- Politics and society

Postmodern Tories What does the Conservative party believe any more?

Prospect Magazine February 2013

The mid-term of a government is a time of reflection, in which the parties can revive their attachments and reformulate their message. Two recent volumes, Britannia Unchained,co-authored by a group of young Conservative MPs, and Tory Modernisation 2.0,issued by Bright Blue, an organisation that campaigns for reform within the Conservative party, give us some indication of the forces now at work in shaping Tory thinking. The volume by the MPs—Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss—is a detailed analysis of the ways in which Britain has been failing, and the ways in which it could regain some, if not all, of its former stature. The volume by Bright Blue is a plea for the party to "modernise." The one calls on Conservatives to save the country, the other calls on them to update themselves in order to solve their image problem. These two messages correspond closely to David Cameron's policies over the last two years. So it is worth enquiring whether the messages are really compatible, and whether they stem from some long-term vision that will re-establish Conservatism at the centre of British politics. Britannia Unchainedis well written and well researched. It includes many telling comparisons between our country and others from which we can and ought to learn. The argument is remarkable not least for its unideological tone, attributing much of our current fiscal crisis to the mistakes, rather than the malice, of the Labour party, and showing a readiness to share some of the blame. If all politicians resembled Kwarteng and co in their willingness to address real issues with a similar seriousness and clarity, parliament would not be the disreputable place that so many people now think it to be.

Tory Modernisation 2.0contains contributions from two MPs, David Willetts and Francis Maude, but Bright Blue is not a parliamentary campaign, having been conceived in think tanks, including the "Progressive Conservatism Project" at Demos. The book opens with Matthew d'Ancona's lively discussion of the Tory party's image problem among postmodern people. What follows shows why progressive conservatism has an image problem among more traditional conservatives like me. There are intelligent thoughts from David Willetts but the chapters are for the most part thin on ideas and uninspiring. The suggestion that the party must reform in keeping with social change is not new: Burke already argued in the founding document of British conservatism that "we must reform in order to conserve." But that implies that we must have an idea of what we are hoping to conserve and why. On this point the contributors to Tory Modernisation 2.0are uncertain. What is it, in the end, that they wish to hold on to: the nation, the Union, the family, the free economy, the freedom of the individual? Their discussions veer constantly away from the places where this question can be asked. The tone is for the most part secular, utilitarian and disenchanted. Religion is off the agenda; so too is national sovereignty. The loss of our legal autonomy to Europe is barely mentioned. The family is there, sort of—but gay marriage is above it on the agenda. The contributors are serious people, troubled by the obvious fact that the old sources of social sentiment, to which we might appeal in building a civil society that is not just another name for the state, are drying up. But—with the exception of Willetts and d'Ancona—they show little or no familiarity with the tradition of conservative thinking. Modernisation seems to mean looking at the world as though it began this morning. The result is interesting in its way: but it would be better described as the "postmodernisation" of the Tory party. And I doubt that the electorate would vote for a postmodern Tory party. The five authors of Britannia Unchainedturn to economics whenever they need a conclusive reason for their policies. They are acutely aware that our civil inheritance can no longer be taken for granted. But their first concern is to outline the economic cost of this. I sympathise with this emphasis. For how do you counter the

Equality demands equal treatment for disadvantaged and advantaged children. It fights for any side that can capture it. The authors show. and rhetoric.emotional impact of arguments from the left—arguments about social justice. from the rhetorical point of view. with both statistics and well-chosen examples. and therefore the abolition of effective border controls. In a media-dominated democracy truth counts for very little. Necessarily. Equal in what respect. through comparison with Canada. They tell persuasive stories. we must begin from Plato's famous distinction between philosophy. and the economic effects of it. whose goal is persuasion. however. and socialism as equality of outcome. it seems to me. and just what you ought to do to break the habit. and of the family structures that go with it. and in what perspective? Are criminals to be treated equally with law-abiding citizens. Philosophically speaking the idea that all human beings are equal is questionable. for what end. equality and compassion—if you don't refer to the cost of putting them into practice? And the cost is huge. their arguments depend on the financial aspect of the things they deplore. and they retreat into the castle of economics whenever the big ideas loom on the horizon. and therefore exams that make no real distinctions between them. while persuasion is everything. for instance? Nevertheless. They give a devastating account of Britain's educational decline. Looming over the battlefield of modern politics is the rhetoric of equality. If we are to confront these ideas. It demands equal treatment for nationals and for migrants. of the real price of our benefit system and of the welfare culture that has flowed from it. just what it means to pay for your promises by borrowing. defending traditional conservatism as equality of opportunity. They do not shrink from addressing some of the deep social and spiritual problems that have emerged in postwar Britain—notably the collapse of the work ethic. whose goal is truth. the very same idea of equality is the premise of every winning argument. It demands equal treatment for gay and straight people. and therefore gay marriage. .

