Donal Blaney: The test of moral ideas is moral results
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 upon us.
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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