Friday, February 28, 2014

"None of the above" - a response to Frank Cranmer


As His Grace mentioned last week, Gillan Scott of the excellent God & Politics in the UK blog has been running an insightful series on Christians who belong to political parties and justify their activism with appeals to Scripture. Today he comes to a Quaker in the guise of Frank Cranmer (no relation), who writes the equally excellent Law & Religion UK blog. Mr Cranmer has no current political allegiance, though he is ex-Labour (he is also ex-Anglican, but left and became a Quaker "in order to get away from 'doctrine'" [which His Grace takes as a compliment]).

Contrary to the caricature ranting of certain robust Roman Catholics who populate His Grace's comment threads, it is not and never has been the purpose of this blog to instruct people in how they should vote: His Grace inclines toward a conservative view of the world, but would far rather people voted Labour than not vote at all. And he is fully aware that the Conservatives frequently engage in or advocate that which is fundamentally un-conservative. But we live in a liberal democracy, and His Grace is of the view that voting is the least worst option of all the mechanisms that give rise to government, which is, as Augustine observed, a necessary evil. Those who do not vote for the party which is likely to do the most good and cause the least harm are simply increasing the likelihood of the proliferation of evil. That is not to say that His Grace is not unsympathetic to those who refuse to vote: it can be an honourable principled abstention. But that self-denial (in a liberal democracy, of a human right) is a wilful choice for impotence and an abdication of responsibility, which logically precludes the right to criticise, denounce or grumble when the government gets it wrong.

Political parties win elections by promising heaven on earth - 'twas ever thus. And when, a year or so later, the people realise that they are still in purgatory, another swathe of disaffected voters views the democratic process with cynicism and disdain, declaring a plague on all their houses. This leads to a voter apathy and alienation, a deterioration in democratic participation and a declining turnout in elections, especially among the young. This appears to be where Frank Cranmer finds himself.

This blog has never advocated the blind endorsement of any political party: it does not purport to be any kind of 'bridge' between Christian communities and the Conservative Party (that is the professed role and function of the CCF). Rather His Grace has sought for eight long years to explore the rich stream that flows between Christianity and conservatism. The principal concern aims to be that place where Christian theology meets political philosophy. These are usually expressed in the pulpit and through party politics. You may take the view that theology is diminished and philosophy corrupted by the mediating agency, but that is the human condition.