who is to decide. but to ride somewhere. is unquestionably a good thing—unless it is abused. persuasive. The subtle arguments for the market economy developed by the Austrian school will never extinguish the zero-sum fallacy. intricate and true. and false. Today's winning political rhetoric. Burke's defence of common law justice. in my view. Yet freedom also opens the road to the rest of us. is. The theory of knowledge and its social function that inspires Michael Gove cannot silence the loud cry of the teachers' unions for equality whatever the cost." Even those on . by contrast. schools abandon discipline. educational freedom creates opportunities for those at the bottom of society. Matthew Arnold summarised the matter succinctly: "a very good horse to ride. which says that if some are rich it is because others aren't. Freedom means opportunity. Edmund Burke and David Hume. is simple. in this sense. Philosophically speaking it is again highly questionable whether human beings are or ought to be free: free from whom. universities abandon the old and tried curriculum in order to offer students a wider choice of degrees. freedom of conscience protects us from the rule of priests and mullahs. individual freedom cries out for top-down control. Freedom. economic freedom protects the volunteer and the entrepreneur against the smothering cloak of regulation. and on the continent by GWF Hegel and Joseph de Maistre. And there's the rub. to do what? In the name of freedom men abandon their families. while freedom of speech enables us to scorn bigots and bullies without fear of reprisal. and opportunity means that the canny. and join the new class of global fat cats. Dressed up in this way. enjoy those phenomenal city salaries. The philosophy of conservatism. What counts as abuse. launched two centuries ago by Adam Smith. difficult. the determined and the strong rise to the top." Reading these two books I came to the conclusion that the current difficulties for the conservative cause lie exactly in the tension that worried Plato. has little weight against the rhetoric of "compassion.Looming slightly less prominently over the battlefield is the rhetoric of freedom. like Hegel's defence of the family and the corporation. and what should be the penalty? The philosophy here is deep and difficult but the rhetoric is easy.

and why? If you can answer those questions you can address the practical corollary: how? The answer is implicit in the arguments of the five MPs. either economically or morally. And I find nothing to disagree with in . pop star and actor. finance and medicine—in other words. from policing to healthcare. or with an education system that puts equality ahead of knowledge as its goal. and that the free economy is an asset that we should value as much as we value freedom generally." as Keynes famously put it—none of us will have to pay for current policies and meanwhile it is best to look caring and nice. They do not believe that Britain can flourish. For it is not about appearing nice. This leads me back to philosophy. They describe a society in which household savings have dropped from 8 per cent to less than 2 per cent of available resources. Kwarteng and co do not blame anyone for this. in which regulation is defeating initiative. They believe that British business must be freed from excessive regulation if it is to function properly. in the end. They point to all the areas. and in which one fifth of adults have an unsecured debt of £10. and tired old policies are holding us back. the other side is going to describe you as "nasty. Whatever rhetoric you choose for promoting that cause. Today the top wished-for careers are sports star. Instead. de-skilled and de-schooled in the name of equality. does a conservative seek to conserve. will go on repeating it. careers as useful members of society. The five authors of Britannia Unchainedare aware of this. under the present weight of welfare dependency. The philosophyof conservatism has nothing to say in response to this. What. They are seeking to conserve a country and its institutions. not truth.000 or more." For rhetoric is about appearance. in the face of internal and external threats. Twenty-five years ago the top wished-for careers of British children were in teaching. and the state dependent on borrowing from a purely imaginary future. It is about conserving the foundations of civil society. For the ruling belief is that "in the long run we are all dead. They tell alarming stories about the new generation of Britons. they hunt for the inspiring exceptions and the ways in which we can all work together to put the country back on its feet.the right who believe that the long-term effect of this rhetoric is to make everyone dependent on the state.

