It’s not the economy stupid

In a classic defense of Conservative thinking, Home Throne Altar highlights Roger Douglas’s 1996 book “Completing the Circle“. Although vilified by the left, he reveals deep concern for balancing social justice, democracy, and capitalism. In Douglas’s own words:

RD: The Left continues to promote a system that ends up making hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders and Australians dependent on the state. Dependency is the worst thing you can do to any individual. The Left claim to care, but their answer is just to throw more money at the problems. If ‘tax and spend’ was the answer, the problems would have been solved a long time ago.

(Incidentally, this related article challenges the belief that most people on welfare really want to work).

Bruce Logan commented thus:

Even Roger Douglas appears to be going back to his roots. In his new book “Completing the Circle” written in bold (if you please), we find “The Sins of the parents are visited on the children to the second and third generation.” He goes on to say, in reference to welfare that, “the only moral or ethical policy is one that works.”

Both are not quite right. Lady Thatcher’s grandmother would not have talked of values; she would have spoken of virtues. It is only in our time that the basics for moral behaviour has become relativised while enduring and universal virtues have become personalised to values.

And Sir Roger misquotes the Biblical text. The original has “fathers” not “parents”. Although you would not think so today, with one third of our kids without a live-in father, it was fathers who were traditionally responsible for family moral guidance.

What is the point of raising this? I’m talking about an unpopular topic—ethics and fathers. In the present environment it is not easy to live a life of integrity based on truth. And it is not easy to resist playing the cynic. It is not easy to live a life of practical honesty and moral concern. Parents find it very hard to discipline children because the confidence of a shared social norm is not there. Families cannot easily survive in such a hostile climate. Why?

  • Lessons from the past are disregarded.
  • Relativism destroys one of the most important roles of the family—that of passing on from generation to generation those things that are true. Nothing is true therefore there is nothing to pass on.We undervalue the nurturing role of mothers and the protective role of fathers.
  • Children cannot learn responsibility because the context and reasons for being responsible are taken away.
  • Marriage and commitment are undervalued so people enter sexual relationships too early and too carelessly.
  • Children have no heroes.
  • Canary in the Mine speaks of the uneasy relationship between capitalism and democracy with the following:

    Capitalism thrives on change—it inspires new technologies, products and profit opportunities. Democracy resists change—it creates powerful constituencies with a stake in the status quo. Capitalism (by which I mean an economic system that relies heavily on markets and private ownership) and democracy need each other. The one generates rising living standards; the other cushions capitalism’s injustices and, thereby, anchors public support. But this mutual dependence is tricky because if democratic prerogatives are overused, they may strangle capitalism.

    The answer? Here are some ideas.


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