Mr Cranmer is free not to vote: that is his human right. But his reason for not voting Conservative merits a response, not least because it labours under a few misapprehensions. He wrote:
As for the Conservatives, although (with Margaret Thatcher, I’m afraid) I firmly believe that the free market is the least-inefficient method of allocating resources, in my view its concomitant has to be proper State provision for the poor – of which there is an alarmingly-high number in the UK.
This is as good a reason as any to vote Conservative (though all the main parties have to some extent now embraced 'neoliberalism' and the virtues of the free market). There is an acknowledgment that the market is "the least-inefficient method of allocating resources", ie, the lesser evil. But neither Socialist nor Green philosophy lauds private enterprise. Their collectivist mindset focuses on the shortcomings of Capitalism - of which there are many - and their view of Thatcherite wealth creation is that it is a manifest cause of inequality and poverty. Mr Cranmer seems to appreciate that it is the competitive market which is best placed to allocate resources, but he is not apparently aware that it has contributed more than any alternative in history to the eradication of disease, squalor, hunger, ignorance and destitution. There are indeed many poor in the UK, but their relative poverty is nothing compared to the absolute poverty experienced by many millions in the most poverty-stricken regions of the world. It is capitalism and the market which are improving their lot: socialism keeps them there.
Some elements in the Conservative Party seem to think that those who are unemployed should simply pull themselves together and find a job: tell that to folk living in places like the parts of Birmingham where the unemployment level is between 8 and 10 per cent.
Yes, there are some complete bastards in the Conservative Party. But there are some thoroughly obnoxious Quakers, too. And yet one wonders at the caricature here: what Conservative has ever said that the unemployed "should simply pull themselves together and find a job", without acknowledging that some are simply unable to do so? Any quote His Grace can find is addressed directly to the indolent and recidivist; those who calculate that welfare pays more than work, and so they are content to be supported by the taxpayer. Iain Duncan Smith is trying to address this fundamental injustice, for why in parts of Birmingham should someone in work be poorer than those on benefits? Why should those who take responsibility for providing for their families live a more meagre existence than those who claim the dole? But no Conservative is unaware of the moral obligation of the State to care for widows and orphans, or the elderly and disabled. And in those areas of the country where unemployment is high, the Conservative approach is not laissez faire: it is to create the right social conditions and legal framework for enterprise to flourish.
And I was utterly unconvinced by the Chancellor’s arguments for reducing the top rate of income tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent.
There is a very plausible theory of optimal taxation: see HERE.
But my principal reason for avoiding the Conservatives is their attitude to human rights in general and to the European Convention on Human Rights in particular.
This is interesting, for modern Conservatives have embraced human rights lock, stock and barrel: the UN Charter demands it. If there is an 'attitude', it is not borne of bigotry or intolerance; it is simply that conservatives look to a different historical and philosophical tradition to that which emerged from the French Revolution. Burke is the conservative starting point, and his substantive review of conservative tenets includes an insistence on concrete rights rather than abstract ones; an organic conception of society as an eternal partnership between past, present and future; history as the accumulated wisdom of all generations; the natural inequality of human beings, and hence of their status and property; respect for authority and its institutional manifestations, law and religion; and an acceptance of gradual change.
We need a robust and justiciable regime of human rights to protect us against arbitrary and capricious decisions by public authorities and, incidentally, we need an equally robust and accessible mechanism of judicial review of their actions – neither of which seems to be within the comprehension of Lord Chancellor Grayling.
Very many Conservatives would agree (even about the inadequacies of Lord Chancellor Grayling). But the conservative justiciable regime of human rights negates the notion of abstract a priori rights in favour of an ex post facto theorisation of the development of rights within a cultural tradition. Mr Cranmer may recoil from the Tory commendations of authority, reverence, and paternalistic, quasi-feudal responsibilities, but it is a fundamental misapprehension to believe that Conservatives or conservatives do not support the necessary rights "to protect us against arbitrary and capricious decisions by public authorities". Conservative human rights are founded upon our traditional liberties within a framework of the rule of law, and those rights have corresponding duties. While it is a logical constraint found in all ideologies that rights entail duties, the decontestation of duties undertaken by conservatives is not based on the ensuing notion of reciprocity, as in liberal or some socialist thought, but on cultural constraint promoting the obligation not to burden others and, instead, to assume self-responsibility.
And how can we lecture corrupt regimes about their behaviour and promote good governance within the Commonwealth unless we are absolutely squeaky-clean ourselves?
We cannot, which is why hypocrisy, falsehood, conceit and deception must be swept from our political system.

But that can never be attained while good people insist on voting for none of the above.

33 Comments:

Blogger Len said...

No one can vote for any political party with any confidence anymore.
So voting is not now a positive action but a matter of damage limitation.... who is going to do the least damage?.
And that fact is no so certain anymore.

28 February 2014 10:31  
Blogger Corrigan said...

...caricature ranting of certain robust Roman Catholics...

Who do you suppose Cranmer can possibly be referring to?

28 February 2014 10:39  
Blogger John Wrake said...

Perhaps the reason for Frank Cranmer's disillusion with current Conservatism is due to the fact that the Conservative Party (and it is not alone in this) has turned its back on the English Constitution. That Constitution is founded on the Christian faith and through the ages has been capable of restraining corrupt rulers when it has been invoked.
Sadly, successive governments, whatever their colour, have set about denying it or changing it or ignoring it, while doing their best to ensure that ordinary folk are kept in ignorance of the safeguards which it provides against rulers careless of their responsibilities to the people they govern.
Until there is a return to constitutional government and the rule of law, there will be a rise in the numbers of those who write 'none of these' on their ballot papers, or who don't bother to vote.

John Wrake

28 February 2014 11:18  
Blogger bluedog said...

In a superb post, His Grace writes what can be regarded as a letter to his namesake, Mr Frank Cranmer.

As His Grace observes, inter alia, 'This is interesting, for modern Conservatives have embraced human rights lock, stock and barrel', in other words an absolute commitment to secularism which has lead directly social initiatives such as...well, you know what this communicant means.

One must hope that Mr Cranmer is suitably impressed by Dr Cranmer's persuasive eloquence and reverses his decision to become politically celibate.

28 February 2014 11:30  
Blogger meema said...

The last three administrations in the US, one ‘conservative’ two ‘liberal’ have effectively shredded the fabric of our Constitution, gently pulling out threads that support individual rights one at a time. Unfortunately, the American public, having been successfully dumbed down by social engineering-based education implemented over the past twenty years, have no idea what the Constitution is or why blood was shed to set it in place.

