Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Do we need a return to stuffy institutions?

Until last week I hated institutions. I've hated institutions all my life.  I'm a fervent republican who's never attended a graduation ceremony because I see no point in silly gowns and readings in Latin.

I didn't even want to get hitched because I agree with Groucho Marx that "marriage is a wonderful institution... but who wants to live in an institution?"

I certainly didn't see the point in ties, morning suits, speeches by the best man or wearing a blancmange, not least because it would get awfully sticky. In fact, post-Christmas turkey Bride Wars could be a film about Vogon nose wrestling for all the sense it makes to me.

In the book, he argues that politicians in the old Establishment believed that they were small fry. They saw their role as upholding ancient institutions, such as parliament, which were far bigger and more important than a single ego.

He says that a modern Political Class has emerged that views tradition with contempt, just as I do. Like me, they have sought to ignore and knock institutions down. They do not feel part of anything larger than themselves so behave dishonorably and in a self-serving way. The result, he says, is not freedom, it's authoritarianism. With institutions neutralised, people can abuse power as much as they want and no one is willing to stop them.

If any what Oborne argues is true, it is enough to chill those with a liberal bent. It's even enough to make me hanker after the monarchy. Oborne argues that when the Queen and parliament were of paramount importance, the prime minister was playing a medium-sized part in a vast play. Blair could not have adopted a presidential and unaccountable style of government. Once the Queen and parliament were devalued, Blair became the face of government instead.


  • At 8:38 pm , Blogger Tristan said...

    Institutions are vital, and we cannot simply design institutions (as Hayek pointed out)

    Old doesn't necessarily mean good however and institutions evolve (as I believe Herbert Spencer pointed out).

    Since around WWI (or before) there's been a tendency in this country to try and consciously mould institutions by politicians, who need more power to do this so they take more power.
    This results in a proliferation of legislation, increasingly complex interactions between the individual and the state and the disenfranchisement of the individual and the destruction of civil society (with the attempt to replace it with state directed society).

    Both Labour and the Tories have been responsible for this, but it does seem to have reached new heights since 1997.

    A few Thatcherite include the national curriculum (seeking to impose a set education upon all, regardless of the individual and community - the logical extension of the Tory's axing of education boards in 1901) and attempts to create an idealised institution of the family.


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