Just what is it with Tories?
They preach tax cuts, austerity, reduced spending and a smaller state – all, they think, made possible by their discredited 40-year old economic dogma.
They then get elected to implement these policies.
But when Liz Truss, their Last-but-one-Leader announced she was going to give them what they advocate, they’re upset!
Deep down some of them at least must feel they’ve got the wrong approach. Deep down they must be feeling that perhaps, blaming the poor for their poverty is cruel, futile and wrong. Deep down they must be aware that people suffer disease, disadvantage, disabilities, discrimination and general random misfortune that they neither seek, nor want and and do not deserve.
Can’t they see that if you don’t want beggars in the street, petty pilfering, robbery (with or without violence), burglary, fraud or anti-social behaviour, then you have to look life and society squarely in the face and realise something called “the State” has to provide funds to solve the problems that make so many people unhappy, bitter and desperate. We need funds to help children be born into a better world, funds to treat illnesses – especially mental illnesses – funds to cure disease, to compensate for misfortune, to help overcome disability, to eliminate discrimination, to organise society in such a way that crime is prevented, is discouraged and – yes, if need be – is punished.
And we need a system of providing remedies for society’s mistakes, for reducing unfair inequalities, for helping people develop to their potential despite the circumstance they grew up in and with, for policing the selfish, the thoughtless, the anempathetic and those who are just plain greedy.
For which we need a system of fair but extensive taxation – not just to pay for centuries of soldiers to keep the barbarians away, or to catch the criminals or the nonconformists or to lock up in Bedlam or Newgate those who are awkward or dangerous or just embarrassing to the gentry – but also to establish the standards (like a sound currency or accurate weights and measures) and regulations upon which confidence and trade depend.
We need funds too to maintain and protect the environment in which we live, to keep it safe, to keep it beautiful, to keep is such that we can derive pleasure and comfort and be reconciled to our place in it and to the transitory existence that we must share with everything, living or inanimate.
We need all these things and the necessities and joys of life are for no-one to control, still less to plunder more than their fair share of at the expense of others.
And these good things, and protection from the bad things, cannot be delivered in a society which begrudges paying its taxes, that seeks to reduce help to others, where the strong and the fortunate are allowed to accumulate vast wealth while hindering the good order of society and preventing the relief of pain, misery or want to which their neighbours might be afflicted.
Liberty cannot be an absolute since my liberty should not be at the expense of yours.
Equality is a fine ideal but must be tempered by recognising the happenstance of fate or genetics or circumstance.
But it is fraternity, a sense of community, of mutual caring, of mutual respect and of interdependence that oils the wheels of society and communal living. It is the justification for organisation and order and its product is a greater happiness for all than there ever would be were it absent.
The libertarian conservatism that we see paraded before us and hear being daily preached from the pulpits of Mammon can never deliver either justice or fairness, nor even any significant reduction in the evils we see around us, nor deliver the comforts or joys that we all seek.
States exist to do those things that are in the interests of us all but which are impossible for individuals to accomplish – like maintaining law and order, setting trading and environmental standards, or defending the realm – and they implement the collective action needed to do it.
As long as government is in the exclusive hands of people whose view of social and economic reality is obscured by their self-serving dogma then division and inequality will increase and resentment and unhappiness will quickly follow.
To quote from The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith:
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”