Removing the Moral Matrix

“It is genuinely sad to see how, almost without people noticing, Britain and the United States have abandoned their own unique tradition, that of Locke and Jefferson, and instead embraced the Rousseau-esque French revolutionary model of rights as claims against the state, instead of rights as the protection of individuals from the state, so that they could achieve by their own local, cooperative, altruistic efforts what politics and power cannot achieve, namely a devolved sense of responsibility for the welfare of others. If we continue to adopt the French model of rights and stop believing in the existence of a significant arena of individual responsibility, we will lose the sense of common morality that finds its natural home in families and communities. We will be left only with the market and the state. The market cannot deliver distributive justice. The state cannot deliver dignity and resilience, civility and responsibility, for and in its citizens. The state can deliver much: health, welfare, education, defence and the rule of law. But it cannot deliver the active citizenship that creates, daily, in myriad local contexts, the face-to-face care and compassion that constitute the good society. Remove the moral matrix of civil society and eventually you get populist politics and the death of freedom in the name of freedom. It is the wrong road to take.”

Morality, Chapter 8, p. 128