On Welfare


Today, I’ll address questions like: Are we obliged to help others when they are in adversity? If so, under what conditions? Who, exactly, deserves our help? How well do current welfare states perform the task at hand? And how might we put together a system to do the job properly, helping those who need and deserve help, while avoiding injustice to anyone?

Views from the past

John Locke, certainly, knew that there are good reasons to help your fellow human beings when they are in trouble. For he wrote, in his First Treatise: “It would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty. As justice gives every man a title to the product of his honest industry, and the fair acquisitions of his ancestors descended to him; so charity gives every man a title to so much of another’s plenty as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise.”

But a counter-balancing view comes from 16th century English clergyman Richard Hooker, quoted by Locke himself. “If I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should show greater measure of love to me, than they have by me showed unto them.” In other words, if you behave badly towards others, you can’t reasonably expect them to behave any better towards you.

In my view, Locke is right, but Hooker is more right. Locke is right, because undeserved adversity – such as accident, illness, disability, unemployment – can happen to anyone. “There, but for the grace of god, go I.” Moreover, old age hits everyone who doesn’t die young. So, if you don’t show caring for your fellow human beings when they’re in trouble, you can’t expect them to feel much obligation to help you when you’re the one in trouble. But Hooker is more right; because brotherhood must be a two-way process. If individuals fail to show fellowship towards you, or if they behave badly towards you or even do harm to you, you can’t reasonably be obliged to feel or to show any brotherhood towards them.

My take on all this is that, to be worthy of our compassion and help, individuals must behave as our fellow human beings. That means, they must measure up to two sets of standards. One, they must be human beings; they must behave in ways that are natural to, and right for, human beings. And two, they must be our fellows. They must care about us; each of us as an individual. In particular, they must refrain from doing things that unjustly harm or inconvenience us, violate our rights, or restrict our freedoms.

Human nature

Here, in brief, is my take on human nature. We human beings are individuals. And we have free will. But we have also an ethical dimension. We are moral agents, who strive to know right from wrong. And we are naturally good; that is, our nature leads us to seek to do what is right. Even though, obviously, some among us fail to develop that nature.

Furthermore, it is in our nature to form societies and to build civilization. And at a higher level yet, it is in our nature to be creative. It is this creativity which elevates us above mere animals.

Convivial and disconvivial

In an earlier essay, I introduced the ideas of conviviality and convivial conduct. Other words you might use to describe such conduct are “civilized” or “reasonable.” I characterized some of the features of convivial conduct as follows: Seeking truth. Peacefulness, honesty, and respect for rights and freedoms. Refraining from harming innocents. Taking responsibility for directing your life, and for the effects of your actions on others. Striving to be economically productive. Tolerating difference. Always trying to behave with integrity and in good faith.

On the other hand, some individuals are disconvivial. In large matters, or repeatedly, or even habitually, they engage in conduct that is not convivial. Such as: Lying, dealing in bad faith. Ordering, committing or supporting aggressions. Behaving unreasonably or irresponsibly towards others. Sponging off others. Violating rights, or promoting or supporting violations of rights. Trying to constrain others’ freedoms, or their enjoyment of their justly earned wealth. Those that behave in disconvivial ways are, to use a vernacular word, assholes.

Now, I’ll ask: Why should those of us, who strive to be convivial, feel any sense of identity with, or caring for, those that behave like assholes? Why should truthful, honest people, for example, care about liars or the dishonest? Why should productive people care about the lazy? Why should peaceful people care about aggressors? Why should those, who respect others’ rights and freedoms, care about those that violate our rights or deny our freedoms?

From the point of view of those who strive to be convivial, disconvivials are a pain and a drain. They don’t measure up even to minimum standards of humanity. They are not fit to be accepted into any society of convivial human beings. Why, then, should we care about them?

Who are your fellows?