of a territory that is home to a settled people and an accepted legal order. sometimes following the liberals and sometimes leading them. of the family. that they wish to conserve? *** David Cameron has now made his first clear statement on the matter. promising a referendum on the greatest question that confronts this country. of the Church of England. diagnosing its ills and proposing remedies—this was the stuff of politics. this Britain. law and religion. of law and order. as the British Tory party moved towards democracy. But all three shared the belief in England. All three came from the Celtic fringes. Burke and Hume were clear that they were defending an enduring political order. and believed that it was the duty of the politician to conserve that order. Defining this order. of the armed forces and of all the little platoons which aspire to some share in the pomp and circumstance of old England.their diagnoses. a settlement established by long-standing custom and civil institutions. was expressed by Hegel in terms of the nation state. kept in being by custom. Smith. They admired the inherited freedoms and rights upheld by parliament and acknowledged that freedom depends upon a moral consensus and a society-wide habit of trust. It has defined the customs and institutions that it is seeking to conserve in terms that a large proportion of electorate broadly agree with—it has been the party of monarchy. describing its virtues. However. This approach is one reason for the astonishing success of the Conservative party over nearly two centuries. It is a moral idea. of the common law. which is the question of whether it actually exists as an autonomous political entity. and one to . while de Maistre endowed it with mystical and religious foundations. Throughout the early years. whose parliament exists to resolve conflicts and not to change the way things fundamentally are. their argument raises a question that it does not answer: just what is this country. This idea. it remained wedded to a vision of inherited social order. So understood England is not a "nation" exactly. in the way the emerging Germany of Hegel or the France of de Maistre were nations.

The Labour party has encouraged a school curriculum from which the "we" concept has been more or less excised. then conservatism is dead. and therefore set out to deconstruct the idea of England. note their understated and very English kind of patriotism." And it has leant heavily on the grievances of the Scots and the Welsh in pressing the point home. nevertheless. If that is where we are. leaving England on the dust-heap of history. changes everything. by the Conservative party in its search for a defining philosophy. from the five MPs. rather than what they are against. now.Environment Conservatism and the Environment Conservative Home . to replace "us" with everyone. The left has understood this. That. with pride in empire replaced by shame at our former belief in it. Those are only some of the problems faced. But I take heart. you might think. by giving to the Scottish electorate two votes. highlighted by the recent census. one to govern themselves. This move has finally marginalised the English idea.which the Tories have always appealed when asked to define what they are for. Moreover it has given a reliable block vote to the Labour party in Westminster. But perhaps no move that the party made during its recent 13 years of office has been more upsetting to the Tory interest than that of creating a Scottish parliament without removing the Scottish members from the parliament of Westminster. is what the "modernisation wing" of the Tory party is hoping for—a new kind of conservatism which conserves nothing. and another to control the English. and am encouraged when I see that only two of their names could have occurred in Trollope or Dickens. to show it to be a class-ridden and socially divisive sham—what Plato would call a "noble lie. further emphasise the difficulty in reformulating the philosophy of "us. to dissolve the country and its culture in the abstract idea of human rights. Demographic changes. Articles . and to march with Nick Clegg into a transnational future. in effect." Far easier. and is guided by the very same rhetoric of equality and human rights that shapes the left-liberal agenda.

and constantly invent bogeymen – 'neo-liberalism'. which returns to equilibrium in changing conditions. and the environmental consequences can be seen all . But much more important for the activists is the political use to which that fear can be put – which is to destroy national sovereignty and to exert a top-down control by the self-appointed experts over the ordinary activities of mankind. solved by people acting in the conservative spirit. involving the loss of sovereignty and the surrender to treaties that tie our hands. the priority of the local and the search for home. Environmental problems arise when homeostatic systems break down – in other words. There may be reason to fear what is happening. require global solutions. as a partnership between the living. for whatever reason. Left-wing thinkers refuse to accept this. and to pass that home to their children. Conservatives resonate to Burke's view of society. and therefore control by socialists. lends itself . and global solutions are trans-national solutions. Oikophilia. they believe in civil association between neighbours rather than intervention by the state. 'corporate greed'. the unborn and the dead. Moreover. provided the participants bear the costs of their actions. when the feedback loop that establishes equilibrium is. 'market failure' – in order to justify the intervention of the state. and it is astonishing that the Conservative Party has not seized hold of that cause as its own. But intervention by the state is the major cause of disequilibrium.March 2013 There is no political cause more amenable to the conservative vision than that of the environment. and often have been. Global problems. to make a home for themselves. and they accept that the most important thing the living can do is to settle down. For it touches on the three foundational ideas of our movement: trans-generational loyalty. The homeostatic system that has been most studied is the free market. destroyed. The problem arises because the agenda has been set by the globalisers. the love of the environmental cause. by concentrating on climate change the activists have managed to distract attention from the many other environmental problems that could be. we are told.

