georgetown

Phillip Blond has begun his “American tour” with a lecture this evening at Georgetown University. While the Georgetown men’s basketball team flopped, Blond soared. In attendance tonight were “Porchers” Mark Mitchell, Rachel Blum and yours truly, along with such eminences as Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat and John Millbank. With perfect timing, a column by David Brooks about Blond appears in today’s New York Times. At the risk of copyright infringement, I quote it in its entirety here:

The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond.

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aide societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

The free-market revolution didn’t create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

In a much-discussed essay in Prospect magazine in February 2009, Blond wrote, “Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry.” In a separate essay, he added, “The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures.”

The task today, he argued in a recent speech, is to revive the sector that the two revolutions have mutually decimated: “The project of radical transformative conservatism is nothing less than the restoration and creation of human association, and the elevation of society and the people who form it to their proper central and sovereign station.”

Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor. This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government. He would funnel more services through charities. He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs. He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.

Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations. His ideas have made a big splash in Britain over the past year. His think tank, ResPublica, is influential with the Conservative Party. His book, “Red Tory,” is coming out soon. He’s on a small U.S. speaking tour, appearing at Georgetown’s Tocqueville Forum Friday and at Villanova on Monday.

Britain is always going to be more hospitable to communitarian politics than the more libertarian U.S. But people are social creatures here, too. American society has been atomized by the twin revolutions here, too. This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.

An impressive audience turned out tonight, notable for its youth and evident hunger to find a different way. Both current party configurations have yet to get a clue. The question that was posed several times, and which needs serious consideration, is whether and how Blond’s “Red Tory” analysis can be applied to the American situation. The diagnosis is surely spot on, but the remedies will likely need to be more local. The authors here, and our good readers, are likely to be the best sources of thoughtful answers to the question “what is to be done”?

For those in the DC area, Blond will be part of two panel discussions tomorrow on the Georgetown campus from 12-4 p.m. For more information, click here.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar N. P. West March 19, 2010 at 5:54 am

While it is nice for Blond’s ideas to receive a reception by Brooks, he needs to remain wary. Traditionalists are a small minority in the larger conservative movement and if Red Toryism looks to be adapted in the States and suddenly becomes popular then the same crowd that has co-opted the Tea Party movement will swoop in and glom onto the Red Tory movement (Brooks endorsement of Blond could be seen as an example of this). Brooks is a neoconservative pundit who basks in the light of liberal approval (i.e. PBS, the New York Times, etc.) and is known to be pro-choice on abortion and for gay marriage.

Blond would be best served to make an impact in the states by not associating with neocons and libertarians but rather the traditionalists with whom his ideas align. The next time he comes to America he needs to avoid Fox News, the Weekly Standard, and Brooks and instead show a few public statements of Red Tory-Trad Con unity: a pilgrimage to Piety Hill in Mecosta, continued contact with FPR, maybe a trip to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Humanities Institute, an interview in “The American Conservative”, maybe an article or two in “Modern Age” and “Touchstone”…maybe an appearance on “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough (a public figure who writes with praise of Burke, Kirk, and traditionalism).

It remains to be seen what will happen as Blond becomes more popular in the States. Hopefully it will signal a revival of traditionalism.

avatar Russell Arben Fox March 19, 2010 at 8:02 am

Good examples, N.P.–except that every single one of them are associated with traditionalist conservatism. If you–and Blond–are actually interested in “Red Tory-Trad Con unity,” then you’ve got to throw a bone to the left, “Red Tory” side of that equation as well: Dissent, Counterpunch, the E.F. Schumacher Institute, community organizers and anti-globalizers and unions (yes, unions) as well. Employee ownership, local capital funds, infrastructure investment, etc….all this stuff and more is in play amongst the localist/mutualist left; it needs the sort of cultural seriousness that traditionalism can provide to pull it together, but traditionalism alone won’t provide it.

Blond–and his guru, John Milbank–recognize that what they’re seeking isn’t so much purely traditionalist as it is thoroughly communitarian. I’d hate to see Blond, and those of us in America who are reading and listening to him with interest, attach themselves so presumptively to solely conservative parties and movements as to fail to recognize the inability of that perspective to wholly capture the potential radicalism of the Red Tory idea.

avatar Nathan P. Origer March 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

To do my best to assuage Mr. West’s rightful concerns, I’ll note that he explicitly noted that it’s not going to be the Tea Party folk who lead the Red-Tory charge in the States, and that it’s going to be us — specifically those of us who were in attendance last night. He spoke highly, toward the end of his lecture, of the sorts of things that FPR is doing, and very much stressed the importance of associations. Just as Prof. Deneen notes toward the end of his piece.

He did very little name-dropping (other than in criticism of Kant, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, and their ilk), but explicitly mentioned Burke’s little platoons and the Distributists. It is, indeed, difficult to suggest just how Red Toryism can be applied successfully in the States, but that we’re even having this conversation strikes me as being a good sign.

avatar John Médaille March 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

I used to have the same view of Brooks that Nathaniel does, but I think he is mellowing out into something more communitarian.

It would be a mistake to confuse “conservatism” with the nominally conservative parties. What could be more radically liberal than Thatcherism or Reaganism? That is, “liberal” in the old sense of the term. One of the dangers I see with Red Toryism is that it might be tied to closely to the Tory party, and merely find itself an election ploy but not a ruling reality. We shall see.

avatar Russell Arben Fox March 19, 2010 at 11:00 am

One of the dangers I see with Red Toryism is that it might be tied to closely to the Tory party, and merely find itself an election ploy but not a ruling reality.

Well said, John.

avatar HappyAcres March 19, 2010 at 11:07 am

What a terrible pass, that traditionalist appeal for government support. I think this is the end of the line.

avatar David March 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

Is it too boring and freshman of me to ask whether restorationists are conservatives?

Surely, breaking with your father to sit on the porch swing with your grandfather is traditional, but what if you must go farther back an sit in the cemetery just to be among the faithful?

I ask this as someone who personally tempts romanticizing Cavaliers.

avatar Bryan W March 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Blond needs stick to the same channels trad cons use here, eh? Sounds like a recipe for … nothing.

Blond says very little new, but his closeness to David Cameron and the ascendency of a Conservative party that may actually use some of his ideas – this opens up new avenues for the reception of traditionalist ideas. So far as maintaining an ideology is concerned, the walls of an ivory tower or self-absorbed website can be quite helpful. But Blond himself seems interested in reaching people on right and left through conversation; and for him, this means working on points in common that can be found.

