Cameron and Blond

Massie has been confident all along that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have this common ground, and I am inclined to agree with him, which is why I think Prof. Fox exaggerates the Liberal resistance to a Red Toryish agenda. There are policy differences that could blow up the coalition, and there are issues where the two parties are diametrically opposed, but the things Massie mentions possibly represent the glue that could keep the coalition from fracturing. My agreement with Massie is also why I find expressions of sympathy for Cameron and Blond among “reformist” conservatives here in the U.S. a bit puzzling. ~ Daniel Larison

I think Larison is giving Blond too much credit here. While it may be that Blond has made quite a splash on the internet with his Red Toryism, I suspect he’s made rather less of an impression amongst policy-makers in the Cameron government. Certainly the theme of decentralization is there, and the stated need for a less bureaucratic society, but beyond these rather generic ideas there is very little of the Red in Cameron’s reform Toryism, and even less of the Anglo-Catholic Toryism Blond is espousing in either the Liberal-Democratic platform or the policies of Cameron’s moderate Tories.

I suspect Blond is kept close to the Tory leadership because he generates interest and a certain level of mystique rather than because his ideas will really catch on in the new government. Some may, but only the most obvious. There is nothing illiberal about Cameron or Clegg or the coalition they have formed. Even a Tory only government would have looked past the more radical of Blond’s ideas.

Larison continues:

Much of “reformist” conservatism is concerned with providing an alternative agenda for an increasingly centralized system, rather than with the broad distribution of power that Blond is proposing. “Reformist” conservatism for the most part means more of the bureaucratic, managerial state apparatus that Blond strongly criticizes and opposes. As creative as some “reformists” can be, they are ultimately tinkering around the edges of a neoliberal consensus that Blond flatly rejects.

I’m not so sure that Blond knows what he flatly rejects and what he doesn’t. And while I can sympathize with Blond’s critique of markets, I suspect his own understanding of free market economics is rather less developed than it should be. Policy decisions in the new UK government will likely be influenced by others in the Tory and Lib-Dem camps who have a better grasp of economics. And there is little chance of any of Blond’s social conservatism gaining much traction in the UK.

In other words, I think that Red Toryism – a philosophy which I think Blond never truly let grow into maturity – was stillborn. I think it would have been even had the Tories won a landslide. There may be some echoes of Blond’s ideas in the new government (decentralization, fairness, helping the poor, etc.) but in the end Cameron may have come to these notions without Blond’s influence. Instead, reformist conservatism – with its tinkering around the edges – has won the day. I think spending cuts – however simple and boring – are the only radical thing in the cards. far more so than any sort of revolutionary new brand of conservatism.

It will be more interesting to see what tune Blond whistles now that the Conservatives are finally back in charge. Will he continue his tip-toeing toward a more friendly view of markets? Will he continue to edge back toward liberalism, and couch his critique of modern politics and economics in other terms? I suspect he will.

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3 thoughts on “Cameron and Blond

  1. I think that Red Toryism – a philosophy which I think Blond never truly let grow into maturity – was stillborn.

    That may be a little harsh, E.D., but my reading of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance makes me think even more strongly that your judgment is correct. Assuming any kind of real Red Tory reforms are even possible in the first place, they have to, I believe, be accompanied by or be a part of an effort to slowly but surely rebuild a shared sense of purpose and authority in civic affairs; “mutualist” or “associative communitarianism,” if it is to have any practical reality, must have mutual and associative institutions and practices to build upon, or else any possible reforms will fall into the hands of the state or corporations, which even with the best of intentions will invariably take up such reforms in patterns that they’ve long since committed themselves to. I suppose it’s arguable that the Conservative-LibDem government will be able to make the sort of cuts which will clear the way towards building what needs to be built, and I’d be delighted if that turns out to be the way Cameron, et al, makes their decisions…but I’m not holding my breath. Blond’s no doubt a smart guy, but I don’t think he’s allowed the full civic and religious insights of his teacher, John Milbank, to interfere with his ambitions too much.

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  2. There are many policy issues they agree on, but culturally, I don’t think the liberal democrats aren’t likely to be Blond’s vision, which is a somewhat regressive one.

    A principal problem with Blond’s vision of a voluntary society is that it seems to conspicuously ignore a crucial element and pretend it was never invented, it is also the element the Lib Dems are likely to be by far the most sympathetic and understanding of: The Internet.

    Some of the most amazing, collective and voluntarist projects in human history have worked through it: Wikipedia, Linux, Firefox, OpenOffice all open source and non-profit. Other social ones, like Facebook, are corporate owned, but there are some open source alternatives are currently being worked on and it is only a matter of time before they come on line, and possible replace facebook for dominance.

    The relevance for both local in national governments is that they should attempt to place more and more of their functions online, because nowadays public=online. The more they do so, the more the public will be able to view, and democratically participate in their activities, such as bey adding ideas.

    I know Blond prefers face-to-face activities, but the internet is one of the best facilitators of that, just look at meetup groups have revolutionized how local people with shared interests get together.

    The left traditionally favors government ownership of industries, but of course we now know that simply doesn’t work. I wonder if any consider buying up of software and releasing it under open source licenses? In areas such as textbooks, this might even seem to make immediate financial sense.

    by the way, for a longer explication of this, read “The new Socialism” article from wired.

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