The Times Saturday October 29 2011
Matthew Parris in “What if Ed and the protest junkies are right?”
(the protesters) “have no coherent case and are wrong to think that emotive banners are a substitute for a rational argument.”
When protesting in a form that ignores the basic rules of law (no official approval), pushed by the sense of impotence in convincing the law-makers that there is something rotten in (EU) Denmark and that is not the correctly curved bananas, the coherence goes out the window and so do the rational arguments. To alleged incoherency people respond with irrational emotions (that is the raw, opposed to de Eton educated, ones) and who can blame them. The power is not, and perhaps shall never be in their hands. Although is not power people is fighting for but fighting against. More precisely they ar fighting against the abuse of power. The abusers choose to respond by using the same (albeit worthy of blame if used by the Other) weaponry of emotive banners. Because what is the appeal to calm, discipline, respect for the law of free market, and for the welfare of the poor Church if not emotive banners?
What the crowd in-tent-ed at St Paul’s and elsewhere lacks is the skill of finely wrapping their rhetoric in shiny rational argumentation.
On the relatively neutral, but luckily rational side, I found a plethora of hidden gems in the form of suggestive expressions in Matthew Parris’ article: ethical custom, moral vacuüm, moral impulse, respect for convention, social usefulness, reputation, moral gravity, moral intuition, moral consensus.
“Even Milton Friedman, arguing that business is there to maximise profit, felt impelled to add “while conforming to the basic rules of society” – which, he said, go beyond the law to include “those embodied in ethical custom“
“…David Willetts, who in 2008 devoted an LSE lecture to the argument that the biggest threat to capitalism was its inherent tendency to undermine the very “non-market” values that a free market society depends upon.”
Citing Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi from their recent book, Masters of Nothing, he says: “Businesses, say the authors, do not act in a moral vacuüm…Whether legal or not, immoral actions within businesses should not be ignored just because there’s a logo on the door.”
“Smith emphasised an innate moral impulse, Friedman preferred to think of respect for convention; Turner tries to assess “social usefulness“; Willetts promotes the importance of personal and institutional “reputation”; but all those ideas are in orbit around the same pull of moral gravity.”
“Let me put the argument to ministers first in its most elevated, then its basest and most political terms. You can say that the moral intuition of a society, however imprecisely felt, lies at the heart of what our humanity means to us. It is a given, and statecraft should start from there or risk rotting the moral consensus on which every state depends.”
These formulas are spread around evenly so it leaves you with an equal sense of (moral) vague discomfort when trying to pick one side or the other.
I’ll end this with a seemingly pessimistic conclusion in the words of the author:
“So, and even as an atheist I must throw this in, was Jesus Christ, whose preaching against the material world are perfectly incoherent, faintly evasive, entirely impractical and no guide to anyone.”