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        « Some cartoons are worth a thousand words | Main | Poor Lord Saatchi »

        Comments

        Editor

        James - compared to me... you have more faith in the ability of the regulators and less faith in the entrepreneurial skill of the regulated.

        James Hellyer


        Actually I have very little faith in regulators. I just think it should be easy to draft better legislation than is currently in place - or that we should at least try before forcing people to spend Sunday at home!

        It's similar to the argument over the Working Time Directive, where some employers abusing the opt out is used as an excuse to remove said opt out.

        Blimpish

        It should be easy to draft better legislation, but it probably ain't. I agree, James, that some employers' abuse doesn't itself justify a wider crackdown - but that depends on the level of abuse and the cost of a wider crackdown. The point is that these are prudential questions that shouldn't be solved by appeal to abstract principle.

        Andrew

        Blimpish: On fundamental assertions, I think there are some that everyone pretty much agrees on - Thou shalt not kill being an obvious example.

        Tim: We'll have to agree to disagree here. I'm not for totally laissez-faire capitalism, but less regulation than we have now would be a good thing. Constraining people from working when they choose to work would just mark us out as being out of touch. The rapidly-becoming-cliche of 'India and China' would be wheeled out. Our economic competency would be questioned. Minorities from other faiths to yours would be wheeled out to attack this religiously-inspired tactic. It is strategically naive. As I said, I'm all for strengthening the family, but this isn't the way to do it. How about generous tax breaks for married couples as a start? Higher child benefits for married couples as opposed to single parent families? Opposing the proposal floated today for common law marriage rights?

        'just as some on the left and right can unite in opposing euthanasia, hard porn, GM crops and sex selection of babies.'

        Perhaps, but many on the right would only oppose some or none of those. I certainly only oppose euthanasia from that list. There isn't a constituency for this kind of Christian evangelical shopping list politics in the UK.

        But by far the worst thing about this sort of proposed legislation is that it splinters the right by annoying people like myself and my 'fundamentalist free marketeer' brethren. That's the last thing us Conservatives need right now - more excuses to fracture and argue...

        Blimpish

        Re fundamental assertions, in a way you prove my point by choosing an explicitly religious one. Most forms of western liberal atheism rely on echoes of Judeo-Christian morality, to which they take a pick-and-choose approach. Over time, the echoes become muffled and we're left drifting on our own reason, with recourse to neither revelation or tradition.

        And indeed, between abortion and euthanasia, this is already happening. The cannibalism case in Germany takes it that step further - didn't you hear those people who said it wasn't really that bad because the victim was willing? Remember that in some societies (ancient Greece for example), murders are only prosecuted where there is a living family, because it's deemed to be a private issue, with no wider moral consequence.

        So, you see, I'm not convinced that a society of value-creating individuals really can work - today's consensus is because we emanate from the same cultural source, but over time anomie will make that impossible.

        Andrew

        Quite probably, but is that a bad thing? Legislation should largely reflect the morality of the time. To take a silly example, but which is not so far fetched, I can easily envisage a society in which murder is not illegal, simply because the technology exists to recreate the body and backup the brain.

        I picked a religious example because it reflects our shared cultural heritage of course.

        Blimpish

        ... and I picked on your religious example because it shows that that cultural heritage is rooted in religion, and that religion is not simply surface matter. No great society has to my knowledge existed for very long without a general piety; I fail to see why ours should either. (Such an argument doesn't require personal belief - cf. Gibbon.)

        "Legislation should largely reflect the morality of the time." But there's a difference here: is "morality of the time" a change in boundaries around a common core, or a complete movement, where moral principles have no traction over time? If the latter, I'd suggest we're not talking about morality any more, but transient reigning aesthetic tastes. In that case, Nietzsche was right: we should assert our desires through pure will, and not be governed by sentimental slave morality. So, to get that pay rise next time - use a gun.

