Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Men and Principles - Part One


"Tory men and Whig measures," was the young Benjamin Disraeli's biting description of the government led by Sir Robert Peel. The future PM's criticism and eventual open revolt against his own party had been spurred by Peel's decision to repeal the Corn Laws. Enacted in 1815 - though similar legislation had existed since the seventeenth century - the laws established a high fixed tariff wall, later reformed into a sliding scale, on the importation of grain into Britain. Rather than simply being a piece of mercantilist legislation, the acts rested on the greatest political and social fault line of late Hanoverian and early Victorian Britain.

The public and parliamentary campaigns waged over its repeal did much to define the political and economic life of Britain for nearly a century. Their immediate impact however was almost as radical - the greatest power on earth adopted as the core of its international commercial policy the principle of free trade. Modern international treaties such as GATT, the WTO and the early Common Market, are only pale shadows of the free trade practiced by Britain in the aftermath of the collapse of the Corn Laws regime, being examples of "managed" international trade. Stretching over two decades the drama that unfolded would see the near destruction of the Conservative Party at the hands of the man who founded it, the end of one of the most sterling political careers in British history, the rise of two new stars who would dominated British politics for another four decades, the emergence of mass participatory politics and a period of unprecedented economic growth and stability.

It Usually Begins With Adam Smith

In his biography of William Pitt the Younger, the 5th Earl of Roseberry, himself briefly a Liberal PM, recounts the legend of Adam Smith attending a dinner party hosted by Pitt while the later was in office. Absent minded as always Smith arrived late. Before he could make his apologies the Prime Minister rose and said simply "our teacher." Smith's impact on educated opinion in the decades after the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 can hardly be overestimated. While it would take almost exactly seventy years until Smith's central recommendation in Book Four, the policy of free trade, was enacted, his victory over the intellectual proponents of mercantilism was far swifter. By the time David Ricardo, the wealthy self-made stockbroker descendant of Sephardic Jews, wrote his 1817 classic On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Smith's ideas were almost completely ascendant in intellectual and public policy circles. In his book, and subsequent speeches given as an MP, Ricardo laid out the Theory of Comparative Advantage.

More than simply an elaboration of Smith's work the theory was a capstone of classical economic thinking, surpassing Smith's shrewd insights into economic cause and effect with a comprehensive system of international trade. So sophisticated and exhaustive was Ricardo's work that his ideas still lay at the foundation of modern international trade theory. Ricardo, in effect, removed the mercantilist position from intellectual respectability in Britain. It would take almost a century for mercantilism/protectionism to re-enter the political vocabulary as something other than a sign of opprobrium. The theory of free trade having been established on the intellectual high ground, it now faced its hardest challenge, the political and social realities of the day.

The Establishment

The Corn Laws and an unreformed Parliament: These were the two key pillars of gentry and aristocratic control over the British economy and society. For much of the eighteenth century Britain was a net exporter of grain, but by the last years of the century a population boom had forced Britain to become dependent to a small degree on foreign imports. The imports threatened to drive down domestic grain prices, which in turn would strain rental incomes. The Corn Laws were the original textbook example of what economists call "rent seeking" public policy, deliberating manipulating the price of a good or service to artificially increase profits. In a time when the ideas of Smith and Ricardo were on the ascent, not simply among the educated elite but among the increasingly literate and political engaged middle and upper lower classes, the Corn Laws were a political possibility only because of a quirk in the British constitutional and parliamentary structure.

Since the electoral map of England had been drawn up in the Late Middle Ages, the intervening centuries had seen shifts in population, both absolute and proportional. In modern parliamentary democracies a periodic review of demographic shifts often results in reallocation of seats between different regions of a country, no such reallocation was done in Britain on a major scale until 1832. What had emerged in the century or so before the Great Reform Act of 1832 was a patch-work of what were known as rotten boroughs, urban ridings where the population had fallen dramatically since the Middle Ages. The most famous example of this was the riding of Old Sarum.