To promote, support or carry out any act that violates the rights of, harms or inconveniences, or seeks to harm or to inconvenience, innocent people is to commit an aggression against those innocent people. If you are a victim of such acts, those that did these things have committed aggression against you. So, why should you feel any kind of fellowship for them? If they want, for example, to constrain your freedom, to subject you to harassment, to impose taxes on you from which you get no benefit, or to reduce or cut off your economic opportunities? They have behaved, not as your friends, but as your enemies.

Do you really have any obligation to help such individuals? Ought you to go out of your way, or to use any of your resources, for their benefit? My answer is: Hell, no. You have no obligation to feed again those that bit your hand last time. They owe you compensation for what they have done to you; you don’t owe them anything.

Political policies and agendas

Today we suffer under a host of bad political policies, promoted by self-serving interest groups. Some like to go to the school-bully that is political government to get favours for themselves, or to get harms done to those they don’t like. Others like to rob us of our earned money – to deny us, in Locke’s words, title to the product of our honest industry – to enrich themselves and their friends and supporters, or to fund their pet projects. And many of those projects are disconvivial in themselves; for example, spreading lies and propaganda, seeking to force people to change their lifestyles against their wills, or starting wars. Yet others have a yen to violate our freedoms just for the hell of it, or to enforce arbitrary “laws” harshly on us.

Whenever you are inconvenienced, harmed, or you have your rights violated or your freedoms unnecessarily constrained by a political policy, then those that promoted, supported or enforced that policy have committed aggressions against you. And in a nasty, sneaky way too. What they have done is worse than merely criminal; it is cowardly, too. It is morally equivalent to – unprovoked – punching you in the nose, then running away.

But it is the deliberate imposition of political ideologies and agendas that leads to the worst excesses of disconviviality. Such agendas spawn webs of interconnected policies, all directed to outcomes that today are, virtually always, hostile to the interests of convivial people.

Take, as an example, socialism, which even 180 years ago had shown that it doesn’t work. Or communism, that has caused the deaths of almost 100 million people. Or fascism, a warlike ideology that easily turns to genocide. Or religious conservatism, that seeks to force everyone to conform to the customs of one particular sect. Or social conservatism, which seeks to maintain an existing order, even after it has clearly failed. Or corporate cronyism, or some ill-defined idea of “social justice,” both of which seek to enrich favoured groups, and to make innocent people pay for it.

I ask: Are those that promote and support these agendas really our brothers, our fellow human beings? And my answer again is: Hell, no. Should Jews, for example, be expected to feel fellowship with former nazis, or with their modern cohorts? Should those, whose lives have been damaged by bad political policies, be expected to feel compassion for, or to give any kind of help to, those that promoted or supported such policies? Surely not. They didn’t, and don’t, care about you; so why should you care about them? If an asshole starves, that’s one less asshole. Isn’t that a good thing?

But among all these evil ideologies, the worst is the environmentalist or green agenda. Hatched, propagandized and rammed down our throats by a globalist élite with no concern at all for us human beings, this agenda openly seeks to destroy the industrial civilization, which over the last two centuries has brought more opportunities for human beings to fulfil ourselves than ever before. And it does so by – among much else – using lies, bad “science,” hype and deceptions, by inverting the burden of proof, and by making the accused prove a negative. It is no exaggeration to say that those that favour the green agenda are traitors to human civilization. And therefore, they deserve to be expelled from our civilization, and denied its benefits.

Welfare states

Although there are government run welfare systems of one kind or another in many countries, the roots of the welfare state system lie in the UK. Before the 19th century, help for the poor was a religious matter, and was provided by local parishes. After the disastrous experiment of the 1834 Poor Law, there grew up private systems, through which people could get relief from poverty. Most notable among these were the friendly societies. But the political class still wanted to take control of these systems. Via a “national insurance” scheme in 1911, they gradually progressed to the creation, in 1948, of the giant, all-encompassing combine that is today called the welfare state.