as Elinor Ostrom has shown. Vital to this conservative environmental movement has been the love of beauty. an irreplaceable fund of 'social capital'. Through art. It is this that gives rise to 'the tragedy of the commons'. The market ceases to deliver solutions to environmental problems when participants can externalise their costs – in other words. such as it was. The solution is not automatically to call on the state to intervene but first to look for the social mechanisms that cause people to bear the costs of what they do. acting often in conjunction with the law of trusts. If we look at the history of the environmental movement in Britain we see those conservative principles working successfully. Beauty. and leading to the creation of the National Trust at the end of the 19th century. That is what the common law of tort has done in our country.across the former communist world – in the Soviet case in the form of total devastation. and to make conservatism – the only political outlook that has ever done anything for the environment – irrelevant. they have recognised. initiated by John Evelyn's Silva. literature and local activism the British people have given voice to the idea of beauty as a shared resource. It is what the conservative instinct for trusteeship spontaneously urges upon us. It is to deprive people of the primary source of oikophilia. but through the civil initiatives that challenge the state. beginning with the protests on behalf of the forests in the 17th century. when we are permitted to regard 'common pool resources' as shared by a defined and localised community. But the environmental demagogues are determined to brush such obstacles aside. Littering the landscape with pylons and wind-farms appeals to them not because it has any scientific authority – for the science. when they can escape the internal rules of the system. . has been exploded – but because it refocuses the problem as a global one. not through the state. It is what oikophilia naturally prompts us to do. To destroy the home that we have built over centuries is to afflict conservatives in the heart of their way of life. acts as a barrier to the top-down brutalities of the exploiters and the social engineers.

(without whose energy and public spirit the democratic traditions of Athens would certainly have been destroyed). and now it has happened to Margaret Thatcher. . because they know that it will produce an eyesore. they conveniently forgot everything he had done for them. Why do those old-fashioned words like trust. It was he who had created the Athenian navy. renewable energy and global warming define the problem. People resist large-scale development. Democracies have a natural tendency to turn against their saviors. His work was continued by Pericles. But Pericles also was driven from office. held the Persians at Artemisium and finally defeated them at Salamis. Conservative-minded architects like Leon Krier at Poundbury and John Simpson at Swindon have shown that this need not be so. beauty and home so seldom pass the lips of those who are now. in charge? And why is the agenda still set by those for whom climate change. nominally at least. People protest at the faceless estates that destroy the view from their window. The sad thing is that the Conservative Party has said so little to clarify what is at stake.Moreover. It was not the faults of those great leaders that caused their downfall but their virtues. It happened to Winston Churchill. it is through the pursuit of beauty that we could solve our most pressing environmental problem. But noone protests at Poundbury except the modernist architects who sense the threat that it poses to their monopoly game. which is the need for new homes. and in ways that produce affordable housing too. and for whom the favoured solution involves the total destruction of the things we love? Articles . It was he who had fortified Athens and made it the most prosperous city of theAegean. tried on trumped-up charges and threatened with exile. LA Times: LONDON — When the Athenians sent Themistocles into exile in 470 BC. It happened to Charles de Gaulle.Politics and society Baroness Thatcher: piece from 1990. settlement. that we can learn from our traditional architecture how to build in ways that enhance the neighbourhood.

it looked as though Britain was in a state of terminal decline. still exist in British society. with power to bring down the elected government. had irresolutely entered the European Community without any conception of the political cost and could no longer be relied upon to defend itself.Thatcher. still less by the state. its ideals of freedom and citizenship. first by resisting the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. and third by defying the ambitions of the Eurocrats. run by central government. The country had no foreign policy to speak of. The threat to peace came from our habit of defending ourselves. For in a democracy. Britain was ready to surrender all that it stood for: its pride. and whole sections of the economy. like Themistocles. in the face of which the poor Soviets could only reply in kind. The country wallowed in collective guilt feelings. second by countering the Soviet threat and exposing the peace movement as a part of it. the Soviet Union was a "socialist" state that had slightly deviated from its good intentions while remaining a friend of the working class. even its national defense. For the Labor Party. in the schools and in the universities. were busy accumulating privileges for their largely idle membership. leader of the mine workers. Socialist mandarins reigned in the civil service. Industry was crippled by strikes. She began to reform the . reinforced by the dependency culture of the welfare state. She restored our national pride and sense of sovereignty. She compelled the British people to recognize that the individual's life is his own and the responsibility of living it cannot be borne by anyone else. She released the talent and enterprise that. its enterprise. When she took office in 1979. were protected from competition and maintained in a state of bankruptcy. inferior people have power. our leaders either maintained an embarrassed silence or made craven offers of friendship. In short. When it came to communism. Thatcher changed all that. exposing such men as Arthur Scargill. has been overthrown by the resentment of her inferiors. for the Stalinists they are. She broke the power of the unions. notwithstanding decades of egalitarian claptrap. while more than half the gross national product was absorbed in public expenditure. The trade unions.