From the reign of Edward II it had elected two MPs, yet by the seventeenth century there were no resident voters. The once prosperous town had moved several miles over the centuries. The dozen or so registered voters were wealthy landowners who lived elsewhere. While Old Sarum was an extreme example it showcased the excesses of a system where dozens of seats in the Commons were controlled by small cliques or even individual landowners, many of them peers. At the same time new industrial cities like Birmingham and Manchester were under-represented compared to their share of the national population.

While the idea of free trade quickly convinced large sections of the post-Waterloo political leadership of its benefits - converts to the cause included the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool (1812-1827) and William Huskisson, the President of the Board of Trade - much of the parliamentary rank and file, rural MPs whose political support, and often incomes, benefited from the Corn Laws resisted repeal. In quick time blatant economic self-interest was married to paternalistic social attitudes. The end of the Corn Laws, and the projected collapse of rental incomes, would spell the end of the traditional rural way of life. Britain's landed elite, trained from birth to rule both locally and nationally, would have the economic basis of their power and lifestyle undercut.

Who would govern Britain then? The ill-educated and money driven middle classes, unable to see past their account books? The mob of illiterate peasants whose numbers continued to swell the nation's overcrowded and poorly maintained cities? For all the flaws of the gentry and their aristocratic cousins, the argument went, they alone possessed the education, the temperament and the disinterest to govern Britain in the national interest, rather than those of the lower classes who would govern only for their particular interests. The argument was obviously in part hypocritical and self-interested, yet not all its advocates were insincere.

Most of these rural upper class land owners were members of the Tory party and the party became almost synonymous with the Corn Laws. Yet within the Tories a division was opening up between its leadership and its political base. The long-time Tory PM, Lord Liverpool, had become convinced of the need for free trade by the time of his appointment to office in 1812. So strong, however, was support for protection among the party's base that Liverpool was forced to introduce the Corn Laws in 1815 as a supposedly temporary measure. Through out the 1820s and 1830s the Laws were repeatedly tinkered with by free trade leaning ministers, who first replaced the high and fixed tariff on imported grains with a tariff scale that fell as the price of grain rose, and then sought to reduce the scale over all to limit its impact on the market. The conflict between the Tory rank and file, and its increasingly liberal minded elite, would come to a head in the 1840s under the leadership of Britain's greatest soldier and one of her most brilliant statesmen.

The Duke and the Technocrat

In the eight years he had waged war on the continent Wellington had been careful to be non-partisan. Whig or Tory, he refused to alienate anyone who might help keep his expeditionary army, and its continental allies, fed and paid. The years after 1815 saw the Hero of the Peninsula slowly move toward support of, and eventually membership in Lord Liverpool's Tory cabinet. The immediate post-war era was highly unstable, marked with widespread rioting, Luddite attacks on factories and even a spectacular conspiracy to assassinated the entire cabinet. At heart a law and order Tory the Duke dropped his nominal political neutrality and entered cabinet in 1819. In 1822 he was joined by Sir Robert Peel as Home Secretary - effectively the minister in charge of internal security. Despite the near twenty year age difference between the men they became quick and firm political allies. Peel, the son of one of Lancashire's earliest industrialists, had attended Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford, taking a double first in Mathematics and Classics.

His maiden speech in the Commons had caused a sensation and he was soon being compared to his great idol, William Pitt the Younger. Just twenty-four he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, effectively running the Irish government for the next six years. A brilliant administrator and ruthlessly logical thinker and orator, he peppered his speeches with statistics and economic analysis drawn from Smith and Ricardo. As Home Secretary he consolidated Britain's unwieldy and ancient criminal statues, abolished the death penalty for scores of petty crimes and established the world's first modern police force. Never an energetic or charismatic speaker, Peel overwhelmed his opponents with clear, tight and logical argument that seemed to flow with seemingly scientific rigor. Wellington, impressed with the younger man's abilities and sincerity, made him a close ally almost from the start. The men also shared similar convictions on the three great issues of the day, Catholic Emancipation, Parliamentary Reform and the Corn Laws.

