Transcript: British Conservatism | Mar 27, 1987

Theme music plays.

The title “Realities” appears on screen as fast clips show pictures of different cities, including Toronto, Washington DC, and San Francisco.

With Robert Fulford, Richard Gwyn, and Suzanne Grew-Ellis.

Clips show the traffic in different cities.

Then, Suzanne appears in a television studio. She’s in her fifties, with short wavy blond hair. She’s wearing a washed purple sweater over a blue blouse, and silver earrings.

She says HELLO, I'M
SUZANNE GREW-ELLIS.
CONSERVATISM, AS A
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY,
WHICH ADVOCATES PRESERVING
THE BEST OF THE ESTABLISHED
ORDER IN SOCIETY AND
OPPOSES RADICAL CHANGE,
HAS GAINED WIDE ACCEPTANCE
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS.
BRITISH CONSERVATISM,
AS EMBODIED BY MARGARET
THATCHER, HAS BEEN THE
MODEL WE HAVE WATCHED,
AND TO SOME
EXTENT, IMITATED.
TONIGHT'S GUEST IS A
CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHER,
AND HE ATTEMPTS TO
EXPLAIN THE MANY FACETS
OF THE CONSERVATISM
PRACTICED IN BRITAIN.
ROGER SCRUTON
IS AN AUTHOR.
HE IS FOUNDER OF THE
CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHY GROUP,
WHICH ADVISES THE GOVERNMENT
OF PRIME MINISTER
MARGARET THATCHER.
HE IS INTERVIEWED AT
CANADA HOUSE IN LONDON
BY ROBERT FULFORD, EDITOR
OF
SATURDAY NIGHT MAGAZINE.

(music plays)
A slate reads “Realities.”
Then, Bob Fulford and Roger Scruton appear sitting in a classic 18th Century lounge.
Bob is in his sixties, clean-shaven and balding. He’s wearing large glasses, a light gray three-piece suit, white shirt, and striped red and black tie.
Roger is in his forties, clean-shaven, with curly brown hair. He’s wearing glasses, a black suit, and a white shirt.

Bob says FOR A VERY LONG TIME,
HUMANITY'S LONG VIEW
OF THE FUTURE HAS TO
DO WITH PROGRESS.
THE IDEA OF PROGRESS HAS
BEEN CENTRAL, REALLY,
TO OUR CIVILIZATION FOR
MORE THAN A CENTURY.
AND I THINK IT HAS GOVERNED
MOST OF OUR POLITICS.
THINGS WILL GET BETTER
BECAUSE GOVERNMENT
WILL MAKE THEM BETTER.
WHY HAS THAT IDEA
PROVED INADEQUATE
AS FAR AS YOU'RE
CONCERNED?

Roger says WELL, I THINK IT'S NOT
A SINGLE IDEA, IS IT?
THERE ARE VERY MANY
VERSIONS OF IT,
AND I THINK ONE OF THE
PROBLEMS IS THAT THE IDEA
WAS TAKEN UP IN THE
LAST CENTURY BY MARX
AND MADE INTO A SO-CALLED
SCIENTIFIC POLITICS.
AND THE APPLICATION OF
THAT SCIENTIFIC POLITICS
IN THIS CENTURY HAS BROUGHT
DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
WHEREVER IT HAS OCCURRED.
I THINK THAT HAS BEEN ONE
OF THE MAJOR SOURCES
OF PEOPLE'S DISCONTENT
WITH THE IDEA OF PROGRESS.
BUT I THINK THERE
IS A DEEPER REASON
FOR PEOPLE'S
REJECTION OF IT.
I THINK I SHARE YOUR VIEW
IT HAS BEEN CENTRAL
TO THE POLITICAL VISION
IN OUR CIVILIZATION
FOR A LONG TIME, PERHAPS
SINCE THE ENLIGHTENMENT.
SOME PEOPLE ARGUE
SINCE THE RENAISSANCE.
BUT I THINK WHAT ONE HAS
SEEN IN THE 19TH AND
20TH CENTURY HAS BEEN
THE WORKING OUT OF
THIS ENLIGHTENMENT
VISION OF POLITICS,
AND GRADUALLY
PEOPLE, I THINK,
HAVE COME TO PERCEIVE
SOME OF ITS INADEQUACIES.
THE FACT THAT IT,
IN PARTICULAR,
IT DOESN'T REALLY CATER
FOR MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE.
IT OFFERS AN IDEA OF
SATISFACTION ON MAN'S
EARTHLY REWARD, WHICH
IS TOTALLY INADEQUATE
TO THE REAL MORAL DEMANDS
THAT WE MAKE OF IT.

Bob says AND YET, WELL, AS YOU
SAY, IT'S CAUSED TERRIBLE
DESTRUCTION IN THE
WORLD, AND YET,
MOST WESTERN POLITICIANS,
UNTIL VERY RECENTLY,
AND PERHAPS MAYBE I
COULD SAY MOST WESTERN
POLITICIANS TODAY, THINK
THAT THAT IS ALL THERE IS
THAT IS OPEN TO THEM.
THEY CAN SAY, I WILL
MAKE THINGS BETTER.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Roger Scruton. Conservative Philosopher."

