Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Challenge For Tomorrow's Radicals

The post-war consensus was established by the Labour government in the late 1940s. This said that it was the role of the State to take control of the great industries, of utilities and of public services. This consensus went largely unchallenged by successive Conservative governments, particularly that of Harold Macmillan. It then became the accepted belief that the duty of Conservative governments was to make socialism work more efficiently. It took nearly forty years for this consensus to be finally grappled with. In Margaret Thatcher's premiership, in the 1980s, the rule of the State was torn apart across industry - so much so that Britain now enjoys its status as one of the world's most free and most competitive economies (status which is slipping now that Gordon Brown has ensured one in five people take their pay-cheque from him).

The 21st century consensus is a slightly different one, but it still is based on the idea that the political elites deserve control over our society, and not the individuals, families and communities who make up society. The 21st century consensus is based on the idea of the nanny state. It says that healthcare and education are matters for politicians, not patients and parents, or doctors and teachers. It says that everything we can and can't do must be stated crystal clear in legislation. It says that freedom is the freedom to do what little the State will let you do, or emigrate.

It is a depressing thought, but perhaps it might take us forty years again to challenge this consensus. Just like the Conservative Party broadly accepted the post-war consensus, maybe we will lay down and take the 21st century consensus. This seemed apparent in the last election when the best the Tories could offer was more rises in public spending, but at a slower rate than Labour or the Liberal Democrats. This consensus may well prevail for decades. The next forty years of parents will be told how to parent; the next forty years of doctors told how to doctor.

It may take forty years for the first Prime Minister to challenge this consensus to come along, but when he or she does, the fight will be much tougher than it was in the 1980s. The fights will not be with the miners' unions, but with the educational and healthcare establishment, all of whom have a vested interest in State domination of society. The fights will be much greater, because State rule has been growing in perpetuity for so long, and it will take an almighty challenge to roll back the frontiers in our society. The solutions will have to be far more radical again than privatisation or deregulation. It will take the abolition of every aspect of the Welfare State, and the formation of a welfare society to win the war. What's more, the fruits will be far richer too, for we will come to live in a great society where all people, rich and poor, work to the best of their ability, in the firm knowledge that their efforts will pay off, and where each and every one of us will at last be free.

This is the challenge for the reformers of the 21st century consensus.

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