Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The High Tory Journal: What Is Conservatism?

Aren Pym writes:

As a classical conservative, I am often burdened by questions of people who are not educated in the distinction between neo-liberalism, classical liberalism, libertarianism, and other individualist ideologies that come under the umbrella of "conservatism" in the United States of America and the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, and what I believe to be true conservatism, the ideology that was founded by Edmund Burke in the 18th century that is designed to uphold the often demonised pillars of society such as rule of law, family, hierarchy, and most of all tradition. Edmund Burke's philosophy was created in reaction against the enlightenment and the French Revolution, and Burke predicted the disaster the French Revolution would become.

The Differences of Libertarianism and Conservatism.

Libertarianism and Conservatism have links but also many major differences. The political battle before the invention of socialism was between the Whigs, the libertarian party of completely unregulated trade and civil liberties, and the Tories, the party that promoted traditionalism, monarchy and a hierarchical and ordered society. Hence why to a conservative such as myself, the fact that people confuse libertarianism and conservatism so frequently is completely inadequate. Libertarians believe that the freedoms of enterprise should override morality, whereas conservatives, while we also believe in lower levels of restriction on markets, believe that there should be laws around trade to stop free markets overriding morality.

Libertarians are progressive on social issues, for example most libertarians believing it authoritarian to regulate abortion and that the individual should have the decision. Another key difference is that conservatives are inherently in favour of the family, whereas libertarians believe in a market-led society that encourages people to spend their time and effort into their career rather than into starting a family. Libertarians are found on all wings of the political spectrum, depending on their economic views whilst conservatives are exclusively to the right-wing of politics.

Unfortunately, most British "conservative" prime ministers have followed the doctrine of libertarianism much more than the doctrine of conservatism in recent years, particularly since Thatcher. However, there is an active wing of the party with growing popularity led by Members of Parliament such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and in the past members such as Enoch Powell and Peter Tapsell, who are believers in the traditionalist conservatism of Burke rather than the neo-liberalism promoted by almost all conservative leaders post-Thatcher.

Does High Toryism have high hopes for the future?

High toryism, although an old fashioned ideology is certainly growing in popularity, even amongst the youth. The discontent with the European Union and growing patriotic sentiment to do with immigration and our soverignty as a nation has certainly correlations with high toryism and traditional conservatism. Backbench M.P Jacob Rees-Mogg was essentially made famous by his contribution to brexit and as one of the conservative figures who has stood in favour of brexit, hence his growing popularity amongst the members of the conservative party, topping inner party polls to become the next leader of the party.

If a traditional conservative has won favour over the membership of a party that has for years drifted towards modern conservatism and neoliberalism, then yes there is certainly a hope for traditional conservative views in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

I was going to write that this post was astonishingly good for Aren’s age. But the truth is that it is just astonishingly good. Welcome to the blogosphere, Aren. You are going to be a very important voice in this Postliberal Age.

As Professor John Milbank wrote in his commendation of one of my books, “Before Red Tory and Blue Labour there was David Lindsay. He was arguably the first to announce a postliberal politics of paradox, and to delve into the deep, unwritten British past in order to craft, theoretically, an alternative British and international future. It is high time that the singular and yet wholly pertinent writings of this County Durham Catholic Labour prophet receive a wider circulation.” And now, the next generation is emerging. That gives me great satisfaction. Very great satisfaction, indeed.

Ah, Sir Peter Tapsell. A Keynesian and pro-Commonwealth opponent of the Eurofederalist project from the very start, he consistently opposed the neoconservative wars all the way back to Kosovo, and he called for a return to the division between retail banking and investment banking. In their seasons he identified the money markets, the media moguls and the intelligence agencies as the heirs of the nabobs and of the Whig magnates whom past generations of Tories had made it their defining cause to cut down to size and to subject to the sovereignty of Parliament. A worthy tradition, indeed.

Enoch Powell’s best ever line was when Margaret Thatcher said that she had been influenced by his books. He replied that, “She cannot have understood them, then.” He was wrong about immigration, at the time. Wrong about economics, although his followers were and are much worse than he was. Wrong in his inability to see that the implementation of his economic views was impossible without the huge-scale importation of people as much as of anything else, as part of that system’s overall corrosion of everything that conservatives exist in order to conserve

Wrong to scorn the Commonwealth. Wrong in the bitterness of his anti-Americanism. Wrong to support easier divorce. And wrong to give aid and succour to the Monday Club, although he never joined it, when it was supporting the Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown (a move fiercely opposed by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, for all their other faults), and that Republic’s satellite, which first committed treason against Her Majesty and then very rapidly purported to depose her, removing the Union Flag from its own, something that even the Boer Republic never did.

But Powell was also right. Right to line up with Tony Benn and against Margaret Thatcher on Europe. Right to oppose both capital punishment and nuclear weapons, the two ultimate expressions of statism as idolatry, on which latter he again correctly sided with Benn against Thatcher, and on both of which he in fact shared the views of many High Tories. Right to use the full panoply of central government planning to make significant additions to the National Health Service, and always to remain a stalwart defender of it.

Right to oppose the subordination of our foreign policy to a foreign power. Right to denounce the atrocities at Hola. Right to support Britain’s nonintervention in Vietnam. Right to oppose the first Gulf War, which we fought as if buying oil from Saddam Hussein would somehow have been worse than buying it from the al-Sabahs (or the al-Sauds). Right to reprimand Thatcher that “A Tory believes that there is no such thing as an individual who exists without society,” pointedly referring to Tories, an age-old culture or series of subcultures, rather than to the Conservative Party, a late and strictly conditional vehicle for Toryism.

Right to oppose abortion, and experimentation on embryonic human beings, unlike Thatcher in either case. Right to support the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. Right to predict that the Soviet Union would collapse anyway, and to see Russia as our natural ally. And right to fight against grotesque erosions of our liberties, such as reversals of the burden of proof in certain cases. His present-day admirers and detractors alike should learn the lessons.

As to Burke himself, the Independent Labour Party was said to include “even a variety of Burkean conservatism”. Like almost anything by Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Disraeli, Chesterton, Belloc, or any Pope since 1891, almost anything by Burke would be screamed down in the Conservative Party that Thatcher has bequeathed, never mind in UKIP.

It is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, the ruinous reduction in provincial disposable incomes by the abolition of National Pay Agreements. It is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, the further deregulation of Sunday trading. It is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, the replacement of Her Majesty’s Constabulary with the National Crime Agency.

It is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, the devastation of rural communities by the allowing of foreign companies and even foreign states to buy up our postal service and our roads. It is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, and to seek to reverse, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, which has severed the monarchy’s direct link to every address in this Kingdom. And it is Burkean, not to support, but to oppose, the disenfranchisement of organic communities by means of parliamentary boundaries designed by and for “sophists, economists and calculators”.

Of course, you would get none of that from Jacob Rees-Mogg. Quite the reverse, in fact. Tapsell, Powell or Burke would have made mincemeat of him. But in any case, Rees-Mogg would never secure the parliamentary support to make it onto that most improbable of things, a ballot for Leader of the Conservative Party. Ann Widdecombe was supposed to have been the next Leader once, and look where she is now.

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