Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ken Minogue on hyperactive politics

“To a liberal…’complex modern societies’ are networks of interdependence, and every day the filiations of the network increase in number.  But the entities thus related—individuals, firms, institutions, etc—are never equal in social power….Hence it is the business of government to step into society to correct the evils which are constantly being produced by the unregulated condition of social life.  The great liberal sagas are about the large-scale operation of this principle.  Men in pursuit of a profit develop the slave trade and the state eventually steps in to make it illegal.  Early factory owners use their power over their employees to work them for long hours in bad conditions.  The movement of population leaves behind parliamentary constituencies so small as to be a gift of local magnates, necessitating a reform of the franchise.  And so on.  Government is a fountain of justice forever irrigating the dry places of society.” [Aside: “liberal sagas” describes perfectly my high school history classes]

And the result:

“…political hyper-activism is an attempt to remove the element of power from social and economic relations by the invoking the power of government to reduce the social balance of power.  But what it actually does is to drain the productive reality of social and economic relations, and transfer the question of power to a new sphere of politics in which government appears as a court besieged by suitors.  As there are no ascertainable rules by which a government can allocate benefits in this situation, society becomes a complex of stridently squabbling groups seeking impossibly large amounts of an inadequate cake.”   [Note, that liberalism having brought this about then sanctimoniously complains about the lack of civility in political discourse] “What people get no longer depends on what they can do, but on the pressure they can exert on government, often by damaging their fellow citizens.  The logical outcome of this is a new corporate version of the Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all.”

Kenneth Minogue, Conservative Essays, On Hyperactivism in Modern British Politics, 1978

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