So if a New York Times reader, a FoxNews watcher, or some other non-trad hears some of Blonds ideas, without a full FPR-ized/Wendell Berry-ized/Burke-ized package, is that such a detriment? Blond isn’t trying to dilute his message for the approval of an audience, so much as disseminate ideas, suggestions, and a perspective that may find resonances with people dissatisfied from a variety of corners.

avatar Gene Callahan March 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

“This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.”

Remember, what Brooks wants to restore trust in is the ability of the elites to invade whatever country they choose without our distrusting them!

avatar N. P. West March 19, 2010 at 12:09 pm

My point about being a “purist” is not one based on assumption but on these historical facts:

1.) Traditionalism was one of the three founding schools of the modern conservative movement (the other two being libertarianism and anti-communism).

2.) With the rise of neoconservatism and the Religious Right most traditionalists (and some libertarians) were sidelined by the 1980s. The more militant of the traditionalists broke off and became paleoconservatives leaving the majority of traditionalists to be a group of fairly non-political academics (for the most part).

3.) As neoconservatism and the Religious Right became the dominant forces in the conservative movement (along with a dominant strain of libertarian economic philosophy) the efforts of traditionalists to even be heard were barely on the radar. It wasn’t until Rod Dreher popularized a growing “neo-traditionalist” movement which he referred to as “crunchy conservatism” and then the founding of FPR that traditionalist ideas started to really make a few ripples. While trad con organizations like the Russell Kirk Center and publications like Modern Age have been around for a while the truth is that most conservatives have never heard of them since conservatism for them is the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Ann Coulter axis that is the PR machine for the neoconservative/Religious Right.

4.) Since traditionalism has been so marginalized and virtually ignored having someone of Blond’s influence and caliber suddenly make waves is a major step forward. The potential for adapting his ideas in America could be a turning point for traditionalist ideas coming to the fore. That is why I put such emphasis on this so-called “purity”.

Russell Arben Fox: I recognize that the communitarian left shares traditionalist views concerning economics, the environment, foreign policy, and other areas. We have much in common. The breaking point however comes down to faith and the family. I recently spoke with a prominent traditionalist (who has been a leader of the movement for many decades) and she implied that these two aspects of conservative policy are central to an understanding of what a proper conservative program should be.

Unless the communitarian left is willing to recognize this I don’t see a real Left/Right coalition succeeding. I know for myself that for all the talk of localism, distributist economics, non-interventionism, and environmental conservation that if our “partners” favor redefining the family, killing the unborn, and ignoring our religious patrimony then I will have to say “thank you very much” and walk away. One can only compromise so much before you end up sanctioning policies that are anathema to your worldview.

In the meantime, however, I continue to welcome a new Left/Right coalition based on shared interests.

avatar ResPublica March 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

There’s much that appeals in Blond’s socio-economic thought. I’m disappointed, though, that he does not pause to consider how we have ended up in this mess in the first place – the fact that we (in the UK) do not have a Constitution, we have no checks and balances, and we have no way of restraining the power of the Prime Minister or forcing compromise. Other European nations, with consensual coalition governments and more constitutionalised polities, avoided the excesses of the social-left and market-right revolutions, if only because the ideologues on both sides were restrained by coalition partners and opposition parties.

avatar N. P. West March 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Another point is that there is no central traditionalist think tank existing in America to promote traditionalist policies. The number of libertarian, neoconservative, and Religious Right organizations are too many to count. It is not that traditionalists lack the expertise or intellectual firepower to run such an operation (it was recently pointed out to me that one of the reasons traditionalism hasn’t succeeded as a philosophy in America is that we have too many professors and not enough popularizers.

Dr. Carlson can’t hold the fort alone in public policy (as best I can tell the Howard Center is the only explicitly traditionalist think tank out there and even then he only covers issues related to the family, religion and society). We need more people like Dr. Carlson who would be willing to stop teaching and writing books and instead create organizations like Res Publica which are going to make more of an impact. It is all well and good to write about things and teach generations but the reality is that most people in this country don’t make their choices in culture, economics, and politics based on what some intellectual said. This is why Rod Dreher made a small impact with his crunchy con ideas.

Until traditionalists realize that if they want their ideas to make it in the public sphere they need to engage in grassroots politics then we will continue to be a group of marginalized conservatives who have stimulating conversations but nothing much beyond that.

avatar Alin Voicu March 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

@ResPublica

A constitution does not mean, nor does it guarantee “check and balances” not even on paper, if the philosopher is honest. You have the monarchy–why not work with that?

avatar Robb Beck March 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

N.P.,

I agree with you that “The breaking point however comes down to faith and the family.” This schism no doubt in part betrays our modern preoccupation with sexual politics (Blond has written on this very topic). This seems to be what the left sympathizers to RT are not so ready to stomach, to say nothing of talk of the family.

Yet this is why it’s also important to hear Blond’s and Milbank’s perspectives on this very subject and how they should and can appeal to the left, perhaps even intrinsically. I think there are valuable resources in their thought to understand how the breakdown of the family should not only be conceived as a clarion cry from the Right, but in fact has historic roots in the Left. In a recent piece, Milbank said that even Adorno recognized that supposed sexual permissiveness was merely another state apparatus (see his recent Immanent Frame interview).

I think if Blond et al can continue to push the specific issues in the direction they are already going, then their might in fact be hope for “a real Left/Right coalition succeeding.”

Robb

avatar D.W. Sabin March 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Well, as ole Ed Abbey asserted: “The night I filled an inside straight: Even a blind pig is gonna root up an acorn once in a while”.

He also said “When a Man’s Best Friend is a Dog, that dog has a problem.”

avatar Wessexman March 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm

As I Brit I must disagree with both Res publica and Bryan W.

To Bryan, Cameron is basically a Blue Labourite, he has taken so much onboard from Blair and New Labour that you can’t trust him. I doubt he’ll even slow EU integraton for Britain let alone reverse it. So I don’t think we can rely on him for much.