Both held a paternalistic view of society as requiring leaders to guide the often petty, selfish and overly emotional middle and lower classes. To both men democracy was an epithet and would have agreed with Thomas Carlyle's famous quip that democracy was really "mobocracy." To that end they were Tories and viewed the landed gentry, the aristocracy, the monarch and the Church of England as pillars of authority and justice; as an interlocking series of institutions meant to develop and sustain a just and wise governing class. Neither men, however, was blind to either merit or economic reality. Wellington had been the younger son of an Irish earl, a full member of the Ascendancy, yet had made his way to the pinnacle of British aristocracy through his military exploits. Peel's rise was more spectacular, his grandfather had been little better than a small town merchant, his father was one of the most successful cotton cloth manufacturers of the early industrial revolution.

Through education, wealth and public service Peel had become a senior member of cabinet, the very center of the British establishment. More philosophical than his friend Wellington, Peel sought to bridge the industrial-agrarian divide, seeking an understanding between the new industrial rich with the historic landed gentry and aristocracy. Both, he argued, should work together to govern Britain in the national interest, serving crown and country. Their wealth allowed them the ability to engage in public service at a time when MPs were unpaid and cabinet salaries fairly modest, their education allowed them to take both a historic and national perspective.

The new industrial elite represented the future, the agrarian the past and arguably the soul of Britain, the two could evolve together, gradually and prudently. The Whigs, who strongly supported repeal of the Corn Laws, were traditional the party of commerce and trade and should have been the easy political choice for rising Lancashire magnates like the Peels. The Whig response to the French Revolution, and the nearly twenty-five years of Franco-British warfare that followed, had been one of open admiration and continual attempts at appeasement. Many Whigs, Edmund Burke being the most famous, drifted into the ranks of the Tories as the party of patriotism and national unity. For many, though by no means most, industrialists regarded the Whigs as the party of anarchy, republicanism and treason.

For Sir Robert Peel his Toryism rested on patriotism and paternalism. Wellington, the soldier statesman, could scarcely have agreed more. Both men opposed Catholic Emancipation, the granting of near full civil rights to catholics, as it would undermined the power of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, allowing for a creeping democratic element among a populace by no means reconciled to British rule and traditions. They opposed the sweeping and immediate reform of Parliament, the elimination of rotten borough like Old Sarum, and the one that had returned Sir Robert Peel to his first parliament, and fairer representation to the new industrial cities. Such reform would threaten the governing classes with the specter of democracy, as well as being more likely to return Whig members.

The Corn Laws, however, were more problematic for both men. They both agreed that free trade was an economic ideal, Wellington probably following his younger colleague's lead, yet a free trade in grain could economically undermine the agrarian faction of the Tory Party, destroying the alliance Peel hoped to develop. There was no contradiction in the mind of either men in an alliance between industrial and agrarian elites, their particular interests, as all particular interests, could in the long term be served by serving the national interest. As the 1830s and 1840s wore on that treasured assumption would confront Peel's own growing doubts about the Corn Laws, and the new politics that emerged after 1832.

Continued at The Gods of the Copybook Headings


Neil Welton said...

Really! All this talk of work and wealth creation on a Sunday. I expect to see you at The Vicarage asking for forgiveness.

Kipling said...

If it helps the post was composed on a Saturday, so technically there was no Sabbath breaking. I won't be asking for forgiveness, but I will be reading the blog anyway.


Neil Welton said...

That's a relief. Composing blog entries, writing e-mails and updating websites on a Saturday. The great minds think alike.

WLindsayWheeler said...

And that is the problem of Ricardo's Theory of comparative wealth. That human existence is all about "Trade". It is divorced from the human community and its needs and what is the "Good". The Good is no longer what is good for the community, But what is good for the merchant, the retailer, the money man. Life has been degraded to "It's all about Money, Money, Money."

Commercialism is all about destroying the national unit as its business to destroy religion.

Free trade is insidious. It destroyed Athens, Rome, Venice and it is destroying Europe, Britain and America. We no longer think "What is in the best interests of our Kinsmen" but "What is in the best interests of self-aggradizement, the money man, the banker, and the capitalist".

Is this what Life is all about---Money and Trade? The Theory of Comparative Wealth is "Stand alone". It is NOT integrated into the philosophy or customs or tradition of a particular nation but instead trumps philosophy, religion, morality, ethics, customs and tradition. It supplants all of these and climbs into the driver seat. It rules. It used to be that Religion and Tradition rule but with Economics, All things are subordinated to "getting filthy lucre".

