With every crime and outrage comes, in the guise of doing good or righting a wrong, more calls for state control, be it political, moral or social.
In the last few days, prompted in part by the death of the liberal philosopher in law, Ronald Dworkin, the indescribably ghastly, Keynesian and egotistical political economist, Will Hutton, has been lamenting what he sees as the slow death of true liberalism and liberal views. Indeed it is his belief that the tide of opinion is turning against big government and its role, or duty as Hutton sees it, in providing ‘dignity’ and succour for those that fail as well as creating a free environment for others to succeed.
In a true Statist whine Hutton’s article, “I despair as I watch the erosion of the liberal views I hold dear” lashes out at everything; from the fact that we apparently live in ‘rightwing times’, (if only), to the opinion that his philosopher hero, Dworkin’s treasured totems of human dignity, that is ‘Law and Justice’, and more importantly the overpaid barristers who enforce them, are currently having their legal aid trough reduced a bit by the current government, or rather the current government is attempting to reduce it. To judge by the crying and wailing emanating from Lincoln Inn Fields and Middle Temple and the other legal fortresses of sumptuousness scattered around Holborn and Westminster the assumption would be that legal aid was being abolished completely. This is a legal aid budget that has soared over the last two decades and has helped umpteen barristers and QCs break into the million pound a year earnings bracket. Including several like Cherie Blair, who are as likely to commiserate with Hutton around the dining table as they are to attack the legal aid cuts in public, which she and 90 other QC’s have just done in an open letter to the Daily Telegraph.
What though is irking Hutton more than anything else in these times of austerity and cutbacks is that the great State largesse from which he and many of the chattering classes rely on for their wealth and status is at last beginning to be cutback or, in a few cases, stopped altogether. To Hutton and his ilk this is an anathema, a heinous attack on societies moral core and one which threatens not just his and his cronies bank balances but in his words could lead to a ‘reversal of the century-long fight for genuine equality between the sexes’, or could lead to reforms “of criminal justice and legal aid, the health service, climate change, employment law, social security’ represents the ‘wholesale inversion of a liberal society’ which will beget ‘economic stagnation, social atomisation and a destructive nationalism’ peopled by ‘tax-avoiding, climate-change-denying anti-feminists’. Phew!
This hysteria permeates much of the liberal left at the moment as their world, created as it was out of the embers of World War 2 and a desire to create a Europe devoid or war and free of racial, religious and sexual strife, in which all its citizens would be housed, fed, clothed and entitled to education and health care, is beginning to implode under the weight of its own sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement championed and offered to every citizen regardless of their contribution or worth, and driven in part by many of the liberal lawyers and human rights specialists so beloved of Will Hutton and company.
Yet it is Hutton’s response to the potential realignment of his idealised current values, or more importantly the potential that the State might loose control of those values, that is at the core of the liberal or soft left’s nightmare scenario. For the modern liberal is a state control liberal, he is the man in the bureaucratic equivalent of the high visibility jacket, giving orders and, backed-up by an army of state-funded lawyers, few people say no to him. And like most people with power, even those that are in effect a powerful cog, they like it and they want to keep it.
Liberalism incarnated and administered by the Hutton’s of this world is personified by the interfering and spiteful invective of the little man or woman. A beastly fusion of the Stasi, Shami Chakrabarti, and Gordon Brown, with access to unlimited funds and an army of High Visibility Jacket wearing bureaucrats waiting in the wings if the going gets tough.
These are the liberals that see in every tragedy a silver lining of opportunity: the murder of April Jones, a tragedy, new legislation to crack down on ‘extreme porn’ and rape pornography on the internet generally, a silver lining of new laws, more bureaucrats and a more invasive society. The murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich and Clémént Méric in France a tragedy, the silver lining, an opportunity to ban and crack down on far right groups and other rightwing politicians that threaten the current status quo. Plus add new clauses to the incitement to religious and racial hatred legislation. Next week or next month there will no doubt be another tragedy and another barrage of new ‘liberal’ legislation will be unleashed to protect us and further empower the state.
The list is potentially endless as everything bad has a potential ‘good’ solution which in itself grows the State, enables lawyers to draft new laws and a legion of employees to enforce them. Liberalism, at least as interpreted by the Hutton’s of the this world, is not dead and the world is unfortunately not full of rightwing monetarists, it is, in fact, being reborn even as aspects of it are being killed off. For every cutback and saving, for every liberal lawyer with a reduced legal aid budget who has to cut back on his trainees there are, like a Keynesian Hydra, hundreds more to take their place.
Will Hutton’s great fear and motivation was that without the great behemoth liberal state enforcing Law and Justice that civility would end. That we would end up not caring. That, in fact, we would become a society where anything goes and that, as Dworkin espoused, it was the law’s duty to ‘uphold individual and collective morality’. Which is so typical of the benign liberal chattering classes, who, having undermined the church and all the other totems by which societies moral codes were derived for centuries, have the arrogance to think that they, and they alone, can legislate it, and enforce it, in their own liberal image. From Gay marriage to abortion, to how people discuss sex and religion, all will be defined by the ‘liberal’ State.
Indeed Hutton sees our mounting crisis as an opportunity for some sort of liberal, Keynesian fightback, which is interesting seeing as how he and his cronies are still very much in control. If there is any fighting to be done it needs to come from the right and be directed against the hordes of little men and the rich, liberal lawyers and wealthy Establishment players that control them. In which case it might be worth remembering a line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers
© Nigel Wingrove 2013