ResPublica I actually think that Britain had quite a good constitution, though far from perfect, before Heath, Thatcher and New Labour. One of its main problems though was it could be changed so easily. But compared to the likes of France or Holland with their Jacobinesque and socially progressive politics I think we have still got off quite lightly. I certainly don’t look to the conintent, except maybe Switzerland, as a political model. The US is a much better model but even it is obviously far from perfect.

avatar ResPublica March 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Wessexman,

We can argue about whether Britain HAD a good constitution; maybe it did, but the sad fact is that we don’t have one now. Power has become dangerously concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister, without effective parliamentary, public, or judicial restraint. So we have to look for ways to restore what we have lost – and that might mean that, to regain the inner substance, we have to adopt new outward forms.

I wouldn’t look to the USA as a model. It’s not just that their paradoxical Constitution gives the President both too much and too little power, not that the American political system is drowned out by big money and special interests. It’s a more general point that Front Porch or Red Tory principles are more congruent with parliamentary rather than presidential democracy, with coalitions rather than majority rule, and with variable decentralisation based on subsidiarity rather than rigid federalism. .

Perhaps this lack of constitutional thought is what makes the Red Tories genuinely Tory, rather than Christian Democratic – for Christian Democrats have consistently supported constitutional, genuinely parliamentary, consensual and decentralised government. If so, it’s a flaw in his thinking. Blond’s ideas are all about localising, humanising, and moralising, economic and political power so as to enable a flourishing, organic, social and civic life to emerge. I’m all for that, but I cannot see how that can be delivered without challenging the unconstrained absolutism at the heart of the British State.

Of all modern Constitutions, I think those most worthy of study by Red Tories, Christian Democrats, and “Front Porchers”, are the 1937 Constitution of Ireland and the 1978 Constitution of Spain. Both are parliamentary, feature proportional representation, and enable the Prime Minister to act decisively whilst still preventing the abuse of power through a rigid constitution and strong judicial review. The best thing about the Spanish Constitution it is that it does not impose a one-size-fits-all structure: each part of Spain can negotiate as much local autonomy as it wants and needs, which would be suitable for the UK, and is compatible with the principle of subsidiarity. The Irish Constitution, although unitary and thus less suitable for a multi-national polity like the UK, reads like a Christian Democratic manifesto.

avatar Wessexman March 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I don’t particularly disagree with anything you say there ResPublica, I was just confused that a conservative would seem to think more of the likes of France’s or Holland’s gov’t than Britains. Whatever is wrong in Britain it doesn’t seem as bad as France or Holland to me.

I would add study of Switzerland’s constitution and its pre-1840s ones as well as well as the writings of the federalists and antifederalists and the British historical tradition from Blackstone, through the bill of rights to Hooker, Coke, Fortesque and Magna Carta.

I’m personally unsure how supportive I am of proportional representation, I would not want removal of geographical representation, and though I support strong judicial review I utterly opposed to judicial activism. That is one of the problems with America’s system, it has not prevented the likes of Roe Vs Wade where a few words like privacy and happiness can be used to grant rights the constitution’s framers did not mean those words to grant and which there was no precedent for. It is almost as bad as Strasbourg.

And that brings us to probably our biggest problem, we need to limit the scope of EU and ECHR power over Britain. Having more and more power usurped by foreigners, even with traitorous British connivance, is probably our single biggest problem.

avatar Cecelia March 20, 2010 at 12:08 am

I would be inclined to think that 1) no attempt at a rejuvenation or reform of the mess we are in will succeed if it is not genuinely inclusive. It can be labeled neither liberal nor conservative as such distinctions are so thoroughly discredited at this time that an association with either label would doom the effort. 2) I do think our proclivity towards ideology as opposed to common sense solutions is a part of the problem. An insistence of a specif ideological affiliation would serve to further the divisiveness so characteristic of our situation today. At some point we need to stop being cons, libs,repubs, dems or the other variations on those themes and start being Americans. How do we have cohesive communities if we persist in defining our neighbors by their political affiliations? It isn’t enough to speak of community – that community must be a cohesive and stable community if it has value.

I am attracted to the broader outline of Blond’s positions and find him at his best when he discusses his notions about re-capitalization of the poor but when I read more of what he says about details I am a bit less enthused. For all his objections to libertarianism he still sometimes sounds like a libertarian. His objections to the market ignores that the market has created an often positive availability of goods and services. I cringe a bit when I read of govt. incentives and subsidies to promote small business – would not elimination of incentives and subsidies (including the hidden subsidies such as transport systems) to big business be a better way to level the playing field? Most of all I think when he calls for elimination of the welfare state and a return to voluntary associations he is ignoring the changes in our society which have caused such voluntary associations to dwindle. To say that the pride we would take in a successful community would outweigh the benefits of cheaper goods at a Walmart is ivy tower speak at it’s silliest. Pride does not feed the children of the unemployed.

avatar D.W. Sabin March 20, 2010 at 10:09 am

Pondering the interesting comments of ResPublica, Wessexman and Cecelia, it seems to me that we are at a crossroads set in motion by the centralizing efficiencies of industrialism. We should not be finding ourselves in opposition to faction so much as confronting the continuing Totalitarianism of the Twentieth Century. This force is at once private and public, economic and political. It resides independent of, though greatly aided by the modern Nation State. It cannot be used exclusively as a pejorative for there has been radical technological and comfort gains for some. It has provided a means of global intercourse that enables the smallest of units to communicate as in no time before but it also compels mass ideological movement and sanctification, while deeply imbedding want.

Americans will say that we joined Britain and the rest of the western powers to finally vanquish Totalitarianism in Germany , Japan, Russia and China. This may be true to a point but through the industrial juggernaut and simply by virtue of winning the great conflict of the 20th century, we adopted the Totalitarian Mantle. Ich bin ein Totalitarian.

This aggressive Totalitarian urge is now expanding to include the radical Jihadists of Islam after a very long period of quiescence from their quarter. We could argue whether or not they were provoked in this until the cows come home. Totalitarianism virtually insures conflict and its winners very often are losers.

The elevation of Ideology to Fighting Words is one of the principle effects of Totalitarianism. The movement is little inclined to accept or incorporate home rule nor eccentricity and it is , at essence, the preservation of eccentricity that we seem to converge upon in any congruence between Red Toryism and the mythological monolith of the so called “Porcher”.

Madison called the chief quill in our arsenal against the voracious omniscience of Totalitarianism our “Inventions of Prudence”……the Separation of Powers, Federal vs. Local, Private vs. Public, and all of it circles back to the essential argument elucidated by Hannah Arendt between the Private (a privation of sorts) Good and the Public, where the Good is lost simply by virtue of mass recognition, codification and acclimation . Kant referred to the choice of treating men as a Means or an End. When we treat our cohort as an End, we achieve that freedom lost in the codification of the Good because we achieve a life of principle rather than a life of nagging fear, manifesting itself in an untoward appetite for distraction and its concomitant retreat to institutional safe harbors. Totalitarianism is the Power Cult of treating Man as a Means.

