There’s been lots of talk here in the UK, over the past few days, about the core beliefs of the Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard. This fragrant Man of Wales published these core beliefs in the Times Newspaper, last week, basing them heavily upon the spirit of the American Constitution.
About a year ago, I would have signed up to them. But since then many good men and women have directed my thinking towards an entirely different direction. So I wondered this evening, after trying to avoid the issue for several days, if I could still support the Tory party, especially after their former Chairman, Norman Tebbit, recently declared on the BBC that he greatly admired public service broadcasting.
So, right up to the minute here on Samizdata.net, what would your beliefs be? Here are Michael’s:
I believe it is natural for men and women to want health, wealth and happiness for their families and themselves
So far, Michael, I’m with you.
I believe it is the duty of every politician to serve the people by removing the obstacles in the way of these ambitions
Hmm. I am starting to slip. How about ‘I believe politicians are the obstacles, and it is their duty to shut up, resign their posts, and start working for a living rather than free-loading off the rest of us’?
I believe people are most likely to be happy when they are masters of their own lives, when they are not nannied or over-governed
Again, superficially, as a closet Tory, you could support it. But look at that phrase ‘over-governed’. What is ‘over-governed’? Who decides? The politicians? Take out the word ‘over-’, Michael, and I’m right behind you.
I believe that the people should be big. That the state should be small
Well, yes, this one is rather obvious, with the word ‘small’ needing to be replaced by the word ‘removed’. But at least Michael’s heart is in the right place.
I believe red tape, bureaucracy, regulations, inspectorates, commissions, quangos, ‘czars’, ‘units’ and ‘targets’ came to help and protect us, but now we need protection from them. Armies of interferers don’t contribute to human happiness
Yes, I could be pedantic about this and claim that red tape, bureaucracy, etc., never came to help us, but were always ruses to wrap us in chains. But I will give Michael the benefit of the doubt on this, especially because of that second sentence about the armies of interferers.
I believe that people must have every opportunity to fulfil their potential
Difficult one. Define opportunity. Is this something the government provides, or is it something that individuals provide themselves with, which the government currently prevents them from developing? You are going to have to be more precise than this, Michael.
I believe there is no freedom without responsibility. It is our duty to look after those who cannot help themselves
Oh dear. Duty. And in what way does this ‘duty’ manifest itself? As compulsory taxation, perhaps? How about ‘I believe there is no freedom without each individual taking responsibility for their own lives, to the best of their own abilities, and if they choose to do so, being allowed to freely help others.’
I believe in equality of opportunity. Injustice makes us angry.
I am surprised Lord Saatchi, the joint Conservative Party Chairman, let this slip through the copy-editing stage.
Michael slides from an individualistic ‘I’, to a collectivist ‘we’, without even blinking. This is a bad sign. Smoking in private restaurants makes ‘us’ angry, if ‘we’ happen to be pink-haired, face-studded, bike-riding, red-light-breaking, combat-trouser-wearing, Dr Marten booted New Left warriors, out to destroy everyone’s pleasure in the world. Again, what is opportunity, what is equality, what is injustice? All three are whatever you choose to define them to be. And I am sure that over the full term of your tenure, as Leader of the Conservative Party, Michael, these definitions will be as fluid as the contents of a fish tank.
Ok, so that is me being negative. What about something positive then? Let’s try to rewrite it:
‘I believe that each individual should have no special legal privileges dependent upon who they happen to be, or who they happen to know, and that no individual should be able to make legal claims upon another, who has in no way harmed them, who would otherwise freely choose to ignore those claims. The use of privilege, particularly government privilege, where individuals use their government-granted client group status to rob off another group, makes me angry.’
I believe every parent wants their child to have a better education than they had
And that mom makes great apple pie. Sorry, I am still trying to stop being angry after that last one. Okay, I will hand Michael this truism. But even Tony Blair could say this, and mean it, couldn’t he? So where’s the beef, Michael? How about, ‘I believe that every parent should be personally responsible for their own child’s education, and should not mooch off others, via coerced taxes, to acquire it’?
