Tuesday 17 May 2005

Too little, too late.

The Guardian have finally figured out that Socialism is inherently flawed. Of course, they don't put it quite like that.

In all cases the politicians' reflex is to take actions that they think will influence the tide of society.

But the policies of both government and opposition combined fail to approach the central truth regarding mutual respect: that there is very little any administration can usefully do. Politeness cannot be legislated. Social capital is something that is built and dissolved over generations, a rather longer term than the span of parliaments. ...

What can politicians do in the face of genuine shifts in cohesion and cooperation? In reality, very little. In fact, politicians are not always the best placed to provide answers. The underlying issues are frequently too complex and do not lend themselves to setting targets or crackdowns. ... How a government can improve the level of mutual respect in society as a whole is a task too far.

Having made the case for five paragraphs that political legislation cannot and does not improve society, they conclude by proposing the following solution to antisocial behaviour:

it is worth considering research that reveals that people become more cooperative with strangers the less pressure they are under. A government that wants its citizens to treat each other with greater respect, while also lobbying to allow businesses have employees work longer than 48 hours a week, is surely confused between cause and effect.

Legislation never works, so stop trying to block this latest piece of legislation, as it is sure to work. Great.

To compound that bizarre reasoning, The Guardian have failed to realise that antisocial behaviour is much more of a problem now than it was back when people worked sixty-hour weeks, and that one of the things that puts people under pressure is their finances, so banning their right to get extra money by doing extra work isn't going to make them more relaxed. It is endlessly annoying that someone gets paid a lot more than me to write this crap.

Natalie, of course, is endlessly wise:

There may indeed be little that politicians can do to actively legislate for civic virtue but there are enormous harms that politicians could stop doing. They could stop paying people to raise their children without virtue, social skills, chance of employment, or fathers. These "genuine shifts in cohesion and cooperation" the editorialist writes about did not arise from an inauspicious conjunction of the stars. If there is one insight (actually there are several) I owe to my time as a socialist it is that bad states of society are not unalterable. How the old-time socialists would have despised the Guardian today, as it sighs like a medieval peasant woman paying to grind her corn at the Lord's mill: "It's just the way things are. There's nothing the likes of us can do." The only problem is that the present weakness of civic society largely arises from the very measures those old-time socialists enacted with such determination.


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