Britain has nowhere near the variety of eccentricities we possess in this country. Not that it does not have a rich crop of them indeed but we in this nation , the vessel of the global polyglot, possessor of a continent of diverse ecological character, we have a unique role to play in furthering the essential need for the preservation of eccentricity, for a loving application of Madison’s “Inventions of Prudence”. We fail now because we are coming to believe that our citizens are not an end but a Means on the road to Utopia. Some might suggest that this is another aspect of American Exceptionalism but it is not because it retains an emphasis on the beauty of the un-exceptional, the peace of the mundane, the effervescent acknowledgement of the possibilities in private, unacknowledged good. We are not the World, we are standing on the real ground and this should always be enough.

Red nor Blue nor Labour nor Tory nor Democrat nor Republican are the real foe at hand , it is Totalitarianism we confront and it is winning, handily….while we remain distracted by its vigorous noise and High Production Values. I am not informed enough on Mr. Blond’s various vehicles but if he is furthering means to observe Madison’s “Prudences” and my notions of eccentricities, he has an ally. But if it is , as we find all the time, another institutional means to mask the underlying Totalitariansim through artfully choreographed local implementation of larger Statist Aims toward Flea-Bitten Utopia…well, this aint a dog for our fight. Local ownership is not enough if it is still simply a franchise granted and orchestrated by a State that takes it upon itself to codify the Good in Triplicate.

avatar Russell Arben Fox March 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

It’s a more general point that Front Porch or Red Tory principles are more congruent with parliamentary rather than presidential democracy, with coalitions rather than majority rule, and with variable decentralisation based on subsidiarity rather than rigid federalism.

ResPublica’s point is an excellent one. I suspect the best reason (not necessarily the most accurate reason, but nonetheless the best) that you see many people broadly interested in localism and such engaged by populist movements (such as Caleb and I) is because such movements often presume (whether explicitly or implicitly, whether coherently or otherwise) a kind of parliamentary democratic ideal: that people can form coalitions, that coalitions can create majorities on appropriate levels of government, and that said majorities ought to be able to rule. Historically in the United States, populist movements represented at least in part reactions to powerful special interests, interests that had captured key governing bodies (more often than not, the U.S. Senate), and hence were able to stymie movements to reclaim economic sovereignty from those interests, even though clear majorities were opposed to those same interests. Parliamentary democracy arguably strikes a better balance between the needs to respect individual rights and to empower majority coalitions than does our own separation of powers system.

avatar Bob Cheeks March 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

The above is excellent stuff, DW!
Re: “We are not the World, we are standing on the real ground and this should always be enough.” While this is well said, it is debatable in the sense of the current American regime and its effort to consolidate political power vis-a-vis “socialized” medicine, crap and trade, immigration, etc, etc.

These Obamacon para-Marxists are all derailed consolidators (totalitarians) and while it is pleasant to engage in the felicitous talk engendered by Blond and company’s communitarian fellowship the fact is we are facing a clever, devious, and horribly disordered regime that is already well on the road to destroying the American economy and engaging in the Promethean mythopoesis in resurectting the shattered remnant by escaping the structure of world history.

While Obama does not embrace the antiquarian aspects of gnosticism he is a proponent of a new gnosticism that calls for the leadership of a cosmic elite capable of discerning how man should live on this planet (with its line-of-meaning flowing from Marx to Hegel to Hans Jonas), and by the act of capturing the olde nation-state brings the adumbrations of the Marxist dialectic to fruition. They seek to end history by escaping into the spiritual perfection of the plemora beyond history…they see themselves as the gatekeepers of this cosmic wisdom.

We can surely discuss the sundry communitarian proposals but if we ignore and do not act on the offenses and aspirations of the current regime there may not be a state to transform into a Walt Disney happy land!

avatar rex March 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Cecelia, thank you for an extremely lucid comment. I believe you are correct that using dogmatic labels of the past will either relegate communitarian ideas to a political backwater, and/or further our current divisive meme. The comments that precede your seem to indicate that both are likely.

DW thank you for “global intercourse”; Médaille is still plus one for “glibertarian” but you are in the running.

avatar T. Chan March 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm

The breaking point however comes down to faith and the family. I recently spoke with a prominent traditionalist (who has been a leader of the movement for many decades) and she implied that these two aspects of conservative policy are central to an understanding of what a proper conservative program should be.

Unless the communitarian left is willing to recognize this I don’t see a real Left/Right coalition succeeding. I know for myself that for all the talk of localism, distributist economics, non-interventionism, and environmental conservation that if our “partners” favor redefining the family, killing the unborn, and ignoring our religious patrimony then I will have to say “thank you very much” and walk away. One can only compromise so much before you end up sanctioning policies that are anathema to your worldview.

If traditional conservatives live in a diverse area (e.g. California), I don’t see what option they have but to work with the “left” for the sake of relocalization, even if those members of the left are pushing for a socially progressive agenda as well — there appears to be too much at stake for them not to. If those on the “left” had sufficient numbers to push forth a localist agenda then traditionalist conservatives might be able to stay away from them, but as of now, in California at least, both groups have small numbers.

Another option for traditional conservatives in that situation is to move to an area which shares their beliefs, but this may not be a option for some.

avatar N. P. West March 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I heard a rumor that Rod Dreher’s next book is slated to expand on “the Benedict Option” and examine “intentional communities” (i.e. communities created where shared values are held in common and used as a basis for social order). If this uneasy alliance between traditionalist Rightists and localist Leftists doesn’t hold up this might be the path that will have to be taken…and in certain parts of the country it already is.

avatar Wessexman March 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

It is worth pointing out DW that, as the likes of Kevin Carson, Kirkpatrick Sale and others have pointed out, that these centralising efficienes of corporate-capitalism are very much overdown. Really it is massive state intervention that has kept capitalism and particularly corporate-capitalism afloat and not any natural efficiency.

The same point is worth making to Cecilia, Wal Mart gets cheap goods because of a massive, two centuries old redistribution by the state which has simply grown, and it has needed to by its own internal dynamic, so to praise Wal Mart for disenfranchising the masses, dominating them, feeding off them and then selling them cheap rubbish back is somewhat misplaced imho.

