Yes, I know I said I thought they were rubbish, but I’ve just finished reading an interesting article by Andy Beckett in the Guardian, “‘A Zombie Party’: The Deepening Crisis of Conservatism”, arguing that Conservatism is dying and that the Left is on the rise, and it’s rather got me thinking.
I have to say that I agree with Beckett to a point, yet as ever with left-wingers, not necessarily for the same reasons.
I felt that Beckett got the fundamentals of Conservativism muddled with the fundamentals of Libertarianism. He argues that the Hayekian free-trade, low taxes, small government of Thatcher and Reagan were Conservative fundamentals, and that they’ve never really worked. Admittedly, many Conservatives think this way too looking at what some of the candidates vying for the PM post are saying, but I’m starting to think that while many Conservatives consider themselves Libertarian, Libertarian values are fundamentally at odds with Conservative values.
Libertarian values are rooted in the Extended Order, which is almost a kind of magical spiritual realm (at least in mine and Hayek’s minds), and more ‘Liberal’ in its operation than Conservatives would feel comfortable with. It will morph and change in a progressive fashion as society evolves. Certainly, I think this is the core of Hayek’s essay, ‘Why I am not a conservative’. The Extended Order will take the best of society, and run with it, the bits that don’t work falling away. It may drift to the ‘right’ or ‘left’ in the process, but ultimately it transcends both.
A central tenet of Beckett’s argument, which I think is right, is that Conservatism is a holdover from the days when the Elites where trying to fight the rising tide of the masses gaining power. I’m not sure this means that if society drifts more to the left (which it certainly does in London) then Conservatism is dead, nor that people under 45 today who are more liberal in attitude, will stay that way as they grow older (and not go all conservative, as they have traditionally done). That said, they might do, such is the wonderful way of the world, that’s the point! It will possibly never go the way you expect it too, it’s all so com-per-li-cated.
The Extended Order is fundamentally about evolution and change, something the liberal left claim to be for, and the conservative right against. The problem is that the magical nebulousness of the Extended Order is anathema to left-wing rationalists, who need facts and figures to justify what’s happening in society, something that can only ever be sought in hindsight, and usually too late as society has moved on before the data can be found to prove it. And data is notoriously slippery at best. Just look at the climate change debate, or read Foucault’s Pendulum.
And yes, I still think Zombies are daft.1