Once more, Polly Toynbee steps in to protect the helpless state against the bullying individual:
The Porter view has become fashionable because it allows the middle classes to pretend to be victims, too. But it is decadence for mainly privileged people to obsess over imaginary Big Brother attacks on themselves, when others all around them are suffering badly from neglect by the state - or sometimes from real aggression by government. Indignation is precious, not to be squandered on illusory threats, but saved for real injustices.
Blimey: how to unpick this lot? I like the idea that there’s a finite lump of indignation which has to be saved for special occasions, non-renewable and somehow outside the self. The lump of indignation fallacy, you might say. I like the idea as well that you’re supposed to balance your income against your freedom.
I’ve always been mildly annoyed by Polly’s self-presentation as the reborn conscience of Labour when her active political life was spent in an organization trying to destroy it and replace it, to wit the SDP. She even stuck around for a time when it dwindled to being a kind of cult of David Owen. But I think that does give us a clue to her particular attitude to the state.
SDP types always presented themselves as the voice of moderation, but their actual objection to both left and right really seemed to lie in the fact that these uncouth barbarians actually wanted to force the state to do things; that they thought of it as a means not an end. No, says Polly, leave my precious state alone. It is my good intentions made manifest.
Her argument seems to be that the state may interfere with your liberties, but that simply proves it has the power to meet your needs. Conversely, the state may choose not to meet your needs, but to protest about its withdrawal of your liberties simply means that these needs will never be met. It never seems to occur to her that the preservation of freedom is a precondition for the ability to get the state to meet whatever needs you think should be met. It’s not a coincidence that nearly all states with political liberty are to a greater or lesser extent welfare states. People always vote themselves at least some of the keys to the treasury, and behind those votes there has historically been the kind of political agitation that only free societies permit. If you want a place where the individual pays for everything from primary school onwards, by contrast, try China.
crossposted at Liberal Conspiracy.