Roger says I THINK ONE MUST DISTINGUISH
THE IDEA OF PROGRESS
TAKEN AS WHAT ONE MIGHT
CALL AN IDEOLOGY,
WHERE PROGRESS IS THE GREAT
DISTINCTIVE HUMAN FEATURE,
AND THE WHOLE OF
HISTORY IS MARCHING BEHIND
A BANNER IN A
CERTAIN DIRECTION.
WHICH I THINK IS THE
DESTRUCTIVE IDEA.
AND THAT SMALL-SCALE
PROGRESS THAT'S PROMISED
BY A DEMOCRATIC
POLITICIAN.
YOU KNOW, HE SAYS, OKAY, YOU
HAVEN'T GOT CLEAN WATER
IN THIS TOWN, SO I'LL
GIVE YOU CLEAN WATER.
THIS IS PROGRESS.

Bob says THAT'S PROGRESS
OF A KIND.

Roger says YEAH, IN THAT
SENSE, OF COURSE,
THE IDEA OF PROGRESS IS A
PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE ONE.
BUT IT'S THE ATTEMPT
TO REGIMENT THE WHOLE
OF HUMAN LIFE AND HISTORY
BEHIND A SINGLE NOTION
OF THE MOVEMENT OF IT
WHICH I THINK HAS BEEN
SO DESTRUCTIVE.
AND ALSO, I BELIEVE,
BLASPHEMOUS BECAUSE
ULTIMATELY, IT'S AN ATTEMPT
TO TRANSFER TO THIS WORLD
THE CONCEPTION
WHICH IS ULTIMATELY
RELIGIOUS IN MEANING.

Bob says THE EARTHLY
PARADISE IDEA.

Roger says YES.

Bob says I SAW IT JUST THE OTHER
DAY IN THE NEWSPAPER
THAT THE TROUBLE WITH
YOU TORY PHILOSOPHERS
IS THAT YOU HAVEN'T GOT
AN EARTHLY PARADISE
TO POINT US TOWARDS.
YOU WOULD SAY THAT'S
NOT THE TROUBLE -

Roger says BUT THE VIRTUE,
EXACTLY, YES.
I FULLY ACCEPT THAT IT IS
EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO SELL
IN A MASS MARKET PHILOSOPHY
WHICH DOESN'T PROMISE
AN EARTHLY PARADISE.
BUT THE PROMISE OF
AN EARTHLY PARADISE,
I THINK IS UNREAL.
AND THOSE WHO ARE TRYING
TO SELL THAT ARE FRAUDS.

Bob says THIS GRAND IDEA OF PROGRESS
OVERARCHING EVERYTHING,
WHAT WOULD YOU
REPLACE IT WITH?

Roger says WELL, ONE OF THE
PROBLEMS IS THAT PEOPLE
WANT YOU TO
REPLACE IT AT ALL.
I SHARE A VIEW OF
POLITICS WITH MANY PEOPLE
IN THE CONSERVATIVE TRADITION,
WHICH IS, THERE OUGHTN'T
TO BE VERY MUCH OF IT.
AND IT SHOULD, PERHAPS,
BE LEFT TO A FEW -

Bob says IT BEING POLITICS.

Roger says YES.
THAT IT SHOULD BE LEFT
PERHAPS TO A FEW PEOPLE
WHO ARE PREPARED TO
GIVE THEIR TIME TO IT.
BUT THEY, THEMSELVES,
SHOULDN'T GIVE ALL THEIR TIME.
AND THE IDEA OF POLITICS
AS THE GREAT REDEEMING TASK
INTO WHICH ALL HUMANITY
PARTICIPATES.
THAT'S ONE OF THE IDEAS
WE ARE SUFFERING FROM.

Bob says THE FACT THAT WE'VE
PUT SO MUCH ON POLITICS.

Roger says YES.
WE TRANSFERRED TO
POLITICS THE WHOLE BURDEN
OF OUR GRIEF, AND THE
WHOLE HOPE FOR SATISFACTION.

Bob says I SAW A REFERENCE,
RECENTLY, TO POLITICS
CONSIDERED AS, FROM A
CONSERVATIVE VIEW,
POLITICS LOOKS LIKE A BOAT
WHICH YOU ARE CONSTANTLY
REBUILDING EVEN AS YOU
ARE SAILING IT THROUGH
DANGEROUS SEAS.
THAT, OF COURSE, WOULD
BE ONE REASON
WHY RECONSTRUCTING
POLITICAL IDEALS, OR IDEAS,
IS VERY DIFFICULT.

Roger says YES.
I THINK THE IMAGE THAT
YOU RIGHTLY REFER TO,
I MEAN, IT COMES
PARTLY FROM OTTO NEURATH,
THE PHILOSOPHER
OF SCIENCE.
BUT THE REAL MEANING OF THAT
IMAGE IS THAT WHAT WE HAVE
IS THE BOAT, SOMETHING
THAT WE'VE INHERITED,
WHICH WE KNOW CAN DO ONE
THING, NAMELY FLOAT.
BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO FLOAT
FOREVER UNLESS WE REPAIR IT.
BUT IT'S A VERY BACKWARD
LOOKING VIEW OF POLITICS.
I THINK IT'S THE
RIGHT VIEW.
WE ARE EXTREMELY LUCKY
TO HAVE INHERITED
SOMETHING THAT FLOATS.
MOST OF HUMANITY
HAS SUNK LONG AGO.
BUT THE QUESTION OF
REPAIR IS ALWAYS WITH US.

Bob says WHERE DOES THE TORY
PARTY OF TODAY FIT WITHIN
CONSERVATIVE
THINKING, THAT IS,
THE CONSERVATIVE
PARTY IN ENGLAND?

