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Resisting Caesar

Category Articles
Date September 16, 2008

ROLLING BACK THE STATE AND MENDING SOCIETY

Lord Blackwell is the chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies and in The Times on September 8 he made seven suggestions for breaking the dependency culture that has marred life in Great Britain today. How these ideas will resonate in the heart of every Christian! They are the kind of political ideology esteemed by J. Gresham Machen. [Geoff Thomas]

1. Stop talking about welfare benefits as ‘entitlements’ handed out by some remote, impersonal State and rename them ‘community support’ – recognising that they are provided by fellow citizens to help people in difficulty, but with the obligation that those that can will do their best to get back on their own feet. No one wants a return to the time when welfare was stigmatised, but the language of entitlements has done much to undermine the obligation people should have to look after themselves and their families before turning to others to pay their bills.

2. Replace large swaths of detailed regulations – for example in health and safety – with a general obligation ‘not to behave irresponsibly’, while making it more difficult for individuals to sue for damages after an innocent accident. Of course we must ensure that companies do not recklessly put the public at risk through negligence, but the law has gone too far in encouraging people to expect that all risks can be removed from everyday life – and seeking to blame all and everyone when things go wrong.

3. Restore rights (and confidence) to teachers, policemen and parents to exercise discretion in breaking up fights and imposing discipline on children. The law should protect children from violence and abuse, but we should trust the vast majority of adults to understand instinctively how to act responsibly in providing children with the clear boundaries they need on acceptable behaviour.

4. Reinforce the importance of marriage and family support as the bedrock of a stable society. Transferable tax allowances for couples where one partner cares for children or elderly relatives would be a powerful signal.

5. Encourage academic achievement and excellence, and abandon the misguided nostrum that all children can emerge equal. While we lavish money and praise on elite athletes and actors, we condemn many able children to lifelong underperformance through mixed ability classes and diluted ‘no-one-can-fail’ school standards. This is particularly unfair on those from poor families who cannot afford the escape route of private education.

6. Raise the penalties and police attention given to antisocial behaviour by the disruptive minority – flytipping, public violence – relative to minor traffic offences and other small infringements by the law-abiding majority. Most people respond better when required to set their own standards. The flashing signs that warn drivers that they are speeding are a better approach than speed cameras.

7. Abandon the failed experiment of ‘multiculturalism’ with its politically correct requirement that mainstream social values and beliefs be downplayed in case they ‘offend’ a minority group. We should be a tolerant society, but if we do not give proper respect to traditional British customs we risk creating a rudderless country with no common values.

Following these prescriptions would be a brave departure from the views of the liberal Establishment that has dominated British politics in recent years. For most of the public, however, it would mark the return of a government prepared to embrace the sound common sense and common values that society itself has shaped over generations. Big government has failed – it’s time to trust the people again.

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