Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ideology Doesn't Mean Big Government

It suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t mocked the Chocolate Orange Inspector for weeks. Let’s put that right now.

What reminds me is that Brian Walden contributes a not entirely bad article to the BBC website. The basic point is that David Cameron is simply following in the Conservative tradition. This is true in so far as the Conservative Party has been useless throughout most of history. Yes, Churchill was a Conservative, but so was Neville Chamberlain. Ditto, we can’t talk about the achievements of Lady Thatcher without noting the role of the Tories in letting things get that screwed up in the first place.

There may once have been an excuse for the Conservative Party to follow a policy of political quietism, but that was in the days when the citizen could go through their life without ever encountering any arm of government other than the Royal Mail. Now, there’s no getting away from government. Consider the track record of our elephantine government: is this really something Conservatives should be looking to, as it were, conserve ?

Equally, it’s a long time since government was value-neutral. On the contrary, the government is firmly under the control of Gramscians for whom everything, be it the weather forecast, the teaching of reading or the organisation of the Fire Brigade is an explicitly political matter. To the point: as long as NHS Direct insists that callers must first divulge their ethnic status before they can be helped, there are more profound issues at stake than mere matters of efficiency.

Cameron’s wholesale swallowing of the Liberal agenda carries with it the corollary that the only thing left to discuss is the specifics of implementation. As an old-time Lefty himself, Walden naturally doesn’t see the problem. No doubt this idea of the Conservative Party as the Waldorf and Stadler of the Liberal’s Muppet Show suits the soi dissant progressives fine, but as allegedly informed political comment goes, it falls far short.

Conservatives do have an ideology, just not one in the sense the Left means. Even old-style Leftists like Walden, never mind modern Liberals, can’t conceive of the idea of separation of government and nation, let alone the idea that good things can happen without government. No wonder they’re so frequently foxed by people who believe desirable social ends can best be achieved by bringing together the very best brains in the public sector, setting them to work on a particular problem, then calling in an air strike.

I’d almost give Walden a pass – plenty of Lefties misunderstand this point, except he manages to libel the one guy who could have best explained that to him. Here’s Walden on the role of presentation in politics:
This trend to a very personalised party leadership has developed over many years - one has only to think of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
Yes, Reagan breezed into power by charming folk with his youth and vigour. Walden is just lucky that the dead can’t sue, after bracketing The Gipper with these two tools. The ‘very personalised party leadership’ is what Liberals use to try and avoid talking about their policies. That was never a problem Reagan had. Here’s the non-ideological Reagan on the environment:
A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?
On abortion:
I notice that everybody who is Pro-Abortion already has been born.
On student protests at UC Berkeley:
If there has to be a bloodbath, then let's get it over with.
On foreign affairs:
Let us beware that while they [Soviet rulers] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination over all the peoples of the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.... I urge you to beware the temptation ... to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.
The UN:
One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them, where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all.
See ? He was exactly like David Cameron. Talking of which, here’s one for Dave:
Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you'd think that the 1980's were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They're claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.
That’s a clue right there. Liberalism is at its heart such a miserable, whiny runt of a philosophy. Big Business is plotting to rob you! The Earth is going to turn into a giant BBQ! Chocolate Oranges are deadly! Losers, every one of them.

Some say that all this whining is a means to an end, a subtle way of boosting the case for big government by creating an endless series of monsters ready to pounce on the unprotected citizen. That’s one factor, but I think the biggest is simply that Liberals don’t actually like people. Listen to their rhetoric with all that talk of ‘mob rule, ‘hate speech’ and the like. Why can’t the public just shut up and let them rule ?

In contrast, Conservatives have a very definite vision of the way things should be, it’s just that we rarely think sending guys with guns to kick doors down is the way to achieve them. Yes, if the occupants have bombs, no, if they have a range of Christian literature. Ronald Reagan was the perfect example of this. Here was a man who believed above all else in America and the American people. That was the motivating force behind everything he did.

That’s the ideology right there. No carefully spun vision, no Frankensteinesque attempts at social engineering. Above all else, Conservatism is about faith in people. Maybe it lacks the grand gestures and white elephant projects that Liberals think government should be about, but Conservatism was never about government anyway. Both Cameron and Blair have worked hard to create the public image of themselves as people who can make great things happen. Reagan never played that game, he spent his time convincing the American people that they could achieve great things – and they did. Meanwhile, Cameron is following in the Tory tradition by plotting the final offensive against chocolate oranges.

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