Kipling said...

Rather than reply with my own infidel ideas, I'll instead quote a Christian politician and economic thinker, the great Richard Cobden. The below is part of a speech he gave on the second reading of the bill to repeal the Corn Laws (February 1846):

"Yes, we are going to teach the world that other lesson. Don't think there is anything selfish in this, or anything at all discordant with Christian principles. I can prove that we advocate nothing but what is agreeable to the highest behests of Christianity. To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest. What is the meaning of the maxim? It means that you take the article which you have in the greatest abundance, and with it obtain from others that of which they have the most to spare; so giving to mankind the means of enjoying the fullest abundance of earth's goods, and in doing so, carrying out to the fullest extent the Christian doctrine of 'Doing to all men as ye would they should do unto you."

Neil Welton said...

Wow! What passion W Lindsay Wheeler - I nearly tripped over my cassock. At this rate I'll be out of my pulpit by next week.

What happens to you if you ain't got anything to sell (because you are disabled) or you do not have the means to buy anything (because you are poor)?

I do hate to be awkward (especially on a Sunday) but Jesus also gave a clear message to those who wanted to follow him: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6: 24)

WLindsayWheeler said...

"...agreeable to the highest behests of Christianity. To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest..."

Christian theology is again subordinated to economic principles. If those same economic principles undermine and threaten one's society, wouldn't it then become "un" Christian? The past CEO of Keloggs, Guiterrez, just moved the South Plant of Battle Creek to Mexico. Now, 2500 Battle Creek residents are out of a job. Our tax base shrunk by 2500 hundred good taxpayers. Our schools and local government ar fighting budget deficits.

Ohh, Guiterrez made the right "business" decision, but did he make the right Christian, community decision?

Christian ethics are not suborned by economic principles. Economics is last on the list. When making value judgements there is a hierarchy of values. Economics is not in the top three. Economics is to be ruled by prudence, religion, and by wisdom. Economics is an "appetite"; it fuels the lust of men what the Greeks termed Banavsos

Montesquieu also recognizes the power of commercialism. He writes: " attack a religion is by favor, by the commodities of life, by the hope of wealth; not by what turns away, but by what makes one forget; not by what arouses indignation, but by what renders men lukewarm—so that other passions act on our souls, and those which religion inspires are silent". He said this approach would work by pointing to a real historical event, the advent of the United States, a "democracy founded on commerce".

Beaverbrook said...

This is good stuff, Kipling. I too have thought long and hard about where wealth has morally and spiritually taken us over the decades and how so many seem to treat wealth as life's prime ambition and goal. Family and community are indeed more important, and Kipling is on record stating as much, when he says that a nation is not an economic proposition.

Kipling said...

Money is only a means to an end. A stronger economy allows us more means to more ends. I recall Mrs Thatcher's observation that had the Good Samaritan not had any money, he too would have had to pass on the other side. It should be also be remembered that the freest period economically in Western history was under the Victorians, who also bemoaned materialism but had a far less materialistic society.

The fault lies not in capitalism, but in the collapse of any systems of ideas, whether religious or secular, to sustain non-economic values. If everything is relative and one set of values cannot be superior to another, you have intellectual and moral anarchy. Bereft of anything spirtual people turn to the purely material by default. More money doesn't make us narrow it's fewer values, especially good ones.

Blaming capitalism for the pettiness of modern life is like blaming machinery for the same problem. These are only tools and with respect, to me, it seems not only wrong but harmful to blame the tools and means rather than the mainspring of the problem, if only because it distracts our attention from the main problem.

A nation not being an economic proposition is a case in point. By understanding that a nation is based upon a set of common values and traditions, we need not worry if the nation engages in free trade. The hysterical reaction of the Canadian left to Free Trade with the US in the 1980s is a case in point. These patriots thought so little of Canada as a nation that simply because we would be buying more American goods, and have a few more of our companies owned by Americans, we would cease to be Canadian. Canada is a lot tougher than than.