In the UK at least, it isn’t just pensions, health and unemployment insurance that are provided by government and financed through taxation. Among much else, there is subsidized housing. There is “free” education. Things like roads and railways are, more or less directly, controlled by government. Even bus services are subsidized. The effect is like a giant financial whirlpool. For productive, honest people, some of what has been taken from us through taxation is, eventually, re-cycled to us in one form or another. But a lot of it – most – just disappears.

So, how well has the welfare state done its job? After 70 years, has it ended poverty? Has it made us all better off? Has it provided us with financial security in our old age? Hell, no.

First, the welfare state has always been a Ponzi scheme. It doesn’t enable people to build up a surplus, which they can use when in need. Rather, it has always depended on those currently working to pay for benefits for those not working, or no longer able to work. Then, in the early 1970s, there began the fall in indigenous birth rates to below replacement levels, which today has reached almost all Western countries. The political class’s response has been twofold. First, to increase taxes. Thus, today in the UK we suffer the highest tax burden in 50 years. And, as the population ages, that burden is increasing rapidly. Second, to actively encourage mass immigration. This has led, understandably, to negative reactions from those who feel their culture is being diluted, and their home turned into a foreign land; if not also a building site.

Second, the economic policies that maintain the welfare state have had disastrous consequences for many working people. Sixty years ago, one working parent could support a family. Now, it often takes two. Buying a home, too, has become an increasing strain. Meanwhile, low interest rates and deliberate currency inflation – euphemized as “quantitative easing” – have favoured the state itself, and the big corporations that hang off its coat-tails; while we ordinary people are unable to preserve anything like the value of our savings. Further, acts of political meddling have taken away the access to the market, and so the earning power, even of highly skilled individuals. I myself am a victim of such an evil act, code named IR35, which for 20 years now has reduced my income to half or even a third of what I’m worth in the market.

Third, the welfare state has had bad social consequences, too. Sociologists tell us that it has created an underclass. With no desire to work, and in some cases with criminal tendencies, they have become unemployable and dependent on the state for their very existence. It has also caused a more general moral decay; many now show no shame about taking as much as they possibly can from the trough. It has destroyed the feeling of solidarity, that underpinned what used to be known as “civil society.” Further, those who, like me, have been expected to pay for all this, but have stood on our own two feet and never claimed any social benefits, don’t get even a single word of thanks or appreciation. Not even from one of the recipients, not even once. Ungrateful bastards! Instead, they give thanks and respect, not to those who earned the wealth they are living off, but to the political class that re-distributed it in their direction.

Fourth, like any centralized system that is not subject to market pressures or competition, the welfare state has become expensive and bureaucratic. Worse, it has encouraged health fascists and other nanny-state freedom-haters to try to take advantage. That’s why we keep hearing trial balloons for policies like denying medical treatment to smokers, or imposing a “calorie cap” on restaurant meals. Or, even, the ridiculous idea of a “universal basic income” (UBI). Such a system would have all the failings of the welfare state, and more. The poor would, very likely, be worse off even than under today’s welfare systems. A UBI would take away all incentive to work hard, or even to work at all. And so, it would inevitably end in disastrous failure.

And last… the welfare state is unsustainable. It’s like a neglected, ramshackle building that will eventually collapse under its own weight. The political class know this, but they aren’t willing to admit they were wrong. They won’t do anything to dismantle or even to reform the system. Therefore, it continues inexorably on its way towards the brick wall of bankruptcy. And when it hits… unless you’re rich or politically connected, you don’t want to be old. Of course, the political class will look to make sure they themselves don’t suffer. Unless there is radical change, it will be those, who have paid and paid and paid but grow old at the wrong time, who will be shafted. Maybe 10 or 15 years from now. Maybe sooner.

