Monday, January 07, 2008

Reinventing the State Chapter 20: To be a Briton - The Citizen and the State

William Wallace gives us a fine essay on the history of Britishness and of our relationship with the state. I have little to add or oppose, apart from bemoaning his occasional use of "economic liberals" as a swear word. I might complain that references to Roosevelt's post-war international order may leave me wondering which Roosevelt - I think he means FDR.

And, topically, to his list of emancipated religious minorities - Catholic and dissenters 1829, Jews 1858 - I might add atheists: it was 1886 that radical liberal Charles Bradlaugh was finally permitted to take the seat that he had been elected to in 1880 and several times in between.

Anyway, not being entirely qualified to nipick the content, I will at least endorse the conclusion.

The sense of national community still needed to support democratic government and redistributive welfare can be maintained only by a transmitted commitment to shared institutions and values, rooted in shared understandings of their origins and rationale. Those shared institutions, values and understandings are at present confused, even contested. It is a Liberal task to clarify them.

Well perhaps endorse with one qualification. I am not convinced that disagreement over the origins of our shared values is necessarily a problem. I submit that the belief that respect for human rights and tolerance arise from the Judeo-Christian tradition, can co-exist happily with the belief that those values arise from the Enlightment and the casting off of religious shackles: so long as we agree that these are values we support.