Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, January 23, 2006


The new leader of the Tories doesn't sound like a right-winger by the standards of US politics:

What I'm trying to do is straightforward. I want to put the Conservative Party back in the mainstream of political debate. Only if we do that will we show ourselves relevant to the concerns and aspirations of modern Britain...

Today we need to show how our values and principles are the best way to meet the aspirations of a new generation who demand social justice for all as well as high standards of living for themselves; who care about their quality of life as well as the quantity of money in their pockets.

I'm fired by a determination to improve the environment we leave to our children. But I believe that we'll do that only if we harness the ingenuity of the market for green ends.

Our mission should be to end poverty at home and abroad - but we will achieve that only through Conservative principles of encouraging enterprise, helping people to independence, and giving them the tools to climb the ladder from poverty to wealth...

First, I believe that the more you trust people, the stronger they and society become. So, for example, my response to the urgent need to restore respect in society is the opposite of Tony Blair's top-down government initiatives.

I want to set free the voluntary organisations and social enterprises that have the knowledge and the commitment to turn our communities around.

Second, I believe passionately that we're all in this together - that we have a shared responsibility for our shared future. There isn't a single challenge we face that isn't best addressed by asking not just what government can do, but what individuals, families, business and the voluntary sector can do.

So in education, for example, while we want to give head-teachers more freedom to run their schools, and ask all parents to take responsibility for their children's education, we also believe that government should show leadership in areas where it can make a decisive difference: synthetic phonics to teach literacy properly; setting by ability to stretch the brightest pupils.

David Cameron is trying to restore credibility to a Conservative party in a country where the political temperature is well to the right of that in the US. His message ends up sounding center-left by US standards. In the US, the issue is not the market-- opposition to the market is a political cul-de-sac in the US, though it does throw up occasional stupid populist laws like the Maryland Wal-Mart law-- but whether the environment, poverty and social justice should be talked about at all.

If Democrats follow David Cameron's lead, they could talk about their issues while making it clear that they're friendly to market capitalism. And of course, Cameron is right: the means of market capitalism are by far the best way to serve the end of poverty reduction, which, in turn, is the best way to improve the environment.


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