The Archbishop of Canterbury (May) appears so fixated on the problems of markets that he seems unable to pin blame where it belongs. It is notable, for example, that he criticises “profit” orientated tendencies in education at a time when government control is at its zenith.
It is perfectly possible for people to obtain education, library services, books and music through markets whilst taking a completely high-minded and non-materialistic view of education. Markets provide an effective means for signalling what people really value to those who are in a position to meet their needs. Until the 1940s much education worked in that way—as do the markets in books and CDs today. Indeed, Prospect itself operates in a market for high-minded ideas! It is also possible for government to provide education whilst taking a wholly materialistic and utilitarian view, as has increasingly been the case since the 1980s. The more government has taken control of education from the market and civil society, the more utilitarian education has become.
Editorial and programme director; Institute of Economic Affairs
Perhaps we are finally having a sensible discussion on civic virtue. If the Skidelskys are repairing to Aristotle as the starting point, all the better. It seems to me his virtues—temperance, prudence, courage and justice—are more than adequate for the life well led. The problem for western culture is that we have subsumed them to the false morality of liberty. The church and the state have been complicit in this—a point the reviewer seems reluctant to mention—so I would not look to either to force this discussion. Best to find a clear-eyed evangelist to generate grassroot support. Simon Cowell might be available.
Your May issue contained two rather different definitions of “The Good Life.” One was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s description of a life free from the tyranny of universal exchangeability. The other was Hugh Hefner’s vision of urban sophistication at the birth of. A neat, if unintended, illustration of the truth of that great American idiom, “different strokes for different folks.”