Civic State

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Philipp Blond:

"Modern conservatism rejects both dispensations as it seeks to replace the welfare and the market state with the civic state. The civic state aims to blend the benefits of welfare and the market mechanism not by favouring one or the other but by exceeding both. The Conservative's new civic settlement privileges the associative above the alienated, the responsible over the self-serving and (yes I know this is shocking) the communal over the individual. As such Cameron's political agenda is far more radical, far-reaching and transformative than the majority suspect. It offers a way out of the failed class based politics of the past, it would offer through expanded notions of ownership a way to escape the conflicts between capital and labour. It could inveigh with equal vigour against the public monopolies of state and the private cartels of the market – in order to break down the barriers to market participation and individual capitalisation. Finally it could undo the ruinous consequences of state sanctioned multi-culturalism and the lazy moral and social relativism of the liberal middle class. By injecting a new moral purpose and political culture into Britain - Cameron could and should fashion a new compact of mutual responsibility and binding social ethic. As such modern Conservatism could be the foundation of a new commonwealth and a new and better way to live our lives.

But if politics is real, if it intervenes and makes a difference then progressive conservatism must tell us how it gets there from here. How does Cameron's conservatism realise the civic state that is so needed and so desired.

In the face of the current collapse of credit engendered and state sanctioned monopoly capitalism, the most urgent need is for Conservatives to craft an entirely new political economy and a refigured paradigm for markets and trade. This new progressive conservative economics would pursue three interrelated goals: the re-moralisation of the market, re-localisation of the economy, and re-capitalisation of the poor.

Only markets located in and shaped by a moral architecture are sustainable, as Adam Smith understood. Without law, morality, custom and conscience we would have anarchy in place of exchange, and extortion in place of contract. Economic output needs to pass a series of social tests, and the Conservatives need to tie economic policy to the social outcomes they favour. For Conservatives it m ust be the extension of wealth, assets and the benefits of ecological and social well being to all. Freedom from the monopoly dominance of state bureaucracy and market power would allow independence for the formation of community and autonomy and a rebalancing of the demands of work, family and childcare.

Second, more attention needs to be paid to the health of local economies. Labour's 'market state', subservient to big business, has generated a nation of 'clone towns' and 'ghost towns' where retail outlets are either identical or absent. Blair and Brown's worship of monopoly markets produced the paradox of competition without competitors, an almost exclusive favouring of the big box retail model, and the permanent dominance of supermarkets. Small business are squeezed out by the monopolistic power of trans-national enterprises, and the barriers to market entry that their economies of scale represent. Small wonder that the UK has one of the lowest percentages of small and medium businesses in the OECD.

But small and medium businesses are how millions ordinary people own and secure the wealth for themselves and their families. The present market dispossesses them and re-categorizes them as permanent members of the low-waged shop serving, rather than shop owning, class. By toughening planning laws and reforming local tax bases, Conservatives can restore local economies and local capital, so that the benefits of trade flow downwards to all participants rather than upwards to the tax-avoiding off-shore aristocracy of Brown's Britain.

The third goal of modern, progressive conservatism is the re-capitalisation of the poor. Under the reign of the monopoly market, the poor have been wholly dispossessed. In 1976 the bottom 50% of the population owned 12% of the nation's liquid wealth; by 2003 they had just 1%. In the same period, the share enjoyed by the top 10% rose from 57% to 71%. Even when property is included, the bottom half of the population still only owns just 7% of the country's wealth. Savings rates have declined to levels last seen in the 1940s, wages at the bottom have risen slowest, and the poverty gap - both relative and absolute - has widened while the elite lectured us on the universal benefits of global capitalism. A new conservative agenda of ownership extension and security is therefore urgently required. If the most vulnerable victims of Labour's debt-financed depression are to be saved from re-proletarianisation and permanent subjection to an inadequate welfare state, a new popular philosophy of asset extension and stakeholder equity capitalism is required." (http://www.respublica.org.uk/articles/civic-state)


More Information

  1. Market State
  2. Partner State