Change Aversion

A recent post here by Simon sent some ripples around the bloggersphere. Some responses were reasoned, some less so. Some were temperate, some less so. What was striking was how (small-c) conservative many of them were. Change is considered dodgy stuff for a number of reasons. Frank Neary is a supporter of the current government, so he obviously won’t be hoping for any change. This is an easy position to understand and requires little examination. The remarks of others are less easy to comprehend.

Evelyn Waugh once castigated conservatives for failing to turn back the clock for a single minute. It is difficult to know quite what point he was trying to make, given his peculiarly bad-tempered and reactionary conservatism, and the layers of irony in which he shrouded it, but we can be sure that he had come to a realisation about the nature of politics. Auds says she’s not voting for change, but of course she is. One presumes that whoever gets elected as the next government will effect change. Change, our platitudes notwithstanding, is inevitable. It is only the direction of that change that is up for grabs. Don’t kid yourself that voting the current government back in won’t change anything. It will, and for the worse in my own opinion. Neither is abstention, sitting the whole thing out because the parties are somehow beneath you a neutral act. It is a decision, whether you like it or not. To pretend that this is not the case is both to fool one’s self and to sign up as a supporter of a particular program of change without admitting it. This is the logic, only nominally change-averse, that leads to people only ever voting for the incumbent. Certain people in Britain now think that Labour are the only party capable of government. The same people said the same thing about the Tories not so long ago. Every time you vote, or don’t vote, you make a choice about the direction of change to come. At least let it be a conscious one this time.

Damien’s position is more problematic. He sees no point in voting for any of the existing parties, because they’re all the same. Further, he’s amazed “that people who have all these ideals still consider voting for any party”. Well, one of my ideals is that I can vote for whoever I feel like, and for whatever reasons. It’s called democracy. This somewhat bad-tempered post, apart from lacking the insight that one has come to expect from Damien, betrays a deep distrust of democracy. The reason the entire political system won’t get rebooted is that far too many people don’t want that to happen. Thinking that the majority are wrong confers no rights. It just makes you a minority. In a democracy people are presumed to know what they want. We’re all free to disagree, but abandoning the system just because people vote the “wrong??? way is profoundly undemocratic. There’s a difference between wanting to change things and wanting everyone to agree with you.

In economics, it’s said that bad money drives out good. If you’re in an economy where there’s a lot of counterfeit cash around, you’ll tend to hoard the genuine stuff for a rainy day. This encourages everyone else to do likewise, and soon you have nothing but fake money in circulation. The same applies to politics. If my every whim was served by a particular political party, there’d be no need for me to be politically involved. But if I perceive a problem with the political system, then surely the way to fix that is not to hoard my energies, but to get involved. Otherwise the bad politics drives out the good, and I have no-one to blame but myself.

Edit from Simon:
Special bonus Blue Moon moment as Richard Waghorne holds much the same position as above.


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