Constitution? Uh, yeah, that’s that piece of paper in that museum in D.C. right?

We live our lives under the delusion that we are free because, you know, there’s that old saying “It’s a free country, ain’t it?” But no, it isn’t free anymore by any stretch of imagination. And the problem is epidemic and global. It once could be said, ‘something wicked this way comes’ but now that must be amended to ‘it’s here’.

If voting really counted, they wouldn’t let us do it.

28 February 2014 11:41  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Well here in Barchester our prospective candidates for the next election are as follows:
The Marquess of Silverbridge (Tory); Mr. Bunce (Cap-doffing Old Labour); Dr. Vesey Stanhope (Europe for the British); Mustafa Fatwah (Liberal Jihad); Mustafa Grumble (Conservative Jihadi Grievance Alliance); Igor Beever (I'd like to Teach the World to Sing Party) and Charlotte Barlett (Spinsters for Climate Change). I just don't know which way to vote...

28 February 2014 11:41  
Blogger David Hussell said...

An excellent post by Cranmer, truly insightful, so thank you, Your Grace.

My thanks too, to John Wrake @ 11.18 who has said all I would have wanted to say.

28 February 2014 12:21  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

"Corrigan said...

...caricature ranting of certain robust Roman Catholics...

Who do you suppose Cranmer can possibly be referring to?"

We have not got a clue, then someone sang...

"[Roman Catholics]
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!

The Papist, the Papist Traditionalists.
The Papist, the Papist Traditionalists

*Ya die die die, Yada da yada die die. Ya die die die, Yada da yada die die*!"

Now where have I left my cassock?

I'll leave then, seeing as the blog door is thataway (--->)
"

*Giggles*

28 February 2014 12:24  
Blogger Owl said...

The description of "Conservatism" that HG has so elequently written reminds me of an abstract idea of what it should be, not what it is.

LibLabCon are all "centrists" since the awful Blair sold the UK out.

If by voting, we just get a different puppet but the same pupeteer, it is easy to understand why some people would decline to vote.

At the moment, there doesn't seem to be an alternative to UKIP if one wants to make any difference to the current setup at all.

28 February 2014 12:50  
Blogger Gareth said...

Far too little tactical voting in this country.

28 February 2014 14:34  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

I vote for King Josiah. Oh
no- that wasn't a democracy.

I vote for Barabbas - Oh no - that was wrong.

I want the Balfour declaration - hmm.. I wasn't asked on that one, was I? Now I want the opposite while those ships are queueing at the end of the Med.

I want the lowest common denominator.

Got it!

Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth.

I don't have the answers, but the only politician that ever knocked my door asked me what I wanted, then proceeded to do the exact opposite (LibDem). Then there was the Tory boy who wrote to me saying he regarded the Bible as an evil manifesto - delightfully blunt, and crisp.

Then there's the Labour party, whose education policies seem determined to addle my kid's minds and legally prevent me from withdrawing them from lying propaganda.

Are you seriously asking me to actively choose the evils this lot propose, Your Grace? I'm open to persuasion from my default position, but this is not doing it for me. Maybe there could be a time when different parties are proposing different combinations of good, but has that happened?

Default position, by the way, is
"We do not mix in politics; we are not of the world: we do not vote"

I'm not sure this is always right, but I'm pretty sure it currently is.

28 February 2014 14:47  
Blogger Time For Tea said...

We get the leaders we deserve which is exactly what we've got in the world today.

The problem is not them, it's us. The question is will we recognise it?

28 February 2014 17:20  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...



His Grace. “Contrary to the caricature ranting of certain robust Roman Catholics who populate His Grace's comment threads, it is not and never has been the purpose of this blog to instruct people in how they should vote:”

{GULP}

Well, an enthusiasm for the democratic process, as much as the ordinary fellow can be involved, should be commended, don’t you think ?

Oh Lord, what’s this.. “His Grace inclines toward a conservative view of the world, but would far rather people voted Labour than not vote at all.”

Gah ! Bolshevik talk, here ? Oh dear, Oh my… Quickly, smelling salts before I lose conscio…,

{THUD}





28 February 2014 18:04  
Blogger Che Yeoh said...

I'm not a Conservative myself, but I'd like to ask a question;

Is there such a thing as a free market? And if a free market were possible, would you support it?