        Andrew

        I prefer the resignation letter to the gun, but the principle is much the same. ;)

        Morality can change in two ways - either a gradual shifting as taboos become less stigmatised (e.g. teenage pregnancy), and previously 'acceptable' behaviour goes the other way (e.g. paedophilia), or by a paradigm shift where an external factor causes a rethinking of fundamental ideas (e.g. the ability to keep premature babies alive).

        I think there is always a common core though, although it is certainly possible to imagine a future in which it had been almost completely eroded. In the example I cited above (effectively being able to regenerate the body and mind completely), it would perhaps be considered bad manners to kill someone, but would not be considered illegal.

        Blimpish

        In terms of your biotech example - yes, and that's why I'm suspicious of biotechnology being unlimited, because it changes the basis of human nature, in ways that could end the very notion of human being.

        Back to the malleability of morals. What I mean is this: I think there is a core of morals, innate to the human condition, but only experienced through our evolved civil practices. No society; no real morality.

        That being the case, it's as possible to 'unlearn' those morals through changes to civil practice, as it was originally to learn them.

        We've all seen enough historical examples - from Belsen to Srebrenica to Rwanda to Cambodian Killing Fields - to know how quickly we can set morals aside completely. If we say, as today's secularism does, that there are no binding and authoritative statements of morality, and that everybody must create and live by their own - what's to stop us degenerating to that point?

        For current generations, civil practice is still primarily shaped by our cultural (and religious) inheritance. But over a period of time, as atheists raise atheists, then might not that inheritance be run down? At a certain point, we'll be left alone - without tradition and without an agreement between ourselves on the Good and the True.

        Worse still, the element of religious inheritance that will last longest is its "values". Doctrine gets in the way and is quietly dropped, but values persist. But value without the doctrine becomes sentimentality at best, and utopianism at worst.

        So, first our civil practice erodes and we're left with no common doctrine on moral conduct. Instead, we all have to make up our own view of the right way to live. All that we are left with are ideological statements of value - but no means of compromise (because we don't have the language of a common doctrine), so instead we end up acting in our own siloes. Because there's no right to judge, some can proceed more quickly.

        Remember that the first killings of the Holocaust were for compassionate reasons - that the mentally retarded were seen as having "lives not worth living." I'd rather not see another society start to go down that road.

        This isn't to say, by the way, that I have any answers. It's just that I don't think that a completely secularised society is sustainable. Even if I'm wrong there, I should add that secular societies are dreary, dull places. The Renaissance had good art because people believed in something more than themselves. We get Tracy Emin's scabby bed.

        Andrew

        Pretty damning, but also pretty pessimistic. I have no answers either, but I prefer to be a starry-eyed optimist on this one.

        In terms of your biotech example - yes, and that's why I'm suspicious of biotechnology being unlimited, because it changes the basis of human nature, in ways that could end the very notion of human being.

        You can't hold back progress, even if you don't like the potential outcome - someone will always be maverick enough to push at the boundaries. I'm sure the makers of horse-drawn carriages weren't too happy with the notion of the motorcar. Such is life. The best way to deal with it is to accept it, and try to cope with the change.

        Blimpish

        "You can't hold progress back." That's a Marxist argument, you know. (Or maybe Hegelian, but either way...)

        There are no inevitable laws of history. We have plenty of power to constrain the application (and potentially) development of technology, and we have used it even in recent decades. There are some powers we should not seek - and those that change the very basis of humanity (which some biotech could do) should be avoided.

        Read C. S. Lewis's "The Abolition of Man" and you'll feel a chill down the spine at the implications of this stuff. We shouldn't allow ourselves to become slaves to our tools. This isn't luddism, but a prudent setting of limits - because morals should trump raw power. And just because power is wielded by private agents it doesn't mean it will be anything like just in its consequences (ask slaves, or aborted foetuses).