One of the reasons economic life should be free is that it is so relatively unimportant compared to higher values. It's only money. Our faults, dear Brutus, are in ourselves and not in the economic stars.

Neil Welton said...

Trouble is Kipling is that most of your economic arguments are based on a large number of uncomfortable assumptions.

1. The assumption that all the people with wealth, power and privilege do not "pass on the other side".

2. The assumption that the British Welfare State was not created as a result of the harsh Victorian period.

3. The assumption that the collapse of non-economic ideas (our spiritual values) is not due to economics.

4. The assumption that people understand that a nation is based upon a set of common values and traditions.

5. The big assumption that those making the cheaper goods are paid well and have a good standard of living.

6. The assumption that people believe that economics is relatively unimportant compared to higher values.

7. The assumption that our faults are in ourselves.

Rather than place my faith in assumption, I trust God.

However, I do agree with you here:

1. "Bereft of anything spirtual people turn to the purely material by default."

2. "If everything is relative and one set of values cannot be superior to another, you have intellectual and moral anarchy."

Describes 2007 perfectly.

Beaverbrook said...

Rather than place my faith in assumption, I trust God.

Well then, let's just stop all this Adam Smith tomfoolery and turn the economy over to the Vicar of Christ.

In our great tradition, there is no alternative to free enterprise, free trade and free flow of capital. I would not have it any other way, even as millions overly enjoy their materialistic pursuits and new found debauchery. The challenges of the 19th century has given way to the challenges of the 21st, but I don't think anyone would seriously contemplate trading their office job for a chimney sweep in exchange for greater moral rectitude. It is worth noting that in Victorian times, people were more virtuous and had better values not because they were poorer (at least not the only reason), but because they had greater responsibilty for their own lives. As A.J.P. Taylor, the historian and official biographer of Lord Beaverbrook, once said, before the Great War an individual could live his whole life without coming in contact with the Government, apart from perhaps the policeman and the postmaster. The descent of civilization is as much to do with massive public intrusion into our private lives over the past century, as anything to do with unprecedented wealth generation.

Besides, most of us are still struggling to provide the necessities of living in an expensive world, so it's a little early to say we are all so awash in bullion we don't know what to do with it. We may indeed get there by the end of this century, where automation, robots and artificial life cater to our every need and luxury, but I for one think it's a good thing in the long run for all to have as a goal the eradication of economic slavery the planet over, where every human being is free to follow his own interests and pursuits, where our prime responsibility returns to raising a family and other worthwhile devotions and celebrations of habit, instinct, culture and community, while putting our good fortune into the proper perspective it deserves.

Neil Welton said...

Hee! Hee! I love playing Devil's Advocate (now don't tell the Archbishop I said that).

Trouble with economics, just like politics, there is no Holy Grail or panacea. Men like to think so. Yet God has other plans for men. Plans they ignore at their peril!

Honestly Beavers, yet more assumptions:

1. You assume that vicars and archbishops have not been office workers, shop shelf stackers (say that fast) or chimney sweeps in their previous Earthly lives.

2. You assume like Kipling that The Welfare State was not created as a result of the harsh Victorian period.

3. You assume that in Victorian times people were more virtuous and had better values because they were poor.

4. You assume that Government intrusion into our lives (or should that be our society) is always a bad thing.

5. You assume that "your" economic tradition will ensure the eradication of all economic slavery.

6. You assume that every human being is free to follow his interests - even to the expense of other humans?

7. You assume that all people are able to put their good fortune, wealth and privilege into proper perspective.

The faith you need for all these assumptions Beavers is far greater than any faith you will ever need for God.

I merely post these views as an antidote. As a "food for thought". In my experience people who assume that their economic or political visions are always right are always the most dangerous. Hitler and Stalin were like that. The seeing is in the implementation. It is always better to have doubt because then you can have Faith. It is always better to have, and to be guided, by Love. Be guided by God, by a simple love for your fellow man and honour your King. Do not let your society be ruled by other, more unknown, forces. For God is greater than all these forces. Greater even than economists.

Oh, I forgot to say - a very interesting and most entertaining blog entry. A thoroughly good read.

