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The Nail On The Head

The statist is not motivated purely or even mainly by results. Statism is not a philosophy rooted in discovery of pragmatic solutions to social problems. At the root of this kind of legislation is the belief in Society (ie the state apparatus) as a source of moral authority. The state needs to express its moral disapproval of vice and wickedness. Legislation as an expression of that disapproval is a moral and just end in and of itself, regardless of any practical impact it may or may not have.

Passing such laws is a symbolic act. Government must ‘send a message’ to the flock. If it doesnt legislate (uselessly or not) it forsakes its moral authority.

-Commenter Jay Thomas over at Samizdata, discussing the latest surge towards Temperance legislation. Jay blogs for himself as The Thoughtful Ape.

I think Jay has succinctly summed up the nature of anglospheric “progressive” statism, which I think we all need to recognise is a moralist movement, as opposed to marxism-communism, which is an economics/class struggle ideology.


  1. Andrew Duffin says:

    He may have been talking about anti-drink fanatics, but the same comments would apply to the latest aburd CO2 reduction plans as well, I think.

    The latter is likely to cost us a lot more, though, if they actually try it.

  2. IanB says:

    I think the quote applies generally. For instance we recycle as a demonstration of our moral commitment to the environment, not because of any particular pragmatic benefit.

  3. Jay Thomas says:

    IanB: Thank you for featuring my comment on this blog. I’m honored!

    You are right, I think the way of thinking I described is fundamental to most things that this government does.
    Recycling is a great example.

    I think recycling is also appealing because of the effort and hassle it entails.
    As you know the political elite are very keen on ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ or ‘I’

    Mandatory recycling schemes force you to act as if you shared their beliefs, to endorse their value system through your actions. It’s you demonstrating your submission to ‘Society’

    In that it is just like the requirement to burn incense in front of statues of caesar in the roman empire.

    The state is not content with taxing you… It wants its mental pound of flesh as well. Your actions and the manner in which you interact with others WILL be made to match their collectivist narrative.

  4. TDK says:

    I think this is a result of student union politics.

    I recall from my own days that union business was dominated by passing motions in support of the cause de jour and barely anything to do with actual student lives. Most of our political class learnt their trade in this environment and as a result they think politics is as an activity whose principal object is to show that you hold the correct bien pensant attitudes.

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