Jun 182011

Yep.  Time to come back to the Philip Davies case.  A couple more articles have just come my way on this subject via Andrew Regan’s Facebook feed.  The first one is posted on the Adam Smith Institute web, and aims to defend Davies on the basis that he describes the real world as it is.  I’m not sure I’m at variance with this opinion – I’m sure he does describe the real world as it is.  The real world has plenty of disgraceful underbellies which we, as progressives, should resist with all our might.  Just because they prevail at the moment doesn’t mean we must sanction their existence forever.  Or, indeed, build our current policy around riding merrily alongside their reality.  After all, wanting to believe that things can be different in the future doesn’t mean one is necessarily living in cloud-cuckoo land.

That is why I feel most strongly that it is our responsibility and duty as progressives to re-imagine the world and improve on it in the directions we think most fit.  In this I’m sure all politicians would agree – from the most extreme right-wing political actors to the most woolly-minded left-wing liberals.  Whilst I am then directed to Tim Worstall’s characteristically subdued reiteration of Davies’s happy-go-lucky underlining of rank circumstances and prejudice, I cannot but help react in the following way: 

I believe in a society where the position of individuals’ starting-blocks in life *does* matter, as far as the kind of policies we wish to implement are concerned. No one is ever going to “will” people into doing something – unless we’re dealing with the political science of Darth Vader. But education is a different matter – and demonstrably works. So the issue is not whether we can re-engineer or not – all politicians love to do this and can’t resist the temptation. The real issue is what we re-engineer and when.

Isn’t the truth of the matter here that those who want to justify an easy way out are using our society’s broadly shared architecture of prejudice to justify a widespread and self-interested sitting on their socio-political and economic hands?  Because when it comes to pressing political buttons to make people spend more money, purchase more cars, acquire an addiction to lotteries or – simply – buy more iPads and mobile phones, there’s no shortage of consultants and marketing companies capable of convincing these libertarian thinkers that re-engineering people’s behaviours is perfectly possible – and even desirable.

So we can do it – no doubt about it.  The question really is, then, quite another: do we want to create equal opportunities for all? 

And if we come to the conclusion – as a broader society – that we don’t want to even up the location of those starting-blocks in life I mention, we really do have to be sure everyone understands the choice is a conscious one. 

For a world made by default and inaction on such matters is just as much a world made by choice as any we might fashion more proactively.  And anyone who says anything different is clearly looking to justify and validate the existing order of things – probably because it benefits them quite nicely, thank you very much; certainly because such posturing requires less brainache from the parties concerned.

What say you?


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