t think any political party will be successful in simply foisting right-wing policies on the public. Before they had a chance to be successful, that party would be out of power, and it would be back to big state business as usual. If change is to take place, it has to come from the electorate itself.

Rather than making sweeping reforms, a conservative government could maintain existing state services, but allow the public to cash in their chips and take a private alternative. For instance, rather than contributing towards the NHS, individuals could pay less National Insurance and use that money to go private.

I suspect that many people would take this option, and that healthcare companies would rush to meet the ensuing demand. If, as a result of this, NHS usage was reduced, that would be to its benefit and to that of the people who stood by it. But it would soon become apparent that those who made the switch were getting a better deal, hastening the move away from the state. Faith in the market would grow, until there would be little resistance to further scaling back of government.

For want of a better analogy, it’s like replacing a rickety old toll bridge by allowing a new one to be built alongside it, and letting motorists choose between the two. Those who would have people use the old bridge, whether they want to or not, would be rendered impotent. The choice would with the individual, and the benefits of choice would become evident to all.

Admittedly, this is a sketchy idea, no doubt fraught with problems. But making the decision to scale back the state that of the public is a good one, I think. When people choose to take control of their lives, the arguments in favour of collectivism, and the opportunities to vote yourself someone else’s money, begin to disappear. To anyone who believes in the sanctity of freedom, this is more than just a practical solution; it is a moral imperative. As Margaret Thatcher put it: “Every family should have the right to spend their money as they wish, and not as the government dictates. Let us extend choice, extend the will to choose and the chance to choose.”

  • Kevin Ronald Lohse

    Cameron v Milliband = Champagne Social Democrat v Champagne Neo-Marxist. They’re squabbling over interpretation of the socialist narrative in the splendid isolation of the Westminster Bubble while the rest of us pay for their follies and conceits – often with our lives.

  • AR317

    “Admittedly, this is a sketchy idea, no doubt ill-conceived and fraught with problems.”
    Not the problem. The population is drunk and drugged on the milk of the ‘big government’ teat. Very few people now are true believers in personal freedom and, more importantly, personal responsibility. I am afraid that we are in a kind of Ayn Rand world where the only constructive thing to do is put our shoulders to the wheel of big government to help it along. Thereby speeding up its progress into its own internal contradictions and the inevitable disintegration of society. Only then will the road be clear, as John Galt said. Only then will the clever, the industrious, the contributors, the true moral thinkers have the freedom to bring a new renaissance.

    • therealguyfaux

      The Right “goes Galt” as the Left “goes Cloward-Piven.”

      I like it. Pay all the obliga-”Tory” homage to the “social safety net,” tell everyone what a mark of a civilised society it is to fund a purely-consumer class on the backs of a producer class who should give thanks every day that they are allowed to keep anything they make, and call for more and more sacrifice on the part of the producers “for the children” or some equally mawkish hogwash:

      “The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need…They let us vote on it, too, and everybody – almost everybody – voted for it. We didn’t know. We thought it was good. No, that’s not true, either. We thought that we were supposed to think it was good….[This bull$#!t] gave us a chance to pass off as virtue something that we’d be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. There wasn’t a man rich and smart enough but that he didn’t think that somebody was richer and smarter, and this plan would give him a share of his better’s wealth and brain. But while he was thinking that he’d get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who’d get unearned benefits, too. He forgot about all his inferiors who’d rush to drain him just as he hoped to drain his superiors… That was our real motive when we voted – that was the truth of it – but we didn’t like to think it, so the less we liked it, the louder we yelled about our love for the common good.” — Jeff Allen, former Starnesville resident, now itinerant labourer, Atlas Shrugged, Pt II, Chapter Ten.

      Welcome to Starnesville, where everyone will be incented to produce as little as possible and demand as much as possible, and have the force of law to obtain it, while at the same time always capable of squeezing the next fella out of it and succeeding in “taking” in proportion to his “:making.” Sure, we all want to get the most “bang” for our buck/”pow” for our pound, but why negotiate for it, when there is a whole set-up to extort it?

      The Left look to bring about the “radical transformation of society” more quickly by ramping up the demand side. The Right ought to countervail this by doing it from the supply side and drying the well. And as loud as the Left shout the more should the Right simply nod in agreement as THEY silently gum up the gears. I’ve got a spanner or two just looking for the proper works, me. Fear not the creative destruction. Even if you lose, you’re none the worse off for having tried, and what sort of a world would it be if we all did the square root of nought? What doth it profit the man that he lose the world and gain his soul? Lose THIS sort of world by all means, I say, and gain your soul. Keep the world as is, and lose your soul– but just get it right, as to what will be gained and lost by in-/action.

  • Bluesman_1

    “One of the greatest obstacles to meaningful change in Britain is the
    belief that the two main political parties are separated by an
    ideological gulf.”

    Agreed. They are both factions of the Oxbridge PPE Party.

  • Q46

    We need a war. I say, Mr Putin…

  • silverminer

    I’ve been reading Charles Hugh Smith’s blog lately which is very good. The Plutocrats control the State who they use to give them special privileges so they can maintain their wealth and power. The State buys off the Underclass with bread and circuses so they defend the status quo. That leaves the Middle Class working like dogs to pay for it all without the numbers to make any changes.

    The trick is to convince the Middle Class that it’s worth continuing to graft for that promotion, that new car, that bigger house, the dream holiday, the latest tablet etc and that the things the State provides are worth the taxes we pay. If the Plutocrats and State turn the screw too much the Middle Class starts to opt out, which I’ve done myself. Then the whole thing become unsustainable, through lack of revenue and economic growth, and collapses in on itself.

    The system is at this point not capable of being reformed. We have to collapse it. I recommend you all pull a sicky tomorrow and go to the pub.

    • AR317

      I agree. The best we can do is help the implosion on its way. It is self destructive at its core. Fighting against it simply prolongs its life, because we can’t help trying to keep the ship afloat. Its in our nature. Tune in, turn on and drop out. Out of production, out of effort and out of striving to keep our brothers and sisters heads above water.

    • silverminer

      Bollocks…I’ve cocked up already…If we go to the pub we’ll be paying tax on the beer and swelling the State coffers. Home brew it is then. Might try and find me a used chip fat supplier for the motor caravan I’ll be moving into as well.

  • Rocco @Bogpaper

    Re: the Thatcher quote. Government exists by dictating how people spend their money, and government exists to dictate how people spend their money. If you agree with the idea behind that quote – whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not – you are an anarchist. Congratulations!

  • http://concretebunker.wordpress.com/ Concrete Bunker

    The 51% will always want the 49% to pay for everything. Without a bill of rights democracy will always be the dictatorship of the misled majority over others. Whilst Churchill may well have implied it the best choice available it will, as posters have pointed out, lead to our inevitable implosion.
    I already have plans to ‘move’ my tax jurisdiction when ‘RedEd’ move into No10!