A sane, sustainable system

How might we build a sustainable system, which can help those who are poor through no fault of their own, while allowing everyone to get on with their lives in their own way? The first component, I think, must be savings. People must have incentives and opportunities to work, to develop their skills, and so to build up a reserve for their old age, or for a rainy day. And whatever is left over, they must be able to leave to their children or to other favourites. To enable this requires several conditions. One, a fully free market. Two, a framework of good governance, that delivers peace and objective justice to all, and defends individual rights, and in particular property rights. Three, a reasonably stable currency, which cannot be arbitrarily debauched. And four, the absence of a greedy, grasping, ravenous political state.

The second component is insurance. This works best for those risks, such as serious accident or disability, which have a low chance of happening, but major negative effects if they do happen. Third comes the implementation of systems of mutual aid; perhaps through re-vitalization of friendly societies, or creation of modern versions of them. Fourth is a revival of civil society, in which people look out for their neighbours, and in which there is personal contact between helpers and helped. And as a final backstop, particularly in cases of unexpected emergency, there is always voluntary charity.

As to the how to get there from here, that subject demands an essay in itself. All I’ll say now is that the interests of productive, honest, self-directing people must always take precedence over the interests of the lazy, the dishonest, the politicized and all other assholes.

To sum up

All human individuals owe help and compassion to their fellow human beings. But fellowship is a two-way process. You don’t owe anything to those that fail to behave as human beings, or fail to behave as your fellows, or support political policies that harm you.

Today’s welfare states have had major negative economic and social effects. They have all but destroyed solidarity and civil society, and caused moral decay and loss of individual freedom. Furthermore, welfare states are unsustainable. Without radical change, they will collapse; and sooner rather than later.

A free, just, de-politicized and sustainable welfare system is feasible. It could be built on a foundation of savings, insurance, mutual aid, civil society and, at need, charity.

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6 comments

  • HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT ‘GOOD’

    The idea that human beings are ‘naturally good’ is a recent socialist, (so called) ‘progressive’, fantasy.

    Unless one believes in a creator God, human beings are no more than organic vessels which have evolved to survive and replicate the genes which each carries.

    In the absence of a creator God, the traits that we think of as ‘good’ and the ‘morality’ we’ve constructed to enforce and promote them, are, nothing more than evolved survival mechanisms to make the reproduction of our genes more likely by, when it suits us co-operating collectively with one another.

    We’re not ‘morally obliged’ to help anyone.

    But we can choose to do so either as individuals voluntarily, or by compulsion with collective consent. The motivating purpose however is always to make the ‘helper’ feel good (or at least ‘less bad’), about himself, according to his standards.

    That standard might include honouring instructions laid down by God.

    Sometimes the State is the best conduit to achieve the objective of ‘helping others’ but sometimes it isn’t, and can easily make matters worse.

    The way in which the ‘help’ is administered is also pivotal.

    Sometimes there’s a tangible, (at least in part), self serving material motivation within the person dispensing the help. He might be doing it as a paid job or is doing it in exchange for social status.

    Trying to determine whether someone ‘deserves’ help is a subjective judgement and isn’t as easy at it looks.

    It places arbitrary power into the hands of the person who administers the ‘help’ allowing him to abuse and neglect those of us paying for it (and usually for him), and those receiving it.

    It also allows him to hijack the system to satisfy his own political purposes and self interest, and creates a sense of entitlement which empowers no one other than himself.

    Hence the NHS, Local Authorities, Charities, some organised religions etc, end up being run for the benefit of those who work in them, for the purposes of providing pensions for people who used to work there, and, for the political gain for others who can sponge off the goodwill which the cause attracts.

    You can gain ‘moral virtue’ and Honours in the UK simply by going around saying that the NHS is good thing and demanding that other people, often poorer than yourself, should be forced to spend more of their money on it!!

    One of the most offensive things I read in the media nowadays is the way in which people who work and get paid by the National Health Service for doing routine jobs are described as ‘heroes’ whereas others who do exactly the same thing often for less pay are abused.

    So the mini cab driver or operator who takes someone to a non emergency hospital appointment and charges his usual fare is said to be ‘in it for profit’, whereas the ambulance driver and the various admin staff operating the ‘service’ who are on salaries, with paid holidays and sick leave, and good final salary pensions to look forward to are ‘heroes’ for doing exactly the same thing at much higher cost.