When it comes to voluntary associations one of the main reasons they have declined is that their functions have been usurped by big business and big gov’t and social associations require functional significance to thrive for the most part as Robert Nisbet, among others, have pointed out.

avatar Cecelia March 20, 2010 at 11:54 pm

I’m sorry Wessexman but I was not addressing centralizing efficiencies or the lack of nor was I blaming WalMart for disenfranchising the masses so I don’t get your criticism. My mention of Walmart was in reference to remarks Blond has made about how while it might be true that local small stores would be more expensive than stores like Walmart- people wouldn’t mind that because we’ll be so proud of our successful downtown.

Re: voluntary associations. I agree that government benefits did co-opt the voluntary associations but there are additional reasons why they have become less relevant. Many of the voluntary associations were fraternal with restricted membership. That restriction meant that not anybody could get in and so part of the cache of being in such a organization is that you were one of the chosen. The unfortunate side effect is that – at least here in the US – members of particular fraternal organizations would exclude non members from jobs and access to contracts etc. I once lived in a county where a particular fraternal organization dominated county government to the extent that you could not get a job in county govt nor a contract if you were not a member of this organization. Since some religions prohibited membership in this group – people found themselves facing the difficult dilemma of forgoing employment or forgoing their religion. This very much goes to the issue of divisiveness in our communities – a force which is obviously very destructive. Exclusions which have the effect of limiting economic opportunity create resentment and divisiveness. I agree voluntary organizations can play a larger role and may yet – but the restrictive elements of such organization will be problematic.

I appreciated your remarks DW Sabin – I agree very much that totalitarianism is the issue and that one must keep focused on that. Factional divides are very much a function of said totalitarianism. We should not succumb so readily to the symptom of our disease.

I also think your observations about this not perhaps being a dog for our fight are apt. It is good to have a voice of caution. I think that where we have working examples of distributist principles being put into action we see a very promising communitarian alternative to typical left-right/capitalist – socialist approaches. But I think it is important to keep in mind that those promising examples were not dependent on government for their early success – they were community initiatives not state sponsored. Once they becane so successful the state had no choice but to acknowledge them. They continue however to remain independent of the state. What the state gives it can take away. Mr Blond seems very comfortable with state sponsorship – I am not. My discomfort is because I do think such state sponsorship – to requisition Russell Arben Fox’s apt observations – would ultimately stymie the reclamation. I am old enough to recall that in the 60′s the jeans and workshirt dress style was originally a statement of rejection of the “culture of materialism” but eventually that style was co-opted by the mainstream fashion industry and it soon became the ultimate expression of materialism – $200 designer jeans. That example still reminds me to never underestimate how ingenious the forces of totalitarianism are.

avatar Wessexman March 21, 2010 at 4:03 am

Yes what I was saying Cecelia is that the idea that Wal Mart’s negatives are a pay-off for its low prices is incorrect. It is a massively state fuelled system that makes Wal Mart profitable, as Kevin Carson and others have shown, so in fact the people are in fact subsidising these negatives and the supposed gains are mostly an illusion.

It wasn’t just gov’t benefits but that the gov’ts particularly centralised gov’t, and corporations usurped many functions of the older intermediate associations that was an important reason for the decline in voluntary associations. The ups and downs of fraternal organisations depends on the context; the guilds were once a community and spiritual benefit but declined to be somewhat of a nuisance even if completely removing them was probably a wrong move.

avatar John Gorentz March 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Wessexman: “Whatever is wrong in Britain it doesn’t seem as bad as France or Holland to me.”

Do France and the Netherlands have ASBOs?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I don’t happen to know.

But I do consider a country with something like that to have a very lot wrong with it.

avatar John Gorentz March 21, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Russell Arben Fox: “Parliamentary democracy arguably strikes a better balance between the needs to respect individual rights and to empower majority coalitions than does our own separation of powers system.”

Arguably, it says. Has anyone ever made the argument?

avatar Wessexman March 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

John they have the Napoleonic code.

avatar Wessexman March 22, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Are you criticising the need for Asbos or the idea of them? Britain has problems with anti-social behaviour but so doees the US, we Brits don’t have much the like the innercity gangs of the US, and I believe France and probably Holland have similar problems.

avatar John Gorentz March 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Wessexman, I am critical of both the need for them, which I blame on the welfare state that makes peoples’ actions and their relationships meaningless, and the fact that Britain has abandoned the rule of law to implement them. I am especially critical of the latter.

avatar Wessexman March 22, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Well I think the welfare state helps to explain it but so does corporate-capitalism and other modern factors. Certainly the US does not escape such problems, compared to LA or Chicago gangs I don’t think Britain is quite as bad.

I don’t know enough about the mechanics to pass judgment on them but personally I have little time for many of the likes of people who get stuck on ASBOs although I think juvenile detention is better for most of their like.

avatar John Gorentz March 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm

If Britain isn’t quite as bad, why did it have to take such draconian measures as throwing out a thousand year’s of progress in leading the world in the development of the rule of law?

But that’s beside the point. Whether or not it’s as bad now, the social pathologies in the U.S. will get worse when the latest health care plan gets fully digested. (We already have judicial restraining orders in the U.S. so it isn’t as though the U.S. has completely pure hands on that side of the problem, either.)

The scary thing about ASBOs is the attitude expressed in your 2nd paragraph. You say don’t know about the mechanics. But the rule of law requires us to care a lot about the mechanics. In a civilized country the ends do not justify the means. But you don’t like the people who have ASBO’s issued against them, as if that makes it right to restrain people’s behavior based on whatever rules the magistrates invent as the mood strikes them. That’s a system of arbitrary, capricious justice.

Back when I was a kiddy I learned that it was a great advance when Hammurabi caused the laws to be published where people could see them. Now, with ASBOs, Britain has taken a step back to pre-Hammurabi times. People don’t know what behavior is going to be restrained and what isn’t.