Roger says WELL, OBVIOUSLY, POLITICAL
PARTIES NEVER FIT
VERY NEATLY INTO
IDEOLOGICAL CATEGORIES,
ESPECIALLY IN DEMOCRACIES
WHERE THEY HAVE TO WIN
THE SUPPORT OF AN
ELECTORATE WHICH IS EXPOSED
TO ALL KINDS OF
INFLUENCES.
SO I DON'T THINK IT FITS
VERY CLOSELY TO ANYTHING
THAT WE WOULD CALL
CONSERVATIVE THINKING.
BUT IT DOES HAVE VERY STRONG
CONSERVATIVE ELEMENTS IN IT.
I THINK, OBVIOUSLY,
FIRST OF ALL, THERE IS
A PROFOUND ANTI-SOCIALISM
OF THE TORY PARTY.
IT REALLY HAS WOKEN UP TO
THE REALITY OF SOCIALISM,
AND IS DETERMINED NOT
TO HAVE ANYTHING MORE
TO DO WITH IT, OR AT
LEAST SOME SECTIONS
OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
ARE DETERMINED NOT
TO HAVING MORE
TO DO ABOUT IT.
THAT IS TO SAY THERE'S
A GREAT DESIRE
TO REMOVE THE STATE
INTERFERENCE IN ENTERPRISES,
TO REVITALIZE AUTONOMOUS
INSTITUTIONS, AUTONOMOUS
ECONOMY, AND SO ON,
WHICH IS A LIBERAL IDEA,
AS WELL AS A
CONSERVATIVE ONE.
BUT IN OUR TIME HAS
OBVIOUSLY LENT A LOT
OF ITS FORCE TO
CONSERVATIVE THINKING.
BUT THERE IS THE MORE
TRADITIONAL KIND OF
CONSERVATISM WHICH
IS STILL THERE,
WHICH REGARDS THE WORK OF
PARLIAMENT AS FUNDAMENTALLY
THAT OF A COURT OF LAW.
THAT'S THE FUNDAMENTAL FEATURE
OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION.
THAT PARLIAMENT IS NOT
REGARDED AS A SORT OF
GREAT PLANNING CENTRE TO
REMAKE THE SOCIAL ORDER.

Bob says OR AS THE MAIN SOURCE
OF POWER FROM WHICH
EVERYTHING COMES.

Roger says EXACTLY.
OR TO ESTABLISH A
BLUEPRINT FOR THE SOCIETY
OF THE FUTURE, AND SO ON, AND
TO LEGISLATE ACCORDINGLY.
THAT, OF COURSE, IS THE
LABOUR PARTY'S VIEW
OF PARLIAMENT.
IT'S A CENTRALIZED,
CONCENTRATED,
HEART OF THE NATION.
AND IT'S A GREAT
PLANNING FORUM,
AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE
NATION HAVE TO BE
GROUND DOWN IN THAT
PARTICULAR SHEEN.
BUT I THINK THE OLD IDEA OF
PARLIAMENT AS A COURT OF
LAW WHICH IS THERE
TO SETTLE DISPUTES,
REESTABLISH SOVEREIGNTY
WHENEVER IT IS THREATENED,
AND UPHOLD THE DEFENCE AND
THE INTEGRITY OF THE NATION,
THAT, I THINK, HAS BEEN TO
SOME EXTENT, REVITALIZED.

Bob says PARLIAMENT AS A BALANCE
THAT IS IN PLACE WHERE
EVERYTHING COMES TOGETHER
AND IS BALANCED OUT,
RIGHTS AND SO ON.

Roger says YEAH.

Bob says THE PRIME MINISTER HERSELF,
WHERE DOES SHE FIT IN
TO TORY PHILOSOPHY AS
YOU UNDERSTAND IT?

Roger says WELL, THE PRIME
MINISTER, OBVIOUSLY,
IS AN EXTREMELY
INTELLIGENT WOMAN,
BUT NOT AN INTELLECTUAL.
FORTUNATELY.
SO I THINK PHILOSOPHY PLAYS
A SMALL PART IN HER MAKE UP.
I THINK SHE CERTAINLY
FELT ENORMOUS REVULSION
AT MANY OF THE THINGS
THAT HAVE HAPPENED
IN THE NAME OF SOCIALISM.
BUT HER ATTACHMENT TO
THE FREE MARKET DOESN'T
SO MUCH COME FROM
LIBERTARIAN ECONOMIC THEORIES
AS FROM A GENUINE ROOTED MORAL
SENSE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL
MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
FOR ITS ACTIONS.
AND IF YOU ERODE THAT
CORE OF INDIVIDUAL
RESPONSIBILITY FROM THE
HEART OF THE NATION'S
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE,
THEN YOU'VE ERODED
THE ONE THING ON WHICH
EVERYTHING ELSE DEPENDS.
AND I BELIEVE, ACTUALLY, THAT
SHE IS RIGHT ABOUT THAT,
WHETHER OR NOT SHE'S RIGHT
ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE.

Bob says YOU SAY IT'S FORTUNATE
SHE'S NOT AN INTELLECTUAL;
WHY IS THAT?

Roger says WELL, INTELLECTUALS ARE
GIVEN TO HAVING OVERARCHING
THEORIES, AND ONCE AGAIN,
TO PRESSING POLITICS
INTO THEIR OWN
PARTICULAR FANTASIES.
I THINK MODERN POLITICS HAS
BEEN MADE BY INTELLECTUALS,
WHOM THE PRIME
EXAMPLES ARE LENIN,
MUSSOLINI, AND HITLER.

Bob says ALL INTELLECTUALS
OF A KIND.
AND TROTSKY EVEN MORE
OF AN INTELLECTUAL.

Roger says PEOPLE WHO HAVE TAKEN IDEAS
MORE SERIOUSLY THAN THEY
SHOULD HAVE DONE, AND HAVE
HAD A COMPLETE CONTEMPT
FOR THE ACTUALITIES THAT HAVE
STOOD AGAINST THOSE IDEAS.

Bob says YOUR BOOK ON CONSERVATISM
says IF THE READER WONDERS
WHY CONSERVATIVES NEED
DOGMA, IT'S BECAUSE
DOGMA IS NECESSARY
FOR INTELLECTUALS.
AND INTELLECTUALS, I'VE
FORGOTTEN HOW YOU PUT IT,
POLITICS IS RUN
BY INTELLECTUALS.

Roger says YES.
AS I SAID, JUST THEN,
MODERN POLITICS
IS MADE BY INTELLECTUALS.
SO WHAT ONE HAS TO DO IS
PROVIDE THE LANGUAGE WHEREBY
AT LEAST THE INTELLECTUAL
CLASS CAN BE PREVENTED
ALWAYS FROM AGITATING
IN A SINGLE CAUSE.
I SAY Mrs. THATCHER NOT
BEING INTELLECTUAL
IS A STRONG POINT,
BUT NEVERTHELESS,
SHE CAN ONLY GET INTO POWER
IF SHE CAN, IN SOME WAY,
APPEASE THE CLAMOUR
OF THE INTELLECTUALS,
AND PROVIDE HER OWN
INTELLECTUAL FORCE AND BACKING.
AND MOREOVER, I THINK
INTELLECTUALS FEED
THE LANGUAGE INTO PUBLIC
DEBATE IN THE LONG RUN.
IT'S THE LANGUAGE OF COMMUNISM
AND DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM,
TOO, WHICH HAS DOMINATED
POLITICS IN THIS CENTURY.

Bob says SO FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN WE
USE THE WORD BOURGEOIS,
WE ARE ECHOING AN
INTELLECTUAL'S VIEW
OF HOW SOCIETY IS
ORGANIZED.

Roger says THAT'S A VERY GOOD EXAMPLE
OF A WORD WHICH IS USED
ALWAYS IN A
PEJORATIVE SENSE,
AND ALWAYS IN A SENSE THAT
TAKES FOR GRANTED THE TRUTH
OF A CERTAIN THEORY OF
HISTORY AND ECONOMIC
ORGANIZATION, THE
THEORY GIVEN BY MARX.
THAT THEORY IS
FALSE, IN MY VIEW.
BOTH THE THEORY OF
HISTORY AND THE THEORY
OF ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION.
AND ALSO, THE PEJORATIVE
OVERTONES ARE UNJUSTIFIED.

Bob says AND ONCE YOU SAY
THE WORD BOURGEOIS,
YOU'RE SAYING YOU'VE
ALREADY AGREED WITH ME,
AND I JUST WANT TO EXPLAIN
IT A LITTLE FURTHER
AND IN DETAIL.

Roger says YES, EXACTLY.

Bob says NOW, YOU SAY Mrs. THATCHER,
NOT BEING AN INTELLECTUAL,
GOES ON AN INTUITIVE SENSE
THAT IT IS AN INDIVIDUAL'S
RESPONSIBILITY THAT ONE MUST
CONSTANTLY ENCOURAGE
AND INSIST ON.
WHERE DOES THAT
COME FROM, THOUGH?
THAT'S NOT DEVELOPED,
AS YOU SAY,
IN AN INTELLECTUAL WAY.

Roger says WELL, I'D LIKE TO THINK IT
COMES FROM WHAT IS GENUINE
AND VITAL IN THE
BRITISH PERSONALITY.
IT COMES FROM THE CONTINUING
MORAL ORDER OVER WHICH
SHE HAPPENS AT THE MOMENT -

Bob says EMBODY.

Roger says YEAH.

Bob says HER VIEW, THOUGH, OF WHERE THE
CONSERVATIVE PARTY SHOULD GO,
WHAT IT SHOULD DO, IS
ENTIRELY A DIFFERENT VIEW
FROM THAT OF PREVIOUS
CONSERVATIVE PRIME MINISTERS,
SUCH AS CHURCHILL,
MACMILLAN, HEATH.

Roger says YES.
I DON'T THINK IT'S ENTIRELY
DIFFERENT FROM CHURCHILL.
IT'S CERTAINLY
DIFFERENT FROM HEATH.
HE WAS THE TYPICAL, COMPLETE
DIFFERENT KIND OF TORY.
HARDLY A TORY AT ALL.
I THINK HE'S NOW VERY MUCH
REPUDIATED BY MOST PEOPLE
WHO COUNT THEMSELVES AS
CONSERVATIVES OF ANY KIND.
I THINK HE WAS A
CRYPTO SOCIALIST,
AND IT'S BECOMING MORE AND
MORE CLEAR THAT BOTH
IN MATTERS OF FOREIGN POLICY,
AND IN MATTERS OF DOMESTIC
POLICY, HE COULD JUST AS
WELL BE IN THE LABOUR PARTY.

Bob says BUT SETTING FOREIGN POLICY
ASIDE FOR THE MOMENT,
HEATH, MACMILLAN, TO
SOME EXTENT, CHURCHILL,
REALLY SAID, THAT WE'LL
DO MANY OF THE THINGS
THAT THE LABOUR
PARTY DOES.
WE'LL DO THEM BETTER.
WE'RE BETTER PEOPLE.
WE HAVE CONSERVATIVE
TRADITIONS,
WE BELIEVE IN THE
INDIVIDUAL, AND SO ON,
BUT WE WON'T DO ANYTHING
VERY DIFFERENT.
NOBODY CAME TO OFFICE AS A
CONSERVATIVE PLANNING
TO ROLL BACK THE WELFARE STATE
UNTIL Mrs. THATCHER CAME.

Roger says OF COURSE THE PHRASE,
ROLLING BACK THE FRONTIERS
OF THE STATE IS
CHURCHILL'S PHRASE.
AND HE DID FIGHT AN
ELECTION WITH THAT SLOGAN.

Bob says 1951.

Roger says YES.
WHICH OF COURSE HE'D
BEEN READING HAYEK'S
ROAD TO SERFDOM
WHICH
GREATLY IMPRESSED HIM.
AND HE WAS, OF COURSE,
A GREAT ANTI-COMMUNIST,
WHICH LED HIM TO SEE SOME
OF THE DANGERS OF THE KIND
OF STATISM THAT THE
LABOUR PARTY THEN
WAS EXPERIMENTING WITH.
I AGREE, HOWEVER, THAT
Mrs. THATCHER'S SORT OF
RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM
IS A NEW THING
IN THE TORY PARTY, AND
IT HAS ITS DANGERS.
OBVIOUSLY, ONE OF
THE STRENGTHS
OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
IS PRECISELY BECAUSE
IT REGARDS PARLIAMENT AS
HAVING THIS ADJUDICATIVE,
RATHER THAN
LEGISLATIVE FUNCTION,
HAS ALWAYS ACTED AS A
FOCUS OF RECONCILIATION,
AND HAS BUILT BRIDGES
BETWEEN PEOPLE, AND ALSO,
SERVED TO MAINTAIN IN BEING
INSTITUTIONS THAT ARE VITAL
TO THE SENSE OF
NATIONAL IDENTITY.
AND SOME PEOPLE FEEL
Mrs. THATCHER HAS JEOPARDIZED
A GREAT MANY OF
THOSE INSTITUTIONS
BY HER OVERZEALOUS ATTEMPT
TO PUT THE INDIVIDUAL FIRST.
I'M NOT TOTALLY SURE OF
THAT BECAUSE I THINK MANY
OF OUR TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS
HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN SUBVERTED,
DELIBERATELY, BY THE LEFT,
AND COULDN'T HAVE SURVIVED.
I THINK THIS IS TRUE
OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH,
FOR INSTANCE.
I THINK IT'S HAD IT.

Bob says IT'S FINISHED NO MATTER
WHAT Mrs. THATCHER DOES
IN YOUR VIEW?

Roger says I THINK SO, YES.
FOR THE REASON THAT
ITS LEADERSHIP,
NOT THE ORDINARY PARISH
PRIEST, BUT ITS LEADERSHIP,
HAS FAILED TO SEE THAT
THE TASK OF A PRIEST
IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM
THE TASK OF A POLITICIAN.
AND SO THE TASK OF PASTORAL
CARE HAS FALLEN AWAY FROM IT.
THESE ARE VERY
DIFFICULT QUESTIONS.
ALTHOUGH I DO RECOGNIZE
THERE IS SOMETHING
LEGITIMATE IN THE CRITICISM
OF Mrs. THATCHER THAT SHE
IS SOMEWHAT CARELESS OF
TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS,
AND THE NEED TO
MAINTAIN THEM.
IT'S ALSO THE CASE
THAT SOCIALISM HAS HAD
AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE.
IT HAS CHANGED THEIR
WAY OF THINKING,
CHANGED THEIR
WAY OF FEELING.
I BELIEVE SOCIALISM IS
WRONG, INTELLECTUALLY,
AND IS MORALLY DISASTROUS,
BUT NEVERTHELESS, IT'S THERE.
AND THEREFORE, THE
TRADITIONAL CONSERVATIVE
VIEW OF POLITICS MUST
INVOLVE AN ATTEMPT
TO RECONCILE ONESELF WITH IT,
AND TO CONCILIATE THOSE
PEOPLE WHO HAVE ABSORBED
THESE POISONOUS IDEAS.

Bob says THESE POISONOUS
IDEAS, ARE OF COURSE,
THE IDEAS IN WHICH THE
INSTITUTIONS OF THE COUNTRY
TODAY ARE RUNNING, THE
HEALTH SERVICE, FOR EXAMPLE.

Roger says EXACTLY.

Bob says IS RUNNING ON
SOCIALIST IDEAS,
AND HAS FOR 40
SOME YEARS.
AND ISN'T THAT SOMETHING
A CONSERVATIVE SHOULD CONSERVE?
ONE SHOULD SAY
WHAT IS GOOD HERE?
THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A GREAT
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOME RESPECTS.
MANY PEOPLE
REGARD IT AS SUCH.
SHOULDN'T A
CONSERVATIVE SAY
THIS IS A GREAT INSTITUTION;
I WILL PROTECT IT?

Roger says THAT'S RIGHT.
WELL, AS I SEE THE
CORRECT CONSERVATIVE
ATTITUDE WOULD BE THIS,
THAT THIS INSTITUTION,
OF COURSE, HAS GOT
LOTS WRONG WITH IT.
IT'S ROTTEN IN
A LOT OF WAYS.
BUT NEVERTHELESS, IT HAS
ESTABLISHED ITS PLACE
IN THE AFFECTIONS
OF PEOPLE.
IN ALL KINDS OF SECRET WAYS,
MUCH OF THE SOCIAL ORDER
DEPENDS ON IT.
AND JUST TO UPROOT IT COULD
LEAD TO A CATASTROPHE.
HOWEVER, IT'S OBVIOUSLY
NOT FUNCTIONING WELL.
SO ONE MUST ENCOURAGE
RIVAL INSTITUTIONS.
AND IF AT A CERTAIN POINT
THOSE RIVAL INSTITUTIONS
GAIN THE ALLEGIANCE
OF THE PEOPLE,
TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT THIS
OLD ONE CAN THEN CRUMBLE AWAY,
THAT'S THE WAY
IT SHOULD HAPPEN.

Bob says HOW DO YOU IMAGINE
CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHY,
AND FOR THAT MATTER, THE
CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF LIFE,
AND CONSERVATIVE POLITICS
DEVELOPING IN THE FUTURE?

Roger says ONCE AGAIN, CONSERVATISM
IS A VERY SPECIAL THING
WHICH PERHAPS
DOESN'T DEVELOP.
MAYBE IT'S BETTER IF IT JUST
STOPS THINKING ABOUT ALL THAT.

Bob says AND IN EFFECT, YOU'RE
NOT TRYING TO DEVELOP
CONSERVATIVE
PHILOSOPHY THEN,
YOU'RE TRYING
TO DISCOVER IT.

Roger says YES.

Bob says UNCOVER IT.

Roger says MY FEELING IS, IN THE
MODERN CLIMATE OF OPINION,
WHERE PEOPLE ARE
EXTREMELY OPINIONATED,
IT'S VERY IMPORTANT FOR EACH
CONTENDER FOR POWER TO HAVE
A LANGUAGE WITH WHICH TO
EXPRESS WHAT IT STANDS FOR.
I THINK CONSERVATISM
IN THE PAST
HAS DONE QUITE WELL
WITHOUT HAVING A LANGUAGE,
BUT NOW THAT, IN AN AGE
OF MASS COMMUNICATION,
IT'S NECESSARY TO FIND
CONCEPTS WHICH DON'T MERELY
APPEAL TO THE ORDINARY
MAN IN THE STREET,
BUT HAVE A KIND OF
INTELLECTUAL ANCESTRY
BEHIND THEM, SO YOU'LL KNOW
HOW TO DEFEND THEM
STEP BY STEP, GOING BACK
TO FIRST PRINCIPLES.
THAT'S SOMETHING WHICH I WOULD
LIKE TO ENGAGE IN DISCOVERING.

Bob says ON THE MATTER OF LANGUAGE;
IS Mrs. THATCHER RUNNING
OUT OF LANGUAGE, OR RUNNING
OUT OF DOGMA OR SOMETHING?
THAT IS TO SAY, AS SHE CAME
TO POWER WITH A STRONG
ANTI-SOCIALIST BIAS,
AND SHE CAPITALIZED,
RIGHTLY, FROM A
CONSERVATIVE PERSPECTIVE
ON THE FAILURES
OF SOCIALISM.

Roger says YES, EXACTLY.
OBVIOUSLY, YOU CAN'T DO
THAT FOREVER BECAUSE
PEOPLE FORGET WHAT
SOCIALISM MEANT.
UNFORTUNATELY, IT NOW LOOKS
AS THOUGH THEY ARE DUE
FOR ANOTHER DOSE OF IT.
THEY'LL VERY SOON WAKE UP TO
THE FACT THEY DON'T LIKE IT,
BUT UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE NOW
IN A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION
BECAUSE THE LABOUR PARTY
HAS A DEFENCE POLICY
WHICH MIGHT MAKE
SOCIALISM IRREVERSIBLE,
TO PUT IT IN QUOTES.

Bob says FINLANDIZATION,
THAT SORT OF THING.
THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE THINKING
OF THAT WHOLE FOREIGN POLICY
COURSE, OR NEUTRALITY
OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER.
BUT Mrs. THATCHER, GOING
TOWARDS THAT ELECTION,
HAS SHE RUN OUT
OF THINGS TO SAY?

Roger says I THINK YOU ARE RIGHT;
THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY,
IN PARTICULAR, HAS VERY
MUCH NEGLECTED THE NEED
TO STAY IN CONTACT WITH
THE SOURCE OF IDEAS,
AND ALSO TO ENTER THE
DEBATE AT ALL THE LEVELS
AT WHICH IT SHOULD BE ENTERED
IN, THEY HAVE TENDED TO,
PARTLY THROUGH
BEING SO SUCCESSFUL
AT THE LAST ELECTION, THAT
MPs HAVE THOUGHT, WELL,
IT'S NOT NECESSARY TO GO ON
FIGHTING AT A LOWER LEVEL;
WE'RE OKAY NOW.
WITHOUT REALIZING
THAT THE BATTLE
DOESN'T TAKE PLACE
IN PARLIAMENT.
PRECISELY BECAUSE THERE
ARE CONSERVATIVES,
BATTLES ARE REMOVED
FROM PARLIAMENT.
THAT'S WHAT CONSERVATISM
IS ALL ABOUT,
YOU KNOW, MAKING
PARLIAMENT INTO, AS I SAY,
INTO A COURT OF
ADJUDICATION.
BUT THEY HAVE FAILED TO
ENGAGE IN THE BATTLES,
IN PARTICULAR ABOUT
EDUCATION AND DEFENCE,
AND I SUPPOSE EVEN BATTLES
CONCERNING THE SOCIAL SERVICES
AT THE LEVEL AT WHICH THEY
SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN.

Bob says THE AMERICAN NEO
CONSERVATIVES HAVE DEVELOPED
A SENSE THAT CAPITALISM
IS A VERY GOOD THING.
I SHOULDN'T SAY THAT
FOR ALL OF THEM,
BUT THEY HAVE DEVELOPED
ONE OR TWO THINKERS
WHOSE VIEW IS THAT CAPITALISM
IS NOT JUST NECESSARY,
OR FAR FROM BEING
A NECESSARY EVIL,
IT'S ACTUALLY A WONDERFUL,
MORALLY SOUND DYNAMIC BUSINESS.
SO THEY ARE TRYING TO
INJECT MORAL VALUES
INTO THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE
OF THE POLITICAL ARGUMENT.
HOW DO YOU
REACT TO THAT?

Roger says I VERY MUCH
APPROVE OF THAT.
I THINK, OF COURSE, USING
THE WORD CAPITALISM -

Bob says AGAIN, WE'RE USING -

Roger says BORROWING SOMETHING
FROM A DISCARDED THEORY
WHICH HAS SOCIALIST
OVERTONES.
BUT IF YOU TALK
ABOUT THE FREE MARKET,
BUT THEN OF COURSE YOU ARE
TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING
WHICH IT IS POSSIBLE TO
DEFEND ON MORAL GROUNDS.
AND I THINK SHOULD BE
DEFENDED ON MORAL GROUNDS.

Bob says BUT VERY SELDOM
IS IN BRITAIN.

Roger says VERY SELDOM IN BRITAIN.
THAT'S ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
IT'S NOTICEABLE HOW THE
LEFT HAVE BEEN CONFUSED
BY THIS EMERGENCE OF
THE FREE MARKET.
IT'S VERY DIFFICULT FOR THEM
TO DIRECT THEIR FIRE POWER
AGAINST THE IDEA
OF A FREE ECONOMY.
BECAUSE WHAT'S WRONG
WITH A FREE ECONOMY?
IS THE ORDINARY MAN'S
INSTINCTIVE REMARK.
AND IN PARTICULAR,
OF COURSE,
WHAT IS NECESSARY TO
ASK IF IT'S NOT FREE,
WHO IS DOING THE
CONTROLLING?
THAT'S THE REAL QUESTION
WHICH THE LEFT FIND
EXTREMELY EMBARRASSING.

Bob says YOU USE THE WORD TOLERANT,
AND THAT MADE ME THINK
OF A VERY STRIKING
PHRASE THAT APPEARS
IN YOUR BOOK ON
CONSERVATISM.
THE PHRASE IS THE
“BIGOTRY OF LIBERALISM.”
WHAT IS THE BIGOTRY
OF LIBERALISM?

Roger says I HAD IN MIND THE
WAY IN WHICH LIBERALS,
IN THE AMERICAN SENSE,
PEOPLE WITH A LIBERTARIAN
MORALITY, WHO BELIEVE
EVERYTHING IS REALLY
PERMITTED, ARE SO SECURE IN
THAT BELIEF THAT ANYBODY
WHO TRIES TO MAKE ANY
KIND OF DEFENCE OF SOME
TRADITIONAL SET OF
VALUES, FOR INSTANCE,
ABOUT SEXUAL MORALITY, OR
ABOUT RELIGIOUS WORSHIP,
OR WHATEVER, IS
AUTOMATICALLY SCOFFED,
LAUGHED OUT OF COURT,
AND THE OPPORTUNITY
OF EXPRESSING HIS VIEWS
IS FREQUENTLY REMOVED
FROM HIM IN THE
NAME OF FREEDOM.

Bob says AND THAT IS THE WAY
BIGOTRY EXPRESSES ITSELF.

Roger says YES.
I THINK IT HAS BEEN
A VERY STRONG FORCE,
ESPECIALLY IN THE
'60s AND THIS '70s,
THIS CONSTANT DENIGRATION
OF ANY PERSON WHO WISHES
TO UPHOLD A SYSTEM
OF AUTHORITY.

Bob says THERE WAS ONE OTHER
PARTICULARLY STRIKING
PASSAGE IN YOUR BOOK
ON CONSERVATISM,
WHERE YOU SAID THAT “YOU FIND
CONSERVATISM PRINCIPLES
REAFFIRMED BY MODERN ART.”
I THINK THAT WOULD
SURPRISE MANY PEOPLE
THAT A CONSERVATIVE THINKER
WOULD GO TO JAMES JOYCE
OR SCHOENBERG, OR WHOEVER,
TO SEE CONSERVATIVE
PRINCIPLES REAFFIRMED.
WHY IS THAT?

Roger says WELL, I THINK OF
CONSERVATISM AS A
RELATIVELY RECENT THING.
IT IS, IF YOU LIKE, THE
BECOMING ARTICULATE
OF AN OLD INSTINCT, AN
OLD DESIRE TO BELONG
TO WHAT ONE HAS
INHERITED.
AND I THINK OF MODERNISM IN
ART AS A VERY SPECIAL CASE
OF THAT ARTICULATE
DESIRE TO BELONG AGAIN.
AND THE EXAMPLES I
TOOK WERE, OF COURSE,
THE GREAT WRITERS AND
ARTISTS OF THE MODERN
MOVEMENT, IN PARTICULAR
ELLIOT, POUND, AND YATES
IN POETRY, AND SCHOENBERG
AND HIS SCHOOL IN MUSIC.
IN BOTH CASES, THERE IS
AN ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE
A SELF-CONSCIOUS
RESURRECTION OF A TRADITION,
AND TO JOIN AGAIN TO
SOMETHING, SO IT SHOULD BE
CONSERVED AND REMODELED AND
PASSED ON TO THE FUTURE.
I THINK THAT IS THE TRUE
CONSERVATIVE INSTINCT.