we were told: at best it could be delayed. They are natural believers in the state that nourishes them. Roger Scruton: Border control must be at the heart of any EU renegotiations Thus the Treaty of Rome included. private property and representative institutions had kept in being the old spirit of Europe. such people have created the myth of Thatcher as an "uncaring" and bossy woman. Nothing could be done to stop this. when there was near full employment and parity of income in the member states. as ever. opposing the socialist apparatchiks who control it and holding up their "progressive" curriculum to scorn. Anyone who threatens the dependency culture in Britain threatens the Establishment: the media. the freedom of the labour force to move across national borders. trying to persuade people that their lives could be better. recognizing that Thatcher's triumph would be their destruction. The chattering classes rose up in alarm. the universities. the result was a mass migration from places devastated by communism to places where the rule of law. For a few years our government was able to postpone the influx from . excluded. seemed harmless at the system. the vast heap of redundant civil servants. Nobody was more disturbed than my university colleagues: For decades they have enjoyed financial security with no real obligations. This freedom. which benefits nobody so much as those appointed to control it. Acting together with their friends in the media. and natural socialists when it comes--as occasionally happens--to exercising their minds. Those achievements led to her downfall. among its four freedoms. freer and simpler without this great cancer on the national economy. She even took on the welfare state itself. armed with Victorian values and a handbag. itself backed up by long-since exploded economic theories concerning the role played by the ‗factors of production‘. And when the decision was taken. Everything began to change. partly as a result of the Treaty. from which the people of Europe were. the welfare services. the schools. to extend membership to the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe. In fact she threatens nobody but the parasites.

in Conservative Party thinking. it seems this influx is to come. Those who know Bulgaria and Romania will have some awareness of what this will mean. Threats to both town planning and the countryside from the pressure to build. Ever more painful shortage of housing. Look at the real tensions in our society and you will find this always at their heart. in those matters on which our national survival depends? The Conservative Neglect Of Culture By Roger Scruton. and to Britain in particular. and our Parliament and our law can do nothing to prevent it. The growth of criminal networks located beyond our borders. All these things result from a global change that was not foreseen by the founders of the European Union. Unless controlled. Escalating demands on our health and welfare system from people who have never paid a contribution to it. And so on. should it not have this matter as its primarily purpose – namely. although current forms of censorship will prevent them from saying it. However. and which the EU institutions cannot possibly address – which is the mass migration from places devastated by brutal forms of government to the anglosphere. what means it should use. The greatest single problem that this country faces is not economic decline. considerations of culture remain on the margins. It is over-population.Romania and Bulgaria. Hence. Nobody knows what a cultural policy should aim at. and the impossibility of finding a house that a young family can afford. which was in recent memory the most effective in Europe. this mass migration will quickly destroy our country‘s remaining cultural and economic assets. as schools strive to accommodate classes in which hardly a child is a native speaker of the language. to restore to our Parliament the capacity to legislate. as jobs are seized by incoming workers from Eastern Europe. But the treaties forbid us to take action. If there is to be a renegotiation of our EU membership. Now. and meanwhile our government sits tinkering with irrelevant details. in the current discussion the principal matter is never mentioned. The collapse of education in our cities. in places where our long-standing rule of law has never been known. Rising unemployment among the young. or how it could lead to legislation or other political initiatives. as in so many areas of . and the rapid crumbling of our infrastructure. Worse.

to take up this cause have been greeted with silence. the Conservatives seem to have abandoned this fertile territory to the Left. music and natural beauty. who are attached to forms of life and practices which might reasonably be described as cultural: they tend to believe in family values and the rewards of family life. Who cares about Granville Bantock. It should be seen also to be tentatively exploring the deeper issues. Their tastes vary. Policies towards culture may be futile. including the Minister for Culture and the Chairman of the House of Commons Cultural Committee. and to have a love of literature. The Council objects to the word ‗English‘. and the rise of the leftist thought police. And when the culture is trivial or ideological the policies can be very destructive – as we have seen in education. and they would be comforted by the spectacle of a party endorsing the cultural values that they share. multiculturalism. and the love of our country and its past.political life. an initiative devoted to one of the greatest and least explored legacies of our national culture. VAT. old-fashioned decencies. and to all that it means by way of settled loyalties. and what have they got to do with GDP. at their best. Arnold Bax or Ivor Gurney. and indeed it is their sense of the seriousness of human life that turns them in a conservative direction. RPI. or any other collection of letters that the government cites in the place of a philosophy? This neglect of culture is a mistake. 2. It disheartens them to think that there is nothing to conservatism except the bits that can be transcribed as economic policy. rounded human beings. 3. part of the ‗labour of the negative‘ that I described in a previous contribution to this blog. but policies influenced by culture issue all the time. art. For the arts establishment culture should be antinational. disruptive. My attempts to get conservative politicians. Here is an instance of which I have some knowledge: the Arts Council has refused to provide funding to the English Music Festival. but they gravitate towards the serious and the enduring. Conservatives are. and here are three reasons why: 1. and making reasonable but non-belligerent contributions to the debates that occupy intelligent people . It is good for the image of conservatism that it should not be caricatured as a business consortium or a neo-liberal conspiracy. To be confident in one‘s cultural base is therefore a prerequisite for making firm and durable political decisions.

