Tuesday, July 08, 2008


There is plenty to discuss about the possibility, raised by the British Chambers of Commerce, that we are heading for recession. Regardless of whether we pass the two quarters of negative growth test it is clear we're facing a nasty downturn.

Many of the problems that social conservatives such as Theodore Dalrymple have been drawing attention to for some time are going to become a lot more critical. This, from the best essay written in my lifetime that I've ever read, makes that point:

"Ultimately, the moral cowardice of the intellectual and political elites is responsible for the continuing social disaster that has overtaken Britain, a disaster whose full social and economic consequences have yet to be seen. A sharp economic downturn would expose how far the policies of successive governments, all in the direction of libertinism, have atomized British society, so that all social solidarity within families and communities, so protective in times of hardship, has been destroyed. The elites cannot even acknowledge what has happened, however obvious it is, for to do so would be to admit their past responsibility for it, and that would make them feel bad. Better that millions should live in wretchedness and squalor than that they should feel bad about themselves—another aspect of the frivolity of evil. Moreover, if members of the elite acknowledged the social disaster brought about by their ideological libertinism, they might feel called upon to place restraints upon their own behavior, for you cannot long demand of others what you balk at doing yourself."

Strong families and strong communities are most important in hard times. They provide resilience and hold people together. With good times coming to an end we'll see how we can hope when they are so thoroughly atrophied.


cabalamat said...

Dalrymple's talk of "continuing social disaster" is absurd and utterly overblown, as is Cameron's ridiculous rhetoric that Britain is a "broken society".

Britain isn't perfect -- it never has been and never will be -- but nor is it a disaster area. There are countries that genuinely are broken and disasterous -- for example Zimbabwe, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, and North Korea -- but to suggest Britain is anything like that is utterly barking. And I don't think Dalrymple believes it either; if Britain really was as terrible as he makes out, he'd be trying to leave, as would millions of others.

Dalrymple does make some valid points, but his tone is incredibly off-putting, and his looseness with the facts (does Britain really have a higher teenage pregnancy rate than, say, Afghanistan?) suggests he is not a very clear thinker.

If that's the best essay you've ever read, then I think you must have very low standards.

nought.point.zero said...

Having had very close experience of a close-knit, hardworking poor family in the UK Indian community, I understand how good they can be and how much they can help each other in hard times. But what can the state do about their existence or non-existence? Apart from a bit of married family tax breaks, which I can't see being powerful enough to change the entire demographics of society, I don't see where the state fits in here.

nought.point.zero said...

OK, I've read the essay now and I now see that the idea is that the government should reduce the size of the welfare state. I agree, but I also agree with Cabalamat when s/he says that the essay is wildly hyperbolic.