His post reminded me of something that happened about six months ago. I was travelling back into London from my family home in Hertfordshire. In Kings Cross I ran into someone I had known at school. He had always been a somewhat strange and creepy kid and had dropped out of school after GCSEs. I had thought little about him since.
I said hello and we exchanged the obligatory "what have you been up to?"
I reported that I had just finished my Master's at the LSE and was now looking for work. His story was more extreme. While writing this post I've realised it may have been untrue but that wasn't the impression I got and isn't important to my point.
He had set up a pornographic website. This had been quite successful and he had sold it for a fair amount of money. He was now living on that money somewhere in Chelsea.
In terms of material conditions he clearly had me beat. While I was lucky enough to be emerging from university without any debt I was, at that stage, not working and living on the end of my mother's patience. I lived in the same flat I occupy now, a comfortable Westminster two-bedroom that is affordable thanks to being near the Victoria Coach Station. My employment prospects were quite reasonable and I have, of course, since found work. However, a political career is unlikely to involve retiring early in Chelsea money.
Now, why, despite the vastly better material rewards that he had obtained, probably for far less effort, did I never feel jealous?
It could be a moral decision. Certainly I do, in moral terms, think that my career is a superior choice. However, were it purely a moral decision presumably I would feel that I was making a sacrifice. I didn't, and don't, have the feeling that I'm really paying a net price for the decision to follow what I think is a morally preferable career.
The compensation I get is social standing. While I didn't nearly have the income I had far more social status. I had finished an advanced university degree at a fine university while he had hardly managed GCSEs. Education has almost entirely replaced ancestry as an indicator of class these days. Equally, while the average person connects the word politician with something like bubonic plague there is still a respectability in the job "Policy Analyst" that there isn't in "pornographer".
While criminals and pornographers do form their own communities that attempt to make up for their shunning by respectable types they will always be aware that they are somehow outside the community proper. The only way this changes is if, for example, the career of a pornographer becomes more socially acceptable. A successful community won't let this happen for a criminal lifestyle.
Now, maintaining this social standing is important to people. It is particularly important to white, middle class people. That is deeply important to our success. One of Chris Dillow's reasons why people choose a criminal lifestyle illustrates how that has broken down in troubled communities:
"4. Non-pecuniary advantages. Success in music or crime brings you some mix of fame, respect or affection. It gets you the girls. Modest professional success doesn't. Quite the opposite. Roland Fryer shows (pdf) that blacks who do well at school have fewer same-race friends. Conventional "success" therefore, gives you isolation."
That is a very clear failure to socially reward useful behaviour.
That I not only choose to accept far lower material standards of living but do so without a moment's hesitation is the power of social standards. No law or subsidy can push people towards socially useful pursuits as effectively. Breaking those social standards down, as far too many left-wing movements have, is therefore extremely dangerous. The breakdown in standards leads, rapidly, to a wider social breakdown as choosing a civilised way of life is then not the rational choice for far too large a body of people. That is why, for all the repressive effects that social mores can have, I respect their vital importance. It is this insight, more than anything, that causes me to describe myself as a conservative these days.