Let us go out into the world and make it a better place. Now is the time, or it will be lost to knaves and fools.
Conservative-minded folk do not like to lecture other countries: that is the sort of thing that radicals and socialists do. However it has become necessary, partly because radicals and socialists are doing that, and because of human nature, or what passes for it among politicians.
Those who are conservative-minded are short of radical utopian visions, so we are less likely to rail at others for disagreeing with our preferred ways of doing things. We are quite happy to let other nations live in their own cultures, though we may grind our teeth at some of the excesses of their rulers. It is ultimately not for us: as there is no power without responsibility, so there is no responsibility where there is no power.
Others take a very different view. When the Thirteen Colonies won their independence in the name of liberty, they proclaimed to the world that they would support liberty across the world (except for slaves, obviously), but they were deep-down conservatives and three thousand miles away and did no more about it. The bloodthirsty Jacobins on the other hand proclaimed a policy to foment revolution across Europe and to intervene with force to bring it about, the Bolsheviks likewise, and they outdid the French many, many times over in subversion and blood. Today’s enthusiasts preaching wrongheaded ideas to the world are those with elements of the cultural-Marxist mindset, and it is only a mercy that they do not have their predecessors’ capacity for destruction.
Natural enthusiasm for an idea can be a troublesome thing. Maybe it is just not wanting to feel you are alone in the world, needing company to validate your beliefs.
If conservatives do not make missionary efforts to force foreigners to conform to British ideas, that leaves the radicals to be the only voices in town. (I would call them liberals as is the usual way, but there is nothing liberal about their doctrines.) The world is changing fast and new nations and newly freed nations look for a model to follow; and there waiting for them are people with ideas, wokeists, social-justice warriors and all who follow with them.
It is in Britain’s interests to see a settled and prosperous world. We might not want to bother other nations with our ways of doing things, but those values we have developed, in our context with our the Anglosphere norms, are the values that can enable prosperity and a form of society that is most fitted to human nature. A foreign nation which adopts a free, open market, firm rights of property, limited government, the rule of law and settled family and social bonds in socially conservative terms, that nation can prosper and enjoy civil peace. Socialist and big-state ideas can only ensure poverty. Breaking social bonds with radical, inhuman ideas will bring strife, and even war. Replacing social interdependence with dependence on the central state will bring both poverty and war.
Britain is a trading nation and needs customers with money and reliability, and also needs the markets of the world to be open. It is not just about internal ideas of sound law and liberty then; nations need to embrace free trade for their own prosperity. That goes against many instincts of nature and even in the more conservative-sounding establishment there will be frequent demands for action to protect home markets (ignoring the point that increased prices will result, saving a few jobs in one sector at the penalty of increased costs and consequent unemployment distributed across others). Free trade is for the benefit of the nation being preached to, even if we preach it for our own nation’s good.
In the 1980s, Roger Scruton travelled extensively in Eastern Europe, then still under the Soviet jackboot. He taught, he provided material, he nurtured an underground intellectual class which was able to rise with the fall of Communism and take over. It is noticeable that the countries in which he was active have been those which rose and mended themselves spectacularly after the Wall fell – Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia (or half of it at least) – while those left to the mercy of the Vienna Commission and its ‘progressive’ ideas have been stunted. The Vienna Commission hates Hungary and Poland for their social conservatism, but those two nations are doing very well.
Prosperity in the wider world then needs a new Scruton initiative. There will never be another Roger Scruton, God rest his soul, but his example and his courage are measures for a new effort.
Without it, the international commentariat is dominated by ideas rooted in textbooks but not reality, and the result can only be poverty and strife and closed markets.
The modern radicals appear to have a monopoly on ideas and they would certainly have it that way. Those who dissent will face censure, as we have seen in Hungary and Poland for even minor non-compliance (which can be ignored but puts pressure on surrounding nations to take action). In the longer-term view, if one narrow field of ideas retains the monopoly, those who disagree will doubt their sanity, or be driven to more radical, illiberal ideas in reaction, or to unfortunate companions. Hungarian politicians have started to be warm towards Russia, which is far from the Scrutonian promise they have shown.
The dominant ideas therefore need a respectable opposition, to show there are other ideas that are just as respectable and far more practical.
We owe it the world to whom we introduced Western ideas in the first place, and to our merchants to provide them with the world marketplace they deserve.
- Scruton’s Anglosphere
- Are we European though, or Anglospherical?
- Sir Roger Scruton – in memory of greatness
- By Sir Roger Scruton:
- On Human Nature
- The Ring of Truth
- Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left
- On Hunting
- Where We Are: The State of Britain
- How to Be a Conservative
- Conservatism: Ideas in Profile
- A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism
- Kant: a Very Short Introduction
- Spinosa: a Very Short Introduction
- Beauty: a Very Short Introduction
- Green Philosophy
- Philosophy: Principles and Problems
- The Soul of the World
- Souls in the Twilight
- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Sir Winston Spenser Churchill:
- A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by Andrew Roberts
- The Dream of Rome by Boris Johnson
- The Victorians: Twelve Titans who Forged Britain by Jacob Rees-Mogg
- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson