STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
UK Militarizes Its Big Society
By Staff News & Analysis - June 21, 2010

The Prime Minister uses an article in The Sunday Telegraph to say that it is not just the Government's responsibility to back military personnel. He makes clear his belief that it is the whole nation's "social responsibility" to put Servicemen and women at the "front and centre of our national life". … In an unprecedented intervention, he states that with Britain at war in Afghanistan, the public has to give full and unequivocal support to troops and their families. His demand comes a week after he returned from his first visit since taking office to Afghanistan, where the number of British troops killed since 2001 stands at 299. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: The war must be won.

Free-Market Analysis: Several months ago we wrote about UK Prime Minister David Cameron's (above left) adoption of Phillip Bond's idea of neo-communitarianism. Since at the time Cameron was struggling to redefine himself and his Tory party, the idea of political devolution probably seemed quite hip. It is of course a kind of dominant social sub-theme in regulatory democracies – that they will work better if only they are administered at a local level. One sees it in America as well.

Of course this begs the question of what a modern regulatory democracy IS. We would argue that the salient features of a modern regulatory republic are ever increasing taxes, unending regulations and endless inflation/deflation leading to de-industrialization and bankruptcy over an extended period. This does not happen overnight but over a long period of time and thus is often tolerated to a greater or lesser extent by the citizenry until a crisis point is reached.

Subordination (subsidiarity) doesn't really work within the structures erected by Western regulatory democracies. But nonetheless, the idea of neo-communitarianism (and its fellow traveler subsidiarity) has gained considerable traction. And now, after a pause, it is back as a Tory item of governance. But it has made its return in the most vile possible way. Just as in America, Republicans inevitably skew free-market rhetoric toward conservatism and patriotism, so Cameron has finally figured out how to integrate communitarianism into British political life in a manner that supports Tory/conservative principals. How, you may ask … He has militarized it! Here's a little more from the article:

He writes that the trip reinforced his appreciation of the bravery of the Armed Forces, and he hails charities such as Help for Heroes. Mr. Cameron also praises public support for repatriation ceremonies at Wootton Bassett and military parades elsewhere. He also signals that the Government will do more to help servicemen's families — particularly in housing and health — and provide better treatment for veterans with mental health problems. "These people know all about duty – they've lived it. Now we as a country must do our duty by them," the Prime Minister writes.

Invoking the wartime spirit of previous generations, he adds: "There is huge respect for the Armed Forces out there, and I want that expressed more loudly and more proudly." The focus for such celebrations will be Armed Forces Day on Saturday. This annual event was started last year following a campaign by The Sunday Telegraph. The centrepiece of next weekend's celebrations will be in Cardiff, including a parade led by the Prince of Wales, fly-pasts, a concert and a firework finale.

Mr. Cameron writes: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone — so next Saturday I hope we see an explosion of red, white and blue all over the country." Building on the theme of the "Big Society" — the Tory election platform that called for greater public involvement in state-provided services — he adds: "Supporting our Armed Forces isn't just a government responsibility — it's a social responsibility."

Words almost fail us as we gaze in wonder at what Prime Minister Cameron has wrought. The British public is sick of the war in Afghanistan and most seem to feel that Britain was brought into the war (as the EU) under false pretenses. Each British death is a big deal in Britain (as human deaths should be) because British leaders, especially, have not been able to enunciate the reason for the war anymore than American military and civilian leaders have. The salient point of the war, then, is that it continues. Afghanistan is poisoned by depleted uranium weapons and civilians are blown up. The Anglo-American axis has to continue to manufacture rationales.

And this is Cameron's stab … He certainly didn't waste much time. The idea of communitarianism as defined by the Tories was indeed one of a "Big Society" – which in turn involved a subsidiarity of power-sharing (it's a subtle concept, you see). In a previous Bell previous article (click here to read), we quoted New York Times writer David Brooks on the British gentleman behind the concept, one Phillip Blond "who has come seemingly from nowhere to set up a British non-profit called ResPublica" that made the communitarian argument:

Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations. His ideas have made a big splash in Britain over the past year. His think tank, ResPublica, is influential with the Conservative Party. His book, "Red Tory," is coming out soon. He's on a small U.S. speaking tour … Britain is always going to be more hospitable to communitarian politics than the more libertarian U.S. But people are social creatures here, too. American society has been atomized by the twin revolutions here, too. This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.

Surely, sooner or later, we shall read of these concepts in America, as Republicans try to take power once again. We are almost certain that someone like Newt Gingrich shall discover it and perhaps write a novel about it. In any case, it was surely no coincidence that Blond was recently on a speaking tour of America. From anonymity to pre-eminence in a year – this wonder-child shall no doubt provide talking points for the Western world. That's how these promotions work.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The American military-industrial complex is under considerable attack currently. One way to alleviate the pressure is to start another war, and that may be in the works already with Iran. Another way is to come up with a fresh idea as it involves support for the military from a personal perspective – each citizen looking deeply into his or her own conscience to decide that the troops (and their mission) deserve unquestioning allegiance. This is what Cameron has done.

After Thoughts

It is almost awe inspiring. The idea that local municipalities ought to have more control over their own laws and budgets is fairly admirable, at least theoretically. Get involved, the British Prime Minister urges. Take control of your own lives again and the federal government shall help make this possible. Once in power, Cameron begins to deliver on this idea. But now it has changed. Support our troops, he urges. Do so at a local level. Empower yourself by giving your full encouragement to our boys over in Afghanistan. The cynicism is breathtaking.

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