    Asking whether the Welfare State has ‘ended (material) poverty’ is meaningless question.

    By any standard applied as recently as 100 years ago, the answer would quite plainly be be spectacular ‘YES’!!.

    Compared with several hundred years ago, and what it’s like in some countries today State Sponsored Welfare has been successful in way unimaginable to its’ most optimistic original promoters.

    But if we keep moving the definition of ‘poverty’ in accordance with the statistical effect of the poorest getting richer, less quickly than rich people are getting richer still, ‘poverty’ never be eradicated.

    The present method of measuring ‘poverty’ is nothing more than a measure of ‘equality’ as compared with some others who happen to live in the same country.

    A 14th Century Peasant would see the poorest among us today as living lives longer and more comfortable, than at least 99% of the populace did then.

    Whether we’re more psychologically fulfilled however, is another matter.

    Sadly, envy and resentment, is always with some amongst us, eating at their souls regardless of how well off they themselves are, and when we cease to believe in God we fear death in the knowledge that there’s nothing we can do to secure our chance of a comfy afterlife.

    Even the poorest Peasant contemplating the Black Death in the 14th Century, or the prospect of being murdered by his Master, had that comfort.

    • Matthew: I don’t think that the idea that humans are naturally good is all that recent, or particularly socialist. John Locke himself implies as much, when he talks of: “the crime which consists in violating the laws, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature and to be a noxious creature.”

      But you’re right to criticize the political class and their hangers-on for trying to make themselves out to be heroes just because they do so many “marvellous” things for the NHS and other politically correct schemes. Whereas in reality, the resources that fuel those schemes have been commandeered, without thanks, from the people who earned those resources – a point I made in my essay.

      And you make a good point regarding ‘poverty’ versus ‘equality.’ Yes, the socialists (and others) that believe that everyone should get the same out of life, regardless of what they put into it, have far too much power and influence today. Which, of course, is an inequality – and a wrong – in itself. I’ve written elsewhere on this site on that topic.

      As to poverty being lower than 100 years ago, my take is that the progress we have made is a consequence of the success of a relatively free market system, not of any government schemes. But the more governments interfere, the slower that progress will become; until it eventually reverses. Indeed, this is explicitly the aim of the environmentalists – to dismantle the system which has got us this far, and subject everyone (except the politically rich, of course) to poverty again.

  • I don’t personally strive to define human nature or lay down abstract prescriptions for what it is or what a human being is or should be. Among other things, I am reminded here of Hume’s is/ought problem and the rather sinister slippages involved in defining who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ based on behaviour and the potential unreal results. I could be a murderer or a bank robber or a war criminal – or, God forbid, even a world champion at tiddly-winks and a part-time stamp collector – but I remain a human being and I belong to my family, my tribe and my nation – which are an extended family and important reference points in understanding who I am, how I should behave and act, and who and what I should care about. That may make me a terrible racist, but it also makes me a ‘realist’ in the sense that I comprehend and willingly acknowledge an important facet of reality.

    The Pakistani up the road may be a frightfully nice chap, but he’s still a Pakistani, he’s not British. He may be quintessentially British in that way that foreigners from the Subcontinent and the Caribbean sometimes are, but he is not essentially British. No amount of polite manners, law-abiding behaviour and shouts of ‘Come on England!” while watching cricket or football can make him British, any more than donkey can be magically transmogrified into a lion.

    Rather than resorting to abstractions, I find it more illuminating simply to describe human beings and human nature based on what is patent and manifest from observations. Human beings scream, fight, fuck, eat, think, quarrel and defecate, and howl like wolves. That is human nature, as a rough rule of thumb. From this nature, and due to our interaction with local environments, we develop different races and cultures, from which we can see two common elements: we tribalise and territorialise and develop social, political and legal arrangements to reflect this. I am not going to say that showing welfare to others on principle is inimical to human nature, but I will say that relying on principle will not bring the best results. In the end, we’re guided by interests, which are shaped by our nature.

