EVER wondered why Premiership strikers are in the main worth considerably more than goalkeepers?
After all, a great goalkeeper can win you matches just as effectively as a great striker.
Because attack is more glamorous than defence: on the whole people watch football to see great goals being scored, not great saves being made.
So it is with politics, which is why the liberals and progressives seem to have all the best tunes. They get to build the great utopias, fulfil the feel-good ideals: in their world it is always year zero, that glad confident morning when it is bliss to be alive. Conservatism, especially social conservatism, seems by comparison deadly dull. In our modern world of hitherto unimaginable plenty, it is not surprising that liberalism triumphed: looking at those pictures of those young hipsters out and about in London’s parks last weekend, it was clear that the concept of serious defeat or hardship was inconceivable to them.
Well, the chickens have well and truly come home to roost. As social conservatives have always argued, it is now apparent that a central problem with liberalism is that it creates a low-resilience society. Rejecting the organic frameworks that took centuries to build, over the last fifty years it has substituted its own highly sophisticated but highly unstable ones, in the process maxing out all our social and economic capital.
An early warning of ultra-liberalism’s impending failure was the 2008 banking crisis, when supposedly super-sophisticated ‘financial instruments’ and the sub-psychotic behaviour of self-styled ‘masters of the universe’ drove the world’s financial system on to the rocks, a crisis that exposed long-term structural weaknesses in the Western liberal model and from which we have never really recovered. The Covid-19 crisis today has exposed the cascading instabilities of ultra-liberal systems: global travel infrastructure failed to stop the virus entering the country; food shortages arose from the lack of elasticity in just-in-time supply chain management.
The reason is fundamentally cultural: the year-zero minded liberal elites never thought to ask themselves whether there really will always be a better tomorrow. As James Delingpole constantly warns us, these same people, driven by green ideological zeal, are blithely building the same instabilities into energy supply.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed not just lack of resilience in the capitalist economy but society’s lack of resilience in terms of social capital. (Social capital, far more than monetary capital, being the capital upon which all capitalist economy ultimately depends.) For instance, it has been known for some time that single-earner couples are less likely to suffer bankruptcy than double-income families, because there is more redundancy within the family unit. In comparison the ‘all must work’ model of society used by politicians to boost short-term economic growth has left most families highly vulnerable. With the schools now shut, some people (most probably women) will inevitably have to give up paid employment or curtail working hours, but modern families simply cannot afford this sudden loss of income. At the community scale, our stock of social capital also leaves something to be desired: yes, it is true that an impressive 400,000 have volunteered to help the NHS, but just a few days ago we were horrified by a seemingly large minority in society ignoring pleas for social distancing.
The inevitable consequence of reduced social capital is today’s total systemic failure, necessitating massive state intervention and authoritarian lockdown. A very dark bridge has been crossed, and consequently many Right-wing pundits are decidedly gloomy about the final outcome: we will, apparently, inevitably become much more socialist, more authoritarian and more sclerotic.
However, don’t despair. Social conservativism can provide an alternative, strangely enough by absorbing lessons first learnt by the IT industry. For many years the industry was rather like liberalism – it built highly sophisticated but unstable products. After brilliantly conceived disaster upon disaster, IT developed a culture that hard-baked resiliency into the innovation process and proved that you needn’t sacrifice dynamism for stability. Crucially, this required a wholesale change in software development culture. Other industries noticed: after the last banking crisis regular stress testing of bank risk portfolios started to be taken much more seriously.
The result is a more conservative and stable industry that still offers innovative products. It is now surely certain that such ideas will be extrapolated to the economy generally, such as mandating minimum stockpiling of non-perishable goods in critical areas such as food, health and energy, with such vital sectors routinely stress-tested against disaster scenarios.
There is no reason why social conservatives cannot use similar arguments for society generally. ‘Think resilient’,to adapt Apple’s old advertising slogan, should be our motto for all society going forward. The current crisis is a huge opportunity to reimagine social conservatism; we were, in the end, proved right all along, that it is the social capital of family and community that matter above all else in building resilience into society, and the rebuilding of that capital is clearly essential if any sustainable but dynamic future is to be had. In short, we should seek not to stop change, which is inevitable, but to champion the building of resiliency into change. Liberalism as we have known it is clearly finished, brought down by its own arrogance and incompetence. Arguably social conservatism failed in the past because it was portrayed as the enemy of progress. We can now present ourselves as its friend, and liberalism as its calamity-strewn enemy.