I believe every child wants security for their parents in their old age
Another truism, that any politician could say. But seeing as I am free from the democratic responsibility of trying to get elected by millions of moochers, how about, ‘Every individual should be responsible for themselves in their own old age, though if individuals choose, through love, to support older relatives, or to support other older people of their choosing, through either direct personal action or the support of private charities, they should be free to do so.’
Old age security is going to be the worst of the welfare state’s problems to solve, once the rats’ nest of government insurance implodes. How do you adapt what I have just said to those millions of people in the UK who have had their life savings destroyed by government inflation, government borrowing, and government taxation. Who have then spent their entire working lives paying off other people’s pensions, and who have then been forced by government dependency-creating policies to not save for their own old age? Tough cookie. I will have to add a proviso.
‘When the government is abolished, all and any such profits generated will be allocated on a proportional basis towards the amount of tax you have paid in your lifetime, with a particular skewing drawn up by any economist with the surname of Friedman, towards anyone approaching infirmity.’
I do not believe that one person’s poverty is caused by another’s wealth
Nice one, Michael. Now you’re getting it.
I do not believe that one person’s ignorance is caused by another’s knowledge and education
The drum roll builds.
I do not believe that one person’s sickness is made worse by another’s health
Say, hallelujah, brother.
I believe the British people are only happy when they are free
Okay, I could be a real pedant here and ask Michael to define freedom, but if you can accept that he means ‘freedom from dictatorial tyranny’, and blur the edges as to whether any amount of government is a dictatorial tyranny, then I can just about let this one squeak past, in my pompous magnificence.
I believe that Britain should defend her freedom at any time, against all comers, however mighty
Now, this is where I cannot avoid mentioning the blurring. Michael is slipping away from the ‘British people’, a group of individuals mostly living in the British Isles, towards ‘Britain’, i.e. the personification of the British state, a body he wishes to be subservient to his will. As our servant, naturally.
Fortunately, Mr Bezos has just informed me that he has put my copy of The Myth of National Defense in the post to me, from Seattle. So I will be better prepared to tackle this question at some future date.
Until that happy day, I will give Michael another benefit of the doubt.
I believe that by good fortune, hard work, natural talent and rich diversity, these islands are home to a great people with a noble past and exciting future
There is little there to disagree with here, in fact, you could end a great libertarian book with a line like that. It almost sounds like something Uncle Murray could’ve written, certainly Herr Hayek.
All in all, I think Michael Howard’s beliefs are lined up in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. If we must have politicians, then he’s heading in the right direction. I am also confident that readers of a certain illiberal bossy-boots newspaper, here in the UK, will have hated these core beliefs, so that must increase their relative quality. The way Howard just keeps trouncing Blair in the House of Commons also helps, too.
However, there are just too many holes, too many easy homilies, and too many blatantly missing beliefs. Here are three I chose entirely at random, even watered down and written by a man in my head pretending to be a Conservative Party candidate.
I believe that all taxation is bad. I will cut it and I will cut the waste it currently supports. If you do not feel I have halved your taxes by the next election, here’s a quote for you. Sling me out.
I believe that the NHS has failed. I say that after sixty years of this continuing and easily predictable failure, enough is enough. When you elect me I will transform every operating unit of the NHS into a private charity and I will then abolish the NHS. May God have mercy on my soul.
I believe the BBC is both a waste of money and a nest of illiberal vipers. I will abolish the license fee, to help make the poorest in this land wealthier, and I will then sell the BBC off to the highest bidder. All of the profits generated will be used to provide endowment funding to free as many Universities as possible from the future interference of any British government. Oh, and while I am at it, I will get us out of the EU as well. Just for fun.
I am sure you could add many beliefs of your own. Though I do still have this horrible feeling that when the time comes you will still find me wandering the Oxfordshire streets of ‘Thame’ and ‘Nettlebed’ handing out copies of Boris Johnson manifestoes. I have to ask. Does anyone have a cure for this?