    I’ll happily enter into conviviality with the Pakistani when he has returned to his heritage country. But then, that sentiment is not necessarily inconsistent with your proposed system. It just requires a simple modification: that we acknowledge that there is a group or tribal or national element to moral concern and therefore different levels or depths of conviviality, and the best way to ensure minimal formal conviviality (i.e. diplomacy) between different nationalities is to have borders that are respected and for property owners not to disregard this by importing people who cannot be presumed to be convivial because they lack the necessary cultural understanding of the host community.

    • Tom: There are many different ways in which individuals can decide who, for them, is “in” and who is “out”. These include love (mental or physical); family; kinship or tribe; shared geographical origin, race, religion or culture; shared ethics (such as libertarians); or “membership” in some particular political unit, such as a nation. From what you say, you seem to regard the last of those as by far the most important. I would disagree fundamentally! For me, the political nation has no more rationale than some arbitrary set of boundaries resulting from long-ago wars. It is a bit less bad than the project of self-aggrandizement that is the EU, but not much. On top of that, current political systems bring to power the worst – such as Blair, Brown, Cameron and May, to name but four.

      I won’t argue nationalism here – my next planned major essay will address, among much else, borders. But what you say has a major truth at its heart. When it comes to deciding who is “in” for you, which of these different binding forces counts most depends on your worldview. For me, it is shared ethics; which is why I take the position that “what matters is not who you are, but what you do.” For you, it is politics. We must agree to disagree.

      The message I choose to take from all this is that every individual must have the right to decide who(m) he or she will consider “in.” I like to think that you and I might be able to agree on that? When applied to the subject of this essay, welfare, that means that each of us must have the right to choose who(m) we wish to help with such charity as we are able to give. This is an important point, which I neglected to include in the essay, and will add next time I update it. Thank you, Tom.

      Looked at that way, welfare states are wrong because they constrain that choice. They force us to waste our resources on a large class of those I call “assholes.” Meaning that when someone we care about needs our help, we have far less resources (or no resources at all) with which to help them.

      • A nation is not, per se, a political unit. Per the origin of the term itself, it is an association of natives. A nation must of course act as a political unit, and normally it would have a state of some kind, or the equivalent, for this purpose. It is difficult to see how else it could operate, though here again we descend into tautologies because the term ‘state’ isn’t easy to define once we admit what it is in itself: a locus of moral privilege.

        I didn’t say that what matters most to me is ‘politics’. I didn’t use that term. Rather I extrapolated from human nature, as I understand it, to explain how social relations work and why any ethical system based on abstractions alone is flawed. Human beings are racist. Racism is what makes you human. Without racism, you simply wouldn’t be here. Your very ‘humanness’ is the result of evolution in which people discriminated and selected. But I have already explained myself, so need not labour the point here.

        The only other comment I would make at this point, is that – as a general observation – some judgements and decisions can’t feasibly or realistically be made by individuals qua individuals. Normally that would make me be guilty of stating the obvious, but here I must do so because, in common with some other libertarians, you assert that individuals can decide everything (or, if not everything, at least all major decisions) for themselves as individuals. I simply don’t accept that. It doesn’t accord with my experiences and my understanding of reality. I may want to live in a world where individuals do decide everything. It would quite suit me, thank you very much, but I tend to base my views about things on reality. Of course, in a strict and narrow sense, individuals do decide everything for themselves, but mostly these are not autonomous decisions, more like mechanical reactions to expectations and standards that virtually-all individuals seek to fit into to some degree or other. As far as I can tell, most people are followers and social animals.

