Moral Basis Of Hostility To Free Institutions by
Peter LilleyTempleton lecture, 1
I want to address some issues raised by what might be called the Fukuyamaquestion.Has history come to an end?Has the liberal democratic free market paradigm won?Is the left dead?In short, should we disband the IEA, abandon these lectures and all go home!I would submit that we could only do that if the
of free markets and free institutions were nowrecognised across the political spectrum.And that is far from being the case.It is true that communism has collapsed in the East.And an overt commitment to socialism has been found to be an electoral albatross in the West.As a result, left of centre parties in most western countries have moderated their programmes and altered their rhetoric.But their default mode still remains a disposition to tax and spend, regulate and control, centralise and bureaucratise, and to replace institutions that have evolved by those designed according to abstract criteria.Moreover, left-wing views ? hostile not just to free markets but also to rules and institutions which are either thefruit of freedom or necessary for its survival ? are strongly rooted within the intelligentsia.Those ideas flourish particularly in academe, the public sector, the legal establishment, the churches and the media.Forced into retreat on the economic front, leftist ideas are on the attack on social, cultural and constitutional issues.Within the public sector the left can still promote social engineering and from their other bastions they candisseminate their views.Indeed left-wing views exercise a powerful moral sway way beyond their strongholds.They influence private discourse through politically correct language on sexism and racism.They generate a climate of respect for anti-globalisation protestors, feminist activists and environmentalist attackson business.The advocates of capitalism, free markets and free institutions may ostensibly be the victors on Fukuyama?s worldhistoric view.But the low esteem in which the parties of the centre right are held throughout the western world demonstrates thatthey have certainly not been accorded the laurels of moral legitimacy.What is remarkable is that left-wing attitudes retain not just their resilience but a degree of coherence, despite thecollapse of openly socialist parties.There is no organisation laying down a party line, yet left-wing views seem to constitute a mind set which is able toretain a broad doctrinal consistency.They are like a religion yet without church, scriptures, prophets or priests.There are plenty of differences of opinion on the left and disputes about tactics and specific policies.But there seems to be a cluster of attitudes that those on the left tend to share.Equally there is a cluster of attitudes that characterise the libertarian/conservative right.The right of centre has often prided itself on not having an ideology.But it does have a mind set. Not everyone on the left of centre shares
the values and attitudes that constitute the leftist mind set.Still less do they all hold them with equal intensity.And the same is true of those on the right of centre.But what is comparatively rare is to find anyone in the thinking classes who straddles the two clusters of ideas.People may pick either from one set or the other but they rarely pick and mix equally from both.As Gilbert & Sullivan put it:"Every little boy and girl who is born into this world alive is either a little liberal or a little conservative?