Bob says CERTAINLY, IN
THAT WAY, ELLIOT
WAS TOTALLY A
CONSERVATIVE.
AT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY HE
SEEMS TO HAVE THOUGHT
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE
17TH CENTURY, AND SO ON.

Roger says IN THE CASE OF THOSE
THREE POETS I MENTIONED,
THEY WERE ALSO POLITICALLY
EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE,
NOT TO SAY, ACTUALLY
IN POUND'S CASE,
SOMEWHAT DANGEROUSLY
REACTIONARY.
HE WAS NOT REALLY A VERY
MATURE POLITICAL THINKER,
TO PUT IT MILDLY.
BUT I THINK IT IS TRUE
THAT THEIR ENTERPRISE
WAS VERY MUCH THE SAME
AS THE DEEP ENTERPRISE,
INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL
ENTERPRISE OF THE CONSERVATIVE
IN THE MODERN WORLD,
WHICH IS TO PROVIDE,
AGAIN, AN ORDER THAT HAS
BEEN DAMAGED BY ANTINOMIAN
ENTHUSIASMS, AND TO
RESUSCITATE IT AND PASS IT ON.
AND IN THAT SENSE, THEY
WERE THE OPPOSITE OF THE
KIND OF EXPRESSIONIST,
SURREALIST ART THAT GREW UP
IN FRANCE, ON WHICH HAD SUCH
AN IMPACT ON COMMUNISM,
ESPECIALLY IN EASTERN
EUROPE, OF COURSE,
THROUGH PEOPLE LIKE NEZVAL.

Bob says YOU'VE SAID, FINALLY,
ABOUT CONSERVATISM,
YOU'VE SAID THE
CONSERVATIVE ATTITUDE SEEKS
ABOVE ALL FOR GOVERNMENT.
AND THAT EVEN DEMOCRACY
CAN BE DISCARDED WITHOUT
DETRIMENT TO THE
CIVIL WELL-BEING
AS THE CONSERVATIVE
CONCEIVES IT.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
HOW CAN YOU CONTEMPLATE,
SOMEONE WITH YOUR TRADITION,
YOUR BACKGROUND, COMPLETELY
BRITISH AND SO ON,
HOW CAN YOU CONTEMPLATE THE
IDEA THAT DEMOCRACY COULD
DISAPPEAR AND THERE
WOULD STILL BE
A VALUABLE
GOVERNMENT THERE?

Roger says WELL, THAT, I AGREE, WAS A
PROVOCATIVE THING TO SAY.
I WAS TRYING TO POINT
OUT THAT TOO MUCH EMPHASIS
IS PUT ON DEMOCRACY AS
THOUGH THAT WERE THE SINGLE
DEFINING FEATURE OF
THE CONSERVATIVE TASK
IN WESTERN POLITICS.
I DON'T UNDERESTIMATE,
I HOPE, THE VALUE
OF DEMOCRACY
IN CERTAIN WAYS.
BUT MY POINT WAS TO
EMPHASIZE THAT IT'S NOT
DEMOCRACY THAT'S MADE
BRITAIN WHAT IT IS,
OR THE COUNTRIES THAT
HAVE GROWN FROM BRITAIN,
BUT RATHER THE TRADITION
OF THE COMMON LAW.
THE TRADITION WHICH PUTS
JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE
BEFORE SOVEREIGN POWER.
THE TRADITION WHICH
EMPHASIZES IN EVERYTHING
A BALANCE, OPPOSITION,
LISTENING TO THE OPPOSING VOICE,
FREEDOM OF SPEECH TO
ONE'S OPPONENT, AND SO ON.
THAT PRECEDED DEMOCRACY.
IT'S AN AGE-OLD GIFT OF
OUR MEDIEVAL PARLIAMENT.
AND DEMOCRACY CAN, IF TAKEN
TOO FAR, THREATEN IT.
IF WE TRY AND INJECT
DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES INTO
EVERY INSTITUTION, AS
WAS HAPPENING IN THE '60s,
THEN I THINK WE PUT A
DANGER TO THAT NATURAL
RESPECT FOR LAW AND
AUTHORITY WHICH MAKES
ALL THIS POSSIBLE.
AND SO I HAD IN MIND TO WARN
PEOPLE AGAINST LOCATING
THE VALUE OF OUR KIND
OF POLITICAL ORDER
IN THE WRONG PLACE.

(music plays)
A slate reads “Realities.”

Then, Suzanne reappears in the studio and says
ROGER SCRUTON IS AN
AUTHOR AND FOUNDER
OF THE CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHY
GROUP, WHICH ADVISES
THE GOVERNMENT OF PRIME
MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER.
HE WAS INTERVIEWED AT
CANADA HOUSE IN LONDON,
BY ROBERT FULFORD, EDITOR
OF
SATURDAY NIGHT MAGAZINE.
I'M SUZANNE GREW-ELLIS.
GOOD NIGHT.

Theme music plays as the end credits roll.

Producer and Director, Moira Dexter.

A Production of TVOntario. Copyright 1987, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: British Conservatism