by its appeal to the imagination. and by the echo of ancestral voices in the life and art that surround us. Alas. that win young people to the conservative cause. The propensity for settlement and stewardship is at the heart of conservative philosophy. settled in endearing ways. the fate of real for instance. and it is a fair question. pop culture. social media. which is the propensity of human beings to take the benefit. I argue that environmental degradation has one cause above all others. and ought to be at the heart of conservative politics too. Less circumstantial is the need to recognise that the heart of conservatism is not economic but poetic. Our cause is the cause of belonging. preferably someone far away in space or time. and of the texture of daily life and the beauty of simple manners. in our mutilated country. however: what Oakeshott called ‗the voice of poetry in the conversation of mankind‘ is rarely heard by those whom we elect to Parliament. But what about climate change? This question is the first that I am asked by all those on the left to whom I try to explain my views. Those three reasons are circumstantial. Even today. It is the real reason why we oppose the leftist desire to sweep everything away for the sake of an equality that can be achieved only when everyone has nothing. when the costs affect one's home. founded in a sense of the beauty of given things and of the need to respond to them with gratitude. whose protests can be safely ignored. religion and atheism. and to leave the costs to someone else. From Burke to Oakeshott our conservative thinkers have been moved by the poetry of their stance. And we surely cannot blame this entirely on Nick Clegg.' the love of home. culture and educational inheritance. which is to take charge of costs. This is the real reason why conservatives wish to protect our institutions. So my book is an exploration of the motive that I call 'oikophilia. I argue. Here is a problem that cannot be solved by local . it is the vision of a sacred landscape. architecture and the city. The solution is to give space to the rival tendency in human nature. Conservatism and Climate In How to Think Seriously About the Planet.

can do to rectify a problem that affects the entire earth. Politicians in democracies don't sign treaties that will commit their voters to unacceptable changes in their way of life. if the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is constantly rising. or the only. more reliable. The second of those is so controversial that no politician will touch it. Surely. I don't go along with that. If the globe-trotting in search of a climate-change treaty is what environmental politics amounts to. But the first has given rise to a spate of unreal and environmentally damaging solutions. or to embark on some work of geo-engineering that will counter the effect of carbon emissions. however. There are two solutions: to find a source of clean energy that can be made freely available around the globe. The depths of hypocrisy here need no comment. the doubts arise. There is a tendency on the libertarian right to dismiss the entire environmental agenda. there is no solution. source of energy is impossible.action. other than a radical change of lifestyle. whose largely symbolic contribution to the grid is more than offset by the damage that they inflict on our shared sense of stewardship. and which can never be cured in some local part of it. So how do we change? To penalize the use of fossil fuels when these are the principal. but only because nobody is in a position to hold them to the deal. imposed by international treaty and enforced across the globe? As soon as you put it that way. or even I and my nation. It stands to reason that the earth will get warmer. and more polluting source of energy. There is nothing that I and my neighbours. People will not accept to use less energy than they need. I am a mere amateur when it comes to the science. therefore. or that it is not caused by human action and therefore not curable by human action. What is the point of signing a treaty if you lose the election that would enable you to enforce it? Politicians in autocratic states sign treaties willy-nilly. and in any case large-scale political initiatives always need more energy. such as the craze for wind farms. then we can be forgiven for thinking that it is nothing more than conscience-washing by the political class. and to give credence to those scientists who argue either that global warming is a myth. by plugging in to the French nuclear-powered grid. in the German case. like most people who consider these questions. Why care for the environment. if the price of doing so is the loss of an environment that you could care for? Besides. wind farms always need that other. not less. which comes. . although.