My understanding of Conservatism (traditional) is that it is in favour of thrift and small government. And I can't marry that with a) what has happened with the bankers and the banking system, where our money was gambled away and they were bailed out with public money and b) tax credits, where the government is basically subsidising low wages by employers.

What is the Conservative position on this? Do you think that business should be subsidised or left to find its own way and sink or swim? Or is there a split on it?

28 February 2014 19:02  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Che Yeoh

Taking less in taxes is not a subsidy. You don't subsidize someone by letting him keep his own money.

The alternative to low wages is typically no wages. Especially in a world glutted with excess labor. You can't artificially inflate wages just to increase the standard of living. The economy will not sustain it over time.

carl

28 February 2014 19:13  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 February 2014 20:35  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Carl said:

"Taking less in taxes is not a subsidy. You don't subsidize someone by letting him keep his own money."

I remember during the last election Labour politicians kept describing Tory tax cuts as "taking money out of the economy". They were simply incapable of recognising the difference between Government money and the economy as a whole. It just epitomised the socialist belief that any money in private hands somehow ceases to have any relevance to society as a whole. Unless money is in the hands of the state it brings no benefit, in their view.

28 February 2014 20:45  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Carl, Happy Jack thinks you may have misunderstood Che Yeoh.

Tax credits in Britain are state payments, funded by taxation, given to working people in certain situations. Jack thinks he is asking if this is a legitimate use of government money and whether it sustains a low wage economy by allowing businesses to pay less than they might otherwise have to?

28 February 2014 21:42  
Blogger Henry Wood said...

Life gets tedious, don't it?:

quote: " [...] but would far rather people voted Labour than not vote at all. [...]"

quote: " [...] This blog has never advocated the blind endorsement of any political party: [...]"

There's something cockeyed somewhere.

28 February 2014 21:55  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

Dear Gareth,

Far too little tactical voting? Really?

Tactical voting is one of the most moronic concepts ever...
... It is the proposal that I should vote for a party that I don't want, in order to stop another party that I didn't want either from getting in ... with the result that a party I didn't want got in, and I was stupid enough to have voted for them!

No - Vote for the party you do want and accept the democratic result. That's the only response that has integrity.

28 February 2014 22:14  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

the rich stream that flows between Christianity and conservatism

Christianity as preached from the pulpit is at one with contemporary conservatism in declaring that diversity of race and religion has made England a better country. To hear that laughable untruth from politicians is no great surprise but to hear it from so-called men of God…

The stream is certainly rich: rich in lies and deception.

28 February 2014 22:21  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Mr Rottenborough. one understands we are now in the age of Aquarius

Or is it self delusion

Or is it indeed, the age of deception...

28 February 2014 22:29  
Blogger Che Yeoh said...

Thanks Happy Jack, you've explained exactly what I was getting at.

If you are subsidising a business's wage bill, then it is a subsidised market, not a free one. Again, if you take a business gamble as in the banks and you fail and the government takes the hit, then it is not a free market. Hence my question.

28 February 2014 23:07  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

So ... a tax credit is in fact a gov't payment. You see, this is why we Americans had to rationalize the English language.

Is it a good use of gov't money? No, not unless there is some skill the gov't is deliberately intending to preserve in the national economy.

carl

1 March 2014 02:51  
Blogger Len said...

What is a 'robust' Catholic ?.

A XXX Catholic?

Or some one who has had the brain washed laundered and replaced courtesy of the Vatican. ..

Only got to dangle the Truth of God in front of a Catholic and they start baying like the wolves that they are ready to hunt in packs for the common cause.(It seems a knee jerk default action no thinking required)

Anyway musn`t go off thread, so is it really worth voting for any political party in Europe when the real decisions are made by our unelected shadow Government in the EU?.


1 March 2014 08:21  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

Morning Darter Noster - did you ever finish that thesis on Pusey et al? Any chance of a squint at it?

1 March 2014 10:12  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Working tax credits are paid to people in some form of work. Whether or not you pay more in tax than you get back in tax credit depends on a combination of how much you're paid per hour, how many hours you work and how much you earned in the previous financial year.

If you work 40 hours a week on the national minimum wage, as I was until recently, and haven't earned anything in the previous financial year (which I hadn't because I was a student) you get back slightly less than you pay in in income tax and national insurance, but you pay other taxes on top; for example, as a student I didn't pay council tax, but working on the minimum wage I do, and the Working Tax Credit just about covers it. I've recently moved off the minimum wage by about £2.50 per hour, which is enough to render me ineligible for working tax credit.

