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Monday, 17 January 2011

The selfish 'me' people and the Central State

It's in part a generational thing, this selfishness, this insistence on 'my rights', this always putting yourself first. The selfish used to disguise their vice under the cloak of 'anarchy' and now it's frequently 'libertarianism'. We've all had to tolerate the selfish ones; those with the 'right' to play loud music late at night, to suffocate us with their Summer barbeques, to screen the Sun from our faces with their Leylandii, to push and elbow and shove. Even on the seas these days, the last bastion of selfless courtesy, the ill-mannered louts have been in the ascendant with speed and wash and 'assertive' piloting. They seem not to have heard the same old Master Mariner who once gently advised that there were no rights in COLREGS (the marine Highways Code), only responsibilities. 

And as David Willetts writes in 'The Pinch', which I recommended last year, the more that individuals focus on themselves, the more that they disassociate from family, neighbourhood and community, the more that they eschew Burke's 'little platoons', the more they create the need for a powerful Central State to take the place of all these local institutions. The State must take on the responsibilities that extended families and communities used to shoulder. Even nuclear families lead this tendency; the better parents we've become, the more we care for our own offspring, the less time we have to volunteer and contribute to the care of those about us. Together with the collapse in trust from the prevalent paedophobia this has left even more to the Central State to do, or not be done at all. 

It is ironic, is it not, that those most vociferous in defence of individual rights, the anarchists and libertarians, are perhaps most crucial in implicitly if unknowingly supporting the Leviathan Central State?


Jackart said...

Except that libertarians are very much in favour of voluntary association and burkean little platoons. Your "right" only goes so far as it affects someone else's. That includes music late at night.

There are plenty of selfish conservatives and socialists... often demanding "the state" do something for their vested interest whilst getting someone else to pay taxes for it.

Libertarianism certainly isn't selfish. It wouldn't work if it was.

Edward Spalton said...

There is obviously a difference between the "atomisation" of individual self assertion and the self-organisation of society in the little platoons.

The latter depend on some common assumptions, basically Christian, which the state has consistently done its best to undermine over the last forty year years or more, starting with the family. As an employer, often in despair at the illiteracy and innumeracy of the young men produced by 11 years of compulsory schooling, I noted that the one area where the system had succeeded brilliantly was in the inculcation of "self esteem".

The trouble is that those most inclined to assert the claims of "society" generally mean "officialdom" and the expansion of the state in one form or another. The informal "good authority" of families and local institutions like Churches and voluntary societies has been hollowed out quite deliberately. They are part of the "forces of conservatism", after all.

David Cameron is or was proposing to recruit 5,000 publicly salaried busybodies to "empower" people to participate in the "Big Society" . That is obviously totally bogus.

The trouble is that the state has far too much of our money and this has encouraged many otherwise estimable charities to become pensioners of the state, dependent on its grants and therefore its directives rather than on the original intentions of the founders, donors and trustees.

I have also seen the same effect in trade associations which imperceptibly assimilate to becoming collaborators or part of the state apparatus simply because it is so powerful and all embracing. It pays the "professionals" running them to go with the flow.

For most purposes in this country the state now ultimately means the EU in some form or other although that is often concealed behind what Tony Blair used to call "eye catching initiatives". But our home-grown destroyers have been hugely successful too.

hatfield girl said...

'The informal "good authority" of families and local institutions like Churches and voluntary societies has been hollowed out quite deliberately. They are part of the "forces of conservatism", after all.'

Absolutely, ES, and could I add that this undermining was a specific and determinedly-pursued objective in the universities and teacher-training colleges partly, in fairness, because many were moving beyond the reach of such 'informal good authority' as our culture altered; so some were pushing the 'line' because they wanted to speed the process, others because the process was working and something had to take over.
While the EU has brought many ills to England I'm unsure it is responsible for such home-grown (or home-wreaked) circumstances, though. Church, faith and family are strong influences in most European member-states and there has been nothing like the degradation of their mass education systems, or refusal of personal responsibility for social provision suffered in England.

Raedwald said...

Jackart - I very carefully avoided saying that Libertarianism was selfish, saying only it was a cloak under which the selfish frequently hid their vice. As they do, as you point out, under other cloaks as well.