It will be solved by well-funded scientists working in an atmosphere of free enquiry. It is not only the religious world-view that seems so precarious in the light of it. but also social beings. for belligerence. relations of domination. when it comes to understanding human beings. thinkers like Durkheim and Weber hoped to rescue human nature from Darwin by describing another input into our behavior than our biological inheritance. more malleable. Like every other viable environmental policy. Morality was returned to its throne as a guide to life. Meanwhile we should face the facts: the problem of clean energy is first and foremost a scientific problem. Facing Up to Darwin It is fair to say that ―Darwin‘s dangerous idea. and an innate division of labor between woman and man? For a long time in the wake of Darwin‘s Descent of Man. the search for clean energy begins at home.‖ as Daniel Dennett has described it. for a global community without wars. and we cannot easily accept it either. In other words. it will emerge in a wealthy and democratic nation state. which works on the raw material of human biology and changes it into something finer. by . and for the need. How can we entertain the liberal hope for equality between the sexes. which explains so much that we observe in the lives of plants and animals. set against what we can know or surmise about our hunter-gatherer ancestors.‖ On this view culture is an independent influence. in those conditions. We cannot easily reject the theory of evolution. but the management of risk is what the environmental question is all about. seem to be so much wishful thinking. Not only did this give a new purchase to religion. whose behavior is to be explained by their inherited constitution. when we reflect on the harsh conditions in which our species is said to have evolved. whose most important traits are ―socially constructed. for universal human rights. All kinds of moral aspirations. There are risks. social scientists and anthropologists argued that human beings are not simply biological organisms.The French are surely right to rely on nuclear power. has caused more trouble to the ordinary conscience than just about any other scientific hypothesis. and more responsive to moral and spiritual ideals. In this way. and can only be hampered by devoting our resources to futile treatymongering. it liberated morality from the constraints of evolutionary thinking.

worship together. and ceremonial recognition. is uniquely human. laws and punishments in which a society asserts its rights over its members. Why is this? The social scientists respond that culture is uniquely human because we created it. rites of passage. But if culture is an aspect of nature.‖ which confers a reproductive advantage on the genes that produce it. Culture is also a part of human nature: it is our way of being. morality. ―cultural‖ does not mean ―changeable. According to this view. In the . aesthetic interests. But the Darwinians reject that answer as a fudge: if we created culture.‖ But if this is so. moral scruples. Many social scientists suppose morality to be an acquired characteristic. This new way of thinking gains credibility from the evolutionary theory of morality. passed on by customs. Culture is therefore an adaptation. affection. what explains our capacity to create it? The answer is that this capacity evolved. All these things are comprehended in the idea of culture and culture.which wisdom and reason override the demands of instinct and desire. so understood. Our hierarchies involve offices.‖ Maybe these controversial features of human culture are part of the genetic endowment of mankind. and law. incest taboos. warfare. a new perspective opens. religious beliefs. dance together. and food for us is not merely nourishment but the occasion for hospitality. cultural characteristics may not be as plastic as the social scientists suggest. Culture too. our hierarchies are not based on strength or sexual dominance. However. many of our cultural traits are local variations of attributes acquired during the Pleistocene age and now ―hard-wired in the brain. they argue. There are features of the human condition. which exists because it conferred a reproductive advantage on our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Evolutionary psychologists have since turned their attention to culture itself. we sing together. But the respite from Darwin was only short-lived. arguing that culture is not. We do not live in herds or packs. mourning. It is not simply that there are extraordinary constants among the many cultures that we observe: gender roles. We relate to one another through language. festivals. ―Altruism‖ begins to look like a genetic ―strategy. with the development of genetics. responsibilities. and dressing up. such as gender roles. is part of our biological inheritance. gift-giving. and spend as much time in festivals and story telling as in seeking our food. after all. an independent input into human behavior. that people have believed to be cultural and therefore changeable. Our meals are shared.