        Incidentally, I might be pessimistic, but I'm always hopeful that things could come could. The above is not a council of despair, but a recognition of the issues we face. I've never heard a convincing explanation of how a society with only a utilitarian/pragmatist moral code can be sustained over generations, and until I do I want to deal with things as I think they're evolving.

        Comstock

        Just for the record, Editor do you really want to go back to the Sunday of 20 years ago?

        What about all the students who would lose part time work?

        What about those without families who would rather work and have weekdays off?

        This is 2005 not 1905 for goodness sake. That world is dead. The real world is knocking. Face it or stay in opposition forever. (preferably the latter).

        Editor

        I don't think the clock can be turned back on this one, Comstock, but I oppose further deregulation and think the whole of society should consider ways of helping parents spend more quality time with their kids. If that's a "1905" view, I plead guilty.

        comstock

        Hang on a moment." The whole of society"!?!?

        PMSL what ever happend to "there's no such thing as society..."

        And you "now embrace a modest minimum wage"

        Stop! Please! You're killing me!

        Anything else you'd like to retract while you are at it?

        amcguinn

        Ah yes. I knew there was a reason I'm not a conservative.

        sam frances

        Conservativism and capitalism are incompatible with individual freedom

        If you are an individualist you must value self ownership and self determination for ALL people, whih means you must be aginst any authoritarian social relationship.

        1) Private property restricts freedom for the majority. That is because you may own a whole factory, even though you did not build it, and cannot use it to produce anything yourself. If other people want to use it, they must do as you tell them on your property, and so their liberty is restricted. You get a job, you shut up and do what your told. The corporation would be called totalitarian if it was a state. Freedom cannot include the freedom to become an authority - to restrict the freedom of others.

        2)Someone said capitalism guarantees you the fruits of your labour. This is incorrect. profit is unpaid labour extracted from workers who have no choice but to do as their told, because all land and productive tools are monoplolised by a few. I may plant 10 potatoes, but only be paid enough to buy back five. The owner gets the other five simply by virtue of the fact that he owns the land (probably inherited it). Despite your phony work ethic, conservatives are all for a free lunch for the rich.

        3) You cannot be for freedom without being for eqaulity. freedom without equality is freedom for the rich and powerful, and slavery for the rest. Equality without freedom is also impossible - for an authority to enforce monetory equality they would have to have MORE power than everyone else.

        If you support freedom you can only logically support non-hierarchical methods of organising society, because hierarchical authority is the opposite of freedom. That means workplaces must be co-operatives (democracy is a sham if it doesn't extedn to the workplace) and each locality must be autonomously governed by its inhabitants, for example by an assembly of all adult inhabitants coming together to decide on how they will co-operate and how to protect themsleves from authority.

        thats all.

        John Barstow

        Conservatism is about insitutions. It is about conserving the best. And Sunday is an institution in its own right.

        Restrictions on Sunday Trading is just sensible regulation to ensure that society can enjoy a day of rest and reflection. Shops opening on sunday has a detrimental knock-on effect on workers across the board - logistics, supply, emergency services, etc. And denies choice - the right to enjoy a peaceful sunday. For example I have met store mangers who have slaved away Monday-Saturday long hours and on the 7th day have had to open up the shop when they would rather be enjoying Sunday.

        Austria has closure on Sunday and half-day saturday and what a better balanced, more conservative society it is - unlike the Broken society of the UK and tragedies like Rhys Jones case.

        As true Conservatives we have opposed casinos, 24/7 licensing. Therefore more effective regulation od sunday trading would be true to theis pattern.

        Red-hit

        Gookle inder rookle. Der Asda Wal-Mart is 24/6 mais onder Sudden is 10-16h!!!!!

        Inter 2007 lineder hope, der Dundee is 24/7!

        Helen Catterall

        Personally, I think that more should be done to allow supermarkets, including Tesco, to open for longer hours (at least two more hours) on Sundays for the benefit of the non-religious majority in this country.

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