And those ASBOs are only 10 years old. Think what’s going to happen when Brits learn how to really abuse them for political purposes.

avatar Tocqueville Forum March 23, 2010 at 8:56 am

In case you were not able to attend the lecture and are interested in hearing Mr. Blond’s remarks, please see the Tocqueville Forum’s streaming audio of the lecture: https://mediapilot.georgetown.edu/sharestream2gui/getMedia.do?action=streamMedia&mediaPath=0d2117cd27760d9e012788c51caf002f&cid=0d21b6201df9d7e6011e20cfb5eb0052&userFrom=. For more information about the Forum, visit our website at http://www.tocquevilleforum.org.

avatar D.W. Sabin March 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

Pardon me gentlemen, I’m a little slow on the up-take but what are “ASBO’s? I usually get an automatic urge to reach for my buck knife and whetstone every time I hear a group of goernment-inspired initials but perhaps I’m wrong.

avatar John Gorentz March 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

Anti-Social Behaviour Ordinances.

There is a decent Wikipedia article that summarizes them. I don’t know if it emphasizes all the civil liberties issues, but it gives good pointers to the main issues.

avatar John Médaille March 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

“Anti-social behaivior Ordinances”

Wow!

“As some it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list,
Of societal offenders who might well be underground,
And they never would be missed, they never would be missed.”

Let’s make our own list!

avatar John Gorentz March 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I should have said “Anti-Social Behaviour Orders” rather than Ordinances.

It googles better the first way.

avatar Wessexman March 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

The people who tend to get ASBOs are real scumbags, the kind of teenagers and young adults who make the lives of those in their estates or neighbourhoods an utter misery. I don’t believe they were made up by the judiciary but came from Blair’s gov’t so they aren’t a rule of law issue but a civil liberties one.

Whether they are acceptable is a matter of opinion, in our history, when we still had a proper constitution before Heath, Thatcher, Major and Blair gutted it, we had plenty of draconian punishments and what might be called petty laws such as the 50 or so crimes(usually quite petty) which became capital offenses between 1780 and 1830 or the laws of sumptuary which banned extravigent clothing. Personally as a traditionalist while not exactly being for draconian punishments I don’t mind this particular punishment as long as an eye is kept on it and something is done to try and correct the problems at the root of such anti-social behaviour. Otherwise the only solution seems to be rounding up quite a lot of these scumbags and throwing them in jail, which is hard due to the intimidation they can deal out and the fact the crimes they will be convicted of won’t carry too much of a sentence.

I don’t think you can take ASBOs as a measure of Britain’s social problems, it has more to do with New Labour and the mechanics of British politics.

avatar Wessexman March 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

The gang in this case are the kind of people who usually get ASBOs:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/28/simmons-family-fiona-pilkington-inquest

To be honest I think ASBOs are too good for them and their ilk but if they must be used I have no problem as long as strict supervision of how they’ve used is kept up(or perhaps introduced because knowing Blair and New Labour it may well be partially absent at present.).

avatar Wessexman March 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Here’s another example, some of them even had ASBOs already apparently, exactly why those who had them aren’t named here is hard to see; name and shame the scum.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/mar/12/david-askew-gang-harassment-death

avatar John Gorentz March 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Wessexman,

In civilized countries it is perfectly legal to be a scumbag. In civilized countries we don’t restrain people on the basis of their being scumbags. We instead write laws to prohibit certain specified acts, and then process violators through the criminal court system.

But this is probably only possible in a country in which people are allowed to live in social relationships with each other, in which community means something. That has all been destroyed by Britain’s social welfare system. Rather than return to a society in which people can live as human beings, Britain has adopted ASBOs.

avatar Wessexman March 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Firstly we are talking about acts, you need to have committed many criminal, antisocial acts before you get an ASBOs. ASBOs are a punishment for crimes. They are a way of not yet throwing these scumbags in jail but not giving them a slap on the wrist either.

To be honest I’m not particularly interested in you passing judgment over the UK. The problems are complex, they are repeated in much of the West, I currently reside in Australia and they are repeated here as well, and come from many sources. It is certainly not just the welfare system that caused these problems, in fact Thatcher’s gov’t had a large hand in creating them, they are from a combination of the effeects of an overbearing state and overbearing corporate-capitalism. We haven’t been working to rebuild society but that is no reason not to punish laws breakers.

avatar John Gorentz March 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Wessexman,

The problem with ASBOs is that they are not what you describe. If you don’t believe the wikipedia article, you can go to homeofice.gov.uk and read things like this:

“Anti-social behaviour is any aggressive, intimidating or destructive activity that damages or destroys another person’s quality of life.”

By that definition, I’d have an ASBO issued against my Congressman and the U.S. President, immediately. After that, I’d go after 50 percent of my neighbors.

You can read about some of the problems with ASBOs in actual practice at ASBOwatch

My impression is that college students in the UK are taught to recite Maggie Thatcherisms before they are allowed to socialize and breed with others of their kind. So although I realize that not every action of my hero, Maggie Thatcher, was aligned with the ideals of the Front Porch Republic, I take most anti-Thatcher rhetoric with a huge grain of salt.

avatar Wessexman March 24, 2010 at 12:28 am

As far as I know all those who have ASBOs taken out against them are guilty of crimes, it is a punishment, even if they are often rather minor offenses like intimidation, graffiti, drunk and disorderly and such. They are issued by a magistrates court after all. Other general information on the defendent is taken into account as well. Now this is New Labour legislation so it most probably has plenty of problems but I have no opposition to the idea of restraining those who are convicted of several petty, antisocial crimes and show a pattern of such behaviour. It is after all not as draconian as simply throwing them in a young offender’s institution or jail and a lot better than simply slapping them on the wrist again and again.

I hope you aren’t insinuating I lack knowledge about ol’ Maggie John. I’m a traditionalist who greatly admirers Burke, Disraeli and Churchill so I’m hardly likely to just repeat leftist talking about points about her. I do think she was the best Prime minister in the last four decades, particularly in her anti-EU attitude, but her neoliberal, “there is no such thing as society”(Edmund Burke must have turned in his grave to hear this.) and pro-big business at the expense of local community, family and society, policies were one of the reasons for Britain’s current social problems(although we don’t have the riots seen in Paris or the gangs seen in LA or the murder rate of the US.).