However, there is only one problem with this entry which has some resonance with our wider debate.

British history is full of amazing people and characters - but only the ones who could afford to be a part of it.

Kipling said...

Your comments are certainly appreciated too. I few words on the assumptions you list.

"You assume like Kipling that The Welfare State was not created as a result of the harsh Victorian period."

Now that I have to dispute. This is certainly the Fabian version of British history but the facts are somewhat thin in supporting it. The Britain of 1945 was, despite the war, incomparably wealthier in per capita terms than any time in the 19th century. German industrialization was arguably less brutal, yet their welfare state began in 1880, not 1945. France, which really only industrialized after WWII had a more extensive welfare state in some areas than Britain by the 1930s. If the Welfare State was a reaction to the harshness of Victorian life why did it take forty-four years after Victoria's death to happen.

The fact of low living standards does not automatically suggest a particular solution to that problem. The welfare state was just one solution. It should also be noted that Britain had a higher per capital income than any continental country into the late 1950s.

"You assume that Government intrusion into our lives (or should that be our society) is always a bad thing."

At the very least it's very rarely a good thing. Are you really suggesting that someone you've never met knows how to run your life better than you? We'll leave infallibility to the Vatican and admit the rest of us make mistakes, and we have a vested interest in getting things right. What about government?

"You assume that "your" economic tradition will ensure the eradication of all economic slavery."

Well, it's got a far better track record than anything else devised by man. Compare the modern West to everything before and elsewhere.

" In my experience people who assume that their economic or political visions are always right are always the most dangerous. Hitler and Stalin were like that. The seeing is in the implementation. It is always better to have doubt because then you can have Faith."

Be careful, skepticism and relativism can lead to agnosticism and worse.... ;-)

Hitler and Stalin believed they were right to kill anyone who got in their way of creating their ideal society. We're just saying that in most cases "laissez-faire" is the appropriate policy, scarely a totalitarian creed to say leave people be.

"British history is full of amazing people and characters - but only the ones who could afford to be a part of it."

Thanks to men like Peel, Wellington, Gladstone and Disraeli a lot more people could participate in that public life. In the last thirty years Britain has seen Prime Ministers from very humble backgrounds - James Callaghan, working class single mother, John Major's father was in music hall, Margaret Thatcher's father was a grocer. None of these people could have aspired to political office even in the early 20th century. Like the British constitution - dare we say the crown itself - capitalism often moves slowly, but surely and usually in the right direction. Its faults are all too human, but its virtues are sometimes, pardon my blasphemy Vicar, divine!

If I meet the Bishop, I promise not tell him you were trying to be sympathetic to the devil.

Beaverbrook said...

Kipling, how about part II?

Neil Welton said...

Where is Part Two, Kippers? It's a jolly good read. Transports me to another time. A more innocent and naive time.

Now where was I...

Ah, yes. Crikey! I really don't understand what the problem is. I only asked for a little more caring, a little more sharing and a little more compassion. I don't think that being compassionate, caring and sharing makes you sympathetic to the Devil, do you? Mind you, the Devil might not think much about caring, sharing and compassion. I say no more. Only God knows your heart.

I think you will find that the state pension system and the education system were created much before 1945. These are classic examples, along with the NHS, where the state can perform a useful function for the poor, disabled and vulnerable. This is Government action in the absence of private sector interest or charitable donations. Sometimes people do "walk on by".

Over the years I have listened to many who are, what I call, "laissez-faire crackers". They take laissez-faire ideas too far and by so doing become totalitarian in their ideas, methods and ways. This is because they believe they are always right and as such make a classic political and economic mistake. Mistakes they share with Communism and Fascism. For they too lost full sight of life, of people and of God. They went on to hurt the poor and the vulnerable to achieve what they too believed was right. They even hurt a Royal Family to get their ways. Such is the nature of secular beliefs. For capitalism has many virtues but it is also man made. Thus it is prone to weakness. A great weakness.

The United Kingdom is now wealthier than it has ever been. However, it is also possible to argue (as I have done here) for a more compassionate society. Unlike some I don't see the contradiction. For wealth and health go hand-in-hand. This is why the political parties in Britain now accept this as a given. Even the British Conservative Party has had to re-think and try to change since losing three General Elections.

