Phillip Blond may regret the birth of the liberalism, but that does not mean he can ignore itby Kieron O'Hara / February 28, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
Before I wave my quibbles around, I should begin by enthusiastically welcoming Phillip Blond’s stunning riff. I have argued for a while that the Conservatives should dissolve and reconstitute current party lines by reaching beyond 1979 into their back catalogue of philosophies and ideologies, and Blond’s analysis-cum-road-map, a mix of decentralisation, flattened hierarchies and suspicion of big business, is a splendid attempt to do just that.
Such a realignment would hardly be unprecedented. Quintin Hogg wrote about the apparent oddness of Conservatives fighting “socialists who attack laissez faire from almost exactly the same angle as the Conservatives in 1848,” and the 60 years that separate us from Hogg’s Case For Conservatism nearly match the 70 between him and Disraeli.
Intellectually, Blond’s resurrection of Burke is very welcome, but I’m uncomfortable with sending Adam Smith to the naughty step along with Mill and Gladstone. Smith’s importance to the liberal tradition is patent, but Blond’s reinvention of him as the godfather of neoliberalism caricatures a complex and sensitive thinker. The author of The Wealth of Nations also produced The Theory of Moral Sentiments, lest we forget. It is hard to see him applauding capitalist gigantism; he didn’t, to my knowledge, anticipate the growth of multinational corporations, and his idea of social good was pretty well developed.