Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom. To talk of social justice, social responsibility, a new world order, may be easy and make us feel good, but it does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility.
This is something that I absolutely believe. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that I was raised in a reasonably well-off home with parents who gave two shits about me and my progress in the world. Most people would say that this makes me unbelievably favoured—lucky, in fact.*
But I have never understood why someone who was abused as a child should become more likely to abuse their own children. If you did not like it when your drunken father came home and beat you and your mother half to death with whatever came to hand, then why the fuck would you do it to your own children, to your own wife?
"Morality is personal", and the fact that you had a shitty childhood "does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility". It is why someone's shitty upbringing should never be accepted as mitigation for their crimes.
To blame one's bad or evil decisions on one's parents is a cowardly thing to do; it is also indicative of a rampant self-deception: we all have the ability to think and to act for ourselves—this is what makes us human.
We are all individuals and we are all—all of us—able to make our own decisions, to make our own choices. Those who abdicate their decisions to others have no more moral right to the privileges enjoyed by adult human beings than some beast.
Less, in fact, for the wild animal lives or dies by its own decisions—those moochers in our society who derogate their welfare to others are parasites on society. They exist on the product of better people's hard work and offer only laziness, violence and misery in return.
Worse, they provide an existence—through justification and through the ballot box—for the armies of bureaucrats who regulate all of our lives in the name of those who claim to be able to take no responsibility for their own. And it is wrong.
There is another Thatcher quote, one that is usually taken out of context, which is also spot on.
They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.
This last line was partly the inspiration for this off-the-cuff polemic, which included these lines...
For a moment, lay aside those dutiful thoughts of those starving millions beyond your gate, and think, instead, of those within your own household—within your own family: would you not rather protect them first?
Of course you would: they are your kith and kin and you would expect—would you not?—that everyone, like you, would defend theirs against you were you the one holding the gun.
The government has now utterly removed from you the means of protecting yourself and your family against the man with the gun: indeed, you dare not defend yourself because you fear that it is you, not the mugger, who would end up in the dock.
For the government is the man with the gun, demanding tithes from you: the government is here, at your door.
As I have constantly argued, the state is the cause of this "broken society"—whether intentionally or otherwise. After all, when you need not look to your friends and family for help in bad times, then you can be free to discard them at your convenience. If the state will pay you money, or treat you, regardless of your activities, then of course you will shun those difficult or distasteful decisions.
In short, the state makes it easy to live a hedonistic life, to ignore difficult moral decisions, because there are no consequences.
Thatcher realised, I think, that the state also stifles innovation and risk-taking, because it is safer to do nothing.
I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain.
Indeed. But it goes further than this because, as Tom Paine notes, people were once active in society because the state was not.
["social theorist" Jonathan Zittrain] mocks the people who "police" Wikipedia (always 45 minutes from destruction by spambots without their unpaid work). If there was a really big Star Trek convention, he sneers, "...who would be minding the store?" But those diligent nerds are doing what their ancestors did in meatspace, before Sir Robert Peel gave us our professional law enforcers. The hue and cry roused by a simple cry of "Stop, thief" was the only policing until then.
Libertarians are so often portrayed as cruel and heartless, but nothing could be more wrong. We believe in people. We trust them. The statists of right and left do not. They see humans as fundamentally evil; to be controlled at all costs. We see evidence everywhere (despite the odious exceptions on whom they focus) of humanity's essential goodness.
Indeed we do: we believe that people are essentially decent, that they will help others in need and that a society can be free, and rich, and the state curtailed without recourse to workhouses.
When I point out that Americans give far more money per capita to charity than those in Britain, many people admonish me. "Ah, but America has a culture of charitable giving that we, in Britain, do not."
Have you never wondered why that is? Or whether it was always so? After all, socialism has had a relatively short tenure in this country. After all, the seven great hospitals of London were all built by private charity, and maintained—to a large degree—by private subscription.
And we are all far richer—almost unimaginably so—than when those hospitals were founded. We used to have a culture of giving to charity—look how Scrooge is excoriated for refusing to do so in A Christmas Carol.
The fact is that we have forgotten charity, forgotten those in need. We have all abrogated our responsibilities to the state. This can—and must—change. But it will not happen any time soon, since our politicians like their position of power.
Even so, Cameron would do well to bear in mind another Thatcher comment.
To me, consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that need to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus’?
Perhaps this lack of principle is why the Tories seem unable to create a decisive lead in the polls. After all, I think that most people in the country will, at the next election, vote against Labour—but there is no appetite to vote for the Tories.
Not everything that Thatcher did was right, by any means. But at least she stood for something: she believed, fundamentally, in people's right—and ability–to rule their own lives and to fulfill their own desires.
Cameron seems to believe in nothing except his own fitness to rule—the coutry at large, it seems, does not share his conviction.
* And there are some who would like to tax luck—what should my surcharge be, Chris?