I keep going back in my mind to one of the points Andy Beckett made in his ‘long read’ in Tuesday’s Guardian. My initial reaction to the idea that Conservatism developed as a way to preserve the power of the elites, was one of, ‘huh, typical paranoid leftie rationalising things too complex and coming up with random conclusions.’
But the more I think about it, the more I think he has a point, one that can more than likely be backed up by simple historical proof, should you need it.
Now, before you think I’m veering off to the left somewhere in my thinking, I’m not. I’m no fan of egalitarianism in its purist form. Forcing everyone to be equal would destroy the economy, stagnate design and development and generally make the world a worse place to be. I cannot in any way see this as positive, even if it feels on the surface like a nice thing to do.
On the other hand, it does feel to me like the Conservatives are in a bit of existential pickle. As I argued on Tuesday, if, since Thatcher, the Conservatives have taken Libertarian values to their core, when it fundamentally can’t work with them, then a party that is set up to maintain some kind of status quo where the ‘elites’ keep their power base, won’t help the situation, as these elites are the ones who wish to maintain society in their favour and keep those from the ‘lower classes’ in their place.
This might have worked well enough in the pre-digital age, but it’s not sustainable today. In a fast moving world where people can make large sums of money with their digital products, the whole power base is shifting.
So, the question is, if we should have ‘elites’, who should they be? I have no great truck with the class system, despite the British obsession with them. Perhaps it might be the entrepreneurs, the risk takers prepared to put their soul on the line to bring the next great products? If we were to let evolution take its course, various options may present themselves over time.
I suspect such a social revolution is probably already happening – and has been for some time. What Andy Beckett identifies merely as conservatism failing and a societal swing to the left might actually be something much, much bigger.