Btw I wouldn’t be surprised if Maggie wouldn’t have objected to something like ASBOs John.

avatar Wessexman March 24, 2010 at 12:45 am

In most cases the problem is not with the ASBO it seems, when it is for silly things but with the fact that there are so many and so broad a range of petty crimes. That site for instance mentions a grandmother who got an ASBO for swearing, shouting or making sarcastic comments to her neighbours. Now she was probably, I don’t know the case though of course, already breaking the law without even introducing the subject of ASBOs. Offensive language and harassment were already crimes before ASBOs. The ASBOs just systemise and extend the enforcement of the crimes. The real question is how to tighten these laws up so they aren’t quite as broad and to make sure the ASBOs are used properly and supervised.

avatar Bruce Smith March 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Where is the difference except in degree of time and level of restraint between the Brits “sectioning” somebody under their Mental Health Acts (which they’ve been doing for years as have the Americans ) and ASBO’s?

avatar John Gorentz March 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Wessexman, the statement that ASBOs are for crimes is just plain wrong. Not even the home ofice web site claims that they are. (Did you look at the ASBOwatch web site? Just curious as to whether we’re sharing a common reference.)

But given what you say about Maggie Thatcher, I’ll definitely take you off my list of those people who probably just repeat the trendy stuff they’ve heard. I’d like to think she would have objected to ASBOs, but you never know. There are some free-market conservatives who’ve favored RICO, too, which is another type of intervention that has been much abused in the U.S. I just shake my head at people who like to cut their own throats.

Bruce Smith, I’d say there are definitely some points of similarity with systems that allow people to be locked p under mental health acts, whether here or in the UK. That was a very common usage in the old Soviet Union, too, so much so that it was a common theme in movies, usually for comedic effect: Somebody is giving you grief or interfering with your plans, so you get them committed to an institution for treatment. It was portrayed as a super-easy thing to do.

avatar Bruce Smith March 24, 2010 at 7:12 pm

So I guess John the more the mayhem?

avatar John Gorentz March 24, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Bruce, sometimes less is better.

avatar Wessexman March 24, 2010 at 7:44 pm

John what’s wrong with the idea of the ASBOs as opposed to its implementation?

It is hard to make out whether of not crimes have to be committed to get an ASBO but all the examples seem to include behaviour that are in fact crimes. I drew that example from the ASBOwatch site. The problem you have is less with ASBOs it seems, as I have said, than the level of broad, petty crimes. Pretty much any offensive language, shouting in an intimidating way, general intimidation, being drunk in public places, spitting, littering or harassment is a crime already without ASBOs. However before ASBOs such crimes would usually not be enforced, occasionaly they’d lead to cautions and even less frequently to being brought before a magistrate and perhaps recieve a small fine. ASBOs simply extend and in particular systemise the punishment of those who regularly engage in these crimes, sometimes appropriately and sometimes not. But the fact remains the main problem is in tightening up the broadness in some of these petty crimes and not in the ASBOs themselves.

What is a free market conservative? Surely that’s a bit of an oxymoron? A small gov’t conservative is one thing but the complete adoption of laissez faire policy at all costs is a neoliberal or liberal policy and not a conservative one.

Bruce, sectioning is a lot more draconian than ASBOs. I believe the opinion of two doctors can section you indefinitely with only the occasional review by a magistrate. However in general it is not misused.

avatar Bruce Smith March 24, 2010 at 9:23 pm

But there isn’t less mayhem John, there’s growing mayhem! Tell us your solution please. And yes Wessexman ASBO’s are seen as a lot less draconian than prison or sectioning which is why they were developed. The Brit equivalent I guess of the American three strikes and you’re doing porridge for a very long time.

avatar NewsView March 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

It’s refreshing to see someone succeed at encouraging Americans and British alike to think and perceive in broader terms. I, too, am sick of the polarization that passes for “leadership”. Politics is the new Religion — everyone who clings too closely and questions too little is guilty of the same thing no matter what side of the coin they hail from. I get what David Brooks and Phillip Blond are saying: Two roads can, in fact, lead to the same (ironic) destination.

I’ve been blogging about this issue for quite some time, from what I call the “cell-based economy” to my most recent post on the hidden cost of e-commerce.

Technology, more than politics, will drive our views in the decades ahead, I suspect. It is, after all, redefining Capitalism to levels of efficiency not previously conceived of — and I don’t think we’ve entirely wrapped our heads around the consequences yet. It’s not just that the local bank or community is harmed by the megalith that is Globalism. It’s the phenomena of market concentration that will eventually make “believers” out of everyone. Technology is already inducing more and more intermediaries in the economy to close up shop and/or consolidate. We’d like to blame it all on the Great Recession, but I suspect this trend is here to stay. And together with rising gasoline prices — thanks to the PERMANENT loss of oil refining capacity as reported earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times — the view from here would appear to be a downwardly mobile one.

Hit people in the pocketbook and all politics is secondary.

I foresee a day when even the Big Box retail presence will fall by the wayside in much the same way the U.S. lost so much of its manufacturing base in the 1980s/’90s. If and when Americans lose more jobs and/or fail to attain the standard of living they recall growing up, it won’t matter if you or your parents, neighbors or friends lean Left or Right. Eventually the light bulb will flicker on above our heads and people will remember that all jobs are ultimately local. All commerce is local. And all those points between supplier and consumer represent monetary handoffs — much needed employment — in the economy.

The problem with technology is that it facilitates a REMOTE economy. And a remote economy, when it is fully realized, will be one in which everything from the local mall to the local industrial park are fewer and further in between. And THAT is what ultimately will force our Politics of Polarization to evolve — the realization that all roads went downhill.

Here’s how it will play out, one business-minded decision at a time: For one, it will dawn on Chain Store retailers that it does not make economic sense to operate costly storefronts when you can all but compel everyone to shop online once your competitors are either 1) Out of business, or 2) Doing the same thing. This is how the consumer is corralled into making one-size-fits-all purchasing habits and buying decisions. It’s not the unseen hand of the free market, but the unseen leash reigning us in.

Already, the recession has narrowed the number of retail stores, the amount of product they stock and how much of what once was in-store inventory moving online (with more shelf space devoted to things that don’t sell quite as well online — like groceries at Walmart and Target). Make no mistake: This is marketplace efficiency at its finest — trimming costs to prop up profits. But what we’re really saying when we approve of all this shareholder-directed “evolution” in the “free market” is that if 200 or fewer people can administer an entire company from a single office tower thanks to the Internet, we can and should. We kid ourselves that the jobs lost will reinvent themselves in some other sector of the economy. Perhaps. But certainly not so fast.