        In this mass democratic system that we now have, individuals do make the decisions – albeit that it is qua masse (folie en masse, perhaps), but it is individuals who vote, not families or other collectives. It would be impractical for each individual to make his own decisions, instead he is given a range of choices, i.e. candidates to vote for, who will make important decisions for him about welfare, etc. In the case of any sort of organised welfare, I believe this is the only way the relevant decisions can be made in a complex society. We could do as you suggest and abolish welfare, but then we’ll be left with some people – probably quite a lot of people – destitute and begging, etc. because they can’t take care of themselves and have no family or friends to support them. What then? Maybe we should leave them to die? Or maybe we should euthanise them in specially-built gas chambers? Maybe you’re thinking that charity and do-gooders will step in? Or maybe we should compulsorily deduct a small amount from everybody’s income as an insurance and security against any of us falling destitute in circumstances when we have nobody else to look after us and help us? I’m not saying I agree or disagree with any of these, but what I will say is that the latter method – compulsory social insurance – seems to work, for all its faults, and while the principled objections to it are noted, what matters to me more is What Works, not whether as a point of academic theory I am a Tax Slave. One day I might need this help. One day you might.

  • Another observation I would like to make is to do with, as I see it, the rather circular relationship between law, welfare and trust.

    To explain, I will draw – briefly – on a personal anecdote from many years ago. I was badly served by a supplier who sent me a defective mechanical product, which I eventually ended up having to modify in the workshop myself. On complaining, initially I was sent new parts, but these were also defective. The supplier then resorted to legalities, citing the written terms and arguing that I was out-of-time for a refund. This outraged me, but one thing I have noticed over the years about people who engage in dealings in bad faith, or in a spirit that is less than in good faith – whether they are in the public sector, in some sort of bureaucracy, or any sort of business – is that they tend to quickly fall back on legalisms.

    This, to my mind, smacks of a society that has lost its sense of integration and trust. I say this as somebody who also has faults – I am not a paragon of virtue – but having had lots of experience one way and the other, I can comment on what I think the root of it is.

    The problem with a diverse society is that, because there is no shared ethnicity and because society has ceased to be an extended family, people have to rely on abstractions for their moral sense, which in turn means that eventually society collapses into legalisms, as I believe is much the case now. Christianity could perhaps be seen, axiologically, as a driving force for this moral vacuity. Indeed, it is a process of moral evacuation: a form of, or means of, nihilism, in short. Certainly I would accept Nietzsche’s thesis on this – and I think Nietzsche’s moral genealogy is something to be borne in mind when trying to re-construct a society of individuals.

    In a society of individuals, each person is rendered vulnerable and an emotional crowd mentality would take hold, which in turn would need to rely on the sort of woolly, principled, prescriptive morality set out in the piece above. My view is that morality – in the sense of a meta-narrative – should be organic and based on interests, individual and collective, which is the only sustainable basis for moral conduct and for welfare. With this comes an inescapable acknowledgement that there are collective interests at work in human societies, just as there are in the animal world, and these collective interests are based on a mutual recognition of shared understandings, outlooks and goals, and these exist among people with shared ancestry – families, tribes and nations – that create their own sense of ‘law’. Problems arise when this shared law becomes an ideological culture, an exportable abstraction that aliens can ‘integrate’ into, rather than an organic culture that expresses the wishes, sentiments and objectives of a particular people, and that only those people can truly understand and only closely-similar people can assimilate into.

    Neil Lock accuses me (I would say wrongly) of wanting to retain a ‘political culture’; I accuse him of wanting to rely on a ‘legal culture’, which is to say, reducing complex human relations to legalisms: injunctions, prescriptions and stipulations, which is an inescapable result of blind ethnic mixing. In such a society, people lose their sense of what seems right and wrong, and instead do things and refrain from doing things because that is what is stipulated according to abstract principles. I say, instead, that there is no abstract morality beyond certain minimal precepts and whether murder is wrong (or rather, whether murder is murder) depends on an evaluation of the interests of the particular individual and the nation or tribe of people concerned, and I further say that different peoples will have different moral evaluations which will change with the circumstances and needs of the particular people.

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