Wednesday 28 October 2009

Changing Attitudes Towards State Control...

Simon Carr in the ‘Indy’ highlights the way in which attitudes towards the state are being changed, oh so subtly:
So, we were in conversation, my Muslim friend and I, over the Tories' "free schools" policy. She said it was dangerous because Islamicists could set up their own schools to indoctrinate children into West-hating ways, and I said that yes, that might happen, but it was the parents' responsibility. She replied that the State not only had a duty to prevent it, but that we had to get away from the idea that parents owned their children. How's that again? The State rightfully had "partial ownership" of its citizen's children, she said.
Oh, dear. Another of those ‘benefits’ of multiculturalism?
I said that was "un-British" and we retreated to our respective positions and glared at each other a bit.
For that sort of remark, just think yourself lucky you aren’t getting a visit from the PC PCs…

So, how has our relationship with the state come about?
We all spin different narratives out of English history, and here's mine. Since the Conquest, English institutions have contested with each other for supremacy. The Crown and the aristocracy. The aristocracy and the yeomanry. The Crown and the church. The Church and the sects. The Crown and the judiciary. The Crown and parliament. And the curiously English result was that nobody won.
Not sure I agree totally with that, but it makes a lot more sense than what has historically been the case across the water:
Our institutions came to exist in a state of dynamic tension. Not that we are "committed to diversity" but that it became clear it was easier and probably better to live and let live. It wasn't the same in continental Europe, where different estates frequently managed to win a supremacy. When revolutionaries got hold of the State, the subsequent crushing and purging were spectacular.
Weren’t they just…
But the English thing – or the British thing, if we must – came to be that the Crown doesn't rule, the army doesn't rule, the judiciary doesn't rule, commercial corporations don't rule, the Unions don't rule, the administrative apparatus doesn't rule and Parliament doesn't rule. It's supposed to, but it doesn't.
So what does that mean for our future?
So the optimistic view of immigrants and the host population is that there will be a struggle as things settle down, and then things will settle down. Unless of course, a new rule takes hold that allows one estate of the realm to become supreme. The political class, say, which decides to take ownership of the country's children. Then anything could happen.


Umbongo said...

It's odd isn't it how things have changed. For instance the position of Lord Chancellor: because of the various immediate conveniences over the, what, 800 years of the existence of the Lord Chancellorship, the LC was a member of all three of the powers in the state - he was a member of the Lords (speaker in fact), he was a member of the executive (a member of the cabinet) and a member of the judiciary.

Until 1997 few thought this odd because - in practice - the LC acted more or less purely within the role he acted at the time he was acting. For instance no-one doubted that the speakership of the Lords was a politically neutral one and, moreover, one which was executed in a non-political way. Few can doubt that the present speaker is a political appointee acting politically. Against all precedent and the rules of the House, she acquiesced in the anomaly that those benefitting from EU pensions do not have to declare such interest in a debate on the EU. Also to suggest that the newly-created Minister of "Justice" acts in the disinterested administration of the judiciary is a manifest nonsense.

So we have the worst of all worlds. An anomaly which - hallowed by long exercise - actually worked has been junked and replaced by new inventions which function only in the interest of the party in power or, rather, the political class which is always in power. The "Conservatives", if they get to govern in 2010 will, of course, do nothing to roll this back. They will adopt the "ratchet" policies of the Conservatives from 1945 to 1979 by managing socialism not diminishing it.

Anonymous said...

Mr Carr has hit upon the Three Stooges Syndrome theory of history. It's a nice idea, but it has a flaw in that it depends upon all parties' having this peculiarly English notion of live and let live. When one doesn't, it crushes the other - see Romans, Vikings, Normans, etc.

I wonder if such a threat is presently on the horizon?

JuliaM said...

"It's odd isn't it how things have changed. "

Odd, yes. And very convenient and rewarding, for some...

"The "Conservatives", if they get to govern in 2010 will, of course, do nothing to roll this back. "

No, indeed they won't. Their silence on this and other civil liberty issues in notable.

" has a flaw in that it depends upon all parties' having this peculiarly English notion of live and let live. When one doesn't, it crushes the other - see Romans, Vikings, Normans, etc."

I'm tempted, after the Neather revelations, to say 'working as intended'...

TDK said...

He's making the case for "balance of power" and there's surely no issue with that.

The problem is that in modern terms the idea that there might be limits to government is virtually unknown in our ruling elite.

I have no problem with Muslim schools. They can set their own curriculum and staff provided
A. We accept as a society that if a group of people want to learn to recite their holy book rather than learn something valuable that this is a self imposed handicap and apart from pointing that out do nothing to remedy the situation.
B. Other people are entitled to call people who want to teach a regressive form of religion, idiots (in public)

These conditions are consequences of liberty and a traditional liberty. Since neither now applies in practice, the government is forced to intervene.

Remember the first rule of government: unexpected consequences of government intervention are suitable excuses for more intervention.