Don't you think, Kippers, it's a shame that you can only focus on the last forty years to find people who have not bought themselves to power. You suggest that before then people never ever "aspired". I would say they were "excluded". For economics, just like politics, often moves very slowly but again you "assume" that it moves in the right directions. Man must "ensure" it moves in the right directions. For man is accountable to God, not economists. Man is servant, not Master.

Anyway, I have a spooky feeling we are not going to agree. This is what makes God's world a wonderful place. You have your ideas, I have my ideas. We will not always agree. We will not always see eyes-to-eyes. Who knows, by bringing our ideas together on these divine pages we have begun to shape a better world.

A world shaped by faith in God and not assumptions.

Scott said...

Caring and sharing is very good, but is easily corrupted into tyranny by condescension.

Much evil has been committed in the name of all-knowing charity, lest we forget. We must help our fellow man: we must never control him, or live for him, in our charity. The Good Samaritan handed over the cash to the Innkeeper and promised to pay the wounded man's possible bills, he didn't (as the modern state does), prescribe the very method and timing of the treatment, nor did he legally force all the local sick to receive his treatment in the order and manner he saw fit, according to his own waiting lists and capabilities, often in squalor and depredation, advising them that such was the price of good health for all about. Such a system would have been met by the wounded man upon that road with startled incomprehension, no doubt only moments before he voluntarily threw himself back into the road to wait for someone less sinister.

Needless to say, of course, that the state as an organisation is inherently the opposite of a charity.

Kipling said...

Part Two is transported!!!

" only asked for a little more caring, a little more sharing and a little more compassion."

I dispute that government is the better or fairer way of doing that, nothing more or less.

Private charities did exist in the Victorian era and given the levels of wealth at the time they did about as good a job as could be expected. Long before the NHS it was considered customary for some English doctors to "soak" their rich patients as a way of subsidizing their poor ones. Isn't that rather more efficient than getting a huge bureaucracy in the way? Just a point to consider.

Some people do walk on by, though like everything in life we don't all do what we should, does that mean that others should govern our lives for us. It's the downside of free will.

"You suggest that before then people never ever "aspired". I would say they were "excluded"."

I don't disagree that people were "excluded," no one can deny the class system or the disadvantages of poverty. "Bought" is too wide a term for the politics of the era. People might have bought a ticket but the rest had to be earned. Sir Robert Peel was a very rich man, that's how he got into Parliament. It's not why he became Prime Minister.

My point was that that those barriers to exclusion were broken down, and broken down faster in Britain than in many other places. I also forgot to mention David Lloyd George, who came from a pretty humble background himself, so it goes a little further back than forty years. Still I don't dispute the essence of what you're saying.

"For economics, just like politics, often moves very slowly but again you "assume" that it moves in the right directions. Man must "ensure" it moves in the right directions. For man is accountable to God, not economists."

I've met far too many economists to dream of a world where anyone would be accountable to them. What a dreary world! I had a professor of economic history - a different breed from actual economists - who used to begin his lectures by saying that man does not live by bread only. He was not a Christian by any stretch but he understood the limits of economics and so do I. As I said earlier, money is only a means, morality is the guide to how we should live.

Pointing out the importance of material things does not make you a materialist.

"Anyway, I have a spooky feeling we are not going to agree."

I don't think we disagree on as much as you think, but maybe you'll disagree with me on that. In any case I think 16 comments is enough for any post.

All the best.

Neil Welton said...

Well, it's been great debating with you Kippers. I just guess we fundamentally disagree about the role of the State and the need for a State in the modern age.

I believe that Government intervention is sometimes necessary, indeed crucial - especially in the absence of private sector interest or those charitable donations.

After all, if the private sector and charity how worked in the first place - the State would not have built schools, a pension system and the NHS.

Gosh! I have just realised something. This is the first posting recently where I haven't mentioned God. :-)

I will not mention Him again for a while. I wouldn't want you all to think that is all I go on about. He is just worth mentioning now and again - stimulates debate.