The Father of Conservatism

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Herein lies the Ghost in the political machine of the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke. Much like Max Weber arguing with the Ghost of Marx, this blog seeks to make relevant and where appropriate support or reject Burke's 'Reflections' against the backdrop of the disastrous New Labour experiment.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A polemic against the Socialist’s guide to Camping

I have been meaning to write on this New Statesman article about Socialism for sometime, but the sheer extent of explaining how wrong the late G A Cohen is - has proved a tiresome task. His article was written in the NS and it invokes the warm and cosy idea of a camping trip where we are all happy campers, working for the greater good - sharing numerous things from tools and knowledge to food and individual property.

The fundamental problem with Socialism, as I have repeated on numerous occasions, is that it completely misreads human nature, so from the outset it jettisons any sense of sensibility.

Firstly, no matter how neat the analogy, Life is not comparable to a campsite and never will be. To say people came to this campsite without prejudices, desires, skills and property is utter folly.

Let’s widen this out and replace ‘people’ with ‘nations’, they each have a differing way of conducting themselves, different religions, social customs, views on the family, the list goes on. These are in fact social prejudices.

Taken a stage further with the Socialist’s drive for revolution, it has no regards for generational alteration. The grandfather’s view of the world will slightly differ from the father’s as will the son’s; however we must not forget that each socialises the latter so they will imprint on them a sense of their inherited culture - there is no escape from this, nor should their be, as Burke noted that “no generation has the right to change everything because one generation merely inherited from its ancestors, in trusteeship, ideas and institutions which it handed on to their heirs.”

It is the audacity with which Cohen applies a one-dimensional social harmony that baffles me. To say that people will regulate themselves into societal roles is misguided as he begins with the premise that there is “no hierarchy between us”.

For a start, who governs this belief system?

Surely to join this campsite you have to agree to the principles laid out, but who has made them - your forefathers, social architects, revolutionaries? If there is no hierarchy, somebody must be above to police these values, in case of discontent. Perhaps, a much stronger words should be used - who enforces these societal rules?

What happens if you begin to disagree or wish to alter the rules of this 'social harmony'? Can it be questioned or challenged, if so where can somebody go to ask these questions. All these important queries, require such things as a police force, the media, the family, the legal system and so on.

Another stumbling block is the idea of keeping the notion of social harmony intact. Surely a breed of thought-police would need to be deployed as to maintain the same ‘unifying spirit’? If people didn’t think the same, or rejected the notions of shared property what will happen?

Would they be reprimanded?

This misrepresentation of human nature is seen in Socialism’s myopic drive for equality. For example, when we branch out the simple ownership of the fish or apple tree, to say a favourite toy that may have personal value, or the love between one man and his wife, should the toy be handed out or the wife be shared because that child/man has something that other people do not?

His example: “People who hate cooking, but enjoy the washing up may do all the washing up, and so on? Who legislates for this, or rather who says this is so? This begs the question of value, something the Socialist hates.

Simply asked, is washing up equal in value to cooking? Or put another way, is someone who has a specific skill set above or below another person. Or what about the people who do not work, will they receive benefit from the campsite, even of they do not contribute to the everyday running.

He gives the game away by uttering two exclamations, the first: “I’d rather have my socialism in the warmth of the All Souls College, Oxford”. This shows the armchair philosophical naivety of Socialism that has no regards for the real world. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that All Soul’s College is an idealised space for which the academic is at home, but what about other people - what if they do not like his campsite?

The second is: “Isn’t this socialist way, with collective property and planned mutual giving, rather obviously the best way to run a camping trip, whether or not you like camping?” Yes, in a bloody campsite! But ask yourself this question, how long does the normal family go camping? 3 days, a week maximum? Doesn’t each family, their own flesh and blood, get unbelievably fed up by the end of it!

To see the world as an entity that could cope in this whimsical and idealised way, in the way we view going camping each year, is the crux of this misdiagnosed understanding of the human condition. We can survive a few days, without my favourite pillow, or the misplaced fluffy toy, but very soon, tempers starts to flare, people desire the comfort of their own space, their own time and importantly their own property.

The solution? If people were born into the camp without pre-existing ideas of ownership would it therefore mean these people wouldn’t grow up with any inclinations of personal ownership or desire to be alone and not always in the company or the community or volk?

The more I re-read the article the more it reminds me of Winston in 1984 who begins to value is own time and space. He hates joining in with the chanting and singing and wants nothing more than an individual identity. The society he lives in denies him any such luxuries of freedom of though or expression.

Again, he was brought up with no pre-conceived ideas of personal thought or space, but he still has this burning desire consuming him - human nature. The answer is that you can not keep Man’s expressive or artistic side oppressed and locked away. So for Cohen to agree with Einstein that “Socialism is humanity’s attempt to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development”, highlights his ‘faith position’ that humanity can be perfected in a scientific way, showing how far Socialism goes against the grain of Mankind rather than with slow and steady Arc of History.

I could go on and on, but what saddens me the most is that an obviously very intelligent man, in Cohen, spent his whole life shackled to an idea that made no real world sense and the only way to explain it in his dying days was in the form of a camping site. Surely he would have worked out that by then, that Socialism is merely a dystopian musing on the part of Man which has no regard for freedom or human questioning.

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