Monday, July 10, 2006

The Henry Jackson Society

The launch of the Euston Manifesto in May this year was important for several reasons. One was its origin. Not the pub, but the new community space called the Blogosphere. Another was that, although its position affirms nothing that couldn't be called Blairite, it definitely stands outside the Labour Party. Perhaps most importantly, however, is its attempt to rescue the Left from itself. Much of the document is about human rights, as you would expect, but the viewpoint is entirely different from that of the old Left. No longer is there the assumption that only by bringing down the institutions of the West can human rights be truly defended. On the contrary, for The Euston Manifesto, it is only in and by the West that this can be done. They insist on the universality of human rights. The natural consequence of this position is that the pathological anti-Americanism of so many of their former confrères is to be rejected out of hand. This is a mighty shift.

There is something missing from the Euston Manifesto. It makes the politic decision to avoid economics, and you can see why. If it is only in the West that Enlightenment values can be lived and defended, it follows that it is only capitalism that has allowed this to come to pass. But capitalism is that tiger on the sofa that no-one (who is not American) wants to talk about. At least not with enthusiasm.

Not the even the Henry Jackson Society. Founded in March 2005 and based at Peterhouse College in Cambridge, it comes without the ideological baggage of the Euston Manifesto and is more muscular in its rhetoric. It spells out what is implicit in the other: "that only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate" and that the UK should be a world leader is promoting liberal democracy with the carrot, if possible, "but also, when necessary, [with] those ‘sticks’ of the military domain". (Nonetheless, there's something quesy about that use of the word 'domain'. They doubt, as I do, that we have the stomach for it.) And yet even this robustness turns quavery when it comes to capitalism. The Henry Jackson Society

gives two cheers for capitalism. There are limits to the market, which needs to serve the Democratic Community and should be reconciled to the environment.
Which environment? The irenic habitat of our imaginations? Doesn't exist. Never did. The oncoming cataclysm? An unpayable ransom dictated by guilt. Reconciled? Like Adam and God? God don't do deals. That door's closed.

Two cheers for capitalism? You've got to be able to do better than that.

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