On the other hand. the genetically altruistic are able to call others to their aid. If we accept the argument of the evolutionary biologists. and that the attempt to impose them through the school and university curriculum goes against human nature and is therefore doomed to failure. we may find ourselves pushed toward accepting that traits often attributed to culture may be part of our genetic inheritance. for whatever reason. and in particular of ―discrimination‖ directed against the group that does badly. to disturb which is to threaten the whole community that has been built on it. was recently run out of the academy for having publicly suggested that sub-Saharan Africans are genetically disposed to have lower IQs than the Westerners who strive to help them. And what is true of morality might be true of many other human characteristics that have previously been attributed to nurture: language. warfare. music. SOME CONSERVATIVES take comfort from this. If this is so. and so on through all the human characteristics that people have wished. This assumption is not the conclusion of a reasoned social science but the foundation of an optimistic world-view. co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA. through networks of cooperation that are withheld from the genetically selfish. to rescue from destiny and refashion as choice. belligerence. In America it is widely assumed that socially significant differences between ethnic groups and sexes are the result of social factors. it ain‘t necessarily so. The distinguished biologist James Watson. Any competitor species that failed to develop innate moral feelings would by now have died out.competition for scarce resources. it is argued. intelligence. as Galileo in comparable circumstances didn‘t quite say. therefore. is to announce the defeat of liberalism by conceding the defeat of . who are thereby eliminated from the game. then morality is not an acquired but an inherited characteristic. art. however. no more than wishful thinking. after all. religion. To take this line. the local variants of which are far less significant than their common structure. The once respectable subject of eugenics was so discredited by Nazism that ―don‘t enter‖ is now written across its door. But to speculate freely about such matters is dangerous. while the economist Larry Summers suffered a similar fate for claiming that the brains of women are at the top end less suited than those of men to the study of the hard sciences. arguing that liberal egalitarian values are. and therefore not as changeable as many might have hoped: gender differences.

there is another and incommensurable text. to find another response to the evolutionary picture. and that is where the contests lie. the division of roles.conservatism too. From Kant and Hegel to Wittgenstein and Husserl. but they deny that there are two culturally fixed kinds of person—the masculine and the feminine. rights. The ―why?‖ of personal understanding is not the ―why?‖ of scientific inference. I don‘t think I have ever written a sentence more politically incorrect than that one. for these have no place in that book. and duties for what it is—the foundation of the most important personal relation that we have. And it is answered by conceptualizing the world under the aspect of freedom and choice. or any other sort of natural kind. Those great thinkers told us in their several ways that we are both human beings and persons. and duties that conservatives defend is neither decreed by nature nor endorsed by the moral law. not by our attempt to explain things but by our attempt to understand. The concept of the person is shaped in another way. Human beings form a biological kind. and over the book of nature. Our world is a palimpsest. But persons do not form a biological kind. But we can rewrite the book of freedom. if you don‘t like it. written in the language of cause and effect. . and that there is a right and wrong in human affairs which are not simply dictated by biology. that‘s yourproblem. rights. as Galileo was wise enough not to say. to interact. and it is for science to describe that kind. The response of conservatives should be to defend this division of roles. but whether we can accept what they have to say while still holding on to the beliefs and attitudes that morality demands of us. to relate. which is the relation that binds a man and a woman in marriage. there have been attempts to give a philosophy of the human condition that stands apart from biological science without opposing it. then. like liberalism. We cannot rewrite the book of nature so that it accords with our hopes and ideals. to hold to account. Consider. therefore. Nevertheless. the dispute over gender and gender equality. It is imperative. For the liberal. The real question raised by evolutionary biology and neuroscience is not whether those sciences can be refuted. Conservatism is founded. written in the language of freedom. Liberals do not deny that there are two biologically fixed kinds of human being—the male and the female. on the assumption that human beings are free. that they can to a certain measure shift the boundaries that constrain them. Probably it will do so in the way that the evolutionary psychologists propose.

since both of them. We know that electoral boundaries are currently drawn in ways that disadvantage the Conservative party. wish to marginalise the Conservative Party. And the boundaries between our component nations are drawn in such a way as to disadvantage the people of England – in other words. one to govern themselves. The two effects are connected. to be governed by the Labour Party – as we . it has given to the Scottish electorate two votes. In a hundred ways the Labour Party used its spell in office to secure a long term balance of forces in its favour – and this fact has already been much commented upon in ConservativeHome. But neither the Labour Party nor the Liberal Democrats will cooperate. the people who reliably vote for Conservative Members of Parliament. if the Members elected to Parliament are effectively to represent the people who vote for them. Our government is a coalition. Secondly it has given a reliable block vote to the Labour Party in Westminster.Roger Scruton: When will the Conservative Party fight for England? Roger Scruton is a writer and philospher. on the whole. from the Conservative point of view. there is one boundary change that is not discussed. In the current dispute within the coalition. and another to control the English. But no move that the Labour Party made was more damaging than that of creating a Scottish Parliament without removing the Scottish Members from the Parliament of Westminster. There is a pressing need for reform. This move has had two disastrous effects. in their heart of hearts. For although the Scots don‘t wish. First. so too is our country. and to deprive the Party of its electoral base.

where they can reliably pursue the interests of Scotland without imposing their censorious opinions on the Scots. . Hence they vote to place Labour politicians.see from elections to the Scottish Parliament – they do want the English to be governed by the Labour Party. whom they don‘t want at home. in Westminster.

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