A while back, Phillip Blond, British exponent of what he calls “Red Toryism” did something of an American tour. The American Conservative this month reprints the substance of an address he delivered at Georgetown University titled “Shattered Society.” Although he has direct reference to the current political and social situation in the UK, much of the diagnosis is directly relevant to the contemporary American context. The answer to the main problems, he suggests, is neither statist liberalism nor “conservatism” (a code word these days, in Britain and the United States, for an intellectually and morally bankrupt libertarianism).
What distinguishes conservatism from classical liberalism?
The problem with classical liberalism is that it never pauses to examine what is involved in ‘not harming others’. Do I leave others unharmed when I destroy my capacity for personal relationships, through drug-taking, promiscuity, or porn addiction? Do I leave them unharmed when I stupefy myself with pop music? I have nothing against individualism, so long as it is recognized that the individual is created by a community and by the moral constraints that prevail in it. The individual is not the foundation of society but its most important by-product.
What deleterious consequences does the free market have? And in what ways should the market be limited?
The market, left to itself, puts everything on sale; hence the problem of pornography. We don’t allow children to be sold – not yet: but we do allow them to be treated as market commodities when they are in the womb. It is very obvious, when you look at these facts, that the market is a good only when controlled by moral sentiment – as Adam Smith recognized. The market should be limited by laws reflecting the needs of the moral life. Certain things should be withdrawn from the market, in the way that religion has always tried to withdraw the aspects of human life on which the reproduction of society depends.
Feel free to comment and/or critique in the comment thread. To the degree that I see cultural and social issues as relevant to what I usually discuss on this blog, I think these are worthwhile and, therefore, I bring them to your attention. That said, I’m done with politics as such in this space for a while.