Some people have a knack for saying the right thing

Posted by Tory Historian Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Famously, Hayek maintained that he was not a conservative or a Conservative with a capital "c". He is, nevertheless, the man who has influenced a good deal of modern conservative thinking. Right now he is out of fashion with the Conservative Party but his time will come again.

Hayek saw himself as a Whig or an old-fashioned Liberal, political categories that have been subsumed in other parties, notably the Conservative one of yesteryear.

At the end of the "Constitution of Liberty", the book Margaret Thatcher was supposed to have shown to the Conservative Central Office policy wonks on her election as leader of the party, explaining that this was what she believed in, there is a chapter: "Why I am not a Conservative?".

In it Hayek sums up the benefits of a free political system in very practical terms:

The main merit of the individualism which Adam Smith and his contemporaries advocated is that it is a system under which bad men can do least harm. It is a social system which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it, or all men becoming better than they are, but which makes use of men in all their given variety and complexities, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes intelligent, more often stupid.
One really cannot say it any better or more elegantly.

Politicians reflect the society around them. There is no point in expecting them to be any better than the rest of us either morally or intellectually. It was ever thus. Why should they be?

So, the answer is to have a system in which they can do the least possible harm. I leave it to our readers to discuss whether that is what we have in Britain at the moment.


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