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Independence and happiness

Maurice Saatchi wrote in the Telegraph

”Conservatism meets the claim of men and women as Aristotle put it: ‘To be ruled by none, if possible. Or, if this is not possible, to be as independent as they can reasonably be.’

By contrast, Labour wants as many people as possible to be dependent on it. That is why it has hired one million more citizens directly onto its own payroll. That is why it has nearly doubled the percentage of the population who receive a benefit or credit from the government, from 24 per cent to 40 per cent. . .Labour wants people to be dependent. Conservatives want people to be independent. That is the true and simple difference between the two parties.”

Though it is difficult to argue with a Baron who has made a career as a persuasive advertiser, I do not believe his statement adequately describes conservatism, nor do I find it very appealing. I would like people to be happy and to live with dignity and hope. I think this is what many people want whether they are members of the Conservative or Labour parties. Where Conservatives and Labour differ is how they think this can be achieved, in their methods.

Labour wants government to do more for people. Unfortunately this leads to people doing less and feeling worse about themselves. Labour's expansionist government policies create conditions harmful to happiness.

Conservatives, in contrast, understand that to give people a chance to be happy the optimal method is freedom. People have to be free, living and creating freely, free to make their own decisions, unburdened by heavy taxes and government controls. (As you know, this was actually a 19th century Liberal idea.) Conservatives realize that government has to focus on key tasks – supporting the rule of just law, taking care of crime and defence, and providing a safety net for people who are so disabled they cannot take care of themselves. When government does focus, it does a few essential things well. It doesn't suck all the oxygen out of the air with its demands for taxes and its rules and regulations, and the marvellous individual creative energies of men and women working alone and together is released.

The big, unfocused government that insists on doing everything for people is like the over-protective parent who makes his child a basket case. 21st century American Liberals, Lib-Dems, and Labour think that government is the only answer to every problem. They believe with a quasi-religious faith that government is going to make us happy by controlling every aspect of life. The only thing against them is British history and the human spirit.

So I would amend Saatchi's idea in this way – let’s recognize that people want to be happy and that freedom and independence are essential conditions for achieving happiness.