The type of economy the Internet enables is one without locality. Hence, this Wild West of E-Tailing will still need to be taxed because whether or not you want to “shop local” some method of supporting public safety, parks, schools and local and state government will have to be arranged (state legislatures will ensure it). In the meantime, less and less justification will exist to maintain large retail presences, and the Internet will drive much of retail — not just the mom & pop establishments we were concerned about years ago — out of business. Think Drive-In Theater obsolescence. Picture yourself traveling even further to get to anything resembling a mall. Walmarts and Targets that have more groceries than actual products because “everything else” is online. Warehouses with fork-lift drivers take fewer lights, air conditioners, cashiers and employees. It’s the logical “next step” even for the Mega Stores like Walmart. Money saved is profits earned. Welcome to the day when shopping online is NECESSARY and not because the prices are any better.

The problem is that we always think disasters unfold quickly so that we can appreciate them for what they are. Not so, this New Economy. Obsolescence is a gradual phenomena: It’s shadowing the print publishing industry, it has essentially killed the concept of a dedicated music store, the video rental store, and much more is to come. Why? Because the Internet cuts out all the intermediaries and makes the ultimate market efficiency — one where fewer and fewer of us have a shot at the American Dream — feasible. At no other time in human history has the so-called free market had this kind of reach. In the past, markets were always local, then regional and only relatively recently global. Even if the Government were not a heavy trade regulator the terrain, language barriers and limitations of your supply chain were. The Internet takes those off the table in one fell swoop.

So where does this leave us politically? I suspect that eventually just about everyone will be forced to concede that the politics on both sides of the spectrum are flawed to the extent they underestimated that TECHNOLOGY, more so than policy, would dictate the terms of our lives. The Blame Games simply won’t hold up to the undeniable reality that the kind of economy High Tech facilitates is one in which losses — be it jobs or income — outpace gains. For now, those online bargains make it look like we have more retail diversity than ever, but what we really have is a price war that is eroding profitability for all involved. Therefore, we have ironies such as the fact that newspapers have never had so many readers but so little profits by which to sustain their print and web presence. Consequently, sites devoted to small businesses and e-commerce have entire articles dedicated to the conundrum of how to compete for market share in a legal environment that has even begun to condone price fixing (the Supreme Court having recently removed antitrust prohibitions). Keep it up and more and more conventional retailers will lay people off even as they expect more and more shoppers to take advantage of online shopping. And in just a matter of time wholesalers will bypass retailers and middlemen entirely in favor of direct sales to the public. In short, a Made to Order form of Commerce — Manufacturing On Demand — in which the customer is lined up before the product is even built. This kind of future can only play out in an Internet commerce era. And while the New Economy will continue offer its share of profitable opportunities, it will take a lot more wind out of our economic sails than it injects on the whole.

So how, exactly, does this tie in with “The Broken Society”?

Once people realize that the Great Recession won’t transform into a Great Rebound they’ll awake to the realization that socialism and free market ideas are both fatally flawed in their own way. If communitarianism means the search for a happy medium and pragmatic political policy instead of “one size fits all” proclamations from the far Right and far Left, that’s where our thinking should head because that’s what the TECHNOLOGY will demand of us.

No worries here: I’d rather be accused of idealism than apathy. It’s not too late to let our pocketbooks do the talking — and the walking.

avatar D.W. Sabin March 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

….”Anti-Social Behavior Ordinances”.

Guilty as charged. No wonder they’re privatizing and building jails like mad.

I guess disturbing the peace and assault laws are not enough for this feel-good modern society. We musn’t have our finer sensibilities offended while the Totalitarian Maw chews a hole through any recognizable remains of civilization.

Is mooning one of the million cameras recording the lives of Londoners considered “anti-social?

avatar Gene Callahan March 26, 2010 at 9:48 am

“Eventually the light bulb will flicker on above our heads and people will remember that all jobs are ultimately local. All commerce is local. And all those points between supplier and consumer represent monetary handoffs — much needed employment — in the economy.”

Yeah, that’s why what I really hate is…. boats! When those gosh darned boats entered civilization, we had far fewer of those much needed handoffs. In fact, what we need is a law forbidding anyone from moving over three yards in a day — that way we can have way more of them much needed handoffs!

avatar Gene Callahan March 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

“Walmarts and Targets that have more groceries than actual products…”

Because, you know, food is not an “actual product”.

avatar Bruce Smith March 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

Of course mooning in London would warrant an ASS-BO!

avatar Wessexman March 26, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Gene what we need to do is stop funding people for moving greater distances.

avatar Bruce Smith March 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

Actually what is the difference between a Restraint Order (which Brits and Americans have been using for years) and an ASBO (Anti-Social Behavior Order)?

avatar John Gorentz March 27, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Bruce, there are similarities between restraining orders and ASBOs, though that is not a point in favor of ASBOs. But one difference is that a restraining order is meant to protect an individual, while an ASBO is meant to protect society as a whole in a given geographic area. There are also differences in the appeal process that is available to the person being restrained.

The Wikipedia article is a good summary. I recommend it.

avatar Wessexman March 28, 2010 at 5:30 am

A restrained person doesn’t have to have committed a crime, as far as I know, whereas, as far as I can see, a person with an ASBO does even if they can be petty, broad ones like public drunkeness or swearing. In fact an ASBO requires a magistrates court. Aren’t US restraining orders given in civil as well as criminal courts in many cases? I was thinking of mentioning the US fetish for restraining orders before Bruce mentioned them, they seem as much an attack on civil liberties as ASBOs even if the worst is true about ASBOs.

The social versus individual protection is complex, certainly most of the scumbags who get ASBOs are those who make a neighbourhood a significantly worse place to live; the social aspect is not necessarily a negative thing particularly if restraining orders are being given rather willy nilly for individual dislike or spite.

avatar Bruce Smith March 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

I’m not sure how the law would distinguish the differences between a Restraining Order and an Anti-Social Behavior Order. Probably Caleb Stegall might have some thoughts on this. Karl Polanyi says a couple of things with regard to freedom in his book “The Great Transformation”, Chapter 21, page 257 which I agree with:-

“If regulation is the only means of spreading and strengthening freedom in a complex society, and yet to make use of this means is contrary to freedom per se, then such a society cannot be free.”

and

“No society is possible in which power and compulsion are absent, nor a world in which force has no function.”

To leaven this The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Cincinnati uses the following Bernard Malamud quote at the end of one of their short videos which I also agree with:-

“The purpose of freedom is to create it for others.”

The imposition of orders which restrain freedom are I believe a matter of their appropriateness being subject to transparency and democratic scrutiny processes based on political and ideally economic universal suffrage. I include economic suffrage because trade union
activity has traditionally been an active arena for restraint orders.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: