Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Neo-Conservatives

Well, the Tories have finally put out a document that is not policy, but might- maybe- form a basis to, er, discuss policy ideas. Well its vague enough, but actually it does put forward a point of view- unsurprisingly it is a conservative document, in every sense- but also a rather surprising one. It is not the new Cameroon image of social inclusivity at all, but rather a strangely old fashioned document. It is paternalist, a bit patronising even.

Let us start where Liberals will be happy to agree: the power of education. Beyond that, it is pretty hard to muster any enthusiasm for such an illiberal, ill focused mish mash. The idea that marriages will not fail if a £20 tax break is dandled in front of couples is simply laughable, and reflects on how utterly out of touch the Conservatives really are.

The fact is that the analysis may be right- family breakdown is socially corrosive- but the solution- to end tax biases that supposedly encourage family breakdown- is absurd. The idea that politicians- they alone, you understand- can provide solutions to these major problems by relatively painless external pressure is inevitably bound to fail: the analysis is too simplistic and reductionist. The state is not the cause of these social problems and is incredibly unlikely to provide the solution- especially through the kind of paternalism that Iain Duncan Smith proposes.

In a way, this does tell you a lot about how Conservatives view the world- they do not accept the idea of social autonomy that forms a central part of both Liberal and Libertarian world view. So perhaps it is quite reassuring that the Tories still believe these comforting nostrums, but the reality is that they are a) expensive to enact and b) if enacted, will not work.

Significant economic measures that might work- returning the real price of alcohol back to the level it was in 1970, say, would be deeply unpopular - indeed I see the bibulous Simon Heffer has already gone on the offensive- so Cameron has swiftly rejected the option (I guess he is still hoping for more donations from the booze industry).

So where does this first tranche of Conservative policy suggestions leave us: well, they do show the Cameroons as socially conservative- well no surprise there- they also show that the Tories have not really got to grips with the modern world- they remain dirigiste anti-liberals.

After a mountain of vapid waffle, we have seen the Tories latest "polices"- and it is back to the fifties...

At last we know where we stand.

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