In any case, to be a net contributor to the public finances you have to be earning well above not just the minimum wage but also the average household income, which is around £22,000. The top 20% of households contribute almost all the tax take; the great majority of benefits paid out are in-work benefits, not unemployment benefits.

Is this a healthy situation? Yes, it does amount to a massive subsidy to businesses paying low wages and distorts the labour market, but if we abolished in-work benefits and forced thousands of businesses to ramp up their wages even to the lowest skilled workers we would render our labour market uncompetitive at a single stroke, drive many smaller companies out of business and lose hundreds of thousands of lower-paid and unskilled jobs; all those workers would then have to be paid the full range of unemployment benefits, we'd lose a fortune in corporation tax and business rates, and probably institute a social crisis not seen since the Great Depression.

It is something of a myth, as HG has pointed out, that conservatism means completely, anarchically, free markets. Traditionally, conservatives did not believe in completely unregulated casino capitalism, but in private property and responsibility. The anarchy of completely unregulated markets would have been anathema to late 19th and early 20th century conservatives, who opposed many free trade measures, and is much more a development of the late 20th century neo-conservatives, particularly those around Reagan and Thatcher.

Traditional conservatism believed in the need for regulation, but approached it with a very different guiding philosophy to that of the left. No market can be a free-for-all by definition.

1 March 2014 10:17  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Hello Rasher,

I submitted at the end of last year, but I've got a fair few edits to make now which means a bit more work.

As I have now run out of funding, I have to work full time whilst doing those edits, which means they're going to take a while to complete.

That, incidentally, is why I've been on working tax credit whilst training for my PCV license - I spend most of my week driving buses around Sunderland for a living now, which is great fun but does get in the way of study; no flicking through books at traffic lights :oD

1 March 2014 10:24  
Blogger non mouse said...

Your Grace, one appreciates: that His Grace is not unsympathetic to those who refuse to vote: it can be an honourable principled abstention.

However, YG continues: But that self-denial (in a liberal democracy, of a human right)...(my stress), and there lies the rub. The problem is that we are no longer a democracy; our liberal elites** are useful idiots, in thrall to the euSSR, and they have given away our rights without our consent.

Which is to say, their wilful choice for impotence and (an) abdication of responsibility has preempted that of the British electorate.

One therefore suggests that Lib/Lab/Con already constitutes the: hypocrisy, falsehood, conceit and deception [which YG so rightly declares] must be swept from our political system.

Here, then, I echo Len's rhetorical question: so is it really worth voting for any political party in Europe when the real decisions are made by our unelected shadow Government in the EU?(@08:21).

Our voice is already silenced. The 'ballot' is a charade. Christmas has come, and we are the silly geese on ice.

"None of the above" is only the beginning of my preference.
___________
**Who were previously *elected* or chosen - and that is a root meaning of elite ... from Latin eligere, electum (cf. Chambers).

1 March 2014 12:03  
Blogger Manfarang said...

John Wrake
Of course the Conservatives turned their backs on the last English Constitution-The Humble Petition and Advice.
Whether they have turned their backs on the British Constitution is another question.

1 March 2014 12:28  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Carl

"Is it a good use of gov't money? No, not unless there is some skill the gov't is deliberately intending to preserve in the national economy."

Tax Credits were designed to make it worthwhile to come off benefits and work in a low paid job, especially if you have a family.

It also allows the state to help families with children as families in effect get a tax break for each child. It might be one reason why we still have reasonably healthy demographics compared to some other countries in Europe. It was not a bad idea in essence. The big problem was that the Government failed to give incentives to 2 parent married families to stay together. So as a result a "family" that divorced or split up, up were suddenly 2 families in the eyes of the state and were/are considerably better off to the tune of around £10k per year on average disposable income (sometimes much more) than a family of the same size with two parents living together in the same house. It was further complicated by giving child care vouchers so that it was/is very lucrative for (usually) mum to put their kids in a day nursery (day orphanage!) and take (usually) a low paid job instead of looking after them at home. Families that try to fund one parent usually the wife, staying at home and looking after young children has been successively penalised by the state.

Just giving a non means tested, tax free allowance to each family based on family size would have been much simpler/cheaper to administer and achieved the same objectives, but would have built up families instead of giving them large financial reasons to split up.

Phil

1 March 2014 17:00  
Blogger DMB from Secular Café said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1 March 2014 17:05  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1 March 2014 17:25  

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